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How to Visit Ciudad del Este by Bus and Ferry

Traveling from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este is pretty straightforward. There are two ways to make this trip. You can take a ferry or take the bus. You can travel directly between Argentina and Paraguay by taking a ferry across the Paraná River. If you take the bus, you’ll have to travel through Foz do Iguaçu Brazil.

This guide explains how to travel from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este by ferry and bus. We’ll also outline how to travel from Foz do Iguaçu to Ciudad del Este. We’ll cover how to get to and from the port or bus station, where and how to buy tickets, ticket costs, immigration and customs, departure times, luggage, safety, and more.

In the second half of this guide, We’ll outline the city of Ciudad del Este. We’ll cover reasons to visit, things to do, safety, and more. Hopefully, this guide makes your trip to Ciudad del Este a bit smoother and easier.

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay Virtual Walking Tour (4K)
Check out my walking video to see what Ciudad del Este looks like

Table of Contents:

How to Take The Ferry from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este

The ferry that travels between Puerto Iguazu, Argentina and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay is called La Balsa (the raft in Spanish). This isn’t a big fancy ferry boat. It’s just a barge that is pulled by a small tugboat. It has space for around 26 vehicles and 96 foot passengers. 

The ferry doesn’t actually drop you off in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. It actually drops you off in a small town to the south called Presidente Franco. From there, you’ll have to travel north about 11 km or 7 miles to get to the city center of Ciudad del Este. 

The ferry from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este
La Balsa arriving. I’m standing in Argentina. On the right is Brazil. Directly across the river is Paraguay

How Much Does the Ferry Ticket from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este Cost?

The ferry costs around $2.50 (500 pesos) for a person without a vehicle. With a vehicle, it costs around $7.50 (1500 pesos). You can also cross with a motorcycle or bicycle. The ticket price is slightly higher than the foot passenger price. 

The ticket price in pesos will probably be higher when you make the trip due to the extreme inflation that Argentina is experiencing. The price in dollars should remain around the same. 

There is no first-class or VIP seating or anything like that. Everybody pays the same fare and gets the same ticket. The prices are the same for everyone. 

Only cash is accepted. You can pay in multiple currencies including Argentine Pesos and Paraguayan Guaraní. I believe US dollars and Brazilian reais are also accepted. 

Be sure to bring cash with you to the port. There is no ATM or currency exchange there. If you don’t bring cash, you’ll have to walk back into town to withdraw cash or change money. You can exchange money in tourist offices in Puerto Iguazu or withdraw from an ATM if you need to. There are also ATMs and currency exchanges in Ciudad del Este.

The Cost of Transport to and From the Port

In addition to the ferry ticket, you’ll also have to pay for a bus or taxi ride from Presidente Franco to Ciudad del Este. It’s too far to walk. I don’t know exactly how much the bus ticket costs. It should be around $1 or around 7000 Guaraní. A taxi ride will cost $5-$10. Taxi drivers accept multiple currencies (dollars, pesos, guaraní, or reais). 

From Puerto Iguazu, you can walk to the port for free. If you have a lot of luggage, you could take a taxi for a couple of dollars. 

Due to the cost of the bus or taxi, it is more expensive to take this trip by ferry rather than taking the bus from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este through Brazil. The bus will take you directly from Puerto Iguazu to downtown Ciudad del Este. More on that later.

Of course, you don’t have to worry about this expense if you’re driving your own vehicle. 

Departure Times for La Balsa Ferry

The Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este ferry runs from Monday to Saturday. It does not operate on Sundays. If you want to travel on Sunday, your only options are to take the bus or private transport.

According to La Balsa website, the ferry operates every half hour from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Another source I found lists the following departure times: 8:30, 09:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30, 15:30, 16:30, and 17:00. I believe the second timetable is more accurate. The ferry seems to depart about every hour. 

The Balsa doesn’t always run on time. The boat I took was supposed to leave at 11:30 am but it didn’t actually depart until after noon. It was pretty empty so I think they waited for a few more passengers to show up. 

During holidays, the hours can change. On some holidays, the ferry doesn’t operate. 

