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Living in Uruguay as an Expat, Digital Nomad, or Retiree: Pros and Cons

Uruguay has become an increasingly popular destination for expats, digital nomads, and retirees. The country offers a high standard of living, low taxes, quality healthcare, easy visa policies, freedom, peace, political and economic stability, modern infrastructure, and a relatively low cost of living. It’s also a safe and beautiful country. Of course, there are some drawbacks. Some people find Uruguay to be a bit boring.

In this guide, I’ll outlines everything you need to know about living in Uruguay. I’ll cover the cost of living, visa requirements, the best places to live, safety, healthcare, banking, and more. I’ll also outline some pros and cons of living in Uruguay.

Uruguay was one of the first places I visited when I became a digital nomad. I think it’s one of the best value destinations. It’s not the cheapest place in the world but the quality of life you can get here is extremely high. In this guide, I’ll share my experience. Hopefully, this guide makes moving to Uruguay a little bit smoother and easier.

Plaza Independence, Montevideo
The view of Plaza Independencia from my first apartment in Montevideo
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Table of Contents

Quick Facts About Uruguay

  • Population- 3.5 million
  • Language- Spanish
  • Climate- Temperate
  • Geography- Southeast coast of South America between Argentina and Brazil
  • Currency- The Uruguayan Peso (UYU). Currently 1 USD = 38 pesos
  • Time zone- GMT-3
  • Drives on the- Right
  • Electricity- 220V 50 Hz.
  • International Dialing Code- +598
  • Main Religion- Christianity
  • Cost of living for an expat or digital nomad- $1500-$2500 per month
Palacio Salvo
The first building I stayed in, Palacio Salvo

A Bit of Info About Uruguay

Uruguay is a small country located in the southeast of South America. It is bordered to the west by Argentina, to the north and northeast by Brazil, and to the southeast by the Atlantic Ocean. The country is mostly flat with a long coastline.

Uruguay is one of the smallest countries in South America at around 176,000 square kilometers. It’s about the size of the state of Missouri. It is a fairly densely populated country with over 3.5 million people. About half live in the capital, Montevideo.

The climate is temperate. There are four distinct seasons. The summers are warm and the winters are mild. It rains frequently throughout the year. Snow is rare. The weather never gets too extreme.

Uruguay is a beautiful country. Montevideo has some great colonial, Art Deco, and modernist architecture. The beaches of Punta del Este are perfect. The historical town of Colonia del Sacramento offers a charming colonial atmosphere. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The country offers a relaxed lifestyle, quality healthcare, respect for civil liberties, and plenty of freedom. It’s a relatively peaceful and safe country. Violent crime is rare. The internet infrastructure is good enough for remote work. The cost of living is also relatively low.

Cost of Living in Uruguay

For an individual, the average monthly cost of living in Uruguay is around $1,500 to $2,000. For couples or small families, expect to spend about $2,200 to $3,000 per month. Uruguay isn’t the cheapest place to live but it does offer a good value for your money.

This budget includes all living expenses including rent, food, insurance, transportation, and entertainment. On this budget, you could afford a one bedroom apartment in a decent location. You could eat out a few times per week and spend some money on entertainment. To stick to this budget, you would need to rely on public transportation and cook most of your own meals.

If you’re on a tight budget, you could get by for less. If you live a frugal lifestyle, you could live in Uruguay on around $1000-$1200 per month. For a couple, it would be possible to get by on $1,500-$1800.

The average salary in Uruguay is just over $900 per month so it is possible to live on this budget if you watch your spending. You would have to live in a 2nd tier city or in a suburb on the outskirts of Montevideo. You would also have to cook most of your own meals to stick to this budget.

If you’re looking to live a more luxurious lifestyle, expect to spend closer to $4,000-$5000 per month. On this budget, you could afford a larger multi-bedroom home or a luxury apartment in a higher end neighborhood. You could also afford to eat out daily.

The cost of living in Uruguay is high by Latin American standards. In fact, it is one of the most expensive countries in Latin America. The cost of living is still significantly lower than the U.S., Canada, or Western Europe. An average person could cut their living costs by around 20-30% and maintain the same standard of living by moving to Uruguay.

Rent Cost

On average, an unfurnished studio or one-bedroom apartment will cost $500-$800 per month. For this price, you can live in a safe and centrally located neighborhood in Montevideo or in a beach town such. as Punta del Este.

If you’re on a tighter budget, you could find a studio or one-bedroom apartment in a less desirable area in the suburbs of Montevideo or in a second-tier city for around $300-$400 per month.

If you’re looking for a more luxurious or if you need a larger home, expect to spend around $1500-$2000 per month on rent. You can rent a luxury apartment in high-end neighborhoods like Punta Carretas or Pocitos in Montevideo on this budget. You can also find some nice 2 or 3 bedroom homes in this price range.

It’s also possible for foreigners to buy property in Uruguay. You can find decent two bedroom apartments for sale for under $200,000 in good areas such as Punta Carretas and Pocitos. As an added bonus, buying a property can also help you obtain residency.

Food Cost

On average, an individual might spend $150-$300 per month on groceries. For a couple or small family, expect to spend between $350-$500.

Staple foods such as rice, pasta, and bread are pretty affordable. A kilo of rice costs around $1. Pasta costs around $2 per kilo. Bread costs around $1.50 per loaf. Eggs, dairy products, and meat are also pretty affordable. You can buy a dozen eggs for $2.50, 1 liter of milk for around $1.50, and a kilo of beef for between $7-$10.50. You can save some money by shopping at local markets and farmers’ markets. Prices are lower than in supermarkets.

