The country of football, carnival, meat, and mate. And also stunning beaches, greedy sea lions and candombe rhythms. I will explain how was Uruguay founded, give you advices and tips for sightseeing and food, reveal the prices for accommodation, and share fun facts at the end.
Currency: UYU Uruguayan peso, or peso uruguayo (1€ = 47,3 pesos), some places accept USD, and some even prefer dollars.
ATM: Ideally bring your Mastercard or Visa, the lowest ATM fee for withdrawal was in Redbrou ATMs (approx. 5$)
Cash: Lots of places accept card payment (supermarkets, restaurants, bus stations, accommodation), but always have some cash. Small groceries, tour agencies, or local ferry do not always accept card.
Exchange: Generally accepted currencies for exchange are USD, EUR, or from neighboring countries.
Tax refund:If you are paying in restaurants and bars with foreign card, you’ll get tax refund. I don’t know the percentage, it was always different, but sometimes I got back almost one fifth of the price.
Vaccination: not mandatory
Water: tap water is potable
High season: December – February
Weather: Winter and summer is other way round than in Europe. Warmest months are November until March, winters are mild.
Prices: Prepare decent budget, the prices are higher than in Slovakia and sometimes even United Kingdom. Uruguay is one of the most expensive countries in South America. I’d say the only cheaper product is marihuana.
Visa: Check in your country. With Slovak passport you can stay in country 90 days without visa.
Safety: Uruguay is safe country, pickpocketing can rarely appear on crowded places.
Fight over Uruguay
Charrúa are indigenous people most of which were eliminated in genocide ordered by first Uruguayan president Fructuoso Rivera in 1831. First Europeans coming to Uruguay area as we know it today were Portuguese in 1512, and after 4 years the land was conquered by Spanish. Three centuries later national hero Artigas fought for liberation of Uruguay, but Banda Oriental (Eastern bank as it was called that time) was annexed by Brazilians who renamed it to Cisplatina. On 25 August 1825 Thirty-three Uruguayan heroes declared independence. Despite that, Argentina and Brazil were still fighting over Uruguay until Britain’s diplomatic intervention 3 years later. Both countries had to resign. Uruguay adopted first constitution on 18 July 1830 and became officially independent country. Where two fight, comes third with compromise.
...and how is it today?
This small country between two giants is a gem, finally living in peace, and people from Argentina and Brazil love Uruguayans and come here in masses to spent their summer holiday. Happy ending.
Transport between cities: by bus
Transport in Montevideo: UBER, public transport
Taxi: Be aware that some taxi drivers can take advantage of you as a tourist, always check if the taxameter is running.
Airport: Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco
From Buenos Aires: By ferry Colonia Express or Buquebus. Buquebus is more expensive. Colonia Express has direct line only to Colonia del Sacramento, Buquebus has also direct ferry to Montevideo. Other destinations are combined with the bus which is included in the price of ferry ticket. Bus will be waiting in front of the terminal.
From Argentina (province Entre Ríos): crossing Concordia-Salta, Paysandú, and Fray Bentos.
From Brazil: Popular border crossing is Chuy. Then Río Branco, Aceguá, Rivera, Artigas, Bella Union.
Places worth to visit
Uruguayan coast is with no reservation the most popular area. The country is green covered with forests and veldts with randomly scattered lone houses and herds of cattle. But you will find vast majority of people in the cities on the coast and beaches. Below are some of the places you shouldn’t miss.
Punta del Este
Don’t be daunted by the number of high-rise buildings in Punta del Este. The city has wonderful beaches, long rambla, lively nightlife, waves for surfers, and port market with fresh fish and seafood for great prices, which is every day occupied by sea lions eating fish scraps.
Punta del Diablo
Surfing paradise close to Brazil border. Someone would say it’s hipsters’ village, for me it was perfect place full of artisans, surfers and most chilled people. In Punta del Diablo dominates relaxing atmosphere, water in Atlantic ocean is refreshing, and on the beach you can support local vendors and buy some fresh fruit, cakes or brownie loco. If you wish to know more about Punta del Diablo, read this post.
Montevideo thanks to absence of masses of tourists remains authentic. If you walk the streets you feel like the only tourist there. The city is vibrant, people holding mate in the hand, sit on the benches and seem happy. The best you can do during hot day is going on the beach, then watch the sunset in the evening and dance to cumbia rhythms at night. Next day you’ll wake up hungover and will go directly to one of the markets to enjoy delicious meal, and then walk that hangover out on rambla. You can do this several days in a row and still discover something new. Click here to read more about Montevideo.
Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay established by Portuguese. It’s also important transport hub connecting the country with Buenos Aires in Argentina. Ciudad vieja in Colonia is tiny, save for it one afternoon, but if you are not in hurry, take another round just not to miss any historical treasure, mural, or beautiful purple flowers covering some old stone wall. Enjoy the sunset while watching the fishermen trying their luck in Río de la Plata.
Carnival in Montevideo is undoubtedly party of the year for which Uruguayans are preparing months in advance. The longest carnival in the world is primarily for locals, not for tourists. The streets of Montevideo will transform for 40 days to giant maze full of dancers, singers, candombe and fun. If you are those dates close to Montevideo, come, ideally on opening ceremony or even better Las Llamadas.
I think I don’t need to widely talk about how Uruguayans love and dedicate their lives to football. We all know that. If you want on your holiday play a football, just join any group in the neighborhood or on the beach. You’ll be very welcome.