Travel Time

This trip can take anywhere from 1-3 hours. Exactly how long it will take you to travel from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este really depends on whether or not the ferry is running on time and the mode of transportation you use to travel from Presidente Franco to Ciudad del Este

The ferry crossing itself only takes around 10-15 minutes. Immigration on both sides takes another 10-20 minutes depending on how many passengers there are. You may also have to wait around for 10-20 minutes for the other passengers to board. It takes some time to load all of the cars. The drive or taxi ride from Presidente Franco to downtown Ciudad del Este takes 25-40 minutes depending on traffic. If the ferry is running late, you may have to wait around for 30-60 minutes. 

The travel time increases if you take the bus from Presidente Franco to Ciudad del Este. My taxi driver told me the bus takes 1.5-2 hours with all of the stops that the bus makes along the way. 

Taking the bus is slightly faster and more reliable. If you’re in a hurry, take the bus.

How to Get to the Puerto Iguazu Ferry Port

From Puerto Iguazu, you can easily walk to the port if you don’t have much luggage. From the main roundabout (Las 7 Esquinas) it’s a 950 meter (0.6 mile) walk to the ferry port. The walk is downhill. It takes less than 10 minutes.

If you’re staying outside of the city center, you can take a taxi to the ferry port. You’ll find taxi stands all over the city. Your hotel can also call a taxi for you. 

How to Get to the Ciudad del Este Ferry Port

The ferry port on the Paraguay side isn’t actually located in Ciudad del Este. It’s located 11 km (7 miles) to the south in a neighborhood called Presidente Franco. 

To get there, you can take a city bus or a taxi. You can catch a bus to Presidente Franco at the Terminal de Omnibus in Ciudad del Este. You can find taxis all over the city. Just flag one down. There are car and motorcycle taxis available. I believe Uber also operates in Ciudad del Este but I’m not 100% sure

The taxi will take you directly to the port. The bus doesn’t go all the way to the port but it will take you close. If you take the bus, you’ll have to walk from the bus stop to the port. This is a distance of around one kilometer.

Where Do I Buy a Ferry Ticket from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este

Only one company operates this route so you don’t have any choice of boats. You have to take La Balsa. 

You can buy your ticket in person at the port. When you arrive at the port, look down the hill to your right. You’ll see a small blue building. It looks kind of like a shed. That’s the ticket office. You can buy your ticket from the agent inside. Be sure to bring your passport with you when you go to buy your ticket. It is required for booking. 

The ticket office for the Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este ferry
The blue building is the ticket office and immigration. The ticket office is on the left and immigration is on the right.

When you arrive at the port, you’ll see a larger red ticket office. That office only sells tickets for the Iguazu boat tour. You don’t want to go there. 

If you have trouble finding the ticket office, just tell someone that you want to take La Balsa to Paraguay. They’ll point you in the right direction. Everyone I met at the port was friendly and helpful. 

If you’re driving, you can drive right up to the ticket office and park next to it. After buying your ticket, you’ll be directed to a parking area where you can wait for the ferry to arrive. 

You don’t need to buy a ticket in advance. Just show up when you want to travel and buy your ticket for the next crossing. From what I understand, the Balsa rarely fills up. If you’re traveling during the busy season or during a holiday, you may want to book in advance, just to be safe.

I traveled during low season and the ferry wasn’t full. There were only five foot passengers and there was space for several more vehicles. 

Passing Through Immigration and Customs in Argentina and Paraguay

The entry and exit procedure is simple. There are immigration and customs offices located on both sides of the border. On the Argentina side, you’ll pass through Argentina immigration and customs before you board the ferry. Once you arrive at the Paraguay side and disembark, you’ll go through Paraguay immigration and customs. 

On the Argentina side, the customs office is located directly to the right of the ferry ticket office. After buying your ticket, you walk about 3 meters to your right and you’re at immigration. It’s a small blue building. You’ll get stamped out of Argentina here. 

You may or may not have to go through customs (aduanas). Customs is located in a trailer directly to the right of immigration. I didn’t have to go through customs when making this trip.

After passing through immigration and customs, you can board the ferry. If the ferry hasn’t arrived yet, you can go to the waiting area to your left and take in the view of the river and the three borders area. It’s a beautiful spot. 

Once you arrive on the Paraguay side of the border, you’ll pass through immigration and get stamped in. After exiting the ferry, start walking up the hill. You’ll see the Paraguay immigration office on the left side of the road. It’s not well-marked but it’s hard to miss. There are only a few buildings in the port area on the Paraguay side. 