Eating at restaurants can get pricey. A meal at a mid-range restaurant costs around $15 to $20 per person. A meal at a high-end restaurant costs around $40 per person. A combo meal at a fast food restaurant costs around $5-$8.

For groceries and an occasional meal out, an individual might spend $200-$400 per month on food. A couple would spend closer to $500-$600.

Of course, your food cost will vary based on your diet and lifestyle. If you cook all of your own meals you could spend less than $150 per month on food. If you eat out every day, you could spend $500 or more per month on food.

Transportation Cost

Public transportation in Uruguay is affordable and reliable. A one-way ticket on a city bus in Montevideo costs about $1.30 per ride. Montevideo has an extensive public bus network. There is no subway or light rail system in Uruguay.

Taxis and rideshare services are also available. On average, a short taxi ride halfway across town might cost around $5-$7. An Uber ride might be slightly cheaper at around $4-$6.

If you only use public transportation, you might spend $40-$50 per month to get around. If you use rideshare or take taxis frequently, you may have to budget $100 to $150 per month on transport, depending on how often and how far you travel.

You don’t always have to spend money on transport. Most neighborhoods are walkable. Cycling is also an option. The country is relatively flat. If you just want to pick up some groceries or grab a coffee, you can just walk to your local market or cafe.

Buying a car and driving is also an option. Owning a car in Uruguay is expensive because import taxes and fees are high. A small economy car might cost $20,000 new. Gas prices in Uruguay are some of the highest in Latin America at around $1.60 per liter. There are annual taxes on car ownership as well.

Entertainment Cost

An average monthly entertainment budget could range anywhere from $50 to $200 or more depending on what you like to do and how often you go out.

There aren’t really any major tourist attractions in Uruguay. An average price for a local beer or wine is around $4-$5. A cocktail might cost $7-$10.

For cultural events, ticket prices vary. For theater shows, concerts, and performances, prices can range from $10 for a ticket to a local production, up to $100 or more for a high-profile concert or international performance.

There are also plenty of free things to do. Most beaches are free to visit. Most of the museums in Montevideo are free to enter. You can wander around colonial towns such as Colonia de Sacramento for free. Montevideo also has some interesting spots you can visit for fee like Plaza Independencia and Mercado del Puerto. Many cities also have free or low-cost cultural events such as outdoor concerts and festivals.

Palacio Legislativo, Montevideo, Uruguay
Palacio Legislativo, Montevideo

Visas for Uruguay

Most nationalities can visit Uruguay for up to 90 days without a visa. If you’re looking to stay long-term, you will need to get a visa.

The visa requirements are pretty relaxed but the process of obtaining a visa can be complicated. Most visas require you to prove that you have sufficient income to support yourself. In addition, you’ll have to have a clean criminal record and maybe undergo a medical test. In the following sections, I’ll outline some different types of Uruguay visas available for expats.

Staying in Uruguay as a Visitor

Most nationalities can enter Uruguay for tourism or business purposes without a visa for up to 90 days. This is great for digital nomads. It’s also a good amount of time to stay if you’re making a trial run before moving.

If you fall in love with Uruguay and want to extend your stay, you can apply for a one-time extension for an additional 90 days. To do this, you’ll have to go to the Dirección Nacional de Migración (National Immigration Office) in Montevideo. Here, you’ll fill out an application and pay a small fee. You can only do this one time.

Another way to extend your stay is to make a “visa run” or “border run”. You can leave Uruguay and immediately return to reset your 90-days. It’s easy to take the ferry to Buenos Aires, stay for a couple of hours, then catch the next ferry back. This trip can be done in a day. Some people make border runs every 3 months for years.

It’s important to note that if you could eventually be denied entry if you make border runs regularly. Eventually, an immigration official will notice what you’re doing. In most cases, they will give you a warning and let you in one last time. If you want to stay long term, you’ll need to get a residency visa.

For digital nomads, these flexible visitor rules make Uruguay an attractive destination. You can easily stay for up to 6 months, completely legally. You could probably stay for up to a year by doing regular border runs. If you’re planning to stay longer term or if you want to work locally in Uruguay, you’ll need to apply for a residency visa.

Uruguay Digital Nomad Visa

Uruguay recently introduced a digital nomad visa. This visa is specifically designed for remote workers, online business owners, and freelancers who work online.

The digital nomad visa allows you to stay in Uruguay for up to one year. It is initially valid for 180 days. You can then be renew it for an additional 180 days. It’s possible to apply for the digital nomad visa while you’re already in Uruguay as a visitor.

The application only costs around $10. You will have to spend some money gathering the additional documents you’ll need to apply. To be eligible for the Uruguay digital nomad visa, you need to demonstrate that you have stable, regular income from a source outside of Uruguay, such as a remote job or an online business. You will need either pay stubs or a bank statement.

The application process involves submitting proof of income, proof of health insurance coverage in Uruguay, a clean criminal record from your home country and any other countries you are a resident of, and a vaccination certificate that shows that you were vaccinated against various diseases. There may also be other documents to submit depending on your personal circumstances. Of course, you’ll also need your passport.

Probably the biggest advantage of this visa is that you are not required to pay taxes in Uruguay. The country does not tax residents on foreign-earned income. This can be a massive savings for high-income individuals.

