Ciudad del Este

If you visit Iguassu Falls and you just happen to be chasing a record to become the youngest person to visit everywhere in the world you will probably make the effort to visit Ciudad del Este (CDE). CDE is the duty free shopping heaven (or hell as I saw it) right over the Paraguay border from Foz de Iguazu, Brazil. It is a place that defies the imagination of just how much “stuff” people can possibly hock on the streets.

CDE exists purely to entice shoppers from Brazil to come across the non patrolled border to buy crap that they don’t want or need (In addition, they also exist as the top drug trafficking stop in Southern South America because of the weak border with massive Brazil). They allegedly specialize in cheap electronics and other such goods. I have to disagree because I looked at flat screen TV’s and also iPods and neither of them were a good deal. I suppose if you don’t have to pay taxes on them then it would be bargain but the cost and hassle of actually transporting such goods back to the US would be a nightmare and quickly counterracted any notions I had of buying, which were very little anyway.

Ciudad del Este is absolutely raunchy and disgusting as well. There is really nothing worth seeing, period. That is of course unless you want to buy fake crap that isn’t nearly as high quality fake crap as you see in Asia. We actually saw an entire streetside store devoted to steering wheel covers, seriously! Not to mention many other things that I couldn’t even tell you what they were. As a big soccer fan, I kept looking at all the fake AC Milan, Arsenal and Real Madrid jerseys they had just hoping to see a decent fake that didn’t have all the colors running all over the place so I could save $80 off the retail price online or in the US or Europe. No such luck, like everything else in CDE, they were crap.

In short, my visit to Paraguay was just that-short. It was really pretty much what I expected and if you’ve been to “crap” markets around the third world then you’ll know what to expect as well. But it served its purpose of getting me into and out of Paraguay and we even contributed to their economy by buying some “crap”. Obviously gifts for others, haha.

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  1. I visit to Paraguay many times. Ciudad del Este is only city that has any tourists for shopping and there is nothing to see in that city or Asuncion.

  2. Bob Taylor says

    What a difference 30 years makes! I ran a business there in the late 70s (back then it was called Puerto Presidente Stroessner) and there were about 1000 people living in the town, the only paved road was the highway, the tallest office building was two stories, and there was this curious little casino (a real casino, by the way) housed in a single-story cement block building about 30 meters by 60 meters that did a lot of business with Brazilian tour buses. Foz, right across the Parana river, had about 15,000 people. Both sides looked a lot like the American west, circa 1880, and if you had some sort of minimum documentation you could cross back and forth with a minimum of formalities. Incidentally, there is a town somewhat north along the river, Pedro Juan Caballero, where the Paraguay-Brazil border runs down the center of the main street, which makes crossing even simpler (and more tempting for some). I still have connections there, and have always found it a delightful part of the world. Of course, down through the years, I’ve found delights where others found none.

  3. Bob, thanks for you note. I find that really interesting. I can only imagine how different it must’ve been 30 years ago before the big tourism and drug boom. It is a delightful place in the world. CDE just happens to have become overrun with raunchy characters and bad influences. I am sure the rest of Paraguay is nice and certainly the Brazilian and Argentinian sides are lovely and the Itaipu Dam is amazing stuff. Take care and thanks again.

  4. Bob Taylor says

    lee, some raunchy characters and “bad influences” make the most interesting acquaintances. I once had a gentleman represent me in Germany who one of the German business press swore had once been the aeronautical advisor to Idi Amin. Don’t know whether it was true or not–the person advising me of that was a relative of Ernst Rhoem–the leader of the Brown Shirts (killed in the Night of the Long Knives).

  5. Believe me, I agree with you on those making interesting acquaintances and that is incredibly interesting about Amin. I wouldn’t have thought him to have had an Aeronautical Advisor. I guess knowing some people in CDE would have painted a rosier picture if they could’ve “showed” us around and I do believe that even the dumpiest places have some positives to them-you just need to find them or have someone show you them-it’s always good to have people you know in places so you can see the more than meets the eye. Take care Bob and thanks for the reply.

  6. Bob Taylor says

    lee, many small countries have things you wouldn’t think they’d truly need. For instance Paraguay had a navy. And one gunboat. It last saw service in the Chaco War with Bolivia in the 30s. It was, as I recall, about fifty feet long, with a single gun. My father-in-law was one of the crew, and I once attended a veterans’ reunion, complete with barbecue–where you build a fire in a big pit and when it burns down to coals you spear huge slabs of meat onto small peeled tree trunk poles, stab the poles in the ground around the pit, turn them periodically, cutting off the outer cooked portions (like you do with those hunks of wrapped lamb turning on spits to make middle eastern “gyros”. Incidentally, the same type of pit with coals can be used when folks walk barefoot across it during the Feast of San Juan. I love good food, by the way, and during the late 80s, early 90s I ran a beachfront bar & grill in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. My highest markup item was mescal. I bought it for the equivalent of $8 American per gallon from two guys that came down from the mountains every week and sold an ounce-and-a- half shot of it to tourist for $3–mostly to the Club Med excursions that came up from their Bahias de Huatulco unit every Friday for lunch. (I sold it to my local friends and neighbors for about twenty-five cents a shot.)