There is a customs office next to immigration. You may or may not need to pass through customs. I didn’t have to. 

The immigration process was extremely easy on both sides of the border. There was a short line on both sides. I waited maybe 10 minutes in total.

On the Argentina side, I wasn’t questioned at all. The official just stamped me out. On the Paraguay side, the immigration official asked how long I planned to stay in Paraguay. He also wanted to know why I didn’t have an Argentina stamp. I had to explain that Argentina doesn’t stamp passports but I did go through immigration before boarding.

The official stamped my passport and granted me 90 days in Paraguay. There was no visa charge. I did not have to arrange a visa in advance. I travel on a U.S. passport.

Overall, it was smooth and easy. Nobody tried to solicit a bribe or anything like that. The officials were friendly.

Visas

Before making this trip, you should check to see whether or not you need to obtain a visa in advance for Paraguay or for Argentina if you’re traveling in the opposite direction. You should also check to see whether or not there is a visa fee. These days, most travelers can enter both countries visa free for up to 90 days free of charge. 

In the past, some nationalities had to pay a fee and obtain a visa in advance. The fees to visit these countries used to be pretty high because Paraguay and Argentina charged a reciprocity fee. They charged the same fee as your country charged their citizens.

For example, until recently, US citizens had to obtain a visa and pay a $160 visa fee to enter Paraguay. Canadians had to pay $150. That requirement was recently dropped. Argentina also dropped its reciprocity fee a few years ago. 

The rules can change at any time so it’s best to double check before you travel. The expensive visas are the reason I didn’t visit Argentina when I last visited South America about 8 years ago.

Waiting for the Ferry

To the left of the ticket office, you’ll find a covered waiting area with several concrete benches. Here, you can get a great view of the Iguazu River, the Paraná River, and the three borders area. Just across the Iguazu River, you’ll see Brazil. If you look to your left, you can see Paraguay. You can also see the spot where the two rivers meet. You can watch La Balsa arriving and unloading from the waiting area. 

There is also a tourism information center here if you have any questions. Outside of the tourist area, there is a large map of the area that can help you get the lay of the land. 

If you’re hungry, there is a small restaurant and kiosk just up the hill. Here, you can buy drinks, snacks, and whole meals. There are also a couple of street stands where you can buy freshly cooked snacks. This is a great place to spend the rest of your pesos before you cross the border. 

If you’re traveling with a vehicle, you’ll drive down a small hill to the parking area overlooking the river. You’ll wait for the ferry here. 

La Balsa ferry unloading
La Balsa unloading

Boarding the Balsa Ferry

Once the ferry arrives, you’ll have to wait for all of the arriving passengers to disembark and leave the area. This only takes a few minutes. After that, you can board the ferry. 

There is a small sign indicating the way to the ferry. Basically, you just walk down the hill. It’s a short curvy road with a sidewalk on the right. The area is small. You can’t really get lost. If you’re confused, just ask someone and they’ll point you in the right direction. 

If you’re traveling on foot, you’ll simply walk onto the ferry. The entrance for cars and people is the same. When you walk on, you’ll hand your ticket to the attendant. 

If you’re traveling with a vehicle, you’ll drive down a curvy hill and onto the ferry. You have to wait for all of the arriving vehicles to leave the area before you can drive to the ferry. This is because the road going to and from the ferry is only one lane. There was a minor traffic jam that lasted about 15 minutes when I was there because someone tried to drive down the road before all of the arriving vehicles drove away. 

Seating on the Ferry

As you walk onto the ferry, you’ll find two levels of seating to your right. To access the upper level, you walk up a flight of stairs. There is a line of seats at the top. This is a great place to sit if it’s not raining. You’ll get a great view of the Three Borders and the bridge between Brazil and Paraguay. If it’s raining, you can sit on the benches on the lower level. This area is covered. Both seating areas are outdoors. 

If you’re crossing with a vehicle, you can just sit in your vehicle if you choose.  

The Ferry Ride

The bridge between Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
The new bridge being built between Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad del Este

The ferry ride itself only lasts about 10 or 15 minutes. You travel down the Iguazu River for a couple of hundred meters then cross the Paraná River. From the ferry port, you can easily see the other side. You can watch the Balsa traveling back and forth. It’s a relatively small area. 

