Uruguay Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Uruguay in 2023
Welcome to Uruguay
Sitting along the Atlantic coast of South America, Uruguay is not a typical tourist destination, but it is an incredible place for first-time travelers and those who despise exploring crowded landmarks. It offers a wide range of attractions and there’s something for everyone in this beautiful Latin American country, from history buffs and pilgrims to spa lovers and partygoers.
Uruguay may not be the wealthiest country in South America, but it has its fair share of opulent attractions. From breathtaking beaches to historic towns, visiting Uruguay is unforgettable. To help you plan your trip, this ultimate Uruguay travel guide is packed with everything you need to know, including travel tips, tricks, and travel information.
Document checklist for Uruguay
Depending on your nationality, you will be required to have the following documents to enter Uruguay:
- Health Declaration
- Valid passport (for three months beyond the length of stay)
- Sufficient funds
- Return airline ticket
- Travel insurance
Essential Uruguay travel information
Currency - Uruguayan peso ($U/UYU). $1 is equivalent to approx. UYU 40.
Daily budget for one person - $63.
Languages - Spanish.
Socket type - Types C, F, and L, 220V supply voltage and 50Hz.
Time zone - Uruguay Standard Time (GMT-3).
Top 3 cities to visit - Montevideo, Colonia del Sacramento, and Punta del Este.
Top 3 landmarks/monuments - Iglesia Candelaria, Castillo Pittamiglio, and Cementerio de Paysandú.
Visa information for Uruguay
Citizens of the EU and most European and American countries (except some former Soviet and Balkan states) do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days in Uruguay. Australians and New Zealanders are also visa-exempt; however, most African and Asian nationals must apply for visas in advance.
Check with your local embassy which rules apply to your nationality specifically.
Typical costs and budget for a trip to Uruguay
We know how difficult planning a trip can be, especially when working out financial expectations. So we’ve created an essential guide to the average daily costs for traveling through Uruguay on a moderate budget:
Daily spending per person - $65
Meals - $20
Transport - $20
Entertainment - $12
Hotel - A room for one person costs around $28 per night, and about $56 for a couple.
Overall, a trip to Uruguay for two people for one week costs an average of $890.
Transport and ways to travel around Uruguay
The most common mode of transportation in Uruguay is the bus, also called autobus, coche, unidad, omnibus, or minibus. Many buses are 100% electric, relatively low-cost, and boast friendly and helpful staff members.
There are other less popular options in large cities, including train travel; however, they can be pricey or unreliable.
Safety in Uruguay
It is highly recommended to take increased precautions when traveling in Uruguay due to the crime rate. If you decide to travel to this South American country, we recommend:
Getting an Embassy registration before you leave.
Travel insurance is necessary, and we advise checking that your insurance provider will cover you in case of theft or emergency.
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially when traveling to tourist locations or poorly lit areas.
Call 911 if you encounter a crime in progress.
Do not physically resist a robbery attempt or try to intervene and stop a robbery in progress.
Be vigilant, especially at banks or ATMs during non-daylight hours or in remote locations.
Do not leave valuable objects in parked vehicles or plain sight.
Avoid displays of wealth like wearing expensive jewelry or watches.
Prepare a plan of action for emergencies.
Weather in Uruguay
The best time for a Uruguay tour is in summer, which goes from November to February. Since the temperatures are a pleasant average of 22°C/72°F to 29°C/84°F, it is a particularly great time to enjoy visiting coastal areas and enjoy the Atlantic ocean without freezing, especially since many of the beach resorts close when autumn starts.
Popular cities and towns in Uruguay
The capital city of Uruguay is Montevideo. The city revolves around the Plaza de la Independencia, which leads to Ciudad Vieja, a place that boasts incredible art deco buildings, colonial homes, and landmarks like Palacio Salvo and the Mercado del Puerto market. The city is renowned as one of the safest capital cities in Latin America, it has the highest quality of life for a South American city, and it’s often considered the most gay-friendly city in the country.
Colonia del Sacramento is located in the south-western part of Uruguay and lies across the Río de La Plata from Buenos Aires. It is also one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and its historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As one of the most charming colonial towns, Colonia del Sacramento offers excellent shopping, food, and the option of making a quick trip to Buenos Aires.
The resort town of Punta del Este lies along the coast of Uruguay and boasts a thriving and glamorous nightlife that is quickly earning an international reputation. Besides the miles of beaches and nightclubs, the city is renowned for its world-class restaurants. The tiny town is easy to walk or bike through and is affectionately referred to as the Monaco of South America.
Salto lies in the north-western area of Uruguay and borders Argentina on the Río Uruguay (Uruguay River). It boasts lively shops, cafes, and the Plaza Artigas. In the Southeast of Salto, tourists can indulge in the spas, public outdoor pools, and natural hot springs of the Termas del Daymán area. Thus it is a must-visit for health tourism lovers.
