Shopping in Ciudad del Este, check out our recommendations!
Maybe you’ve heard rumors about shopping in Paraguay. Maybe you have a friend who came back from Paraguay with unbelievable, myth-like stories about haggling adventures in Paraguay streets. Maybe you’ve heard stories on the news about contraband busts in Paraguay shops. Maybe you’re wondering if the rumors are true.
They probably are. Ciudad del Este is Paraguay’s shopping hub, on the border of Brazil and only a few minutes drive from the Brazilian tourist centre of Foz do Iguacu. Ciudad del Este has perceptions galore of being Paraguay’s centre of chaos and lawlessness. It also has some of the best shopping in Paraguay, and draws thousands of local Brazilians and tourists alike.
Taking advantage of Paraguay’s lenient tax system, hundreds of shop owners, vendors and dealers have opened stores and set up businesses in the area. Prices are very low, and the variety of products in Ciudad del Este is so wide that it stretches the imagination. Everything from high-end designer products to cheap knock-offs; computer parts to car parts; exotic pets to automatic weapons. It can all be found at Ciudad del Este.
The fame has crossed the border into Brazil and the rest of Latin America. In times of abusive taxation in Brazil, Ciudad del Este acts as a hub for locals and tourists alike interested in consuming products in a tax-free environment. Everyday, the area sees hundreds of local Brazil residents cross the Friendship Bridge into Paraguay from Foz do Iguacu, and it’s common to hear Portuguese being spoken on the streets of Ciudad del Este.
But it’s not only Paraguay’s Brazilian neighbors who come to shop. Immigrant populations from as far as China and Korea have set up shops and restaurants, and tourists from around the world arrive to buy electronics and other goods at incredibly low prices.
The unbeatable prices, the range of both legal and dubious goods, the mix of street stalls and high-end malls, the variety of international food, the alleys overrun by vendors, the throngs of shoppers: all combine to create a unique Paraguay shopping experience that cannot be missed.
The chaos and sense of adventure must be taken in stride, though. Shopping in Ciudad del Este also requires a certain level of awareness and safety, to avoid being ripped off by scammers selling poor quality products, and to stay away from dishonest contraband vendors. Here are some tips for a successful shopping experience in Ciudad del Este.
Brazilians can enter Ciudad del Este carrying only an official and valid ID or passport. Immigration is at the entrance to Ciudad del Este, just after crossing the Friendship Bridge. In most cases, you will not be approached by an immigration agent, and you probably won’t be asked to show any documents. If you want a stamp in your passport, be sure to stop after crossing the bridge.
The limit for purchases made by foreigners in Paraguay is US $300. Should your purchases exceed this quota, you must pay a 50% tax on the total value. The quota is non-transferable and can only be used once every 30 days.
As the immigration officers at the border on the Friendship Bridge are unable to supervise and personally check each person crossing, some people choose not to declare their products purchased in Paraguay. This practice, however, is risky and not recommended. In the case of being caught lying about purchased goods, you are subject to having all goods seized. Read here for more information.
If you are coming to Ciudad del Este with the intent of buying specific items, make a list of your items of interest and compare the prices in Brazil before arriving in Ciudad del Este. This will save you time, give you an edge over possible hagglers, make your price negotiations informed, and facilitate your decision about the best buy. To see all the shops and malls of Ciudad del Este, you will need to devote more than one day. Try to avoid Wednesdays and Saturdays, as the illegal vendors, or muambeiros, prefer these days. Holidays are also a very busy time.
If you are in search of fake or pirated products, the streets of Ciudad del Este are the best place to shop in Paraguay. Many street vendors offer shoes, handbags, sunglasses, clothes and countless other products at both incredibly low prices and low quality. Enjoy the experience, and try out your haggling skills.
Haggling and the Law:
It’s important to remember that there are illegal items being sold in the streets of Ciudad del Este. For example, Paraguay has become one of the world’s leading producers of contraband cigarettes, and smuggling happens daily. This shouldn’t discourage visitors from shopping and experiencing the atmosphere of the streets, but it’s simply important to be aware of your surroundings. When buying products such as electronic goods, be sure to keep an eye on your purchase throughout the entire process, as some vendors may try to exchange your choice for a lower quality item when your attention is momentarily diverted elsewhere.
If you are looking for unique and high-quality products, take time to browse the galleries and shops inside the malls. The prices are still reasonable. Our recommendations are Mona Lisa, American House, SAX and Compubras.
Many of the stores in the malls accept credit cards. With the increase of fees to 6.38% on credit card purchases, however, other payment options may be more viable. Cash is accepted everywhere, and prepaid cards have much lower rates, around 0.38%.
Combining your Paraguay shopping experience with a local lunch like Paraguayan stew is an option for many. Hundreds of vendors also offer a variety of delicacies, both local and international, in small tents scattered around the streets. For those who prefer not to venture into the streets, the malls also offer more familiar restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King.
Brazilian Consulate in Ciudad del Este - (561) 500-984
Revenue in Foz do Iguaçu - (45) 3528-0131
Department of Tourism in Foz do Iguaçu - 0800-451516
Secretary of State of Tourism in Guaira - (44) 3642-7822