Where to Stay in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay | The A-Z Guide
If you're curious where to stay in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay — then you've come to the perfect place.
Known as a wild, wild west border town, Ciudad del Este is the first point of call for intrepid travelers crossing into Paraguay from Brazil.
And it's one hell of a shock to the system.
At first glance, Paraguay's second most populace city appears little more than a sprawling and chaotic outdoor shopping mall. Along the busiest stretch near the border, hawkers yell above one another to flog all sorts of counterfeit and crap-quality goods. Tax-free TVs and other electronic luxuries compete for the attention of day-tripping Argentines and Brazilians, who pay outrageous tariffs at home for anything with a button.
And should you linger around a while to dig beneath the surface, you'll discover that Ciudad del Este really is little more than a sprawling and chaotic outdoor shopping mall.
Still, the city has some charms. Charming enough that I certainly found one perfect area to stay:
The Best Neighborhood in Ciudad del Este...
While centro is more convenient for those crossing over the Friendship Bridge daily, I'd recommend jumping in a cab and heading the short distance to the nearby Barrio Boqueron instead. Here you'll enjoy leafy parks, a tranquil lake, minimal traffic, and a refreshing lack of hawkers yelling out their wares.
Things to Do:
- Visit 'Salto del Monday' - While not on the level of the waterfalls across the border in Brazil, you'll still find this massive falls to be quite the view.
- Party in 'CDE' - You'll find the best bars, clubs, and restaurants in Ciudad del Este around here.
- Shop for Duty-Free Goodies - The cheapest electronics in South America can be found nearby. Big bottles of top-shelf booze can also be picked up super cheap.
If you're looking to head down to Ciudad del Este for a few days or so, that's the absolute perfect spot to stay. You'll find the location ideal, the hotel is dope, and it's easy to get to Brazil and/or visit the tourism sites in Paraguay.
For those of you looking for a little bit more information, details, and all that jazz…
Then keep on keeping on. Aka keep on reading this in-depth guide about where to stay in Ciudad de Este, Paraguay. Everything you need to know can be found in these in-depth sections below:
Where to Stay in Ciudad del Este| Best Locations + Hotels
A haphazard emporium of mass consumerism. The “Supermarket of South America,” as they say.
But you know what?
I dig its no-frills authenticity.
And if you're heading to or from Paraguay, it's well worth an overnight stay. Or a couple days. Whatever suits your fancy. See, Ciudad del Este is famed for its tax-free status. Almost the entire damn city is duty-free, making it one of the largest free trade zones in the world. But it's not cheap booze and cigarettes that pull the crowds, but rather the latest gadgets and gizmos.
You see, Argentines and Brazilians both pay out the wazoo for anything electronic. High government import taxes make iPhones and flatscreens way more expensive than what we pay in the US.
So what's a gaucho to do when he needs a new phone? A road trip to Ciudad del Este, of course, where it'll cost a shitload less than your run-of-the-mill Buenos Aires retailer would. However, while some people do come here to shop for personal goods, the vast majority are looking to make a quick buck.
Contrabandistas. Tax evaders. Smugglers. Blackmarket bootleggers. Call them what you will.
And given this is a busy South American border crossing, we can safely assume there are a few narco-traffickers in the mix ;(
That smuggling scene is precisely how Ciudad del Este has earned a rep as a bit of a “wild, wild west” kind of town. But for your everyday gringo traveler like you and me, it isn't dangerous. Almost all the crime revolves around the smuggled goods trade, so us law-abiding types (ha!) are off the hook.
Of course, keep an eye out for petty theft during the day and muggers at night. But don't let the city's seedy status dissuade you from passing through. So, we know Ciudad del Este can be crowded and loud. But what can we do about it?
Stay around some of my top recommended neighborhoods, areas, and hotels in the city. These areas all are safe, offer solid lodging options, and the best of the best in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. Here's where I'd recommend looking for lodging in the border town:
I found these areas to be far more peaceful than the center of the city and only a short drive from the border too. Kind of a win-win situation in my book.
While I wouldn't call the area “walkable” if I'm being 100% honest, this is about as close as you'll get to a nice neighborhood in Ciudad del Este. There's cafes, bars, and nice restaurants. The lake is nice to look at too, and the parks are decent for walking around or getting a bodyweight workout.
If you decide you want to see the wild side of Ciudad del Este, then you can certainly stay in Centro and/or San Blas. Both of these areas offer decent hotels and one hell of a unique travel experience.
