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Uruguay country information

Uruguay map
Eastern Republic of Uruguay
Area: 176,215 sq km
Population: 3,477,778
Population density: 19 per sq km
Capital: Montevideo
Passport & Visa
Passport Required?
British Yes
Australian Yes
Canadian Yes
USA Yes
Other EU Yes
Visa Required?
British No
Australian No
Canadian No
USA No/2
Other EU No/1

Passports

Valid passport required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Visas

Not required by nationals referred to in the chart above except:
1. nationals of Estonia who do need a visa (please note that nationals of Canada, Ireland, Malta and the USA are only permitted visa-free stays of up to three months);
2. US citizens travelling on diplomatic or offical passports require a visa.

Note:
Nationals not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements.

Types of Visa and Cost

Tourist: 27. Business and Tourist: Enquire at consulate (or consular section at embassy) for cost as it may vary with the exchange rate. US visas: $42.

Validity

Visas are usually for stays of up to three months, but check with the consulate, as this is dependent on nationality. Extensions for a further three months are possible; apply at the immigration office in Uruguay.

Applications to:

Consulate (or consular section at embassy).

Working Days Required

21
Getting there

Getting There by Air

The national airline is PLUNA (PU) (website: www.pluna.com.uy ).

Approximate Flight Times

From Madrid to Montevideo is 12 hours and from Miami is 9 hours.

Main Airports

Montevideo (MVD) (Carrasco) (website: www.aic.com.uy ) is 19km (12 miles) from the city (journey time - 35 minutes). To/from the airport: There is an airport bus to the city centre. Taxis are also available. Facilities: Duty-free shop, post office, restaurants, car hire, pharmacy, travel agencies, ATMs and a bureau de change.
Air Passes
Oneworld Visit South America Pass: valid within Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Participating airlines include American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), Finnair (AY), Iberia (IB), LAN (LA) and Qantas (QF). The pass must be bought outside South America in the country of residence. It allows unlimited travel to 34 cities. A minimum of three flights must be booked; prices depend on the amount of flight zones. For further details, contact one of the participating airlines (website: www.oneworld.com ).
Departure Tax
US$31 on international departures (US$17 to Buenos Aires), if departing from Carrasco International Airport.

Getting There by Water

Main ports: Montevideo, the main international port, is served by cargo lines from the USA and Europe.

High-speed ferries operate between Montevideo and Buenos Aires (journey time - 3 hours) (website: www.buquebus.com ).

There are also services from Colonia (160km/100 miles west of Montevideo) to Buenos Aires by ferry and a hydrofoil service. A port departure tax may be levied.

Getting There by Road

Modern coaches with bar, TV, WC and radio travel regularly between Brazil and Uruguay. The journey time from Montevideo to Porto Alegre (Brazil) is 11 hours 30 minutes; to São Paulo 30 hours; and to Rio de Janeiro 36 hours. Buses link Montevideo with Asunción and Iguazú Falls in Paraguay, Santiago in Chile and numerous destinations in Argentina including Buenos Aires. More information is available from the website www.trescruces.com.uy .
Cycling & Maps

Cycling in Uruguay
Uruguay is a really relaxed country for cycling in: with its decent roads; wide shoulders; excellent quality of dirt tracks and very minimal traffic. There are amazing stretches of untouched seashores and the small beach villages dotting the coastline add to the quaint and friendly ambience about the place. There are also wonderful National Forests to explore and plenty of rather boring farmland to come across too. Most of all, you will feel completely safe in Uruguay: not only are the people incredibly open, but they are enchanted with anyone taking the time to explore their country, especially by bike.

The south of the country is a continuation of the Argentine Pampas, so reasonably flat, however wind in Uruguay can be strong. Prevailing winds are the Zondra: northerly, hot and blowing in summer; and Pampero: southerly, cold and experienced in winter. That said, still expect freak changes to the norm, which can decrease or increase your travel speed dramatically. The northern region is an extension of the basaltic plateau of Brazil and again offers no real major undulations. In between you will encounter low level mountains known as the Cuchillas.

Road signage is not particularly accurate, nor is there enough of it. Food is not of good quality and it is expensive. But the biggest downside of cycling in Uruguay is the insect population. As mentioned before, mosquitoes and horseflies are in plague proportions everywhere. And bites are not restricted to when you are standing still: they even know how to come along for the ride. Strong repellent and long sleeves are a must in some areas.