The ride is smooth. You’re crossing at a slow-moving part of the rivers. There are no rapids or anything like that. It’s calm and peaceful. 

Luggage

There is no luggage limit if you’re carrying a reasonable amount of luggage. You can bring large suitcases and backpacks onto the ferry. There is no extra charge for luggage. I imagine if you tried to carry an unreasonable amount of luggage, they may charge extra. 

You handle your own luggage. There are no porters available. You can’t check your luggage. If you’re carrying a large amount of luggage, you may be better off traveling by bus. 

There is no designated luggage storage area on the ferry. You just carry your luggage with you and place it next to you. There is plenty of open space on the deck where you can store your luggage. 

La Balsa ferry arriving in Paraguay
Arriving in Paraguay

Arriving in Paraguay by Ferry: How to Travel from Presidente Franco to Ciudad del Este

As mentioned, the Balsa drops you off in the city of Presidente Franco on the Paraguay side of the border. This is kind of like a suburb of Ciudad del Este. Presidente Franco sits 11 km south of downtown Ciudad del Este. 

From Presidente Franco, you can take a bus or taxi to Ciudad del Este. To get to the bus stop or to find a taxi, you’ll have to walk from the ferry port. There is no taxi stand or bus stop at the ferry port.

After passing through immigration, start walking up the hill. The road is called Ruta a la Marina y Aduana Paraguaya. This road intersects with the main road of Presidente Franco, called General Bernardino Caballero. Take a left on this road and start walking north. On this road, you can catch a bus or taxi to Ciudad del Este. 

If you see a bus heading north, you can flag it down. You’ll also run into some car and motorcycle taxis if you keep walking. Most likely, a taxi driver will approach you as you walk. 

I don’t know what a fair price is for a taxi or bus ride from Presidente Franco to Ciudad del Este. If you know how much the ride should cost, share in the comments below. I paid around $7, which I think was high. 

Arriving in Argentina: How to Travel from the Ferry Port to Puerto Iguazu

If you’re taking this trip in the opposite direction, you’ll arrive at the Puerto Iguazu ferry port. The port is located in town, less than a kilometer from the city center(Las 7 Esquinas). You can easily walk there. It’s a pleasant walk. You’ll wind up a big hill, pass by a beautiful park, stroll down a tree-lined street and arrive in the center of town. From there, you can walk to a number of hotels. 

If you prefer, you can also find a taxi at the port. The driver can help you load your bags and take you wherever you need to go. Puerto Iguazu is a small town. It’s easy to get around. 

Staying Safe

This is a safe trip to make. Everyone I met was kind and professional. The border guards were all friendly. Nobody tried to scam me or solicit a bribe. Prices were clearly marked on the ferry. I paid the same price as the locals. 

The ferry also seemed to be safe. It was in good working condition. The captain didn’t travel too fast or run the boat too hard. There are no rapids or waves. The river is calm and slow-moving. The same ferry travels this route dozens of times per week so I think it’s pretty reliable. 

The areas around the border on both the Argentina and Paraguay side also seemed pretty safe. There are military guards stationed around the port area on both sides. You don’t have to worry about violent crime at the port. The area is secure. Both Puerto Iguazu and Ciudad del Este are peaceful cities, in general.

You should always keep an eye on your belongings just to be safe. You never know if there are pickpockets or thieves operating.

The neighborhoods around the port are also safe. When you exit the area immediately surrounding the port, it becomes pretty obvious that Paraguay is less developed than Argentina. The area around the port did not feel dangerous. It just seemed poorer. It was also more residential. Presidente Franco is not a touristy area. Tourists just pass through there on their way to Ciudad del Este. 

The Argentina side felt a bit safer. Probably just because the port is right next to Puerto Iguazu, which is an extremely safe and touristy city.

That said, it’s best to take some precautions when crossing the border. I would probably avoid crossing after dark, just to be safe. 

Bathrooms

There is no bathroom on the ferry. If you have to go, you’ll have to use the bathroom on shore. There are bathrooms on both sides of the border. I don’t know if there is a charge to use the bathrooms. 