You can start your digital nomad visa application on the government of Uruguay website here.

Residency Visas

If you’re planning to move to Uruguay long-term, you’ll have to apply for a residency visa. Uruguay offers several types of residency visas for different situations including:

  • Investment visa- This visa is designed for people who plan to make an investment in Uruguay, such as starting a business or buying real estate. The specific investment amount required varies. It’s best to consult with an immigration attorney if you plan to apply for this visa.
  • Independent means visa- If you have sufficient income from outside of Uruguay, such as a pension, social security, rental income, or other investment income, you might be eligible for this type of visa.
  • Work visa- If you find a job in Uruguay, your employer can sponsor a work visa for you. You’ll need a formal job offer to apply for this visa.
  • Marriage visa- If you’re married to a Uruguayan citizen or permanent resident, you can apply for residency.
  • Retirement Visa- This is an option for retirees who can show consistent retirement income from investments, a pension, or Social Security.

Eligibility requirements vary depending on the visa type. Common requirements include a clean criminal record, proof of income, a vaccination certificate, and health insurance.

To apply, you’ll need to submit your documents to the Uruguayan consulate in your home country or directly to the Dirección Nacional de Migración if you’re already in Uruguay. You can apply for residency while you’re already in Uruguay.

Residency visas in Uruguay are a path to citizenship. After 5 years of living in Uruguay on a residency visa, you can apply for citizenship. If you’re married, you only have to wait 3 years. Permanent residency is also an option.

It’s a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney for help with these visas.

La Rambla, Montevideo, Uruguay
La Rambla, Montevideo

Best Places to Live in Uruguay

  • Montevideo: Montevideo is Uruguay’s capital and largest city. Most expats live here along with the majority of the population of Uruguay. There are plenty of dining, entertainment, and shopping options. There is also a beautiful boardwalk along the beach called the Rambla. There are also a wide range of neighborhoods to choose from. You could live downtown, in the historic district, near the waterfront, or in a suburban area.
  • Punta del Este: Punta del Este is Uruguay’s largest seaside resort city. This beautiful city is known for its beaches, luxury resorts, and nightlife. It’s a great location for those who want to live by the beach. Punta del Este has a year-round population of around 12,000. The population increases substantially during the busy summer season. The main part of the city is a 16 block peninsula. Here, you’ll find a strip of high-rise apartments, hotels, and resorts. Further inland, there are residential neighborhoods with single-family homes and some low-rise apartments. There is a well-established expat community here. Punta del Este is also an education center in Uruguay with six university campuses. You can find studio apartments here starting at around $150,000. Luxury condos can go for over $1 million. For more affordable housing, consider the nearby city of Maldonado. Here, you can find apartments for sale for less than $100,000.
  • Colonia del Sacramento: Colonia del Sacramento is beautiful historic town with cobblestone streets and colonial buildings. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Colonia a great choice for those looking for a more laid back lifestyle in a smaller town. The town population of around 27,000. It is very touristy. One benefit of Colonia is that it’s easy to access Buenos Aires. The city sits just across the river, about 75 minutes away by ferry. You could visit on a day trip.
  • Piriapolis: Piriapolis is a laid-back beach town. It’s a good choice for those who are looking for a quiet, laid-back lifestyle. It offers beautiful natural surroundings and charming architecture. This was Uruguay’s first seaside resort town. It was modeled after the seaside resorts of southern France. It is a very touristy city. Piriapolis is a very convenient place to live. You can get around on foot or by bicycle if you choose. The permanent population is only around 9,000. This can swell to as much as 40,000 during the busy summer months.
  • Salto: Salto is an inland city located near the Argentinian border, about 300 miles north of Montevideo. It is known for its wine and hot springs. Salto is a great choice for those looking to live in an inland city. Salto has a population of around 105,000. It is the third most populous city in Uruguay. The cost of living here is significantly lower than in Montevideo. It’s a good choice if you’re on a tight budget.
  • La Paloma: La Paloma is another seaside resort town. It’s perfect for nature lovers and outdoors enthusiasts. The town is located about 60 miles east of Punta del Este and around 90 miles west of the Brazil border. The full-time population of La Paloma is only around 4,000. During the busy summer months, this can increase to over 30,000.
  • Atlántida: This small seaside town is located just 45 kilometers from Montevideo. It’s an ideal destination for those who want to enjoy the convenience of the city while still living a relaxing beach town. Atlántida offers beautiful beaches, a pine and eucalyptus forest, and plenty of shops and restaurants. Its close distance to Montevideo allows for easy access to city amenities. Atlántida is close enough to Montevideo to commute for shopping and entertainment. It takes around an hour to drive to the capital. The full-time population of Atlántida is around 6,000. The population doubles during the summer months.
  • Rocha: Rocha is a department in eastern Uruguay. It is located along the Atlantic coast. There are around a dozen small coastal towns in this region. The largest city is the city of Rocha with a population of around 26,000. Known for its rugged landscapes, Rocha is the perfect destination for nature lovers. The region has some of the country’s most beautiful and untouched beaches, lagoons full of birdlife, pastures, pine forests, and national parks. There is some great hiking in this region. The lifestyle here is slow-paced.
  • Maldonado: This middle-class city is located around 80 miles east of Montevideo. Maldonado borders Punta del Este. It has a population of around 70,000. The city has a rich cultural scene. There are art exhibits, theater performances, and music festivals. The old town area is a nice place to explore. There are colonial-era buildings, lots of local artisan shops, and traditional restaurants. The city also offers easy access to a number of beautiful beaches in the surrounding region. It’s a bit more laid back than Punta del Este.

