Except in informal settings such as flea markets, bargaining is not common in Uruguay.
Dangers & Annoyances
Uruguay is one of the safest countries in Latin America, with a relatively low crime rate and no significant security concerns related to health or natural disasters.
Uruguay uses the same electrical plug as Argentina.
Embassies & Consulates
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Uruguay's country code||598|
|International access telephone code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Uruguay requires passports of all foreigners, except those from neighboring countries (who need only national identification cards).
Uruguay has no unusual customs restrictions.
- Travelers arriving from overseas may bring in up to four cartons of cigarettes and 4L of alcohol, along with consumer electronics for personal use such as cell phones, laptops, cameras and/or video equipment.
- Pets must be accompanied by a health certificate from their home country.
- Restricted items include vegetables, fruits, seeds, flowers, soil, fresh dairy products, meat products and animal feed.
Not required for nationals of Western Europe, Australia, USA, Canada or New Zealand
Nationals of Western Europe, Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand automatically receive a 90-day tourist card, renewable for another 90 days. Other nationals may require visas. For an official list of current visa requirements by nationality, see https://migracion.minterior.gub.uy.
Uruguay is widely considered the most LGBTQ-friendly nation in Latin America. In 2008 it became the first Latin American country to recognize same-sex civil unions, and in 2013 same-sex marriage was legalized. In Montevideo, look for the pocket-sized Friendly Map (www.friendlymap.com.uy) listing LGBTQ-friendly businesses throughout the country.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Wi-fi zones are commonplace in cities and larger towns. Antel (state telephone company) offices sell SIM cards with reasonably priced data plans for unlocked phones, and also provide free wi-fi in many cases.
Uruguay has some of Latin America's most lenient drug laws. Possession of small amounts of marijuana or other drugs for personal use has been decriminalized, but their sale remains illegal.
What's the Buzz: Uruguay's New Marijuana Law
In December 2013 Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize cannabis. Uruguayan citizens are now allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use each year, and are entitled to purchase up to 40g per month at local pharmacies through the government's national distribution system.
Meanwhile, smoking pot in public is perfectly legal – for anyone, foreigners included – in the same places where cigarette smoking is permitted. Paradoxically, non-Uruguayans are not allowed to purchase weed – but stick around long enough and you’re bound to find Uruguayans, whether at a hostel, a beach or a local park, who are happy to share.
ATMs widespread; credit cards widely accepted
In all but the smallest interior towns, getting cash with your ATM card is easy. Machines marked with the green Banred or blue Redbrou logo serve all major international banking networks. ATMs dispense bills in multiples of 100 pesos. Many also dispense US dollars, designated as US$, but only in multiples of US$100.
Most upmarket hotels, restaurants and shops accept credit cards. Visa is most commonly accepted, followed by MasterCard. American Express cards are of more limited use.
Prices are in pesos uruguayos (UR$), the official Uruguayan currency. Banknote values are 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 2000. There are coins of one, two, five, 10 and 50 pesos.
US dollars are commonly accepted in major tourist hubs, where many accommodations quote US$ prices. In hotels that accept payment in either dollars or pesos, it pays to check the exchange rate offered. In many cases, you’ll come out ahead paying in pesos. Away from the touristed areas, dollars are of limited use.
Uruguay has no black or 'blue' market offering higher exchange rates for US and European banknotes.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
There are casas de cambio in Montevideo, Colonia, the Atlantic beach resorts and border towns such as Chuy. They typically keep longer hours than banks but may offer lower rates.
- Restaurants Leave 10% of the bill.
- Taxis Round up the fare a few pesos.
Banks 1–6pm Monday to Friday
Bars, pubs and clubs 6pm–late; things don’t get seriously shaking until after midnight
Restaurants noon–3pm and 8pm–midnight or later; if serving breakfast, open around 8am
Shops 9am–1pm and 3–7pm Monday to Saturday; in larger cities, many stay open at lunchtime and/or on Sunday
Correo Uruguayo (www.correo.com.uy), the national postal service, has offices throughout Uruguay.
Año Nuevo (New Year’s Day) January 1
Día de los Reyes (Epiphany) January 6
Viernes Santo/Pascua (Good Friday/Easter) March/April (dates vary)
Desembarco de los 33* (Return of the 33 Exiles) April 19; honors the exiles who returned to Uruguay in 1825 to, with Argentine support, liberate the country from Brazil
Día del Trabajador (Labor Day) May 1
Batalla de Las Piedras* (Battle of Las Piedras) May 18; commemorates a major battle in the fight for independence
Natalicio de Artigas* (Artigas’ Birthday) June 19
Jura de la Constitución (Constitution Day) July 18
Día de la Independencia (Independence Day) August 25
Día de la Raza* (Columbus Day) October 12
Día de los Muertos (All Souls’ Day) November 2
Navidad (Christmas Day) December 25
Holidays marked with an asterisk may be celebrated on the nearest Monday to create a puente (long weekend).
