The second smallest country in South America, Uruguay is also one of the most peaceable and stable. The country is flat, temperate and fertile, with two large rivers, the Rio de la Plata, which forms the border with Argentina, and Rio Uruguay. The country's population of 3.5 million (half of whom live in the capital, Montevideo), are well educated, healthy and relatively prosperous. They are mainly 'Mestizos' or of European descent; the country received a huge amount of Spanish and Italian immigrants during the 20th century.
Historically, the territory was disputed throughout colonial times by the Portuguese powers in Brazil and the Spanish controlling Argentina and the rest of South America. After independence from Spain was declared in 1815, Argentina and Brazil fought over the strategically important country until a deal was brokered by Britain in 1828 which guaranteed Uruguay's independence and role as a buffer state between the two giants.
Probably the safest country on the continent, and boasting a selection of fine beaches, Uruguay has become a very popular destination for Argentine tourists, but is now increasingly being visited by North Americans and Europeans. Montevideo is reputedly the second safest capital city in the world after Tokyo, and street crime is rare, though naturally one should exercise caution in an unfamiliar environment.
Spanish is the official language of Paraguay, although the large number of Italian immigrants has softened the variety spoken from the original Castile. On the Brazilian border, Brazilero, a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish is spoken. Although English is studied in schools, it is unlikely to be spoken outside of Montevideo.
The unit of currency in Uruguay is the peso. As of the 3rd of November 06, 1 GBP buys 47 U$, 1 USD buys 24 U$ and I Euro buys 31 U$. The symbol for the Uruguayan Peso is U$, and shouldn�t be confused with US$. Currency should be exchanged in banks or at approved exchange bureaus. Traveller�s cheques will be hard to encash outside of Monteviedo.
Uruguay is a flat country in a temperate zone intersected with a river network. It is frequently foggy, especially near the coast, and experiences significant seasonal variations. Montevideo experiences an average high of 28 degrees Celsius in the summer, and average low of 6 degrees Celsius in winter. In the north, away from the coast, temperatures are slightly warmer. The pampero is a violent and chilling wind that blows from Argentina, making the winter seem significantly colder.
Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay, and its largest city by far. By South American standards, is tranquil and peaceful. Take a stroll along 'La Rambla', which runs along the city's picturesque waterfront. There are 5 beaches in the city, all of which are popular with tourists, particularly Argentineans.
The Montevideo Port Market used to be one of South America's most important centres of commerce. Now its continental significance has declined, but it is still an exciting place to spend an afternoon and mingle with locals. It is more of a social centre than a commercial centre, with most of the stalls sell various homemade foods, including fresh fish and what Uruguayans proudly claim to be the best beef in the world. Montevideo has a booming wine industry. The market is a good place to sample 'Medio y Medio', a distinctive semi-sparkling Uruguayan wine. On Saturday afternoons, the market is full of artists and buskers playing traditional music. The atmosphere is buzzing, and you can get a real sense of Uruguayan identity wandering among the food and crafts stalls.
The Torres Garcia Museum is a commemoration of the life and work of Joaquin Torres Garcia, a Uruguayan artist who was born and died in Monteviedo, but lived in France and Spain at the beginning of the 20th century, and was instrumental in the founding of the Modernist movement. He is widely recognised as one of the masters of constructivism, and was in communication with Picasso throughout his years in Europe. There are various exhibitions containing Garcia's numerous paintings and sculptures. Entry to the museum is free, and it is open between 9.00AM and 8.00PM.
The Tristan Narvaja Market is a famous flea market in Montevideo. You can find stalls selling pet lizards and spiders, antique musical instruments, electronics and groceries. This is a haven for the collector of oddities and curios, but be aware of the various street scams that target tourists in the peripheries.
On major roads, headlights must be kept on 24 hours a day. Children under the age of 12 must travel in the seat of vehicles and wear seatbelts. The drink-driving limit is 0.08% blood alcohol; if you are caught driving under the influence you will have your license confiscated and possibly your vehicle impounded.
Food and Drink
The Uruguayan economy is based largely on the agricultural sector, the main product of which is beef. This is also the mainstay of the country's cuisine. Churasco is popular throughout South America, but is also the national dish of Uruguay. This grilled beef steak dish is served throughout the Parilladas, which are the most common type of restaurant in the country. These are grill houses, which serve very little except grilled beef and lamb with a salad buffet, usually at a very reasonable price. A popular lunchtime dish is Chevitos, a gargantuan steak sandwich embellished with bacon, egg and tomato.
There are a huge number of Italian immigrants in Uruguay, who of course have brought their distinctive cuisine with them. This is reflected in the large number of Italian restaurants in the country. There are a number of distinctive pasta dishes that have fused the more traditional Spanish-style ingredients with the Italian gastronomic ideal.
Drinking tap water in Uruguay is discouraged. Bottled water is cheap and readily available. A traditional and very popular drink is mate, or herbal tea.
Tourist InformationDISCOVER URUGUAYHartford, CT USA 06105
All car hire locations in Uruguay
- Artigas International Airport
- Capitan Corbeta Ca Curbelo International Airport
- Carrasco International /general C L Berisso Airport
- Colonia Del Sacramento
- Fray Bentos
- Laguna De Los Patos International Airport
- Punta Del Este
- Ricardo De Tomasi International Airport
- Tacuarembo Airport
- Tydeo Larre Borges Airport