Below are my notes for visiting Uruguay. These travel tips, such as the best time to visit Uruguay are obtained from a variety of sources including some of the following: my first hand observations, personal conversations, magazines, newspapers, websites, books and so forth. Whenever I hear something that interests me about Uruguay, I jot it down here. Hope this comes in handy.
Best Time to Visit Uruguay
Short Answer: January to February for coastal nightlife/parties, remainder of year for peace
Longer Answer: Depending on your wants, Uruguay is one of those places that is good to visit year-round. Seasons are opposite those found in the northern hemisphere, so it is summer in Uruguay in the December through March months. Visiting Uruguay in late December through February will be high season, especially so on the coastline. Rates go up, parties pop up, nightlife comes alive, restaurants appear. Go a little ahead of that and you can get more serenity with warm weather. Go after that, especially mid-March to early April and you get nice weather and the warmest water to swim in. Go in the spring and autumn and the weather will be nice and the beach towns very natural. The winter (June, July, August) in Uruguay has moderate temperatures but the air can be quite humid. Combine that with lackluster heating in many buildings, and you could be chilly.
Miscellaneous Travel Tips for Uruguay
This is a random assortment of places that you might be interested in if you are visiting Uruguay. The obvious tourist draws might or might not be included—this is really more of a random listing that is or was of interest to me:
- Colonia del Sacramentom Uruguay: old town, colonial, picturesque, small. Located on the southwestern edge, west of Montevideo, across the river from Buenos Aires. Ferry between Buenos Aires and Colonia takes one hour (fast) or three hours (traditional). Check this linkfor more information about ferry travel. Ferry companies include Buquebus and Colonia Express. Possible to get to Montevideo by bus.
- Carmelo, Uruguay: surrounded by a handful of quality vineyards with tradition. Read more from the New York Times in their article, Wine, Olive Oil and the Good Life in Uruguay
- Ritzy Beach towns: These are all along the Uruguayan coastline, east of Montevideo. For a Miami beach feel, look in Punta Del Este. For a laid-back Hamptons-Malibu/bohemian-chic feel, head a little futher east and check Jose Ignacio (which is very en vogue at the moment) or nearby La Barra. Note: places like Jose Ignacio (and pretty much all beach towns in Uruguay) have two identities, outside of high season, they feel quite remote and quiet. Read more about Jose Ignacio at the Daily Mail
- Laidback Beach towns: Scenic beachtowns with less cash behind the scenes (i.e. more nature, less commercial appeal, less celebrities) are even further to the east. Bigger versions of this type would be first and foremost, Punta Del Diablo. Beaches to the east are very natural and empty. Beaches in town are populated. More docile versions are La Paloma, Barra de Valizas (much more laid back/quiet). For even more nature (i.e. limited electricity), check the next door neighbor of Valizas, Cabo Polonio. Note: as mentioned, these places have two identities. Outside of high season, they feel quite remote and quiet. Cabo Polonio has a great vibe, much better than Valizas. You can walk between Valizas and Cabo Polonio if you are somewhat in shape and have decent navigational skills. Round-trip is possible in a day without issue.
- Montevideo: stay either in the center or the old town near the port. Montevideo seems to be a love/hate kind of place. Either you get it or you don’t. I think it’s a great city. From Montevideo you can visit (if you have a car and time for day trips) various vineyards such as Bodega Bouza, Bodega Stagniari, Bodega Artesana, Bodega Juanico and Bodega Carrau.
Is Uruguay Expensive?
Lodging varies vastly depending on high season vs low season. Also, the ritzy places are obviously much more expensive than the bohemian places.
Tipping in Uruguay
Drinks, round up to the nearest 10 pesos. Restaurant, tip 10%. Tips are totally voluntary and not tipping is okay. Taxi drivers typically do not get tipped. Also note, you may very well be charged a cover charge at restaurants (cubierto) – this is normal. More at guruguay.com
Do I need a Visa before visiting Uruguay?
Generally, for US & Europe, nothing needed. Also note that Uruguay does not charge reciprocity fees like Argentina. If you visit Argentina, you very well may be charged a hefty fee. For a listing (the best I could find), check Project Visa.
Do I need vaccines to visit Uruguay? Medical concerns?
Is the water safe to drink in Uruguay?
Yes, safe to drink from the tap across the country. Use common sense.
Transportation into and around Uruguay
Flying into Uruguay
Serviced by all major carrier.
Transportation from MVD Carrasco Airport to Montevideo
There is an official taxi cab company for the airport. They are the only ones that can come, uncalled, to the airport, but they are expensive ($50USD to Old Town Montevideo). A cheaper option is to ask for a shuttle or shared van from this company. If you want a private taxi, the better option (used to be – not sure if it still works) is to call 141 for a taxi (or have someone call for you). Tell them International Terminal and get the cab number. When the cab shows up, jump in. A taxi should cost you approximately $15-20USD into the center of Montevideo. Also you can take COT direct to Montevideo (look for the COT booth). The COPSA I don’t believe runs direct. Lastly, the public bus can be utilized for $1USD or so. Public buses access the actual airport.
Transportation from MVD Carrasco Airport to Eastern Beaches
Certain bus companies (e.g. COT, etc) run the occasional bus from Tres Cruces (the main Montevideo bus station), to the airport (MVD) and onwards east. Outside of renting a car, this is the most convenient way to get out to the eastern coastline from the airport.
Getting Around Uruguay
Out of Montevideo via Bus, check out the bus station site which lists most of the options. For other directions, you can check the bus company sites such as Rutas Del Sol, COPSA and COT. Rutas Del Sol and COPSA buses tend to be more run down. COT has the best buses in my experience.
Other Countries to Visit from Uruguay via Land
Brazil via land (for Americans and some others, beware of visa requirement) and Argentina via ferry (for Americans and some others, beware of reciprocal visa fee).
What to Buy & Try in Uruguay
- Woven goods, one possibility is to shop at the non-profit, fair-trade collective Manos.
- Wine and Olive Oil
- Alfajores – sandwich cookies that you can find in supermarkets and corner stores. The fresh ones are the best.
Foods to Try when visiting Uruguay
Besides the wine, beef/steak.
Simple Words and Phrases in Spanish
If you want to brush up on some lingo before visiting Uruguay, the Backpacking Site, has a nice Phrase Book that notes the difference in Uruguayan Spanish.
Quick Travel Facts About Uruguay
What Power Plugs are Used in Uruguay:
- The European Plug (Type C) seems to be the major player as seen in this chart. Be careful using things like US hairdryers without a converter. Most modern electronics (battery chargers, mobile phones, etc.) only need an adapter plug but you should check first by calling the manufacturer, reading the literature or checking the item for markings before assuming like a dope.
What currency is used in Uruguay?
- Uruguayan Peso (UYU). See conversion.To do a quick & dirty conversion on the fly between UYU and USD (given the rates as of this writing of 30UYU = $1USD) – whack off (or move the decimal) the last two digits and multiply times three. So 1000UYU becomes 10 * 3 = 30USD. 340UYU becomes roughly 3.5*3 and so $11. To go the other way (i.e. converting from USD), multiply times 3 and add a zero. So $20USD would be 60 and then add a zero, so 600UYU.
Other tips about Uruguay
- Gas stations are all full service