Facilities and Amenities

There aren’t really any facilities or amenities on the ferry. There are no electrical outlets for charging your phone. Wifi is not available. It’s just a small barge with an open deck. There is no interior area. There is no heating or air conditioning. 

Food and Drink

No food or drinks are sold on the ferry. If you want to eat or drink something, you’ll have to bring it with you or buy it at the port. 

You can buy food and drinks on both sides of the border. On the Argentina side, there is a small kiosk where you can buy chips, sodas, candy, empanadas, and a range of other snacks and beverages. There is also a restaurant. In addition, you’ll find a couple of street food stands serving up some Argentine treats. 

On the Paraguay side of the border, you’ll find some small shops that sell snacks and drinks. After walking up the hill, away from the port and toward the main road, you’ll find more small shops and some small restaurants.

You don’t really need to bring any food with you on the ferry because the trip is so short. The crossing only lasts 15 minutes or so. You can eat and drink on the ferry if you like. 

More Info on La Balsa

The company that operates the ferry is called Balsa Iguazú. Below, I’ll link their website and contact info. 

How to Take the Bus from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este

If you don’t want to take the ferry, it is also possible to take a bus from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este. This is actually the more popular option. The bus picks you up in the center of Puerto Iguazu and drops you off in the center of Ciudad del Este.

The bus from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este departs every hour. It departs from platform 7 at Puerto Iguazu bus station. 

The bus station is located in the center of Puerto Iguazu on Avenida Misiones. Here is the location on Google Maps. You can easily walk there from most hotels and hostels in the city.

The bus ticket from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este costs around $2. You can buy your ticket at the ticket office next to the platform. It is not necessary to buy a ticket in advance. You can just show up when you want to leave and buy a ticket for the next bus. 

The bus ride from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour. This trip will probably take you longer because you have to stop at immigration. The buses that make this trip are simple older city buses with plastic seats. They aren’t modern coaches.

The Border Crossings from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este

The drawback to taking the bus between these two cities is that you’ll have to pass through two international borders. First, you’ll cross from Argentina to Brazil. You’ll then cross from Brazil to Paraguay. 

You can’t travel directly from Argentina to Paraguay by bus. The reason is that there is no bridge between the two countries at this time. There are bridges between Argentina and Brazil and between Brazil and Paraguay.

To make the trip legally, you’ll have to stop and go through immigration in both Brazil and Paraguay. First, you’ll have to get stamped out of Argentina. After crossing the bridge, you’ll get stamped into Brazil. Next, you’ll travel through the city of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. Next, you have to get stamped out of Brazil. Finally, you can then travel across another bridge, where you’ll get stamped into Paraguay. You’ll have to wait in line at every checkpoint and show your passport to an immigration official each time. As you can imagine, this gets tedious. 

You’ll also have to consider the visa requirements for Brazil. Right now, Brazil has a pretty lenient visa policy. Many people can enter visa free without having to pay a fee. That could change in the future. Be sure to check whether or not you need a visa to enter Brazil before making this trip. If you need a visa for Brazil, you’re better off taking the ferry and bypassing Brazil completely.

Passing Through Immigration at the Brazil and Paraguay Borders

When you take the bus from Puerto Iguazu, it will stop at the border on the Argentina side. Everyone will exit the bus to pass through immigration and get stamped out of Argentina. 

The bus usually doesn’t stop at immigration on the Brazil side of the border. This is because the border between Brazil and Paraguay is open for locals of the region. They can freely cross back and forth without having to go through immigration in either country.

Not a lot of foreigners make this trip so most local buses don’t bother stopping at the border. Even if the bus company says they stop at the border, they may not.

If you decide to take the bus from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este you need to tell the driver to stop at the Brazilian border so you can pass through immigration and get stamped in. 

If you don’t ask the driver to stop, the bus may take you directly to Ciudad del Este without stopping at all. You’ll end up crossing through Brazil and into Paraguay. This can create some problems for you because you illegally entered Brazil and Paraguay.

When you reach the Brazilian border simply ask the driver to stop for you. You need to go through immigration and get stamped into Brazil. People may tell you that this isn’t necessary but it is. Only locals can cross the border legally without going through immigration.

Most likely, the bus driver won’t wait for you to go through immigration. They will just let you off at immigration and then continue on their way to Paraguay.