Just make sure you stay in the absolute best areas in these neighborhoods in order to stay safe at night:
Both of these sections of the city get the job done when talking Ciudad del Este hotels. In fact, I can't recommend staying anywhere outside these couple of “bubbles” in the city…
As it's just too wild around these parts. Fascinating, yet wild.
With that in mind, here's my #1 HOTEL recommendation in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay:
3 Best Neighborhoods in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
If you're coming from Brazil, you'll cross the Friendship Bridge on foot, by car, or with public transport — a bus from Brazil typically.
Keep an eye out for border scams, which aren't unheard of here. Most first-world passport holders can enter Paraguay and travel up to 30km from the border without a visa or entry stamp, so don't bother with immigration if you're on a day trip.
Note: “Gringos” have to pay a hefty visa fee to stay in Paraguay, but this can be skirted at the border if you're staying for a day.
The first neighborhood you'll see is centro, which isn't really the center at all. This chaotic outdoor marketplace sits on the far eastern fringe of the city, not far from the banks of the Parana River that separates it from Brazil.
On the northern side of the main road, you've got San Blas, which boasts similar shopping-centric mayhem but more hotel options. To the west, things start to get less hectic as the action thins out.
And to the west is where I recommend staying unless you like a little chaos in your life. As such, here are some of my top neighborhoods in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay:
#1. Area 1/Barrio Boqueron – Best place to stay for relaxing, nightlife, etc.
El centro is manic — a feverish and utterly restless place.
And while centro is more convenient for those crossing over the Friendship Bridge, I'd recommend jumping in a cab and heading the short distance to the nearby Area 1/Barrio Boqueron instead.
Here, you'll enjoy leafy parks, a tranquil lake, minimal traffic, and a refreshing lack of hawkers yelling out their wares.
Put simply, there's no need to stay in centro if you're not shopping. And the best spot outside the frantic center is Area 1/Barrio Boqueron.
Around this area you'll find some of the nicer restaurants in the city, the best nightlife options, and more. It's the only area I'd stay in Ciudad del Este — if I was planning to stay more than one night.
Best Hotel in Area 1 /Barrio Boqueron: Megal Suites Hotel
A fancy swimming pool, nice sauna, and solid fitness center all come correct at Megal Suites Hotel in Ciudad del Este. The location is mint too — located just a quick walk from some of the nicest parks in the city and the little lake.
Plus, you're next door to some of the best bars and a couple great restaurants, including a sushi spot. If you want to party on the weekend, make sure to start at Capitão Bar.
The decor is modern and the price is more than reasonable. You're also a 5-10 taxi ride away from the border depending on traffic.
#2. El Centro – Best place to stay for shopping
If you're in Ciudad del Este in search of electro bargains, then el centro is the place to be. After all, you wouldn't want to lug all those precious techno treasures to another part of the city, would you?
It might be crowded and loud, but the convenience of being able to pop back into your hotel between retail sessions is well worth it.
And besides, the mayhem of centro stops completely during the night once all the other shoppers have gone home for the day.
It's also a unique experience for a day or two, as the place is pure chaos and there's some charm seeing it just once. Oh, and border runs to Brazil are super quick from here as you're just a few blocks from the bridge. Some find this convenience more than worth it.
Just be forewarned…the street lights don't really work at night in centro and walking around at night can be an interesting experience to say the least.
Best Hotel in Centro: Rio Hotel by Bourbon
New and modern, the orderly Rio Hotel feels a little out of place considering the higgledy-piggledy vibe outside. This stylish four-star hotel is spotlessly clean and features funky tropical-themed rooms, an outstanding breakfast buffet, and a fully-equipped gym.
The onsite restaurant is superb, and there's a chic downstairs bar should you fancy a late-night bourbon or two. This makes it easy to stay in the hotel at night when you're not looking to brave the darkness outside.
Overall, a highly recommended spot in the center of Ciudad del Este.
#3. San Blas – The best place to stay for convenience sake
If you just want to check into a hotel the moment you cross the Friendship Bridge, then San Blas is your best bet.
The tiny barrio lies on the northern side of Highway 7, making it an easy walk from the malls of el centro.
Although San Blas has its fair share of commerce, it's a lot more laid back than centro, thus more appealing to the non-shopping traveler. The area also has a better variety of hotels, making it easier to find budget digs.
In fact, if you're budget is fairly tight, this might be the best spot to stay in Ciudad de Este — as the prices are cheaper here and you'll still find some quality spots.
