COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Uruguay is a constitutional democracy with a large, educated middle class and a robust developing economy. The capital city is Montevideo. Tourist facilities are generally good with many five star accommodations at resort destinations such as Punta del Este and Colonia de Sacramento. Spanish is the national language. English is frequently understood in major tourist hotels or resorts but is not widely used outside those areas. The quality of tourist facilities varies according to price and location. Please see the Department of State Background Notes for additional information.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to move to or visit Uruguay, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Montevideo
Lauro Muller 1776, Montevideo 11200 - Uruguay
Telephone: (598) (2) 1770-2000
Emergency after-hours telephone: (598) (2) 1770-2000 ext 2311
Facsimile: (598) (2) 1770-2440
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens entering Uruguay for business or pleasure must have a valid passport. If you are traveling on a regular passport you do not need a visa for a visit of less than three months. If you are traveling on a diplomatic or official passport, you must have a visa. There is an airport tax that you must pay upon departure. You may pay in U.S. dollars or in Uruguayan pesos. Visit the Embassy of Uruguay website for the most current visa information.
Travel with minors: When not traveling with both parents, children under the age of 18 who are Uruguayan nationals, residents of Uruguay, or seeking residency in Uruguay are required to present a “permiso de menor” (permission for a minor) to depart the country. To get the permiso de menor, the non-traveling parent(s) must present an official copy of the child’s birth certificate issued within 30 days, as well as identity documents for both the parent(s) and the child to the Department of Migration. If the parents cannot appear personally at the Department of Migration, they may sign a permission document before an Uruguayan notary public, and a third party may file for the permission on their behalf at the Department of Migration. A notarized document alone does not substitute for the official permiso de menor. If a permission is certified by a foreign notary, it also must be legalized and presented to the Uruguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs before it will be accepted by immigration authorities. These requirements do not apply to foreign national tourists who have been in Uruguay for less than one year.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Uruguay.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Regular protests, some with an anti-U.S. sentiment, occur outside Congress, City Hall, and the Universidad de la Republica (University of the Republic) in Montevideo. U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Uruguay should take common-sense precautions and avoid large gatherings or events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. If you encounter a protest, you should walk the other way or enter a commercial establishment until the protest passes and should avoid taking pictures.
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CRIME: Street crime is common in Montevideo and criminals may resort to violence when their victims resist. Montevideo has seen an increase in crime. The number of crimes reported against US citizens more than doubled from 2009 to 2012. You should exercise reasonable caution to minimize your exposure to crime. Criminals are opportunists, and prey on unwary people, particularly those carrying cameras, pocketbooks, laptops, or backpacks. Lock your valuables in secure hotel safes and empty your wallets of excess credit cards and cash. If dining at an outdoor restaurant, keep an eye on your pocketbooks and bags. Parts of Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja are popular tourist attractions, but the only sections of Ciudad Vieja with continual police patrols are Plaza Independencia, the pedestrian street Sarandi, and the Mercado del Puerto. Muggings have occurred in other parts of Ciudad Vieja - particularly for travelers walking alone or couples walking at night. A smart alternative is to call for a taxi for evening travel between restaurants, bars, and hotels.
Victims of crime may include tourists, individuals openly carrying valuable items, and motorists in unlocked vehicles stopped at busy intersections, including Montevideo's riverfront road known as the Rambla. While driving, it is best to keep all car doors locked, windows open no more than one inch, and purses, bags, briefcases, and other valuables out of sight on the floor or in the trunk. Parked cars, particularly in the Punta Carretas and Pocitos neighborhoods, have also been broken into. During the summer months (December-March), beach resort areas such as Punta del Este attract tourists, and therefore the number of petty street crimes and residential burglaries--similar to those that occur in Montevideo--normally rises as well, corresponding to growth in the temporary population. Exercise common sense in your activities in Montevideo and in Uruguayan resort areas, and be attentive to your personal security and surroundings in these areas.
Those planning to live in Montevideo should note that burglaries and attempted burglaries have also occurred in upscale neighborhoods.. A combination of preventive measures including rigorous use of locks and alarms, strong grillwork on all windows, guard dogs, keeping a residence occupied as much as possible, and using a security service is recommended.
Montevideo continues to experience armed robberies of patrons at crowded restaurants. Most of these crimes have occurred very late at night, so you should exercise additional caution if you choose to dine late.
Uruguayan law enforcement authorities have increased the number of patrol cars in residential areas and of uniformed policemen on foot in areas where criminal activity is concentrated. Patrol cars are clearly marked and equipped with cellular phones. Most police do not speak English.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are these products illegal in the United States, but if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates ). This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport. We can:
The local emergency line in Uruguay is 911.