You will have to catch another bus from the Brazil-Argentina border to the Brazil-Paraguay border. If you don’t want to wait for a bus, you could take a taxi instead. The distance between the borders is just a few miles. 

When you arrive at the border, you will need to get stamped out of Brazil. You can then walk across the bridge (Puente de la Amistad or ‘Friendship Bridge’). Once you reach the other side, you’ll go through Paraguay immigration and get stamped in. Now you’re in Ciudad del Este. 

What to Do if You Accidentally Cross into Ciudad del Este Without Getting a Stamp

Many tourists cross into Paraguay without getting a stamp. Sometimes they inadvertently enter illegally because the bus didn’t stop. Sometimes they just don’t bother. In most cases, you could walk across the border and bypass immigration without getting caught. The area is very crowded. Most locals just walk right through. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd. 

Sometimes border guards stop tourists to check their passports. If you try to visit Ciudad del Este without formally entering the country and you get caught, you could face a fine. The border guards could solicit a bribe from you. Worst case, you could be arrested and deported. For this reason, it’s best not to risk entering illegally. Take the time to go through immigration. For most visitors, it’s free and only takes a few minutes.

If you accidentally entered Paraguay illegally because the bus didn’t stop at the border, you can simply walk back to the border and go through immigration regularly. This is a mistake that tourists make regularly. If you’re questioned, you can simply explain that you made an honest mistake. You shouldn’t have any trouble. 

If you take the bus all the way from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este without stopping, you will have crossed through Brazil illegally. If you then try to enter Paraguay, immigration won’t stamp your passport because you won’t have a Brazil exit stamp. To correct this, you will have to go all the way back to Brazil to get stamped in and out. You can then proceed to Paraguay legally. Be sure to get stamped into Brazil when crossing from Argentina.

How to Visit Ciudad del Este from Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Puente de la Amistad between Ciudad del Este and Foz do Iguacu
Walking across Puente de la Amistad on the way to Foz do Iguaçu

From Foz do Iguaçu, make your way to Puente de la Amistad. This is the bridge between Paraguay and Brazil. You can catch a local bus, take a taxi, or simply walk to the bridge. It’s a long walk from downtown so I recommend you take some kind of transport. 

Before crossing the bridge, you’ll need to get stamped out of Brazil. Head to the immigration building to get your stamp. The building is located on the right when you’re facing the bridge. You may have to cross several lanes of traffic to reach it. If you have trouble finding the building, just ask around for ‘imigração’ and someone will point you in the right direction. 

After getting your stamp, walk across the bridge. You will walk on the left side of the bridge. You’ll have to cross several lanes again. This is a large bridge. You’ll walk for around 15 minutes. Enjoy the views of the Paraná river. 

Once you reach the Paraguay side of the bridge, head to the immigration building to get stamped in. This is a busy and confusing area. The building is located in the center between several lanes of traffic. If you have trouble finding it, simply ask someone for ‘inmigración. 

You can also take a bus across the border. This takes longer because you’ll have to wait in traffic. This is an extremely busy border crossing for vehicles. For pedestrians, it’s not too busy. If you don’t have much luggage, you can save time by walking across the bridge.

When I made the trip in the opposite direction, there were no lines at immigration on either side. This was surprising because the area was so busy. The entry and exit process was smooth and quick. I did get a bit confused when I arrived at the bridge so I asked a guard where immigration was.

A Bit of Info About Ciudad del Este, Paraguay

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
Ciudad del Este

Paraguay is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. Paraguay is one of the least visited countries in the world. This is partially due to the remote location. Paraguay also doesn’t offer mountains, beaches, ancient ruins, or beautiful colonial cities like surrounding countries. The country is mostly flat. It’s also a bit less developed.

Paraguay is still well worth a visit. The country offers some beautiful natural landscapes. It’s also a very affordable country to visit. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination in South America, consider Paraguay.

The city of Ciudad del Este, located in the eastern part of Paraguay, is a major commercial center. It is situated on the Paraná river, on the border with Brazil and Argentina. The city has a population of approximately 300,000 people. This makes it the second largest city in Paraguay after Asuncion, the capital.

Ciudad del Este is known for its many shopping malls and for its duty-free status. The city center is basically one big open-air mall. You can buy anything here.