Uruguay is quite different from other South American countries, so a quick stay is interesting enough. Luckily, this can be achieved as the country is relatively small. Even so, wild camping and frugal shopping will be necessary to keep the budget at a reasonable level. Reasons for venturing into Uruguay would have to be the excellent road conditions; long stretches of stunning coastline and the warm welcome the locals will undoubtedly give you. The fact that few other tourists bother to visit the country, whose name translates from the Guaraní word meaning "river of painted birds", is also good enough reason to pay the place a visit.

       

Uruguay Map
International Travel Maps
scale 1:800 000

Argentina (North) and Ururguay
Nelles Maps
scale 1:2 500 000
Cost of living
Cost of Living in Uruguay: all prices in Uruguayan Peso (UYU)
drinks and snacks

food: local markets; restaurants; and stores

water
water
juice
juice
soft drink (bottle)
soft drink (bottle)
soft drink (bottle)

1.5 litre
5 litre
200ml
1 litre
600ml
1.5 litre
2.0 litre
12
44
15
30
23
33
40+

bread loaf-white
bread loaf-whole grain
baguette-medium

bizcocho - mini danish
specialty biscuits
alfajor- layered biscuit

550g
750g
each

per kg
tray of 6
60g
50
60
20

120-140
36
12
vegan spring rolls
sweet + sour vege

vege/vegan buffet-city
pizza-takeaway
one serving
one serving

all u can eat
grande
8
30

120+
100+
beer- local (bottle)
beer- local (bottle)
beer- pub/cafe (bottle)
table wine (bottle)
wine (bottle)
wine (tetra pack)
330ml
970 ml
970
950ml
750ml
1 litre
20 - 25
36 - 45
80+
49+
75+
45 - 60
tea
yerba mate-local tea
coffee (cafe / bar)
Nescafe instant
coffee-ground
25 bags
500g
per cup
50g
250g
26
55+
45
41
45
rice (white)
pasta
eggs
tomato paste
instant mash potato

kg
500g
per ½ dozen
60g
125g

20
18
20
10
20
milk-fresh
milk-powdered
yoghurt / curd
olives-pitted
cheese colonia local
cheese - provolone
Magnum icecream
1 litre
200g
200g
180g
kg
kg
each

13
tba
15
25
200
255
25+

potatoes
onions
tomatoes-perita
cabbage
zapallito-local squash
butternut pumpkin
capsicum - green / red

kg
kg
kg
kg
kg
kg
kg
18
15
50
25
36
13
43 / 80
chips
salted peanuts
salted cashews
walnuts
dried peaches
150g pack
70g
200g
100g
250g
50
19
50
65
85
apples
oranges
bananas
pears
pineapple-large
kg
kg
kg
kg
each
27
25
36
38
33
cornflakes
chocolate
budin - cake


museli bar
biscuits-plain
biscuits-chocolate
200g pack
160g block
250g


25g
100g pack
120g pack
60
50
36-45


9
11
12+
pineapple (can)
oil (corn)
500g can
500ml
42
28
peanut paste
chocolate spread
jam
dulce de leche -manjar
honey

350g jar
400g
545g jar
500g
300g

162
113
30
56
30
* Majority of prices obtained from the Ta Ta and El Dorado supermarket chains. Interesting enough, prices in the corner shop differ marginally from the prices in the larger stores.
accommodation personal
budget city hostel
budget hostel
budget city hotel
220-350 per dorm bed
600 per double + share bathroom
700-1000 double with ensuite

deodorant - roll-on
soap
shampoo
toothbrush
toothpaste

disposable razor
toilet paper

50ml
150g bar
200ml
each
100ml

2 pack
4 x small
48
13
60
20+
25+

20
24
camping

100-150 per person
wild camping possible in rural and less populated areas

internet 20-40 per hour

* tba = price to be announced
* March 2010: at time of writing 1 USD = 19.55 UYU
all prices have been taken from internet resources such as wikitravel, hostel world, leading supermarket chains, travel blogs, forums and of course our own travel experiences and purchases of everyday products in food markets, bazaars and local shopping facilities. They are only an indication and designed to give you a general impression of the cost of living in Uruguay. Items are geared towards the budget conscious traveller with an occasional craving for a bit of luxoury.

 


A couple of extra tips:
*
Bargaining can be done at marketplaces especially those dealing in secondhand goods and when buying in bulk, but otherwise prices are fixed .
*
Tipping 10% in bars and restaurants is customary if a service charge has not already been included in the bill. Remember that a 23% government tax is added to menu prices as well, so with a tip included, your cheque could be as much as 40% higher.
* Taxis drivers do not expect tips, though rounding off the fare is fairly common.
* U$ symbol (Uruguayan Pesos) can easily be confused with the $U (US dollar) symbol.
* It is perfectly acceptable to purchase electronic goods and pay for your hotel room in US dollars. In fact, Uruguayans prefer it and the price is quite often cheaper to do so.