Because of relatively flat landscape, Uruguay is ideal for cycling. The highest point is something over 500 metres above sea level. So if you want to spice your travels up, cycle across the country and explore much more than explores regular tourist by the coast.
Each city in Uruguay has its own rambla, the wide avenue along the coast. These sidewalks are ideal for both, actively spending time and chilling out. Popular activities are jogging, cycling, roller-blading, or fishing.
Surfing is by all means number one among water sports. From Punta del Este to Brazil are dozens of beaches with smaller waves good enough for beginners but also the ones for more experienced surfers. If you never tried surfing, there is at least one surf school on each beach. Other popular sports are windsurfing, rowing, and swimming. For my question “if the sharks are here“ I got negative answer.
During my travel I usually stay in hostels. Uruguay was not an exception. I mentioned the country is not cheap, and the accommodation was neither. But, it was high season in January. You can see below that the prices for one night are similar in each city, but the standard differs. Absolutely best hostel was in Montevideo where I felt like in the house living with my friends and the kitchen was equipped better than my own. For breakfast they even baked the bread and made their own butter. In hostels in Uruguay you will meet mostly young people from Argentina and Brazil on their summer holiday. Many don’t speak English so it’s your chance to practice Spanish.
|Prices for one night in the hostels I stayed (sorted from best):|
|Montevideo – 12,50€|
|Punta del Diablo – 14,50€|
|Colonia del Sacramento – 11€|
|Punta del Este – 12,50€|
If we think about Latin American people as not rushing always having time for everything, and for Uruguayans it’s even more typical. Can you imagine a person with mate and thermos in their hands rushing on the street?
They are singers, dancers, and musicians all in one. They can’t imagine their life without meat, mate, and fun.
And speaking about young people, they were so different from European kids. They didn’t need alcohol to have fun, they had good manners, not aggressive, it was pleasant to watch them dancing or singing. And these were young guys on holiday, groups of friends, couples, or individuals. Without parents’ supervision.
Fun facts about Uruguay
- The most important 4 things for Uruguayans are: Mate, Football, Asado, Carnival
- They are called Orientales. The name of the country is (República Oriental del Uruguay).
- Uruguay was the first country in South America to legalize same-sex marriages and adoptions.
- Abortions are legal until 12 week of pregnancy, but woman has to be Uruguayan citizen.
- In Uruguay marihuana is legal.There are 3 ways how to get marihuana:
- Buy seeds and grow it by yourself. The limit is 6 plants per person.
- Buy in Cannabis club. 1g costs 50 pesos (approx. 1,10€).
- Buy in pharmacy. Maximum 40g per month per person.
BUT! There are some rules. You must be Uruguayan citizen, be at least 18 years old, registered with your fingerprints, and you have to choose only one way of getting marihuana from the three above. Using marihuana in Uruguay is illegal for others, even for Dutch people.
- Mate born in Uruguay. Nowhere in the world you’ll see so many people drink mate.
- Typical alcoholic drink is “Grappa miel”. It’s grappa with honey.
- José Mujica is former president of Uruguay who is known as the world’s humblest head of state due to his modest lifestyle and his donation of around 90% of his $12,000 monthly salary to charities to support poor people and small entrepreneurs. During his election period, 3 laws about abortion, same-sex marriages, and marihuana were enacted.
- Uruguay has the longest anthem in the world.
- There is no official religion In Uruguay. The only religion is football. The population is 55% atheist, and none of the religious holidays is bank holiday. It is also prohibited to promote religion on public places, for this purpose serve churches.
- Uruguay has the highest production of beef per person in the world (approx. 3,5 cows per capita)
- Natalia Oreiro is from Uruguay.
Useful Spanish phrases
|Is the water potable?||Es agua potable?|
|Chivito with fries.||Chivito con papas fritas.|
|Surfing school||Escuela de surf|
|Big waves||Olas grandes|
|Water is cold / warm.||El agua está fría / caliente.|
|Uruguayan peso||Peso uruguayo|
|Can I pay by card?||Puedo pagar con la tarjeta?|
|Yes. Credit or debit card?||Sí. Crédito o débito? (V Južnej Amerike to pri platbe nie je jedno)|
|Where is the beach?||Dónde es la playa?|
|need one ticket on 20 January at 10.00 in the morning.||Necesito un boleto para el veinte de enero a las diez de la mañana.|
|On the airport, please.||Al areopuerto, por favor.|
|Where are you going?||A dónde va?|
|Only backpack? Yes.||Solo mochila? Sí.|
|How many suitcases? Two.||Cuantos maletas? Dos.|
|Do you travel alone?||Viajes sola?|
|I need your passport.||Necesito tu pasaporte.|
|Good morning/afternoon.||Buen día. (Buenos días budete počuť málo)|
|It’s windy.||Mucho viento.|
|Very beautiful.||Muy lindo.|
|Sunset||Puesta de sol|
|Their typical sweets (from Argentina)||Dulce de leche|
|Enjoy your meal.||Buen provecho.|
|Good luck.||Buena suerte.|
|I speak a bit Spanish.||Hablo español un poco.|
|Marihuana brownie||Brownie loco 😀|
TIP: If you want to learn more about history of Latin America, I recommend:
Eduardo Galeano – Open Veins of Latin America
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