Uruguay is a country in South America, known primarily to football fans. Ordinary tourists know less about the state, although it has all the conditions for a quality holiday. It has its own nature, its own animals and plants. And here live people not similar to other nations, but all of them are very open, friendly and independent. Welcome to Uruguay, the country is looking forward to you!
Uruguay on the map
Uruguay is one of the countries of South America. It is located in the south-eastern part of the continent, between the countries of Brazil and Argentina, which are much larger than Uruguay in terms of area. The land border with these countries is just over 1500 kilometres long. Much of the border runs along the Uruguay and Quarai rivers.
In the south and east, Uruguay is washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline is 660 kilometres long. In the south, the country is separated from Argentina by the huge mouth of the Paraná River, which is called La Plata.
Uruguay owns more than a dozen small islands off the coast, some of which are nature reserves and others are tourist resorts.
The relief of the country is a hilly plain. The central regions are densely forested hills, which to the south are replaced by lowlands – the Argentine pampa. The highest point of the country is Mount Catedral (514 metres).
The territory of the country is divided into two almost equal parts by the Rio Negro River, which is an important attraction of the local nature. In the east, on the border with Brazil, there is a huge freshwater lake Lagoa-Mirim.
The nature of Uruguay is quite rich. There are capybaras, deer, armadillos, jaguarundi and many other inhabitants of the pampas and subtropical forests.
Safety for tourists
Uruguay is ranked 37th on the Global Peace Index, which takes into account the tranquillity of the environment, attitude towards tourists and many other factors, between Lithuania and Italy, which seems very honourable.
The crime rate here is very low, and the law enforcement system is efficient and reliable. The risk of falling victim to a pickpocket or a swindler is low here, but you should not lose caution, because there will be lovers of getting rich at other people’s expense everywhere.
The political situation in the country is stable, and there have been no terrorist acts in recent history for a long time. Serious crimes, such as robbery or violence, are almost unheard of here. The most common type of crime is robbery of rented beach houses in the absence of the owners.
The atmosphere on the roads is favourable and calm. Despite their hot temperament, locals generally respect the rules of the road, and the motorways themselves are in good condition.
The state of health care in Uruguay is good, and many medical services are free for tourists. But you should always remember about hygiene, especially in a country with unusual cuisine for tourists. The most common diseases in the country are yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis.
The fauna of the country is rich, but it does not pose any particular danger to tourists. There are several species of poisonous snakes and insects, the largest predator is the jaguarundi, which is practically safe for humans. In the waters of Uruguay are mostly small sharks, which are not dangerous to holidaymakers, corals and poisonous fish are almost non-existent.
Thus, holidays in Uruguay are safe enough, but the general principles of caution should be observed.
Latin Americans in general, and Uruguayans in particular, have always been famous for their love of noisy, lavish festive events. Traditional February carnivals are held in every country of the region. Uruguay is no exception, and the Montevideo Carnival can rival the beauty of Rio de Janeiro. It is the longest carnival in South America. It starts on the 20th of February and lasts for over a month.
There are 5 public holidays in the country: New Year and Christmas, Labour, Constitution and Independence Days. Also, official holidays, but not days off, are considered Columbus, Jose Artigas and All Saints’ Days. Epiphany, which is called Children’s Day, is also loved in the country, because young Uruguayans receive gifts from their parents on this holiday.
In addition to traditional Christian holidays, in Uruguay you can meet devotees of the Candomblé religion, who bring gifts to the Goddess of the Sea on the 2nd of February.
What fun there is in Uruguay
Uruguay is considered one of the most prosperous countries in the region, but the tourist infrastructure here is not the most ideal. For some reason, the development of tourism here does not pay much attention and everything is based on private investment. More than 3 million tourists arrive in the country every year. What can Uruguay offer for them?
- Beach holidays. The country has several beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast, directly in the capital Montevideo or not far from it. The most popular are the beaches of Costa de Ora and Ciudad de la Costa.
- Diving. Uruguay has no picturesque coral reefs, but beautiful rock formations are found in abundance, and the underwater world is quite rich. The price for one dive starts from $40.
- Surfing. The country is not considered a surfer’s paradise, but there are several attractive spots with good waves. Surfing season lasts in the country from November to March.
- Kiting. Frequent and constant winds in summer make the country’s coastline attractive to kiting enthusiasts. The most popular place for kiting is Garzón Lagoon, where you can also admire the amazing round bridge.
- Punta del Este. Uruguay’s most important seaside resort is famous not only for its beaches, but also for the sculpture of the Hand, depicting fingers stretching out of the sand. It’s a favourite spot for selfies.