The prices are great. Particularly for South America, where imported goods are often taxed heavily. The excellent shopping makes Ciudad del Este a popular destination for Brazilians and Argentinians. Thousands cross the border to buy cheap electronics, luxury products, and goods from international brands to bring back home with them. 

Ciudad del Este has a large black market. Brazilians buy cheap products here tax-free, smuggle them across the border, then re-sell them in Brazil for a profit.

Why Visit Ciudad del Este?

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
Ciudad del Este

Most tourists visit Ciudad del Este after visiting Iguazu Falls. Iguazu Falls lies on the border between Argentina and Brazil. Most visitors spend one night on each side of the border to visit both sides of the falls. They spend one night in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina and one night in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil.

Just across the Paraná River lies Ciudad del Este. Because you’re so close to Paraguay when you visit Iguazu Falls, you might as well pop across the border for a quick visit. It’s close enough for a day trip or overnighter. Ciudad del Este has enough to keep you busy for a couple of days.

Is Ciudad del Este Safe?

Ciudad del Este is a safe city to visit. Violent crime is rare. The city is well-patrolled by police. The malls also have private security. You don’t have to worry about getting robbed while you’re out and about. You can shop in peace. It’s safe to wander around and enjoy the city.

Visitors should take precautions against pickpockets and thieves. Never leave your belongings unattended. Secure all of your valuables in zippered pockets. Carry your cash and cards in a money belt. For more tips, check out my guide: How to Avoid Pickpockets.

It’s also important to keep an eye out for traffic while walking around. Traffic can be dangerous here. Cars and motorcycles drive right next to the roadside stands. It would be easy to get distracted and get hit.

Crime does exist in Ciudad del Este. Smuggling is a major problem. Corruption also exists. These crimes don’t really affect tourists.

Ciudad del este can feel a bit sketchy in places. It’s a bit run down. The city is also very dark and deserted at night. Shops close up around 5 or 6 then the streets empty out. I walked around a bit at night and it didn’t really feel dangerous. It was just bizarre. Check out my night walking video below to get a feel for the city.

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay Night Walk 4K

Things to do in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay

Ciudad del Este is not a major tourist destination. The only thing to do in the city itself is shop. You can buy everything you can think of here including clothing, electronics, luxury goods, imported goods, souvenirs, and more. Whatever you need, you can buy it here. Generally, the vendors aren’t too pushy, which is nice. You can walk around and shop in peace. Nobody will bother you.

While shopping, beware of counterfeits. You can buy genuine name-brand products here but there are plenty of fakes floating around. Also, be sure to haggle. The price of everything is negotiable. You can pay in US dollars, Brazilian Reals, or Paraguayan Guaraní. Many shops also accept Argentine pesos.

A shopping street in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay
Street stands in Ciudad del Este

There are also a couple of attractions located near the city. The biggest attraction is Itaipu Dam. This dam, located on the Paraná river between Paraguay and Brazil, was the largest power plant in the world until the completion of the Three Gorges Dam in China. For more info, check out this guide to visiting Itaipu Dam.

Another nearby attraction is Monday Waterfalls (Saltos del Monday). This beautiful waterfall is located just a short drive from Ciudad del Este. After visiting Iguazu Falls, you might not find this one to be too impressive but it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area. For more info, check out this guide to Saltos el Monday.

The other major attraction in Ciudad del Este is the Tres Fronteras (The Three Borders) landmark. This is the location where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet. There isn’t much to do here other than take a photo for a souvenir. You can get a nice view of the river and the three countries. Of course, if you take the ferry, you’ll get an even better view. The landmark is located near the ferry port.

For more things to do in Ciudad del Este, check out this guide.

Where To Go After Ciudad del Este?

From Ciudad del Este, you have several options. You could cross the bridge (Puente de la Amistad) to Brazil. You can simply exit Paraguay, walk across the bridge, then pass through Brazilian Immigration. You’ll end up in the city of Foz do Iguaçu. From here, you can visit the Brazil side of Iguazu falls. You can also catch a bus to many major Brazilian cities including Florianópolis and São Paulo.

the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls.
The Brazil side of Iguazu Falls

You can also catch a bus to Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. The bus ride from Ciudad del Este to Asuncion takes about 6 hours and costs $20-$30. Busses leave frequently from Terminal de Omnibus in central Ciudad del Este. 

