Top events in Uruguay

January
23

Montevideo's exuberant Carnaval brings dancing, drumming, comedy and theatre to the streets for several weeks each summer. Especially noteworthy...

February
02

Offerings of flowers, gifts, perfume and rice are made to the Yoruba Goddess of the Sea every 2 February.

March
07

Uruguay's largest and most authentic celebration of its deep-rooted gaucho culture involves five days of music, dancing, barbecues, bonfires and...

Punta del Este beach, Uruguay
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Punta del Este beach, Uruguay

© Brand X Pictures / Thinkstock

Uruguay Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

176,215 sq km (68,037 sq miles).

Population

3.3 million (2013).

Population density

18.9 per sq km.

Capital

Montevideo.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President José Mujica since 2010.

Head of government

President José Mujica since 2010.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style round two-pin plugs and Australian-style flat, angled three-pin plugs are used.

Boasting picturesque beaches, rolling countryside, colonial old towns and atmospheric cities, Uruguay comes in a small but highly impressive package. The country’s laid back, welcoming charm and year-round temperate climate is being discovered by more and more tourists from further afield each year, and they find out what many of their South American counterparts have known all along: that Uruguay is a destination with spades of personality, beauty and often striking panorama.

For such a small country, Uruguay has a lot to offer its visitors, and a surprising degree of contrasting scenery. The capital Montevideo is arguably the jewel in its crown: an eloquent, cosmopolitan and thriving metropolis where art deco buildings, a lively business and shopping district, a breezy beachfront promenade and the world's longest carnival celebration collide to create a heady experience.

Colonia del Sacramento is another gem; its beguiling cobbled streets, leafy plazas, 18th-century Portuguese colonial architecture and quaint riverside setting make it a perfect destination for cultured romantics. High rollers looking to top up their tans on a beach or yacht before dancing away the early hours will likely be drawn to the glamorous Punta del Este; its stunning beaches, fancy hotels, classy nightclubs and swanky restaurants ensure it is the most expensive and brazenly showbiz place in Uruguay. Maldonado is a slightly less pricey alternative for beach bums on a budget, but aside from those places, there are scores of small villages and towns dotted across the country each with their own distinctive charms and character to explore, lest we forget a thrilling Atlantic coastline with dunes, lagoons and perfect surf, the fisherman’s paradise of Punto del Diablo, soothing hot springs near the pretty town of Salto and the wide open grandeur of gaucho country.

Uruguayans are, by and large, a liberal, relaxed and friendly people who enjoy a relatively high standard of living, and they will likely delight in showing you their homeland. They are also known worldwide for their garra charrúa, a fighting spirit derived from the original indigenous settlers that has seen a country of just 3.4 million people punch above its weight on the international stage both economically and in sport. The inaugural Olympic soccer champions, improbable double winners of the FIFA World Cup and ahead of their much larger neighbours Brazil and Argentina in South American titles, Uruguayans are an immensely proud people who delight in fighting against the odds, and often succeeding.

The compact nature of Uruguay, at roughly the same size as the USA’s Oklahoma, means it its possible for visitors to discover a good wedge of the country in a relatively short period of time. That’s not to say that repeated visits to Uruguay are unnecessary or excessive; returning travellers will either discover more of the country’s distinctive beauty that they missed out on the first time out, or nostalgically reacquaint themselves with what made them fall in love with it in the first place. In the vein of its famous sizzling beef steaks, Uruguay is best digested and enjoyed at a leisurely pace. And there is little doubt you will want more.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 23 October 2014

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Most criminal incidents occur in Montevideo, where opportunistic street crime is on the rise. Take care of your personal belongings at all times and be aware of your surroundings. Take particular care in and around the downtown and port areas. Don’t walk through these areas alone or at night; consider taking a taxi if necessary.

Carry a photocopy of your passport and keep the original document in a safe place.

Around 20,000 British nationals visit Uruguay every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

There is a low threat from terrorism. See Terrorism.

Some Visa card holders are experiencing difficulties withdrawing cash from certain ATMs while they are being upgraded to meet the latest chip and pin safety standards. This may continue until November 2014. In the meantime, cash machines at larger Banco de la Republica (the REDBROU network) are working normally.

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