Best Places to Live in Montevideo

Montevideo is Uruguay’s capital. The city proper has a population of around 1.3 million with around 2 million living in the metro area. The vast majority of expats and digital nomads who move to Uruguay choose to live in Montevideo.

Montevideo is made up of 62 barrios or neighborhoods. Each barrio has its own personality. The city covers 77 square miles along the Rio de la Plata. One of Montevideo’s best features is the 14 mile long Rambla that runs along the waterfront. There is also a nice historic district called Ciudad Vieja.

Montevideo is regularly ranked among the cities with the best quality of life in South America. A few neighborhoods in Montevideo to consider include:

  • Pocitos: Pocitos is one of Montevideo’s most desirable neighborhoods. It is known for its high-quality apartments, modern amenities, and beautiful beach. Pocitos offers a nice atmosphere with lots of shops, restaurants, and nightlife options. This makes it a popular choice for younger expats who are looking for a lively lifestyle. This is one of the more expensive neighborhoods. It is possible to find reasonably priced apartments here as well. You can buy a two bedroom condo for under $200,000.
  • Carrasco: If you’re looking for a quiet and luxurious neighborhood, Carrasco is a good option. This upscale area offers large homes, lots of green spaces, and a laid-back atmosphere. It’s a bit further from the city center. This gives it a more suburban feel.
  • Punta Carretas: This neighborhood is home to the Punta Carretas Shopping Mall, the iconic lighthouse, and a beautiful golf club. It also offers easy access to La Rambla. This makes Punta Carretas a popular choice for both locals and expats. Punta Carretas is one of the more upscale and expensive neighborhoods in Montevideo. Here, you’ll find some of the city’s best restaurants and most expensive apartments. Renting an apartment in a new complex will cost around $1200 per month. You can buy two bedroom apartments for around $250,000. Some of the most valuable real estate in the city is located along Boulevard General Artigas next to the golf course.
  • Ciudad Vieja: The Old City is the historic center of Montevideo. This neighborhood sits on a peninsula. It measures 14 blocks by 8 blocks. It is also where the port of Montevideo is located. In this area, you’ll find colonial architecture, plazas, narrow cobblestone streets, and some of the city’s main historic landmarks. It’s the most touristy part of the city. You’ll also find many great coffee shops, restaurants, and the famous Mercado del Puerto here. Some of the city’s best barbecue restaurants are also located here. This neighborhood is also the center of Montevideo’s arts scene. Ciudad Vieja is one of the most convenient places to live in Montevideo. Everything is walkable. This is also a relatively affordable place to live. It’s possible to rent a decent apartment here for around $700 per month. This is where I stayed when I first arrived in Montevideo.
  • Centro: Centro is the city’s downtown and business district. Here, you’ll find a mix of residential and commercial properties. It’s a busy area filled with offices, shops, restaurants, and cultural sites, including the impressive Solís Theatre. Many of the city’s government offices are also located here. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city, this might be a good neighborhood for you. Centro is a convenient place to live, though it can get noisy.
  • Parque Rodó: Parque Rodó is an attractive neighborhood with lots of culture. Many students live around this area. There are also a range of entertainment options, including bars, clubs, and the Parque Rodó amusement park.
  • Cordón: Cordón is a busy neighborhood located near Centro. It offers a mix of old and new. Cordón is known for its historic architecture, street art, and local businesses. Cordón is also home to several universities. This is a popular neighborhood for younger nomads because there are some very affordable housing optinos available here. There are also lots of shops and restaurants. It’s also easy to access to the rest of the city from here because it’s located near the center.

Finding a Home or Apartment in Uruguay

There are a number of websites you can use to look for properties for rent. A few of the more popular ones include Mercado Libre, Infocasas, and Gallito.

There are also expat Facebook groups you can join. People sometimes advertise apartments in these groups. You can also ask other expats for help or recommendations. These groups would also be a great place to look for a roommate. One of the most active groups is the Uruguay Expat Community.

You can also hunt for apartments in person. Go to your favorite neighborhood and look for ‘for rent’ signs. Most large apartment buildings will have a phone number you can call to enquire about apartments for rent. You’ll need to speak decent Spanish to do this.

You could also hire a real estate agent to help you rent an apartment. They can guide you through the process and help you negotiate lease terms. This will cost you but it may be worthwhile if you’re looking for something long-term.

Most apartments in Uruguay come unfurnished. You’ll have to buy your own stuff.

If you’re planning a short-term stay, like 1-3 months or less, Airbnb is a good option. There are properties available throughout Uruguay. Staying in an Airbnb is more expensive than a long-term rental but it is easier and more flexible. You don’t have to deal with putting utilities into your name or furnishing the place. Everything is included. When I first arrived in Uruguay, I stayed in 3 different Airbnbs for about 2 months to get a feel for different neighborhoods.

Rental Agreements in Uruguay

Rental agreements in Uruguay are pretty straightforward. They do work a little bit differently than you may be used to. The rental term in Uruguay is 12 months.

To rent an apartment, you’ll need a garantía (guarantee). This is a type of security deposit. In Uruguay, you usually pay this through a Guarantee Depository (such as ANDA or Porto Seguro). The deposit is usually equal to 5 or 6 months rent. This guarantee is not a legal requirement but most landlords require it.