Please see our information for victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Uruguay, you are subject to its laws. If you break the law in Uruguay, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what activities are legal and what activities are illegal wherever you go. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. Criminal penalties can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. There are also some activities that may be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. Engaging in sexual conduct with children and using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country remains illegal in the United States and may subject you to prosecution in the United States.
Persons violating Uruguay’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Uruguay are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
The Uruguayan Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing strictly enforces all regulations regarding hunting permits, as well as seasonal and numerical limits on game. Visitors who contravene local law have been detained by the authorities and have had valuable personal property (weapons) seized. Under Uruguayan law, seized weapons can only be returned after payment of a sum equivalent to the value of the property seized. Hunters are also subject to stiff fines for hunting without all appropriate permits.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested, that may not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Uruguay's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Uruguay of items such as precious jewels, gold, firearms, pornography, subversive literature, inflammable articles, acids, prohibited drugs including some medications, plants, seeds, and foodstuffs as well as some antiquities and business equipment. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Uruguay in Washington, D.C., or one of Uruguay's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Note: If you are entering Uruguay with precious jewels or gold worth more than $500.00 (U.S.), you must declare them to customs officers at the port of entry or face possible detention or seizure of the goods and charges of contraband or evasion of customs controls. Visitors are expected to comply with local law and regulations by approaching a customs officer before routine inspection of all incoming baggage. Please see our Customs Information page.
Accessibility: While in Uruguay, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation different from what you find in the United States. Uruguayan law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government does not effectively enforce these provisions. Transportation services are generally not equipped for access by persons with disabilities. Sidewalks and crosswalks are often in need of maintenance and can present challenges to persons with disabilities.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Facilities for medical care in Uruguay are considered adequate. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
You can get detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions by calling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You cannot assume that your medical insurance will go with you when you travel. The Department of State strongly urges you to consult your medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not apply when you travel, it is a very good idea to take out another policy for your trip. For more information, pleasesee our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The Uruguayan Ministry of Transportation is responsible for maintaining safe road conditions countrywide. The Uruguayan Ministry of Interior highway police (tel. 1954) are responsible for traffic safety on highways and other roads beyond city limits. In urban and suburban areas, transit police and municipal employees share road safety responsibilities.
A foreign national may drive using his foreign drivers license in Uruguay. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Wearing seat belts and using headlights on highways and other inter-city roads 24 hours a day is mandatory. Children under 12 years must ride in the back seat. Motorcyclists must wear helmets. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited. Right turns on red lights and left turns at most intersections marked with a stoplight are not permitted. Drivers approaching an intersection from the right or already in traffic circles have the right of way. Flashing high beams indicate intent to pass or to continue through unmarked intersections. Many drivers ignore speed limits, lane markings and traffic signs. If you plan to drive, use caution and drive defensively.
Drivers who are caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be fined and their license may be confiscated and retained for up to six months. Drivers who are involved in accidents that result in injury or death are brought before a judge who will decide if incarceration is warranted.
Uruguayan law requires drivers to have both hands on the steering wheel at all times while driving. Failure to do so may bring a charge of distracted driving ("imprudencia en el manejo"). This includes talking on a cell phone and drinking "mate" (a traditional Uruguayan herbal beverage) while driving. The fine charged is approximately $25.00 (U.S.). Speed limits are posted on highways and some main roads. Most taxis have no seat belts in the back seat. Cycling outside the capital or small towns is hazardous due to a scarcity of bike paths, narrow road shoulders, and unsafe driving practices.
Illumination, pavement markings, and road surfaces are sometimes poor. Route 1, which runs between Montevideo and Colonia or Punta del Este, and Route 2, between Rosario and Fray Bentos, are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist traffic. The frequency of road accidents rises during the summer beach season (December to March), Carnaval (mid-to-late February), and Easter Week.
Within Montevideo, the emergency number for the police, fire department, rescue squad, and ambulance service is 911. In the rest of the country, dial 02-911 to connect with the Montevideo central emergency authority, which will then contact the local emergency service. For emergency roadside assistance, call the Automobile Club of Uruguay at 1707, "Car Up" at 0800-1501, or the Automobile Center of Uruguay at 2-408-6131/2091. SEMM (tel. 159) and UCM (tel. 147), Montevideo-based ambulance services manned by doctors, have agreements with emergency medical units in other cities. Coverage in rural areas may be limited.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. We also suggest that you visit the website of Uruguay’s national tourist office (English and Spanish) and national authority responsible for road safety (Spanish only).
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Uruguay’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Uruguayan air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Uruguay dated June 20, 2012 to update the section on Crime.