Uruguay travel guide
A peaceful, laidback destination with a long history of liberalism (Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize marijuana) this pint-sized nation finds itself squeezed between Brazil and Argentina, and is often overshadowed by its heavyweight neighbours. However, as Uruguay has come to appreciate its subtle charms and small-scale attractions, so too have travellers.
Veer off the Gringo Trail and into Uruguay, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Considering its size, the country boasts an astonishing variety of diversions. Its windswept Atlantic coastline features dunes, lagoons and perfect surf; visitors can hop between hip beach resorts, clustered around the chic Punta del Este, abscond to sleepy fishing villages or take wildlife excursions to see penguins, sea lions and whales. The interior is equally rewarding. Journey up the Rio de la Plata and discover charming colonial towns, thermal springs and working haciendas, which offer an authentic taste of traditional gaucho life.
The jewel in Uruguay’s crown, though, is the capital, Montevideo. Punching well above its weight culturally and economically, this buzzing metropolis is classified as a Beta World City and is considered the most gay-friendly city in Latin America. Montevideo is a handsome place of stunning architecture, breezy promenades and sandy beaches. It’s also home to the world’s longest carnival, a heady six-week street party that puts other South American cities to shame.
Sleepy Colonia del Sacramento is another gem. Situated on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, opposite Buenos Aires, this amorous city offers enchanting cobbled streets, leafy plazas and 18th-century Portuguese architecture. It’s unflappably laidback, but for something even cooler head to Cabo Polonio, an off-grid eco-resort founded by hippies and fishermen, where the stresses of modern life ebb away and there’s time to appreciate nature and likeminded people.
All things considered, Uruguay should be treated like one of its famous beefsteaks; take your time over it, savour it and when you’re done, come back for more. You’ll never get your fill.
176,215 sq km (68,037 sq miles).
3,444,071 (UN estimate 2016).
19 per sq km.
President Luis Lacalle Pou since 2020.
President Luis Lacalle Pou since 2020.
Coronavirus health information
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Uruguay on the TravelHealthPro website.
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Uruguayan Embassy in London has suggested the following laboratories where you can order home tests:
You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country, you should arrange to take a private test.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Uruguay.
Travelling from and returning to the UK
Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.
There are commercial options to return to the UK from Uruguay.
You should check availability with your travel agent, but options include:
- Iberia and Air Europa via Madrid
- LATAM via Sao Paulo and Santiago
You should check Travel Advice and entry requirements for any country that you will transit on your return. You should have your travel booked to your final destination before starting any journey, as you may not be allowed to board your flight without proof.
Ferry service between Uruguay and Argentina
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Uruguay
Free movement in the whole country is allowed.
Healthcare in Uruguay
For contact details for English speaking doctors, visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health.
View Health for further details on healthcare in Uruguay.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Help and support
If you need urgent consular assistance, you can contact the British Embassy in Montevideo on +598 2622 3630 or your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Street crime like bag snatching and pick-pocketing occurs in Montevideo. Muggings and robberies (sometimes armed) also take place. Keep valuables, spare cash and spare credit cards in a safe. Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs and where possible use machines that are not on the street (e.g. shopping centres or banks). Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewellery. Consider carrying cash and bankcards in separate pockets and only take with you the money you need at the time.
Cars left on the streets at night in Montevideo are regularly broken into. Try to park in a paid car park or a well-lit and busy area. Always remember to lock your car and avoid leaving valuables, luggage, personal documents and cash in the vehicle. Don’t drive with bags or other valuables visible inside your vehicle, especially not on the front seat. There have been instances of windows being smashed and valuables grabbed when waiting at traffic lights and junctions.
Try to keep away from isolated or poorly lit areas at night and avoid walking downtown or in the port area alone.
While crime rates are generally lower in other parts of Uruguay, you should remain alert and take sensible precautions.