This makes renting an apartment pretty expensive. Sometimes another property is used as collateral. This is what most locals do. This usually isn’t an option for foreigners.

There are also some documents you may need to show. When renting an apartment, you’ll usually need to provide proof of income to show that you can afford the rent. You’ll also need a local ID (cédula). Some landlords might accept a passport for foreigners. You don’t have to be a resident to legally rent an apartment but some landlords may require it.

Rent is paid monthly in Uruguay. You may also be responsible for common expenses (gastos comunes) that cover building maintenance and services. The amount varies by building. Sometimes this is included in the rent. It’s important to check this expense before renting so you’re not surprised with another bill every month. Tenants are usually responsible for their own utility bills, including electricity, water, and internet.

It is possible to find temporary rentals for 3-6 months that don’t require a garantía or ID. These aren’t very common but they exist. For short term rentals, Airbnb is the best option.

Buying Real Estate in Uruguay

For long-term expats and retirees, buying a home in Uruguay can be a great investment. Uruguay is very foreigner-friendly when it comes to property ownership. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying real estate. Foreigners have the same rights as locals.

Average property prices in Uruguay vary widely depending on the location and the type of property. In Montevideo, you can find apartments ranging from under $100,000 to over $1,000,000. For a two bedroom condo in a decent area of Montevideo, a good budget is around $200,000-$300,000.

The process of buying property in Uruguay involves several steps. First, you have to find a property. You can start by browsing online listings or work with a local real estate agent. Next, you or your real estate agent can make an offer. If the seller accepts your offer, you will sign a Reserva (reservation agreement) and pay a small deposit (often 3% of the purchase price). After the reserva, the next step is to sign a Promesa de Compraventa (Promise of Purchase and Sale). This document outlines the terms of the sale. At this time, you’ll have to pay a larger deposit (around 10% of the purchase price). You will complete the final sale at the notary’s office. Here, the property title will be transferred to the your name. You will pay the balance of the purchase price at this time.

Most properties are paid in cash in U.S. dollars. It is possible to get a mortgage but it will be difficult for foreigners. Most expats buy in cash.

Healthcare and Health Insurance in Uruguay

Uruguay offers a high-quality healthcare system with modern hospitals and an excellent standard of care. This makes Uruguay a great choice for older expats and retirees.

Health insurance in Uruguay is often usually uses a system called a ‘mutualista’. A mutualista is a private membership plan with a specific hospital or network of hospitals. Whenever you need to see a doctor, you go to one of the private hospitals that you are a member of.

You pay a monthly fee for your membership. As a member, you receive a range of medical services, including routine check-ups, specialist appointments, and emergency care.

The cost of a mutualista varies depending on your age and the plan you choose. Prices can range from around $50 to $200 per month.

In addition to private options, Uruguay also offers free universal healthcare to low-income residents. The public healthcare system is known as the ‘Fondo Nacional de Salud’ (National Health Fund). This system is designed for those who cannot afford private care.

If you’re planning to stay in Uruguay short term, like six months or less, travel insurance is a good option. I recommend SafetyWing travel insurance.

It’s important to have some type of insurance. Even though treatment costs are relatively low, it can add up if you’re paying out of pocket. Particularly if you experience a serious illness or major injury.

Pros of Living in Uruguay

  • Uruguay has an excellent healthcare system- Healthcare in Uruguay is affordable. The level of care is high. If you can’t afford private healthcare, Uruguay has a universal healthcare system that is accessible to everyone.
  • It’s easy to get a residency visa in Uruguay- Uruguay is one of the easiest countries to immigrate to. The government is trying to attract foreigners. The only real requirements are proof of income and a clean criminal record. You can even apply for residency while you’re already in the country. If you only want to visit short term, most nationalities can visit without a visa for up to 90 days.
  • Uruguay has great beaches- Uruguay offers miles and miles of white sand beaches. There are charming little beach towns all along the coast. During the summer months, thousands of tourists arrive from Argentina and Brazil. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, check out the beaches in Rocha, near the Brazil border.
  • The beef- Uruguay produces some of the world’s highest-quality beef. Uruguayans eat nearly as much beef per capita as Argentinians. Uruguayan beef is less famous than Argentinian beef because the country doesn’t export as much. There are excellent barbecue restaurants all over the country. If you’re a carnivore, you’ll love Uruguay.
  • Uruguay is politically stable- Uruguay has a democratic government. People generally trust the government. Most people live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. The country is stable. There is rule of law. You don’t have to worry about political unrest. Crime rates are low.
  • There is affordable real estate available- In many beach towns, it is possible to find a property within walking distance of the beach for around $100,000. Even in Montevideo, you can buy a nice home for under $200,000.
  • Reliable internet- Uruguay has some of the fastest internet speeds and the most reliable internet anywhere in South America. This makes it an excellent choice for digital nomads and remote workers who need to be online. The electrical infrastructure is also very reliable. Power outages are rare.
  • Uruguay is a tolerant country- People of all different races are welcome. Uruguay is a diverse country due to its colonial history. Uruguay is also accepting of people in the LGBT community. Anyone can live here without having to worry about being discriminated against. People are friendly and open-minded, for the most part.
  • Uruguay is a progressive country- Abortion is legal in Uruguay. Same-sex marriage is legal in Uruguay. Recreational marijuana was also legalized in Uruguay. The country has some extremely progressive policies. This can be a positive or a negative depending on your personal beliefs.
  • Uruguay is a great place to live a quiet, laid-back life- Uruguay is a peaceful country. Most of the population is middle-class. There aren’t any major conflicts going on. If you’re looking for a quiet and simple and quiet lifestyle, Uruguay is a great choice.