Of course, you can also take the ferry back to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Simply head back to the port, buy a ticket, and catch La Balsa back across the river. From Puerto Iguazu, you can view the Argentina side of Iguazu falls. You can also catch busses to cities all over Argentina including Buenos Aires.

Ciudad del Este, Foz do Iguaçu, and Puerto Iguazú all have airports as well. From these airports, you can catch flights to major cities all over South America.

My Experience Taking the Ferry from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este

After visiting Iguazu Falls in Argentina, I wanted to cross the border into Paraguay for a couple of days. I figured I was so close to another country, I might as well go check it out. After all, I could see Paraguay right across the river.

Iguazu falls, Argentina side
The Argentina side of Iguazu Falls

The problem was that I really didn’t want to go through the hassle of passing through two borders (Brazil and Paraguay). I wanted to travel directly to Paraguay from Argentina. 

After some research, I learned that there is a ferry operating this route called La Balsa. I asked the owner of the hotel I was staying at about La Balsa. She didn’t know much about it and recommended I just take the bus instead. She told me the bus is more convenient because it would take me directly to downtown Ciudad del Este. It’s also a bit cheaper. 

I was up for an adventure so I decided to take the ferry anyway. In the morning, I packed up, walked to the port, bought a ticket, and made the short trip across the river to Paraguay. The trip was longer and more expensive than taking the bus but it was worth it for me. 

The best part about the ferry ride was passing right through the Tres Fronteras (three borders) region. While you’re on the ferry, you’ll see Argentina on your left, Brazil on your right, and Paraguay directly ahead. You get an excellent view of the area where the Iguazu River meets the Paraná River. You pass right through the point where the rivers merge. The surrounding jungle is green and dense. You also get an awesome view of the bridge between Paraguay and Brazil. It’s a unique and beautiful spot to visit.

The worst part of this trip was traveling from Presidente Franco, where the ferry disembarks, to Ciudad del Este. There weren’t any taxis or buses at the port. I decided to just start walking. I walked up a long, steep hill to the main road. Then, I continued walking along the main road until I found a taxi. I probably walked a mile in total. 

The taxi I found was a motorcycle taxi. I usually don’t like taking those for safety reasons but I didn’t really have a choice. The weather forecast was calling for a storm so I didn’t want to waste too much time walking around and looking for a bus. 

It turned out that the taxi I found wasn’t really a taxi. It was actually a guy who is paid to lead tourists to an electronics shop in the city center. After negotiating a bit, he told me he’d take me to the center for $5. I knew he was taking me to his shop but I was staying in the center so I could just walk to my Airbnb from there. 

After we arrived, I walked through the shop, just to humor him. I tried to pay him but he asked for $10. This is a common scam. Taxi drivers give you one rate then demand more when you arrive. I argued with the guy for a bit. In the end, I ended up changing some money and giving him 50,000 guaraní, which was about $7. 

If I made this trip again, I would try to take a bus from Presidente Franco to Ciudad del Este. It would take much longer but probably costs less than $1. 

After spending two days exploring Ciudad del Este, I walked across the bridge to Brazil. The next day, I visited the Brazil side of Iguazu Falls. The following day, I caught a bus to Florianopolis. 

Final Thoughts About Traveling from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este by Ferry and Bus

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay from a rooftop
Ciudad del Este

Overall, this is an easy trip to make. The ferry is reliable and in good condition. The ports are organized and not too crowded. You can easily show up, buy your ticket, and board. You don’t have to stand around for hours waiting in lines. Sometimes, you may have to wait for the ferry to arrive. If you time your arrival correctly, you shouldn’t have to wait for more than an hour until you’re underway. 

If you prefer, the bus is also an option. Just remember to get off the bus at both border crossings so you don’t accidentally enter a country illegally. 

I highly recommend this trip if you want to visit Paraguay after seeing Iguazu Falls. You could make a day trip out of this or spend a couple of nights. Ciudad del Este has enough to keep you busy for a couple of days. It’s kind of a strange city. The whole place is one big mall. It’s worth seeing if you’re in the region.

Have you traveled from Puerto Iguazu to Ciudad del Este by bus or ferry? Share your experience in the comments below!

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