Piriápolis is a city sitting on the Atlantic coast and one of Uruguay's earliest resort towns. Known for its breathtaking buildings, including the waterfront Argentino Hotel, Piriápolis harbor, and Cerro San Antonio, a hill with a small chapel and a lookout point, the little town has something for everyone and makes for a great end to a busy holiday.
Must do and see in Uruguay
Take a hike in Punta del Diablo: Start exploring Uruguay’s incredible natural beauty with a hike across the sand dunes of Punta del Diablo (Devil's Point). Early morning hikes on the dunes and a trek through the Santa Teresa National Park, a forested seaside reserve, are incredible ways to explore the area.
Look for sea lions in Cabo Polonio, then explore the rustic little town that boasts shacks selling surprisingly great food and a lighthouse that is the only building connected to local electricity. Part of the adventure is getting to the town as there are no roads, and the only way to access the village is via a long hike or a 4WD vehicle.
Kick back and enjoy the hot springs** in Termas del Arapey, the oldest thermal resort in the country, and in Termas del Daymán. Arapey boasts natural spring waters of up to 39 degrees Celsius, which reportedly have therapeutic properties, thus making it the perfect place to relax and destress.
Enjoy the Carnival season with the candombe: Carnival season is a major celebration across several South American countries. In Uruguay, it is marked with dance parades and cultural events for 40 days, between January and February. This makes the celebration the longest carnival celebration in the world. While you’re there, also visit the Carnival Museum in Montevideo to understand the history of the carnival, its origins, and how costumes and celebrations evolved.
Learn about Gaucho Culture: Looking for something fun, physically demanding, and adventurous? Then gaucho (a South American cowboy) culture might be for you. The national symbol of Uruguay and Argentina, gauchos, were explorers who historically took over livestock farming in remote regions and became master horse riders. Though the tradition is technically extinct, you can embrace the culture by visiting a hacienda to watch or participate in traditional gaucho activities like driving cattle, herding sheep, and horse riding.
Typical Uruguayan food to try
An asado at a Uruguayan parrilla (steakhouse) is made for meat lovers. An asado is prepared at an open-fire barbecue, which is more of a social event. The dish portion of the asado consists of several cuts of non-marinated meats (traditionally mostly beef and chicken). This is served with baguette bread and vegetables grilled next to the meat and salads.
No asado is complete without a divine Chimichurri. This delicious sauce is versatile and makes for a great salad dressing or marinade. Traditionally it is made from chopped fresh parsley, garlic, oregano, oil, water, salt, pepper, and vinegar, then left to rest for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
Empanadas are a mix of Spanish and Italian traditions that became a classic in Argentina and Uruguay. The Uruguayan version is the empanada Criolla (creole), made with a filling of diced meat, onions, boiled eggs, salt, black pepper, parsley, and ground pepper, wrapped in a dough that is fried or baked. It can be eaten as a starter or a main with salad and red wine.
Bizcochos are a staple breakfast food in Uruguay. The pastries take time to prepare, but many bakeries sell them throughout the country. Pair the small pastries with a cup of coffee, mate, or tea, and you have a delicious breakfast.
Lastly, one of the most traditional foods or beverage items to try in Uruguay is the aforementioned mate. Everyone, including famous football players, enjoys mate, which is a gourd-cured drink. The drink is an infusion of Yerba Mate, which is rich in caffeine. Though bitter, this beverage is often sweetened with sugar and served hot with a metal straw.
Vaccine information for Uruguay
The CDC advises all travelers to be up to date on all routine vaccinations, including Chickenpox (Varicella), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Flu (influenza), Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Polio and Shingles.
Visitors to Uruguay should also get vaccinated for COVID-19, hepatitis A, and B, as well as yellow fever, measles, rabies, and typhoid. Speak to your doctor and double-check what vaccination requirements your specific nationality or country may require before planning your trip to Uruguay.
Uruguay has the world’s longest national anthem
Uruguay’s national anthem, the “Himno Nacional de Uruguay,” is more than five minutes long with 105 bars of music, making it the longest national anthem in the world. The lyrics were written by Francisco Acuña de Figueroa, who also wrote Paraguay’s national anthem. The music was composed by Francisco José Debali and Fernando Quijano and was first performed on July 19, 1845.
Fun facts about Uruguay
Uruguay is the second-smallest South American country, with only Suriname being smaller. It has a population of just under 3,5 million people.
Uruguay is named after the Uruguay River. The name means “river of the painted birds” in the Guaraní language and the river runs from Brazil and forms the border between Uruguay and Argentina.
Every primary school student in Uruguay was given a laptop. It was the first country in the world to implement a One Laptop Per Child program, and through this non-profit initiative, the country provided 395,000 children in first through sixth grades with an XO laptop.
Uruguay is the only country in Latin America completely outside of the tropics and it has four seasons.
Uruguay’s national flag features the Sun of May and nine horizontal stripes that alternate between white and blue. The Sun of May is a golden yellow sun with a human face. ‘May’ is a reference to the month in 1810 when the country gained independence from the Spanish Empire. The sun also pays tribute to the legend that claims that when the new government was proclaimed, the sun broke through the clouds as a sign of good things to come.
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