Cons of Living in Uruguay

  • The language barrier- You need to speak some Spanish to live in Uruguay comfortably. Before moving to Uruguay, you should speak at least intermediate Spanish. If you don’t, you will struggle. Most people speak very little English.
  • The Uruguayan people aren’t the friendliest- Latin American culture is generally extremely friendly and welcoming but Uruguay is a little different. The people in Uruguay aren’t unfriendly but they can come off as a little bit cold. People won’t be hostile toward you or anything like that. They just won’t go out of their way to make friends. People won’t just invite you into their home or their friend group. It can be difficult to make long-term friends with locals. Of course, it’s still possible to make friends. It may just take a little more time for people to warm up to you after you meet. If you’re looking to make friends, you’re better off getting involved in the expat community.
  • Cold winters- Winters in Uruguay are cold, windy, wet, and dreary. This can be a challenge for people who are used to living in warmer climates. You’ll need a jacket during the winter. You don’t have to worry about extreme weather. It rarely snows.
  • During the winter, many places are deserted- I first arrived in Montevideo during the winter. While I was walking around the city, I couldn’t help but notice how empty it felt. I took a walk on the Rambla all by myself. Even downtown felt deserted. There were very few tourists out and about. It was kind of depressing. When spring arrived and the weather warmed up, the city came back to life. The beach towns are even worse during the winter. Many seaside cities only have a few thousand full-time inhabitants. If you live in one of these towns, it will feel empty during the winter.
  • Uruguay isn’t that cheap- One of the main reasons expats, digital nomads, and retirees choose to move to Latin America is the low cost of living. Uruguay is probably the most expensive South American country to live in. If you’re moving from a large American city like New York or Los Angeles, you’ll find Uruguay to be affordable. If you’re moving from a low-cost-of-living city, you won’t find it that cheap. You might be able to reduce your monthly cost of living by 10-30% by moving to Uruguay.
  • High import taxes- Imported goods are extremely expensive in Uruguay due to the high import taxes. If you want to buy a new car, laptop, or phone, expect to spend almost twice what you would in the U.S.
  • Poor customer service- People working in shops and restaurants aren’t too friendly or helpful to customers. This can be frustrating if you’re used to a higher level of service.
  • Shopping is a hassle- In Uruguay, you won’t find many big box stores or supermarkets. Instead, you’ll find lots of small mom-and-pop shops. You’ll find small grocery stores, butcher shops, produce shops, shops selling household goods, pharmacies, etc. While this may sound nice, it makes getting everything you need a bit of a hassle. You can’t just go to one store. You’ll have to visit multiple shops. Some people consider this a good thing. And it is. Most stores are locally owned and operated. Personally, I find it to be a hassle to visit multiple shops.
  • Uruguay isn’t the cleanest country- While walking on the beach or down the street, you’ll see litter lying around. In some places garbage piles up because collection is infrequent. Many of Montevideo’s buildings are covered in graffiti. That surprised me.
  • The job market is competitive- It’s not easy to find a job in Uruguay. If you plan to work, you’ll need to find a job before you move there. There are very few jobs available for people who don’t speak Spanish fluently. You’ll need to be highly skilled to have any chance at finding a decent job here. It’s also important to remember that Uruguay is a small country. There aren’t many good jobs available. Salaries are relatively low. Taxes are high.
  • It’s boring- Uruguay isn’t the most exciting place to live. There isn’t much going on. After all, how often do you hear about Uruguay in the news? Probably not often. Montevideo isn’t a big bustling city like Buenos Aires or São Paulo. The downtown area is relatively small. You can walk across it in 20 minutes. Oftentimes there aren’t many people out and about. There is nightlife but options are somewhat limited. There aren’t any major attractions in Uruguay other than the beaches. It’s a small country. If you want to live an exciting lifestyle and go out all the time, Uruguay probably isn’t the best choice. You’ll get bored quickly.

Jobs for Expats in Uruguay

Uruguay’s economy is small but relatively diverse. The main industry is agriculture (mostly beef and soybeans). IT services, tourism, and finance also make up a major part of the economy. Most job opportunities are in Montevideo.

To work legally in Uruguay, you’ll need to get a job before moving. Your employer will need to sponsor your work permit. To do this, the company must demonstrate that they’ve tried to fill the position with a local first. Once your work permit application is approved, you’ll be granted a visa that allows you to live and work in Uruguay.

If you have a remote job and earn money from abroad, you can work legally in Uruguay on a digital nomad visa or a residency visa. You don’t need a work permit for this type of work as long as you earn your money from another country.

As for work culture, the typical work week is 40 hours from Monday to Friday. Many businesses close in the afternoon for a siesta, particularly outside of Montevideo.

The job market in Uruguay is competitive. It’s not easy to find a job there unless you have certain in-demand skills. You need to be fluent in Spanish as well. Salaries are also low.

Retiring in Uruguay

Uruguay can be a great destination for retirees. The country is safe, affordable, and it has high quality and affordable healthcare.

