The next leg of our trip took us from Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay to Puerto Iguazú in Argentina, crossing 3 countries in the process.
The influence of each of the countries can be seen in the bordering cites of Cuidad del Este (Paraguay), Foz do Iguacu (Brazil) and Puerto Iguazú (Argentina). For examples most signs are in Spanish and Portuguese and shops have prices in both the Brazilian Real and Argentine peso.
After hours in a comfortable coach we found ourselves in the midday sun at the bus terminal in Cuidad del Este. With some help from a local we found that busses to Argentina would leave from the bus terminal at the 13th and 14th bay.
After waiting around for 20 minutes a bus arrived marked for Puerto Iguazú (Argentina). We had read it was very important to get an exit stamp for Paraguay and asked the driver if he stopped at immigration. He was not very clear but mentioned that they went all the way to Argentina. We decided to jump on the bus and just get off at immigration anyway. It cost 14000 Paraguayan G’s (£1.70), not bad for a trip across three countries.
After getting on the bus we realised how slow it was, about the same speed as a slow jogger.
Cuidad del Este is known for having cheap electronics due to a special economic status no tax is paid. This leads to the a huge black market trade. The bus we were on was also full of bags and boxes no doubt full of electronics and other goods. The tax and markup on electronics in Argentina especially is huge. Many of the people on the bus were clearly smuggling things across the border. This was most obvious when it came to scanning the baggage at the border, many of our fellow travelers left their bags on the bus!
The most important thing to take note of when crossing the borders:
1) If leaving/entering Paraguay you need a exit/entry stamp to avoid problems when entering/exiting Paraguay on the way out/in again. Make the bus driver aware of this!
2) If you are just passing through Brazil for the day a entry exit stamp is not required.
3) You always need an entry exit stamp for Argentina, the driver will stop here on the way in for sure.
The way from Paraguay to Brazil is over the friendship bridge. Right at the beginning of the bridge on the same side as the traffic is the immigration office. As we got close to the bridge a guy selling bread tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the office. Clearly we did not blend in with the rest of the smugglers he knew we were tourists. We had squeeze down the bus past all the people and boxes, finally jumping from the still moving bus. The driver yelled something at us when we got off. We ran to the office, got the passports stamped in about 2 minute. When we left the office the bus was just ahead! We ran through the traffic and just jumped back on the bus again. Being a slow bus actually paid off!
The rest of the journey was simple after this, the bus did not stop in Brazil and went directly to Argentina.
An alternative to taking the bus would have been taking a motorcycle taxi, these are much faster and will stop at immigration when you ask. However, that would not cost £1.70.
Safely on the other side with a good story to tell we made it to our lovely villa in Puerto Iguazu and celebrated with a steak! Phew!