*

It is tradition for Uruguayans to give and receive a kiss on the right cheek. This is often accompanied by a hug too, so be prepared for a bit of friendly closeness, no matter what sex you are.
Accommodation

Accommodation and where to sleep
Accommodation is widely available in Uruguay, however, compared to other South American countries it is quite expensive. In fact, the cost of living in general is a notch up, so plan the budget accordingly. The other unusual aspect to consider is that if you pay in US dollars instead of the country's own peso's, the price of your room can work out much cheaper.

The more budget conscious will definitely be drawn toward the hostels as they cater well for this type of traveller: with prices including towels, breakfast, internet and wifi access, a communal kitchen; common room with cable television and dvd player; book exchange; good security; 24 hours reception; laundry service and luggage storage. Some budget hotels also offer the same facilities for roughly the same price. Websites with hostel information in Uruguay are listed below.

Another option if you are travelling in a group along the coastline is the availability of beach houses for rent at reasonable prices in the out of peak times. In the height of season however: Christmas and January, it is impossible to find Accommodation adhoc, so book in advance.

arrow Hostelling International : only in Spanish, but easy to navigate through an interactive map. Lists all Hostelling International Hostels in Uruguay
arrow HostelTrail : Specific link to the Uruguayan page of this extensive Latin American hostel network website.
arrow Welcome Uruguay : Link to the lodgings page of regions with all types of available Accommodation Also quite an extensive website about general travel in Uruguay.

Camping in Uruguay
Uruguayan campgrounds are generally pretty old and rundown, though they do have the all the facilities needed for camping: electricity; hot water showers; tables; stools; and barbecue pits. Many even have their own supermarket and swimming pool too. Out of season, they can have limited services or even be closed, so it is wise to check at the tourist information booths found in towns and cities throughout the country for up to date details. Some of the National Parks also offer official camping areas. In 2010, campsites were charging between 100 and 150 Uruguayan pesos per person for pitching a tent. See the links below for lists of campgrounds throughout the country.

Much of Uruguay is farmland with fenced off fields and therefore camping wild can be difficult. However in unpopulated areas and especially along the coast it is relatively easy. The beaches provide perfect dunes for hiding away, though you may have to do a bit of pushing to get there. The police are also helpful, should you find yourself stuck somewhere as they can often arrange a spot for you in the local park.

There are generally enough stores along the way to stock up with food and water, though the tap water is drinkable almost everywhere in the country. Fuel is also of a high standard, which means burning your stove on unleaded petrol is trouble free. The only downside to camping anywhere in Uruguay is the plague proportion of mosquitoes in the country. You really need every possible form of repellent, coils and clothing to combat these little pests. And when they are not there, which is rare, you are likely to encounter horse flies. Sometimes, you get both at once, which is not much fun at all.

arrow Turismo del Uruguay : listings of most campgrounds via an interactive map by region and including the National Parks and Reserves. A good general site about travel in the country as well.
arrow Info Turismo : a small list of some campgrounds in Uruguay.

Food & drink
Food, Drink and Vegetarian Fare

Uruguayans are some of the world's top beef consumers, so many of the problems a vegetarian faces in Argentina, Chile and Brazil are seen in this country too. The barbecue is a favourite pastime which kind of explains churrasco [grilled steak] and parrillada [mixed grill platter] being two of the national dishes.

Fruit and vegetables are available but with limited choice and often not of high quality. Food in general is expensive, so be prepared for your budget to rise a little in Uruguay whether you choose to eat out or cater for your self.

With about 88% of Uruguayans coming from European descent it stands to reason that the food culture is also influenced by Spanish, French, German and even Italian cuisine. The latter being a life saver for vegetarians since a simple ravioli or ñoquis [gnocchi] with tomato sauce can be found in just about every restaurant. Other than that the local Chinese or pizzeria is about the only other choice a vegetarian is going to have when it comes to eating out.

In Montevideo, there are a few vegetarian restaurants to choose from and the one with the best reviews is Bambu: a health food store with a chinese takeaway buffet featuring many vegan choices. It is situated on San Jose 1290 and from all accounts it is well worth the visit if you don't mind not being able to eat at the place. They are also one of the only shops where you can buy peanut butter. For details about other restaurant have a look at the HappyCow website.