The Uruguayan government offers a specialized visa called the Pensionado Visa. This visa allows retirees to live in Uruguay while receiving a pension or social security payment from their home country.

One major benefit of Uruguay of retirees is the country’s tax structure. Uruguay taxes on a territorial basis. This means foreign-sourced income, like most pensions or social security payments, are not subject to tax. You don’t even need to report foreign income.

The process of retiring in Uruguay is pretty straightforward. You must demonstrate a consistent monthly income of at least $1,500 from a reliable source. In addition, you must pass a criminal background check and show up-to-date vaccine records.

Grocery Shopping

In Uruguay, there are both big chain supermarkets and local mom-and-pop shops. In larger cities, there are several big-chain supermarkets, including Disco, Devoto, and Tienda Inglesa. Here, you can find fresh produce, meat, dairy, canned goods, household items, and more. These supermarkets carry international brands as well.

Many Uruguayans prefer shopping at local mom-and-pop shops, known as ‘almacenes’. These small shops are often family-run. They carry mostly staple items. These shops are conveniently located in every neighborhood. If you need some sugar or rice, you can just stop by your local almacene.

There are also plenty of specialized shops. You can shop at local butcher shops, or ‘carnicerías’, for meats. Beef is particularly popular. There are also ‘verdulerías’, or produce shops that offer fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmer’s markets and roadside produce stands are also common. There are also bakeries, or ‘panaderías’, where you can buy fresh bread and pastries, including traditional Uruguayan treats like ‘bizcochos’.

You can prepare your favorite home-cooked meals in Uruguay. Pretty much all of your favorite ingredients are available.

Restaurants in Uruguay

In Uruguay, you’ll find all types of restaurants, from fine dining to cozy cafes to local parrillas (barbecue restaurants) and even street food stands. The ingredients are usually fresh, local, and of high quality. Particularly the meat.

Uruguayan cuisine has a strong European influence. Primarily from Spain and Italy. Lots of Italian immigrants moved to Uruguay in the 20th century. As a result, you’ll find plenty of restaurants serving pasta, pizza, and seafood dishes. Local Uruguayan dishes are also available, such as the traditional ‘chivito’ (a steak sandwich) and ’empanadas’ (stuffed pastries).

Uruguay is known for its high quality beef. Visit a parrilla restaurant to experience an Uruguayan ‘asado’ (barbecue). These restaurants serve a variety of meats, including beef ribs, steaks, and sausages.

Of course, you can also find most of your favorite American fast-food restaurants in Montevideo including McDonald’s and Burger King. There are also plenty of coffee shops. There are some street food stands around. Pizza by the slice is common. Empanadas are popular. There are lots of options for quick eats.


Traveling around Uruguay is pretty easy. The country has a decent public transport network. Buses are the main mode of public transport. Every city has a public bus system. There are also long-distance buses that can take you anywhere in the country.

Montevideo has a large public transport network. Buses service pretty much all areas of the city. The bus is a convenient and affordable way to get around.

Of course, there are also taxis and rideshare services available if you prefer private transport. Uruguay does not have a metro or light rail system. There is also no long-distance train service.

If you’re considering living in a small town or rural area, owning a car may be necessary. Public transport is infrequent or non-existent in rural areas. Driving in Uruguay is pretty easy. The country has a good road network. Most expats don’t need their own vehicle.

There are also ferry services to Buenos Aires. If you want to take a weekend trip or do some traveling in the region, you can catch the ferry from Montevideo or Colonia.

In Montevideo, most neighborhoods are walkable. You don’t always need to use transport. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. nearby. Cycling is also a good option. Uruguay is a pretty flat country.

Money and Banking in Uruguay

In Uruguay, the official currency is the Uruguayan Peso (UYU). As of writing, the exchange rate is about 38 UYU to 1 US dollar and around 42 UYU to 1 Euro.

Credit cards are widely accepted in Uruguay. You can almost always pay with a card in restaurants, hotels, and larger stores. Cash is still king in smaller towns, local markets, and rural areas.

ATMs are common. Some ATMs charge a high withdraw fee. Especially if you’re using a foreign debit card.

Taxes in Uruguay

Uruguay’s tax system is attractive. It’s one of the main reasons many expats and retirees choose Uruguay. You may be able to benefit from a number of tax breaks by moving.

Uruguay operates a territorial taxation system. This means that you are only taxed on income earned in Uruguay. This includes work income, rental income from Uruguayan property, and income from Uruguayan investments.

As a foreign resident, you are usually not taxed on any income earned abroad, including pensions, social security, or investment income from other countries. This tax structure can save you a lot of money.

It’s important to note that this only lasts for your first 11 years of residency in Uruguay. After that, you pay around 12% tax on foreign income. Alternatively, you can waive the tax-free window and choose to pay just 7% taxes on foreign dividends and income as long as you are a resident of Uruguay. For more info, check out this great guide.

Other taxes in Uruguay, such as Value Added Tax (VAT) and property tax, apply to everyone. VAT in Uruguay is high at around 22%. Property taxes vary.

Paying Bills

In Uruguay, there are several methods for bill payments. Online bill payment is common. Most utilities and phone and internet service providers allow you to pay directly through their website with your credit card or directly from your bank account. Banks offer online bill payment.

Some locals and expats prefer to pay their bills in person in cash. You can do this at Abitab or Redpagos. These two payment and collection companies have locations all over Uruguay. These agencies accept payment for a range of bills, including utilities, phone, and taxes. You simply bring your bills to the counter and the clerk will process your payments. It’s an easy system. They are usually located in convenient places like shopping centers or near grocery stores.