If you need to report a crime, you must go to the nearest police station. You can also start to file a police report online in English or Spanish. You must then sign it off at a police station within 48 hours of submitting it online.
The main bus terminal for long distance journeys is Tres Cruces. The bus station has visible security patrols but you should keep a close eye on your belongings and be aware of your surroundings.
If you’re planning to drive, you’ll need a valid UK licence or an International Driving Permit to hire a car. You should take out full insurance.
You must wear a seatbelt by law in the front and back seats and have a first aid kit in your car. Children under the age of 12 must also wear a seatbelt and be seated in a child or booster seat.
There’s a zero tolerance limit for driving under the influence of alcohol. Transport Police often breathalyse drivers.
Driving standards are poor and traffic is disorganised. Drivers often change lane and make unexpected turns without indicating and use hazard lights to stop in the middle of a lane to run an errand or pick/drop someone off rather than park. Motorbikes often go the wrong way down one way streets so always look both ways when crossing junctions. Stop signs, traffic lights and speed limits are sometimes ignored. You must use dipped headlights during the day. Take extra care when driving at night.
The main toll roads from Colonia del Sacramento to Montevideo and Punta del Este are in good condition and well-marked. However, serious road traffic accidents are common. Poor road layout and excess speed are frequent causes. You need to pay the tolls with Uruguayan cash, they are around 150 Uruguayan pesos for a car per toll or you can buy an electronic tag. Uruguay is starting to introduce electronic-tag-only tolls where you will need to prepay or link your credit card to an electronic sticker fixed to the front windscreen. For more information see: www.telepeaje.com.uy (in Spanish). Rental cars will already have the electronic tags and you will be charged for any tolls via the rental company.
The standard of roads in the rest of Uruguay varies. Some roads may suddenly deteriorate, with potholes and uneven road surfaces requiring extra care, especially in bad weather.
More information about transport regulations (in Spanish only) can be found on the Montevideo municipality website.
The main airport is Carrasco International Airport on the outskirts of Montevideo.
The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety Network.
Some beaches in Uruguay have lifeguards during the summer season. Take care when swimming in the rivers and the Atlantic Ocean taking into account currents, rocks and sand banks that have sudden descents. Beaches with lifeguards display red, amber and green flags depending on the weather conditions and a red flag with green cross when they detect conditions that present potential health risks to the population. You shouldn’t go into the water when either red flag is flying.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Uruguay, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Smoking or use of electronic cigarettes is not permitted inside public places.
Uruguay has legalised the sale of marijuana by registered pharmacies for recreational use. However, this is only available to Uruguayan nationals or legal residents in possession of a licence. Tourists aren’t allowed to buy marijuana from these pharmacies.
Uruguay was the first South American country to recognise same-sex civil unions. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013 and anti-discrimination laws have existed since 2003. It is common to see same-sex couples together in public, and incidents of hostility or discrimination against LGBT visitors are rare. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Uruguay set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Restrictions in response to coronavirus
Entry to Uruguay
As of 1 September 2022 foreign nationals aged 6 and over who have been fully vaccinated:
Visitors aged 18 and over:
- Must prove vaccination by means of a certificate issued by the health authority of the country of origin and have received the single dose or the two doses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus (depending on the type of vaccine supplied). 14 days must have passed since the last dose was administered.
- Must have medical cover in Uruguay or travel insurance. It is advisable that your insurance covers any expense s due to coronavirus related illness, quarantine or self-isolation for the duration of your stay.
Do not need to self-isolate on arrival, take a test to enter or leave the country.
- Visitors aged 6 or under do not require any of the above.
Unvaccinated foreign nationals
Unvaccinated foreign nationals need to show proof of a negative result of the SARS-CoV-2 virus detection test (by molecular biology PCR-RT technique or antigen test), carried out no more than 72 (seventy-two) hours before the start of the trip, in a registered laboratory in the country of origin or transit.