 
VEGETARIAN TALK - Spanish
Soy vegetariano/a = I am vegetarian m/f
No como...ni... = I don't eat...nor...
Yo como...y... = I eat...and...
No quiero...o... = I don't want...or...
carne = meat
cerdo or puerco = pork
pollo [poh-yo] = chicken
pescado = fish
huevos = eggs
leche = milk
lácteos = milk products
queso = cheese

vedura = vegetables
fruta (fresca) = (fresh) fruit

Quiero... = I want...
Quisiera un plato que lleve... =
I want a dish containing ...

por favor = please
gracias = thank you
de nada = you're welcome

Like in most Central and South American countries, dulce de leche is a national obsession and it finds its way into all sorts of sweet goods. Postres [desserts], tortas [cakes] and bizcochos [pastries] are also common in the nation's diet and usually enjoyed with the national drink: yerba mate. This tea drinking habit is an institution and while you'll see people walking around happily sipping on a gourd full of bright green infusion, it is definitely an acquired taste. It has been described as a bitter cross between green tea and coffee with a hint of tobacco.

Tap water is safe to drink in Uruguay in towns and cities, though depending on the region, it can be a little chlorinated in taste. If you are arriving for the first time in South America, health authorities advise to use bottled water for a couple of weeks to help decrease the chance of traveller's diarrhea.

Two common beer brands in Uruguay are Patricia and Pilsen; and though extremely expensive the fine wine made from the tannat grape is a steadily growing industry. Cheaper wines in the country are not good value at all and quite vinegary to drink. So, if faced with the decision to purchase an Argentine or Uruguayan tetra pack wine, then go for the first country, you'll get much better quality for your money. Medio medio is a popular refreshment being as the name suggests, a half-half mix of champagne and white wine. Similarly, clericó a blend of white wine and fruit juice is also a fashionable choice.

Why not try these for starters?
Ñoquis
A Italian influenced culture means plenty of Italian dishes on the dinner table too and Uruguay is no exception. You can order cheese or vegetable filled ravioli just about anywhere, but on the 29th of the month it is convention to enjoy another very popular pasta dish: ñoquis del 29 [gnocchi of the 29th]. And there is nothing more delicious that a plate of steaming potato dumplings topped with a simple tomato sauce and sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese. This dish came about out of necessity as it was the perfect way to still eat heartily but for little cost, seeing as the 29th was the last day before payday, when everyone was at their poorest. And should you wish to keep up with tradition, leave some money under your plate in a superstitious plea for future prosperity.
Empanadas
Hand sized, inexpensive, delicious and purchased at bakeries, from street vendors and in fast-food bars, it is no wonder that these golden brown baked pastry turnovers are South America's most widespread snack food. More often than not, a vegetarian will get to choose from varying combinations using vegetables, cheese and/or onions.
Pascualina
A puff pastry pie typically brimming with seasoned chard and eggs and sometimes crumbled fresh white cheese. Found in bakeries and cafés throughout not only Uruguay but Argentina as well, this delicious tart is a wonderful afternoon snack or light meal served with a fresh green salad.
Martín Fierro
Another tasty merienda [afternoon snack] is the uncomplicated combination of queso [cheese] and dulce de membrillo [quince paste]. Nowadays, any variety of cheese can accompany the firm sweet fruit meat, though traditionally something savouring the piquant aged flavours of queso manchego [sheep cheese] would have been a more common choice. This savoury-sweet plate can be ordered at food markets, coffee shops and for the self caterer in a ready to serve tray at the deli-section of the supermarket.
Torta Frita
Literally translated as fried cake, yet another comfort food reserved especially for a miserable rainy day. Basically a fried batter biscuit with a small hole in the middle, torta fritas can be devoured warm and crispy on their own or with the sweet and creamy Latin American all time favourite: dulce de leche [caramel spread]
Bizcocho
Buttery, flaky pastry or buttery, short cookies are a temptation at the best of times, but when they come in so many different varieties you will be so spoilt for choice you wont know which one to sink your teeth into next. Known as facturas in Argentina, bizcochos can be sweet or savoury, sugar dusted or chocolate coated, filled with all sorts of delicious creams, pastes and cheeses or simply not.