- Smoking Smoking is not allowed in public spaces, including restaurants, cinemas, theaters and public transport.
Taxes & Refunds
Hotel rooms in Uruguay are automatically tax-free for foreigners. In addition, travelers using a foreign credit or debit card to pay for rental cars and restaurant meals receive an instant VAT rebate, which essentially translates to a 22% discount. Other large purchases of items to be taken out of Uruguay may also qualify for a VAT refund, but you'll need to request a claim form at the time of purchase and submit your refund request at the port or airport where you leave the country.
Uruguay’s country code is 598. Antel (www.antel.com.uy) is the state telephone company, with offices in every town.
All Uruguayan landline numbers are eight digits long, beginning with 2 for Montevideo or 4 for elsewhere in the country. Cell (mobile) phone numbers consist of a three-digit prefix (most commonly 099) followed by a six-digit number. If dialing internationally, drop the leading zero.
Three companies – Antel (www.antel.com.uy), Claro (www.claro.com.uy) and Movistar (www.movistar.com.uy) – provide cell-phone service in Uruguay. Rather than use expensive roaming plans, many travelers bring an unlocked cell phone (or buy a cheap one here) and insert a local pay-as-you-go SIM card. SIMs can readily be purchased at Antel offices and recharged at service stations, shopping malls and streetside kiosks throughout Uruguay.
Uruguay Standard Time is three hours behind GMT, as in Argentina. Daylight-saving time was abolished in 2015.
- You'll find that toilets in Uruguay are generally clean and of a similar design to what you're probably used to.
- Some older establishments offer squat toilets – basically a hole in the floor with a foot-stand on either side. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what to do.
- If there's a wastepaper basket next to the toilet, put used toilet paper in there.
The National Tourism Ministry (Ministerio de Turismo y Deporte; www.turismo.gub.uy) operates 11 centros de informes (information centers) around the country. It distributes excellent free maps for each of Uruguay’s 19 departments, along with specialized information on estancia tourism, Carnaval, surfing and other subjects of interest to travelers. Most towns also have a municipal tourist office on the plaza or at the bus terminal.
Travel with Children
Uruguay is generally a family-friendly country, and children will be made to feel welcome. Baby-changing facilities are available in Montevideo and some other cities, and car seats are provided for a fee by most rental-car agencies.
Uruguay is not big on child-focused urban attractions such as museums, but kids of all ages will appreciate the local beaches, and older kids will love riding horses on the tourist estancias of the interior.
Uruguay is increasingly providing for travelers with special needs. In Montevideo, for example, you’ll find newly constructed ramps and dedicated bathrooms in high-profile destinations such as Plaza Independencia and Teatro Solís, disabled access on some bus lines and a growing number of ATMs for the visually impaired. The Uruguayan government organization Pronadis/Mides (pronadis.mides.gub.uy) lists Spanish-language resources for disabled travelers on its website.
Uruguayan organizations that accept volunteers generally require a minimum commitment of one month, and many also expect at least basic Spanish proficiency.
International volunteers seeking shorter-term placements (minimum eight days) can contact Karumbé (www.karumbe.org/voluntarios), which promotes sea-turtle conservation in Parque Nacional Santa Teresa.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Uruguay uses the metric system.
Women are generally treated with respect, and traveling alone is safer here than in many other Latin American countries.
Employment opportunities for foreigners in Uruguay are few, low-paying and generally illegal. Workers in Uruguay are officially required to have legal resident status and a government-issued ID (cédula de identidad). Without these credentials, you'll be limited to informal work arrangements such as teaching or tutoring English, or working temporarily in tourist-oriented business such as hostels.
Greetings Say buenos días or buenas tardes (good morning/good afternoon) depending on the time of day. Accept and give besos (kisses) on the cheek (common even when being introduced to someone for the first time).
Farewells Adiós or hasta luego means goodbye; chau is a more casual form used with friends.
Everyday Etiquette Uruguayans are generally polite and unpretentious, and respectful travelers can expect to be treated with easygoing courtesy throughout the country.
Mate-Drinking Etiquette Uruguayans are passionate drinkers of yerba mate, a bitter herbal tea served in a gourd, sipped through a metal straw and shared among friends. If you are invited to partake, always drink the entire contents of the gourd before returning it to your host.