- Sea Lions. The southernmost point of the country is the small Lobos Island, where sea lions love to bask. It is a nature reserve that is often visited by tourists.
- Santa Teresa National Park. This park is located on the east coast of the country and abounds in dense forests. Among them are the historic fort built in 1762 by the Portuguese, one of the country’s iconic landmarks.
- Rio Negro. The country’s main river, which crosses Uruguay from north to south. There are two major reservoirs on the river, but for most of its length it flows through unspoilt land, very attractive to tourists.
- Montevideo Tour. The capital of Uruguay is a real gem, without a visit to which it is impossible to imagine a visit to this country. It has old neighbourhoods with Spanish architecture, museums, churches, beaches and a rich nightlife.
- Gastrotour. The traditional cuisine of Uruguay is typical of Latin American countries, but not to try local specialities would be criminal negligence. Firstly, it is asado – roasted meat cooked on open fire. Civito sandwiches and Puchero soup are popular in the country. And you can drink it all with a glass of local wine.
What is important to know about Uruguay
If you are planning to visit this state, here are some of the most important things to know:
Spanish is considered the official language of the republic. But Uruguayan Spanish differs from the classical Spanish with a lot of borrowings from Portuguese.
Currently, the country is home to just over 3.5 million people.
92% of the population lives in urban areas, the percentage of rural inhabitants is very low.
Among them, 82% are from the white population. These are descendants of natives of Spain, migrants from Italy, France and other European countries.
Mestizos in the country are almost 14%. There are large Arab, Armenian, Greek and Jewish diasporas in the country.
- More facts about the people of Uruguay, their character and local colour can be found in this article.
The national currency is the Uruguayan peso, which is divided into 100 centesimos.
Banknotes of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 pesos, and coins of 1, 2, 5, and 10 pesos are now in circulation.
Exchange of foreign currency for pesos is carried out both in banks (there is the most favourable rate), and in hotels, shopping centres and other exchange offices. A number of foreign plastic cards are not serviced in the country.
Approximate exchange rate: 38 pesos to 1 dollar.
Most of the country’s population is Christian. Almost half of the inhabitants are Catholics, and another 11% are Protestants. About a quarter of Uruguayans consider themselves agnostics. From other confessions in the country Judaism, Islam, African pagan cults are insignificantly widespread.
Orthodox Old Believers live in Uruguay in small rural communities.
Uruguay lies in the area of humid subtropical climate, which is characterized by a clear division of the year into four seasons. There is a wet and windy spring, warm and dry summers, mild, long autumns and cold, wet winters.
Average January temperatures hover around +28 degrees Celsius. In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the height of summer. In winter, in July, the temperature drops to +14 degrees Celsius. Sometimes even snow can fall here at this time.
The amount of precipitation during the year varies little, it increases evenly from the south-eastern coast to the north-western regions.
The absence of high mountains makes the whole country accessible to sea winds and sudden weather changes. Hurricanes and storms are not uncommon here.
The average temperature of the seawater off the coast of Uruguay is subject to strong annual fluctuations and does not always remain suitable for swimming. The difference between average winter and summer water temperatures can be as much as 12 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the bathing season lasts from November to April.
- Water temperature in winter, December-January: from +22 to +24 degrees Celsius.
- Water temperature in spring, March-May: from +23 to +17 degrees in May.
- Water temperature in summer, June-July: from +13 to +14 degrees. The coldest water is in July.
- Water temperature in autumn, September-November: from +15 in early autumn to +20 degrees in November.
In terms of natural disasters, Uruguay is one of the calmest places on earth. There are no high mountains here, and therefore no volcanoes. The country lies on a stable mainland platform and earthquakes are very rare here. The last strong earthquake occurred in these places in 1888 and its magnitude did not exceed 5.5 points.
Geographically, Uruguay is located to the south of the zone of trade winds and strong storms or hurricanes also bypass the country. This does not mean that it is completely quiet here, sometimes strong winds hit the country, but it does not happen as often as in other places. Thus, one of the most destructive cyclones in the history of the republic occurred in August 2005. The wind force then reached 180 kilometres per hour, which led to destruction and casualties. Ten people died.
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the country. The last major flood occurred in January 2022 and flooded a number of urban neighbourhoods in Montevideo, disrupting electricity supply to almost the entire city.
Drought is another frequent problem in the country. Severe droughts occurred in 2008, 2018 and 2023. Recently, their number has been increasing, which is attributed to global climate change. But it is mainly farmers who suffer from drought.