  7. Lee:
    I don’t agree with your comments about Ciudad del Este. I’ve done business in that city for a long time in the early 90’s, and I still visit sometimes. As at any , cosmopolitan and extremely busy international commercial center, if you are willing to pay just a crap price, you’ll get crap, but you can also shop at the finest shops and buy the finest legal and original merchandise in the world, from $ 5,000 French wine botles, to $ 20,000 italian pens (and these are bargains, at international prices), to fashion, and of course elctronics. You just probably didn’t have the time to check or walk enough. Off course, you will not get the best products from street vendors, same as in New York or Miami, or anywhere in the world, unless you are just looking for local craftmanship.

  8. Oscar, thanks for your comment and I am glad to hear that there is more to CDE than meets the eye. You are correct, I didn’t give it too much of a look as I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular but did happen to check out electronics but wasn’t too impressed. There certainly were some nice stores such as the Mona Lisa etc but I mainly stuck to the outdoor markets and just went into a few of the malls. Next time I am there I will have to check out the wines!

  9. Lee, i really think that you should reconsider and even if its possible, to retract yourself. Im from Paraguay.. and ive been in the USA several times and visited many cities..and actually im living in Germany. And i can say.. because ive seen things from the FIRST world, and from the THIRD world.. as you said.. I have to say that you should give a little bit of respect to other countries. Paraguay owns the biggest hydroelectric in the world, Asuncion is a beautiful city as well.. is the oldest south american city, if you didnt know.. It posses beautiful places, to spend time with the nature. Its actually a beautiful country, and im not saying this because it is mine, i really mean it. Ive been in miami, florida, los angeles, ive seen almost everything of california, and i can say that ive found better places in my country.. you should really have a little bit more of respect, if you are talking about countries of the third world.. you should really at LEAST try to show a little bit of culture.. and say just the necessary. Im not saying anything because your president is sending people to the CHACO in paraguay, just because there is the biggest reserve of sweet water.. and they actually want to steal it. like they are trying to do to all of the countries from south america.. I assume that its going to be better if every president from South america start acting like Hugo Chavez..
    AND i wish you could have the chance to see ciudad del este again…

    • Heitor Siller says

      Antonella you are right. Lee rethink about these old concepts about first and third world, they are outdated. The point is that you took a challenge to visit every country in the world, that’s really cool, but actually you werent’ fair with Paraguay, all your old and crystalized prejudices about South America emerged in this text. Honestly you should take Paraguay off your list until you come back and make a decent visit while you are in a good mood. I’ve read many of your texts and liked everyone but Paraguay’s.

      BTW I made exactly what you did, visiting CDE for a couple of hours after visiting Foz do Iguaçu. Yes there’s a lot of crappy things being sold but there’s also top quality, original itens too, that’s why so many Brazilians go there to spend a lot of money every day. Consumer products are expensive in Brazil so Brazilians love to make travels to buy a lot, and CDE and Miami are the top destinations for that.

      I just visited CDE but I always knew I’ll have to visit many other places until I can say I really visited Paraguay decently. I’m looking forward for an opportunity to visit Asunción and other cities and places like the Charco. And againa I agree with Antonella, his words may look a little “too communist” but in fact she’s deeply correct, US government has been very evil to South America but now we’re stronger than ever to defend ourselves and to preserv our sovereignty.

  10. Hi Antonella, thanks for the comment. I realize some of what I wrote in this post last year may seem a bit harsh. However, I was only reflecting on my experience in CDE-not about the country of Paraguay in general. I am sure it’s nice and I am glad to hear how passionate you are about it. I was also not saying that the US is better and in general I usually like other places better anyway! I have a ton or respect for less developed countries, first or third world and travel to them often and usually like them better because they are more real. That was my issue with CDE, it seemed prepackaged and just there for shopping which I hate. Thats all, one day maybe I will return to Paraguay and see the rest of the country-I hope I do. take care.

  11. Although I do not look forward to another visit to CDE, my wife and I went there while visiting Iguazu and found it interesting from a sociological point of view (i.e. the motorcycle taxis crossing people back and forth CDE and Foz do Iguacu and all the hustling). We were not particularly attracted by electronics, perfumes or similar stuff but found leather products and embroideried clothes at unbelievably low prices.

  12. Next time you visit Ciudad del Este (CDE) ask if any person have already gone there, and if any one can help you to show you around. So you can have a more interesting experience. If you travel to a place and don’t know the place and the people is very easy to fill frustrating about the visit. Sorry if my grammar is not correct or if I misspell any word. Next time you came to visit send a e-mail, so I can help you, to tell you the local history, to show you the other waterfall, thats in Paraguay Salto Monday, yes is much smaller. but is nice.

  13. Jaquelyn James says

    Hmm, this is interesting as i lived in Foz de Iguacu, the Brazilian city on the other side of the boarder to the Ciudad Del Este. I went their a few times to check out the “Crap”and go caught in a very strange underground gambling scene, where a female prostitute was trying to “pimp” me. Needless to say it was a scary experience. But i would say it is not to dangerous for tourists… But half the CD’s that i did buy did not even end up working

  14. Well, that Paraguay fake crap that “isn’t nearly as high quality fake crap as you see in Asia” are actually imported from Asia, so i doubt any significant difference in quality.

  15. The visitors from Brazil came to Ciudad del Este – Paraguay because in this city the prices are at least 50% lower than in Brazil (for the same item and brand).


  16. Cuidad del Este yes it is a crap city,drugs guns prostitutes and terrorist.

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