Served at meetings, with tea and coffee, or just as a pick-me-up snack they are a fundamental part of Uruguayan food culture. And the good news is, they can be found at the panadería [bakery] or the shop specialising in these mini croissant like specialties and called quite aptly: a bizcochería [pastry shop]. They are normally sold by the kilo, so that's a great excuse to choose lots of different types. Some of the more common ones are:

Cruasanes or Croissants: sweetly topped with sugar or chocolate or savory flavoured with a baked cheese coating. Filled with dulce de leche, vanilla pudding, dulce de membrillo or cheese, these are just like the well known western version of the croissant.
Margaritas: As the name suggests a croissant variation resembling a daisy. The centre space on top is available for a filling of pastry cream or dulce de membrillo.
Vigilantes: Long, thin, flaky pastry sticks with sugar on top.
Pan con grasa: One of Uruguay's most popular: a strangely rolled bread pastry likened to a snail's shell with a tail.
Ojitos: Small, round homemade-looking shortbread with a small well in the middle filled with dulce de membrillo: hence the name ojitos because they look exactly like little eyes.
Polvorones: Another kind of soft dough cookie made with nuts or chocolate or both and sometimes coated in chocolate too.

Chajá
On 27 April 1927, Orlando Castilian: confectionery owner of a family business in Paysandu, created this traditional Uruguayan dessert. It is named after a native bird, the chajá [the screamer], due to its light and fluffy body plumage reminiscent of the consistency of the cake.

Originally made with strawberries, which can only be obtained fresh in certain months of the year, the recipe was later adapted to use peaches instead. These, mixed with a custard cream piled high on a sponge cake base and covered with crumbled meringue make the chajá so popular that they even have a website dedicated to the dessert. And you don't have to worry about missing out on trying one of these delectable puddings as they sell the chajá individually as well.

Pastafrola
Just like a crisscross apple tart that Mum used to make, only filled with dulce de membrillo [quince paste]. Need we say more?
Garrapiñada
Sugar, cocoa and vanilla coated peanuts, sold freshly baked from street vendors. Grab a couple of bags while you're there. One will not be enough.
Yerba Mate
Books could be written about this age-old tradition and along with all the etiquette comes a multitude of different flavours which have been added to this rather bitter infusion of dried leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant. It is definitely an acquired taste, but seems everyone in Uruguay has discovered it. Leaving the home is not without a travel pack conventionally made from stitched leather and akin to a long binoculars case, including everything necessary for making the brew. For those on a stroll, a thermos under one arm and tea gourd in the other hand is as common a sight as a clenched can of beer at an Aussie barbecue.

Near boiling point water is poured over the yerba mate packed into the hollowed out gourd and the tea is sipped through a bombilla [metal straw]. While you can rarely find the national drink in a restaurant or cafe, you can buy inexpensive ready-to-use packs from supermarkets and tourist vendors. Still, since it is a communal thing, put a smile on a local's face by asking to join in. But remember these two small rules: never stir the mate with the bombilla and never comment on the preparation of the brew.

Grappamiel
Translated literally as "grape stalk", grappa comes in many flavours and qualities and Uruguay too, has its own version: Grappamiel [honey grappa]. The addition of honey makes the normally quite strong flavour of the Italian born liquor: smooth, tasty and much easier to drink. A definite must try whilst in Uruguay and especially if you need warming up on a cold winter's evening.

Bike shops
Climate
climate chart Montevideo Uruguay
Road distances
Uruguay road distance chart
       
Detailed distance chart from our trip through Uruguay - March 2010 (km/alti)      
 
accomm.:
km
altimetres
  H= hotel / posada . C= camping / trailer park . B= beach camp
  sections in red: unpaved      
         
Colonia Santa Ana
H/C
22
165
Santa Ana turn-off Tarariras
7
62
turn-off Tarariras turn-off highway 2
20
167
turn-off highway 2 Colonia Valdense
7
42
Colonia Valdense Ecilda Paullier
20
140
Ecilda Paullier Libertad
51
216
Libertad Santiago Vazquez
32
84
Santiago Vazquez Montevideo
H
23
70
         
Montevideo Atlantida
47
173
Atlantida Jaureguiberry
C
37
181
Jaureguiberry Piriápolis
H
20
81
Piriápolis Maldonado
H/C
30
233
Maldonado Punta del este
H
15
72
Punta del Este La Barra
10
35
La Barra turn-off José Ignacio
22
85
turn-off José Ignacio turn-off Laguna de Rocha
15
48
turn-off Laguna de Rocha T-junction highway 9
12
132
T-junction highway 9 Rocha
H
19
98
Rocha turn-off Cabo Polonio
48
143
turn-off Cabo Polonio Aguas Dulces
C
15
25
Aguas Dulces Castillos
13
126
Castillos Punta del Diablo
C
35
97
Punta del Diablo border Ururguay / Chuy
H
39
80
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