The Quick Info
There is a ferry! However it’s not the type of boat that most Americans envision when they hear the word “ferry.” It runs between Puerto Ita Enramada in Asunción, Paraguay and Puerto Pilcomayo in Clorinda, Argentina. Taxi drivers can get you there easily. For more details, including my story about crossing, read on… (pictured below: the “dock” to a lancha at Puerto Pilcomayo on the Argentina side)
Asunción to Clorinda?
I was in Asunción for a few days and thought it would be way too convenient not to pop over to Argentina for dinner–Google maps told me the Argentinian town of Clorinda was right across the river, so why not? I figured I’d just cross the bridge and be back by bedtime. Only problem: There was no “bridge” from Asunción–not without driving out of town 45+ minutes. What’s fun about that?
So okay, “There must be a ferry,” I thought. But I found absolutely nothing about a ferry from Asunción to Clorinda, despite numerous, tedious google searches. Nada! The receptionist at the hotel told us a ferry across simply didn’t exist.
Well there is indeed a ferry, and I’m here to tell you about it. It’s super simple, cheap and fun!
Crossing by Land
First, I will warn you against crossing the border by land, unless you’re on a bus that is driving you across. I took a cab to the border and crossed by foot and found nothing but trouble. I didn’t see any taxis after crossing and ended up getting into a car whose driver shook me down for $150. Long story. Rookie mistake. Remember to always, ALWAYS ask, “how much,” before getting in an unofficial, un-metered cab. Also, better yet, don’t get in an unofficial, un-metered cab! What was I thinking??? I knew better. I didn’t see any official taxis standing by and was harassed for money by a couple of shady characters.
Anyway–after a horrible time crossing by land, I decided to investigate if there actually was a ferry…and there definitely is! I took said ferry back to Asunción and made sure to take plenty of notes and pictures so I could share it with anyone else who might be in my situation in the future. I hope it helps!
The Ferry: Asunción to Clorinda
It’s simple. From Asunción, ask any cab driver to take you to Puerto Ita Enramada. (pictured below: entrance to Puerto Ita Enramada, on the Paraguay side)
Make sure you have your passport and make sure you have already went online to purchase your visa to enter Argentina (I learned the hard way and showed up without one…bad news). It’s $160 per visa for Americans. If you’re a citizen of any other country, check online to see if there is a fee and how much. Do your homework. (pictured below: entrance to Puerto Ita Enramada, on the Paraguay side)
Check with Paraguayan immigration on your way out to get an exit stamp. Then make your way to the docks to grab a boat! There is no official ticket window, nor signs, nor lines…nor anything that makes any sense whatsoever! Just ask the guys near the water, and they’ll direct you!
There are three ways to cross: Board a balsa, which is a flat ship for carrying vehicles. Jump on a lancha, which is a smaller, wooden boat. Or swim. I don’t recommend the latter. (pictured below: a “balsa” heading across the river, transporting vehicles)
I boarded a lancha from Clorinda to Asunción and the cost was US$3.00. There’s no ferry office or “ticket window,” so just look for a guy(s) at the dock who can get you on a boat. Apparently they leave all the time. I’m not sure there is a set “schedule.” Oh wait, I literally just found this facebook page with a schedule of balsa shuttles. Boom. (pictured below: makeshift “dock” to my lancha)
It took about 15 minutes to cross and was a fun ride. The boat was anything but modern–it was the definition of “rickety,” with loose boards and a very loud motor…but the chance of sinking made it that much more fun. Calmate, there were lifejackets. (pictured below: inside of my lancha, and my driver and son)
When you arrive, make sure to go through immigration to present your visa and get your passport stamped.
Disclaimer: I only took the ferry from Clorinda to Asunción…not from Asunción to Clorinda–so the info above I got from deductive reasoning and logic, from my experience crossing from the Argentina side. Should be the same either way. I think.
The Ferry: Clorinda to Asunción:
Ask a cab to take you to Puerto Pilcomayo. On the way there, be prepared to be stopped at a highway checkpoint by Argentinian border patrol who will check your papers (make sure you have that visa and stamp in your passport!) (pictured below: entrance to Puerto Pilcomayo, on the Argentina side)
When you arrive at the port, you’ll need to go to the immigration window to get “stamped out” of Argentina. Make your way down to the water to board your choice of watercraft. See instructions above (Asunción to Clorinda) for details on crossing (the cost, difference between a balsa and a lancha, etc.) When you arrive on the other side, go to the small Paraguayan immigration office to get stamped in. I already had my Paraguay visa that I purchased on arrival at the Asunción airport, which is good for multiple entries. But if you are entering Paraguay for the first time, I’m not sure you can buy a visa at this small port. Please check to be sure. But if you already have your Paraguayan visa, you’re good to go! (pictured below: Puerto Pilcomayo, on the Argentina side)
It’s important to note that these ports are official border crossings (i.e. police, military, government, etc.), so be on your best behavior. It’s probably not a good idea to take photos–I snuck the ones you see on this page quickly, with my iPhone.
If “wandering through a shady looking port in a foreign country asking random strangers about getting on a boat” sounds a little out of your comfort zone–remember, both ports are secured border entry points, so you are surrounded by armed federal agents; this is probably one of the safest places to be in the country. As always, practice common street smarts and sense. I crossed in daylight, and I recommend you do the same.
Please leave a comment below and let me know how the trip went! Safe travels! You may also email me here.
About the Author:
R Dub! is host of the internationally syndicated radio program Sunday Night Slow Jams, which airs on over 100 radio stations across America. When he’s not hosting his radio show and managing a group of radio stations in San Diego, California, you’ll find R Dub! traveling the world, and globetrotting to not just the popular destinations, but to some of the lesser-known, more out-of-the-way areas; like Asunción and Clorinda.
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