10 Tips for Living in Uruguay
By Betsy Burlingame
Summary: Uruguay may not be the most popular expat destination, but expats there are probably hoping that the truth about Uruguay's healthy lifestyle, family-oriented culture and beautiful beaches doesn't get out.
Uruguay is Less Corrupt than Other Latin American Countries
"Here in Uruguay the [residency] process is so much more clear cut. Not simple or perfectly smooth but easier. No corruption. If you have a handle on Spanish you can breeze through. I did not so my Uruguayan friends have helped me immensely. The residency process has taken over a year. I chose to go the cheap route (canje) and was told upfront that it would be a long wait for the card," explained one expat living in Valdense, Uruguay who have previously lived in Argentina.
Life is Good in Uruguay
"Lower cost of living, many benefits for seniors who get residency, friendly native people, quietness, stability of gov't, great public transportation, no need of a car, no need of expensive insurances, local "organic" meat and produce, slower pace of life, flourishing small businesses, hard-working honest family oriented native people, beautiful birds, great highways, wonderful beaches, simple life pleasures: people walk instead of jump in a car, women hang out clothes instead of using a dryer, families wear layers of clothes instead of turning up a thermostat, people buy small cars, use propane for cooking, have small homes so spend much of leisure time out of doors. The air here is clean, water potable throughout the country. The Solis Theater in Montevideo supports classical and innovative musical groups, both world famous and local talent. There are adjustments to make, yes. But in a nutshell, Uruguay is ideal for me," said one expat who retired in Uruguay.
Must Learn the Language
Another expat in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay recommended, "if you don't speak a certain amount of Spanish, you're lost. They take you more seriously. Nobody speaks English. Prepare yourself. Buy Rosetta Stone if you must, but be aware = it teaches Mexican Spanish, not Uruguayan Spanish... But why am I cheating you of a few laughs? Strike up conversations in fledgling Spanish whenever you can - at the bus stop or market. Word of mouth is how you will find houses to rent, year-round or during the season, cars for sale or rent, the best deals on firewood, etc. TALK to the locals."
The Best Thing about Uruguay - The People
"The people here will bend over backward to help you get along, give you recommendations for laundry service, firewood vendors, whatever you want. The key is to keep your heart open to the people. Be open to the people of Uruguay. Trust in the natural goodness of humankind here. Nobody is out to fleece you. Visit the provinces & learn about the country people, not just the city of Montevideo & cities.
Wine in Uruguay
"Yes, we are drinking a bit more - red wine - tannat grapes. We probably consume about a gallon per week, between ourselves & visitors... It's winter now & it helps to warm the blood... Dom Perico in Chuy (border of Uruguay & Brazil) has the best tannat - Sol Chico.
Cost of Living in Uruguay
"Realize this is not a cheap place to live. Prices are similar to the United States; however, there is much more freedom to be found here," said one expat. Another expat said, "Montevideo is one of the most INexpensive cities to live in the world, as are practically all other cities and towns in Uruguay, but Punta del Este is just as expensive as any US resort city or international resort in the world, if not more. I would strongly recommend coming to Uruguay on an extended .. (maybe a couple of months) visit to get a feel for it before packing up and moving here."
"Less than $1200/mo. We spend about $50/week on food, drink, wine, etc. We sold all our possessions before coming down & came down with 7 suitcases... We paid $100 each for these, which to my view was way cheaper than trying to ship them down," described another expat.
"The costs of living could be as much or more than in the US..a cup of coffee is cheaper at Starbucks in the US than in Uruguay. Health care if you are under 55 will cost you around 100 dollars a month with funeral expenses covered," described another expat in Uruguay.
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Diversity in Uruguay
"Uruguayans come in a wide range of skin tones & hair textures. People are not referred to as "black" or "white," but just as... people. Mixed-race couples are everywhere, if you judge by skin tones; however, you find out eventually that BOTH are native Uruguayans. The principal religion is Catholicism; however, they are not rabid about religiosity. They attend Christmas, Easter, funerals, weddings, christenings. Religion is a personal matter, between a person & his/her higher power - that is all," said one expat living in Uruguay.
Expats Found it Easier to Move to Uruguay than to Argentina
"I faced the same choice 2 years ago, Uruguay or Argentina. I already had an apartment in Buenos Aires, wanted to relocate from coastal Brazil and did not want to live in a big city. We ended up near Punta del Este (but a world away in many respects) in Uruguay. The political and financial situation in Argentina is impossible. A few months ago it was impossible to get dollars (by decree of the President) and no one outside of Argentina wants their pesos. Inflation is 25-30%. I gave up trying to get residency. We still have our apartment in BA and enjoy the 35 minute flight from Punta to be in a great city every month. Since you mentioned you need to be near an airport there is one (Laguna del Sauce) 5 minutes from our house. And Uruguay seems very stable, the people are friendly, inflation is 7% and banking is easy. Both countries have winters and August is particularly gloomy. If you are visiting in July and August you will see the worst of the weather. I thought I would share my experiences with both countries," explained one expat in Punta del Este.
Where to Live in Uruguay
One expat said, "Uruguay is a friendly, relaxed, politically stable, relatively safe and enjoyable place to live. Montevideo is a wonderful coastal city with a small town feel. This means you'll have a wide range of restaurants and cultural activities availabe year round...but it's a place where everyone knows everyone else...which pays extraordinary benefits once you've paid a few dues and gotten to know who is who, who to trust, and who not to. The coastal areas offer fairly good beaches and there are expat communities but offer much less to do. You will have to have a car anywhere outside of Montevideo, whereas in the city you won't need one. (Frankly...I wouldn't DRIVE in Argentina, much less own a car. I've lived in Mediteranean Europe, Mexico, etc...and Argentina is BY FAR the most dangerous place to drive I have ever seen. Noone stops...EVER. Uruguay by contrast is simply 'sort of bad', comparable to many other places outside the U.S."
Crime in Uruguay
"The people of UY are by far the best - very helpful. Altho UYos complain about their rising crime rate in the inner cities, this is mainly petty theft, not murders like Costa Rica, etc... Personal assaults, robbings or muggings are nearly unheard-of here," explained another expat.
Another said, "Although there is very little to no crime outside the big city of Montevideo, you find occasional petty thievery. However, yesterday we got our supper of mussels & sea whelks from Rivera Beach & left our little VW parked & unlocked for several hours. It was unmolested, as the locals here are learning who the car belongs to."
About the Author
Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.
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First Published: Feb 27, 2013