Must have medical cover in Uruguay or travel insurance. It is advisable that your insurance covers any expenses due to coronavirus related illness, quarantine or self-isolation for the duration of your stay.
If you’ve had coronavirus within the last 90 days
- Visitors who have had coronavirus within the last 90 days (from date of last positive test) and not less than 10 days before date of boarding must show proof and need to adhere to the requirements stated above.
If you present coronavirus symptoms you have been asked to request home health care and not visit health centres and hospitals. Further information is also available from the Uruguayan Ministry of Health (in Spanish). If you contract coronavirus, you must self-isolate immediately and seek medical advice.
Legal residents of Uruguay who contract coronavirus abroad and are able to enter Uruguay by land in a private vehicle may do so and must provide positive lateral flow or PCR test, fulfil self-isolation requirements and complete the health declaration form.
Testing for coronavirus in Uruguay
If you require a PCR or lateral flow test in Uruguay, there are companies who offer home visits or drive-through tests and normally return the results between 24-72 hours. You will have to pay for the test if it has not been ordered by a health professional. The British government does not endorse or recommend any of these services.
- BIOFAST Análisis Clínicos (Montevideo)
- Clinica Preventiva (Montevideo)
- ATGen (Montevideo and Punta del Este)
- Genodiagnosis (Montevideo)
- Clinica San Fernando (Punta del Este)
- Más Salud (Montevideo and interior)
See more information about self-isolation requirements if you have contracted coronavirus.
The Uruguayan Government strongly recommends you download the Coronavirus App and activate blue tooth in order to be contacted using their track and trace approach.
If you need further information about entry requirements, contact the local immigration authorities or the nearest Uruguayan embassy. You should also check with your airline or travel company for the latest information.
Regular entry requirements
British passport holders visiting for up to 90 days don’t need a visa. For information on how to extend your stay or take up residency in Uruguay visit Dirección Nacional de Migración (in Spanish). For other information on entry regulations and living in Uruguay contact the nearest Uruguayan Embassy.
Your passport should be valid for at least the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Uruguay. The validity requirements are the same as for full validity British passports. If you plan to travel to Argentina or the US you will need a visa in your ETD. You must contact the nearest Embassies of those countries in order to apply.
Strict customs controls prohibit visitors from importing animal and dairy products, fruit and vegetables. All baggage is x-rayed on arrival and may be searched.
Travelling with children
There are various requirements for leaving Uruguay with British or dual national children under the age of 18 who live in Uruguay. The Ministry of Interior’s website has more information, or you can contact a law firm with expertise in this subject.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Other health risks
The sun can be extremely strong and UV levels are higher than in the UK.
Local medical care
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance / medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Medical and dental treatment is expensive in Uruguay. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition and you regularly take prescribed medication, carry enough medication to cover the duration of your stay and a letter from your doctor describing the medical condition. You can find most medication in pharmacies in large cities, but medicine for complex treatment may be unavailable in smaller towns. You will need a prescription from a local doctor to get prescribed medication. All medication in pharmacies, whether prescribed or not, is stored behind the counter and must be requested.
Presidency normally issues statements with warnings, precautions and updated information. The Uruguayan organisation which coordinates this type of crisis response is the Sistema Nacional de Emergencias - SINAE; you may wish to follow them on Twitter for the latest updates (in Spanish) @sinae_oficial.
Forest fires can break out during the summer months (December to March) in dry areas. Make sure you extinguish cigarettes and fires appropriately. Call 911 or 104 if you need to contact the fire brigade.
There are occasional large storms that can last 2 to 3 days and cause severe damage and flooding. Severe weather warnings are issued by the Uruguayan Institute of Meteorology. Their Twitter channel (in Spanish) is @MeteorologiaUy.
The currency of Uruguay is the peso.
Credit cards are widely accepted in most major towns. UK cash cards can be used in most ATMs in Montevideo and Punta del Este, but there may be a charge for taking money out. It is always useful to have some cash as an alternative.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.