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

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Uruguay Travel Guide

Key Facts

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


3,444,071 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

19 per sq km.





Head of state

President Luis Lacalle Pou since 2020.

Head of government

President Luis Lacalle Pou since 2020.


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

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Uruguay set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Uruguayan Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Uruguay. 

Passport validity requirements

To enter Uruguay, your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay and have at least one blank page for an entry stamp. 

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

 Visa requirements

You can visit Uruguay without a visa for up to 90 days.

To stay longer or take up residency in Uruguay, see Dirección Nacional de Migración (in Spanish). For other information on entry regulations and living in Uruguay, contact the nearest Uruguayan Embassy.

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Uruguay guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Uruguay (in Spanish). You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

It is illegal for visitors to import:

  • fruits, vegetables, animals or dairy products and their derivatives
  • flammable materials
  • alkaloids
  • narcotics
  • obscene objects
  • subversive or pornographic material

The authorities X-ray all baggage on arrival and may search it.

Travelling with children

If they travel on a non-Uruguayan passport, alone or with just one parent, children aged 17 and under who live in Uruguay and non-resident children who have been in Uruguay for a year or more need written permission (‘Permiso de Menor’) from non-accompanying parents to leave the country (in Spanish). Children travelling on a Uruguayan passport do not need permission.

The Uruguay Ministry of the Interior (in Spanish) has more information. If you’re in the UK, contact the Uruguayan Embassy in the UK.

Taking money into Uruguay

You can bring in up to 10,000 US dollars or an equal amount in other currencies, precious metals or other monetary instruments (such as travellers cheques). You must declare amounts above this limit.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Uruguay

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Uruguay, attacks cannot be ruled out.


If you need to report a crime, you must go to the nearest police station.

Street crime in Montevideo

Street crime happens in Montevideo, including:

  • bag-snatching and pickpocketing
  • mugging and robbery (sometimes armed)

You should:

  • keep valuables, spare cash and credit cards in a safe
  • take care using ATMs – where possible use machines not on the street (for example, in shopping centres or banks)
  • avoid carrying lots of cash or wearing expensive jewellery
  • consider carrying cash and bankcards in separate pockets and only carry the money you need

Keep away from isolated or poorly lit areas at night and avoid walking downtown or in the port area alone, especially at night and on weekends.

Theft from cars in Montevideo

Criminals regularly break into cars left on the street. Try to park in paid car parks or well-lit, busy areas.

Always lock your car and avoid leaving valuables, luggage, personal documents and cash in the vehicle. Do not drive with bags or other valuables visible, especially on the front seat. Thieves can smash windows and grab valuables at traffic lights and junctions.

Crime outside Montevideo

Crime rates are generally lower in other parts of Uruguay, but still take usual precautions.

Laws and cultural differences


You cannot always use credit cards outside of major towns. ATMs may not always accept UK debit cards.

Smoking and e-cigarette bans

It is illegal to smoke, including e-cigarettes, in enclosed public places such as restaurants, shopping centres and cinemas.


If they have registered with the Uruguayan government, it is legal for Uruguayan nationals or foreign nationals who have been resident for more than 2 years to grow marijuana or buy it from registered pharmacies. However, it is illegal for tourists to do this.

LGBT+ travellers

Same-sex marriage is legal and there are anti-discrimination laws. Uruguay also recognises same-sex civil unions. It is common to see same-sex couples together in public, and hostility or discrimination towards LGBT+ visitors is rare.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Swimming safety

Many beaches in Uruguay have lifeguards from December to March, although times vary across the country. Take care when swimming in rivers or the Atlantic Ocean. There can be currents, rocks and sandbanks with sudden descents.

Beaches with lifeguards display coloured flags depending on the conditions:

  • green: good conditions for swimming
  • yellow: caution
  • red: danger – unsuitable conditions for swimming, rocks, uneven seabed or currents
  • red with green cross: danger – unsanitary conditions not suitable for swimming
  • black: thunderstorms – do not stay on the beach or near the coast

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Uruguay, see information on driving abroad.

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Uruguay for the first 90 days after you arrive. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well. After 90 days, you must get a Uruguayan driving licence.

Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as 2 years of driving experience and holding an IDP.  

Driving laws include:

  • wearing a seatbelt in the front and back seats – children under 12 must wear a seatbelt and be in a child or booster seat
  • having a first aid kit in your car
  • using dipped headlights during the day

Uruguay is introducing electronic-tag-only tolls (in Spanish) – these require prepayment or a linked credit card with an electronic sticker fixed to your car. Rental cars will already have electronic tags. The rental company will charge you for any unpaid tolls.   

Drink-driving is a serious offence. Transport police often breathalyse drivers. If you’re tested and found to have any alcohol in your system, you may get a fine, a driving suspension and a community work order. You will also get a fine if you’re found driving under the influence of drugs.

 Road conditions

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 and often caused by poor road layout and speeding.

The standard of roads in the rest of Uruguay varies. Roads may suddenly deteriorate, with potholes and uneven road surfaces. Take extra care, especially in bad weather or at night.

Driving standards are poor and traffic is disorganised. Drivers may:

  • change lane and make unexpected turns without indicating
  • use hazard lights to stop in the middle of a lane, for example to drop someone off
  • ignore stop signs, traffic lights and speed limits

Motorbikes often go the wrong way down one-way streets – look both ways when crossing junctions.

For information on transport regulations, see the Montevideo municipality website (in Spanish).

Bus terminal

The main bus terminal for long distance journeys is Tres Cruces (in Spanish). There are visible security patrols. Keep a close eye on your belongings.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

The Uruguay government usually issues warnings and updates on extreme weather through news channels and the press. Sistema Nacional de Emergencias (in Spanish) coordinates crisis responses.

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.


Occasional heavy storms can last 2 to 3 days and cause severe damage and flooding. Check for severe weather warnings from the Uruguayan Institute of Meteorology (in Spanish). See UK Met Office forecasts for Uruguay.

Forest fires

Forest fires can break out in the hottest months from December to March in dry areas. Extinguish cigarettes and fires appropriately. Call 911 to contact the fire brigade.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 911 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

See what health risks you’ll face in Uruguay, including:

  • dengue
  • strong sun with high UV levels


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition and take regular prescribed medication, take enough for your visit. 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 asked for.

Healthcare facilities in Uruguay

Medical and dental treatment is expensive in Uruguay. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of medical treatment and repatriation.

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Uruguay

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Uruguay.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Uruguay

Telephone: 911 (ambulance, fire, police)

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Uruguay and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Montevideo.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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.