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

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Uruguay Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

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

Population

3,444,071 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

19 per sq km.

Capital

Montevideo.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Luis Lacalle Pou since 2020.

Head of government

President Luis Lacalle Pou since 2020.

Electricity

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

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.

Travel Advice

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.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Uruguay.

Returning to the UK

When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.

Check what you must do to travel abroad and return to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements.

International travel

There are commercial options to return to the UK from Uruguay.

Commercial flights

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.

Travelling via Sao Paulo

Air passengers are allowed to freely transit Brazil as long as they do not leave the international airport area and have a ticket for onward travel.

Ferry service between Uruguay and Argentina

There is a limited ferry service between Uruguay and Argentina via Buquebus. You will be required to comply with the exit requirements from Argentina and entry requirements to Uruguay.

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.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID. 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.

Public places and services

The Uruguayan government have implemented some measures for public spaces and services:

  • strict control of parties authorised by current protocol
  • closing of bars and restaurants from 2am with financial penalties for failure to comply
  • social gatherings, with social distancing measures, facemasks and good ventilation, lasting no more than 4 hours
  • shows and events with certain capacity of people depending on surface area and if attendees are vaccinated or not
  • avoidance of crowding in public spaces
  • in case of suspected COVID-19 contact, you should quarantine and contact a health professional
  • gyms, sport clubs and amateur sports activities are open but with limited number of members and pre-registration required
  • use of facemasks in enclosed areas

Healthcare in Uruguay

If you require a PCR test, there are companies who offer home visits or drive-through tests and normally return the results between 24 to 72 hours:

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.

COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Uruguay

We will update this page when the Government of Uruguay announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.

The Uruguay national vaccination programme started in April 2021 and is using the Sinovac, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, vaccines. The Government of Uruguay has stated that foreign nationals resident in Uruguay are eligible for vaccination if they choose to join the programme.

If you have a Uruguayan identity card then you are able to request inclusion in the vaccination programme through the Coronavirus website or Coronavirus UY app.

Visitors can now also access the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after day 5 in country.

Further information on the vaccination programme is available on the Government of Uruguay Ministry of Health website.

Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.

If you’re a British national living in Uruguay, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.

Finance

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.

The Embassy cannot provide further information or advice about departure options over the phone. Sign up for travel advice email alerts and follow the British Embassy on Twitter and Facebook.

Crime

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.

Local travel

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.

Road travel

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.

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.

Air travel

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.

Beaches

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.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

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.

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.

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 November 2021 Uruguay will open its borders to foreign nationals who have been fully vaccinated no more than 9 months before entry. Unvaccinated foreign nationals are not currently permitted to travel to the country.

Visitors aged 18 and over:

  • Must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of travelling
  • Must present proof of COVID-19 vaccinations (15 days must have passed since the last dose was administered).
  • Must fill out the health declaration form within 48 hours of travelling online or through the Coronavirus UY Android or IOS app.
  • 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.
  • Should take a COVID-19 PCR test (at your own expense) on day 7 from when you took the pre-flight test during which time you do not need to self-isolate. If you choose not to take the PCR test on day 7 you are required to self-isolate for 14 days immediately upon arrival.

The following are exempt from all or part of the above:

  • Visitors aged 6 or under do not require any of the above documents.
  • Visitors aged 6-18 require all of the above documents excluding the vaccination certificate.
  • Visitors who have had coronavirus within the last 90 days (from date of last positive test) and not less than 20 days before date of boarding, do not have to do a PCR test, but must upload proof of positive PCR or antigen test to the online health declaration form.

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 or come into contact with a person in Uruguay who tests positive for coronavirus, you must self-isolate immediately and seek medical advice.

If you require a PCR or antigen 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.

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.

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.

Ferry service between Uruguay and Argentina

There is a limited ferry service between Uruguay and Argentina via Buquebus. You will be required to comply with the exit requirements from Argentina and entry requirements to Uruguay.

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

Visas   

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.

Passport validity

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.

Customs controls

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 travelling out of 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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Uruguay on the TravelHealthPro website

See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Uruguay.

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

Dengue fever is present in Uruguay. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

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 is 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.

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.

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.

Travel safety

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.

Further help

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. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.