Best Hotel in San Blas: Hotel y Restaurant Austria
Hotel Austria brings the charming customs of this beloved European nation to the Paraguayan border town of Ciudad del Este. Red and white checkered table cloths set the scene for an Austrian gastronomic delight, with a mouthwatering selection of traditional dishes like bratwurst, chargrilled steaks, and apple strudel on the menu. The hotel rooms are clean, comfortable, and homely.
Top 3 Budget Hotels in Ciudad del Este
Paraguay is the second cheapest country in South America, after Bolivia, so it ain't hard to score well-priced digs.
Here are my top picks in the city:
The best option for backpackers and solo budget travelers in the city, this friendly hostel resides in chilled out Barrio Boqueron — a quick trip from the hustle of downtown.
It's an easy walk from the bus station, so the location is on point. The highlight, however, is the swimming pool with an attached bar — a godsend when the mercury rises over 100 degrees. And it certainly can in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay!
You're right next to the little lake in the city staying in this hostel and all the little cafes, restaurants, and bars nearby.
Sur Brasil is a sweet option for those after a budget-friendly hotel away from the busy city center. The modern no-frills lodging is clean, comfortable, and air-conditioned all throughout. Be sure to wake up in time for the hearty breakfast, which comes free despite the very reasonable room rate.
It's located right near the bus station and absolutely ideal for anyone just passing through after seeing the waterfalls and dam.
If sleeping in the center is your jam, give the grotty generic alojamientos a miss and stay in this cheap and cheerful hotel instead. Unlike other budget options in the area, the lodging is spotlessly clean and boasts a fresh lick of paint. Don't pass on their breakfast, which is tasty and abundant.
You're just 1-3 minutes from the border crossing when here — as long as traffic as light. Which is incredibly convenient for many a traveler.
Apartments in Ciudad del Este
If you're looking to stay long-term in Ciudad del Este, which would be beyond odd unless you're in the contraband game, then you may want to look at apartments in the neighborhoods listed above.
Just note that…
Pickings are slim here. You simply won't find many solid short-term apartment options in this city. People just don't stay for long. It's not a digital nomad or expat hotspot. Hell, far from it.
Quick Trip vs. Living Full-Time?
Aside from the odd business traveler, gringos don't tend to linger long in Ciudad Del Este. Pretty much everyone comes in, sees the big dam, and GTFO again. It's a one-night-stand kind of place, yet enjoyable enough nonetheless.
As a traveler, shack yourself up in one of the three places I've mentioned and check out the next day.
You won't exactly encounter a thriving expat scene here, either.
Unless you're a professional contrabandista or you've decided to get serious with a local mamacita, then there's not really any reason for a westerner to live here.
Top 4 Things to Do in Ciudad del Este
Although it ain't exactly the highlight of Latin America, there are a couple of things to keep you occupied during a sojourn of the city. Of course, if you haven't already, go across the border to see the Iguazu Falls, which is freakin' incredible.
Then you can see some of the best that Ciudad del Este has to offer.
So, here are the best things to do in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.
- Visit the Itaipu dam: As the most badass dam in the world in terms of gigawatt output, Itaipu is a marvel of modern engineering that's destined to impress. The hydroelectric power plant took 40,000 people to build and contains 210 times more concrete than Rio's Maracana Stadium.
- Shop for duty-free goodies: You won't find cheaper electronics than at home, but you can score bargains compared to what's on offer in Argentina and Brazil. Big bottles of top-shelf booze can also be picked up super cheap, and who wouldn't want a heavily discounted liter of Chivas? Regardless of what you buy, keep a keen eye out for counterfeits.
- See the Tres Fronteras: Called the “Three Borders” in English, this is the section of the Parana River that meets the Iguazu River to divide Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. It's a scenic spot and a novelty to see three countries at once.
- Salto del Monday: While not exactly on the level of the waterfalls across the border in Brazil, you'll still find this massive falls to be quite the view. Plus, the best thing about this place is you'll often find no one else is here during the week — not even workers. Once you pay to get in, you might have the views all to yourself.
Accommodations in Ciudad del Este| Verdict?
When talking where to stay here, I can't recommend selecting one of the Ciudad del Este hotels listed above. The locations are great, the amenities ideal, and you're sure to have a damn good time on your short trip to the city.
Ciudad del Este isn't a city for a long time, but you can surely have a good time during your stay. There's great tourism activities to keep you occupied for a few days and it's the best stop coming from or going to Brazil by land.
Just make sure you abide by my top pick for Ciudad del Este hotels and stay at:
That bad boy is my top choice in Ciudad del Este for a damn good reason.
Any questions, comments, or concerns — just post a comment below and I'll make sure to get back with you.
Que te vaya bien,