Rent or condo fees usually require direct payment. Payments can be made in cash or by bank transfer.

Opening a Bank Account in Uruguay

Many expats and retirees choose to open a local bank account. Some popular banks that foreigners use include Banco Republica (BROU), Santander, and Scotiabank. You’ll need your passport, proof of income, and sometimes proof of address in Uruguay to open a bank account. Most banks will open accounts for foreign nationals. You don’t even need to be a resident to open a bank account in most cases. Uruguay’s financial system is modern and easy to use.

The Language Barrier

In Uruguay, the official language is Spanish. English is not widely spoken. It’s actually pretty rare to meet someone who is fluent in English. Really, the only English speakers you’re likely to meet is people who work in tourism, people who have spent time abroad, and other expats.

If you’re considering moving to Uruguay, you should at least learn some basic Spanish. It will make your day-to-day life much easier. Without some Spanish skills, simple tasks like shopping, using public transport, or finding an apartment will be a challenge. Speaking the local language also allows you to better immerse yourself in the culture.

There are several ways to learn Spanish before your move or once you’ve arrived in Uruguay. Before moving to Uruguay, you can use online learning apps like Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone. Once you arrive in Uruguay, you could enroll yourself in a Spanish school. There are classes for all levels. You could also hire a private tutor.

Is Uruguay Safe?

Uruguay is a safe place to live. In fact, Uruguay is regularly ranked as the safest country in Latin America. The country is peaceful. It has a low rate of violent crime. During the day, it’s safe to wander around pretty much anywhere. You don’t have to be paranoid about security.

The most likely crime you’re likely to encounter is theft. Petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, or theft, do occur. These crimes aren’t really common but you should be careful in crowded touristy areas. Avoid flashing valuables. Keep your wallet and phone in a pocket that zips or buttons closed. Never leave anything unattended.

Robbery and mugging are rare. At night, you should avoid isolated areas. Stick to well-lit, populated areas. Be extra cautious in unfamiliar places.

Over the past few years, the crime rate in Uruguay has increased slightly. It’s still low compared to other countries in the region. Uruguay is far safer than other popular expat and digital nomad destinations in Latin America like Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil.

For more info on crime and safety in Uruguay, read the travel advisory for Uruguay from the U.S. State Department.

Climate and Weather

Uruguay has a subtropical climate. The weather is mild year-round. The seasons are switched from the northern hemisphere. When it’s winter in North America and Europe, it’s summer in Uruguay.

The summer lasts from December to March. Summer temperatures range from 70°F to 82°F (21°C to 28°C). The weather is warm and sunny. It’s a perfect time to go to beach.

Fall in lasts from March to June. Average temperatures range from 57°F to 70°F (14°C to 21°C). Fall is beautiful in Uruguay.

The winter lasts from June to September. Weather is cooler. Average temperatures range from 43°F to 57°F (6°C to 14°C). It usually doesn’t snow. It can get chilly. You’ll need a jacket.

Spring runs from September to December. Temperatures range from 57°F to 75°F (14°C to 24°C). It’s a beautiful season. There can be some pretty heavy rain during the spring.

Education in Uruguay

If you’re moving with children, education is an important consideration. Uruguay offers a range of options including public private, and international schools.

Education is free for all children. The quality of education is decent. If you prefer an English-speaking curriculum, you can send your kids to an international school. There are a number of international schools in Montevideo.

Universities in Uruguay are also well regarded. If you’re a student looking for a study abroad opportunity, Montevideo offers a range of options.

If you’re looking to improve your Spanish, there are plenty of language schools. You could also hire a private tutor.

Is Uruguay a Good Place to Live?

Yes. Uruguay can be a great place to live. There are plenty of great reasons expats, digital nomads, and retirees choose Uruguay.

First, it’s safe. Uruguay is the safest country in Latin America. This provides peace of mind. Uruguay also has low taxes for expats. In addition, Uruguay has a quality and affordable healthcare system. The residency process is also pretty easy. It’s also a naturally beautiful country with great and beaches. The climate is also appealing. Uruguay also has safe drinking water throughout the country. You can drink the tap water. Overall, the quality of life is high.

Of course, it’s not a perfect place to live. It’s not the cheapest destination. The language barrier can be an issue for some. It’s also not the most exciting place. Some people will find it boring.

My Experience Living in Uruguay as a Digital Nomad

Uruguay is one of the first places I went when I became a digital nomad. I split my time between Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Both countries allow visitors to stay for 90 days. Every time I crossed between the two countries, my 90 days reset. This makes it easy to stay in this part of the world long-term without having to apply for a visa.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in Uruguay but I wouldn’t want to settle down there long term. I feel that it would get a little bit boring. I found that the streets were pretty empty after dark. Options were somewhat limited in terms of restaurants and nightlife.

That said, I really love the natural beauty of Uruguay. The coastal towns are beautiful. There are some spectacular beaches. The country also feels very safe. At least for Latin America. Most people are middle-class. It’s nice. I can imagine myself spending more time there when I’m older. I think it would make an excellent retirement destination.

Have you lived in Uruguay? Share your experience in the comments below!

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Dee Anderson

Monday 11th of March 2024

Your comments about 1 year rentals was shocking when you said 3% and then another 10%. Sounds like it would be better to buy a place.

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