- About the most devastating disasters in the history of Uruguay can be read in this article.
Uruguay is a presidential republic. The president of the country is the head of the government and is elected for 5 years without the right of re-nomination. Legislative power is represented by a bicameral General Assembly, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Administratively, the country is divided into 19 departments.
The capital of the country is Montevideo.
The largest cities and resorts
Montevideo is the capital of the country and its most populous city. It was founded in 1726, and now it is home to 1.4 million people. Montevideo attracts tourists with its interesting historical architecture, museums and monuments, as well as beaches and entertainment facilities. The most famous carnival of the country is held here.
Punta del Este is the most popular resort of the country, which is visited by more than a third of all tourists arriving in Uruguay. It is a small town in the south of the country with a population of only 10 thousand people. Tourists are attracted here by luxurious hotels, beaches, nightlife and picturesque islands.
Colonia del Sacramento is the oldest city in the country. It was founded in 1680 by the Portuguese. Now the city is home to 26,000 people. The historical centre of the city is included in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage sites.
Maldonado is a resort town with a population of 62 thousand people. It was founded in 1755. Tourists are attracted by historical sights of the city: ancient cathedrals, towers, Dragon Barracks. From modern architectural delights, the most attractive is a sagging concrete bridge of unusual design.
Football – like all South Americans, Uruguayans are passionate fans, and their national team has twice won the world championship, though quite a long time ago.
Mate is the local tonic drink, a herbal tea rich in caffeine.
Asado – chargrilled meat, usually beef, iconic Uruguayan food.
Cockspur, coral tree – an evergreen flowering plant that is the national symbol not only of Uruguay but also of Argentina.
Our Lady of the Thirty-Three is a religious symbol of Uruguay. A statue of the Virgin Mary carved by a shepherd who, according to legend, patronized the thirty-three patriots who sought independence.
How to get to Uruguay
A European or Asian tourist can get to the country almost exclusively by aeroplane. There are 10 international airports in the country, including in such popular tourist cities as Maldonado, Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacramento. But the main international gateway of Uruguay remains the capital’s Carrasco Airport. It is located 5 kilometres from Montevideo and is capable of handling up to 6 million passengers a year.
From Carrasco regular flights are made to cities all over the world, including Paris, Madrid, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Miami. But the most flights link the country with Argentina and Brazil.
From these countries, it is also possible to get to Uruguay by road transport. Argentina and Montevideo are also connected by ferry.
How much money to take with you
The cost of a holiday in Uruguay can vary greatly, depending on whether you plan to holiday on your own at your own risk, or use the services of a travel company and trusted guides.
Uruguay is located in the Southern Hemisphere and is quite far from Europe. Therefore, for tourists from the EU, flying here will not be cheap. For example, a round-trip ticket to Montevideo from Paris will cost at least 950 euros.
The most inexpensive tours to the country start from 2 thousand euros for 7 days without taking into account the flight.
In the country itself, tourists are waiting for the following costs:
- Food: prices for food here are much lower than in Europe, but quite high. For example, lunch in an average restaurant will cost 30 euros for two people. Fast food is cheaper, you can eat there for 7–8 euros. A cup of cappuccino costs about 3 euros.
- Accommodation: the average price of a double room in a three-star hotel in Montevideo is 100 euros, but you can get a room in a hostel for only 50 euros. Five-star hotels offer rooms from 220 euros.
- Visiting attractions: beach facilities will be free when staying in a hotel, except for extras such as diving. Visiting many historic buildings and churches is free, but you will have to pay to enter a museum. The price of various excursions depends on their duration and the composition of the group. For example, the minimum price for a sightseeing tour of the old centre of Montevideo is 160 euros.
- Souvenirs: from Uruguay tourists bring leather and wool products, both hand and machine knitted, precious jewellery with local agates and semi-precious stones, products of local craftsmen made of wood, ceramics, calabashes. Of the foodstuffs, mate tea is the most popular. Costs for souvenirs are individual and can vary considerably.
- Transport: You can get around the cities by public transport or taxi. A bus ticket costs from 65 cents to 1.25 euros. Boarding a taxi costs 1.5 euros and 1.6 euros for each kilometre.
Thus, taking into account the reserve amount for unforeseen expenses, a holiday in Uruguay for two people will cost from 3000 to 5000 thousand euros for 7 days including flights. And of course, the maximum amount of the holiday can be much higher.
If you have already visited Uruguay, please share your impressions in the comments. Please write a few words, what you liked most of all, what moments remained in your memory forever, and what you would recommend to other tourists. We will be very grateful for your recommendations!