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General Information About Uruguay
General Information about Uruguay
With just 3.5 million residents, Uruguay is one of the smallest and most progressive countries in South America. It is known for being a pioneer on the continent in terms of civil rights, social programs and the democratisation of society. It has been called the Switzerland of South America, as much for its politics as its reputation as a banking haven. Two of the country’s main industries are agriculture, with a staggering 4 cows for every person in Uruguay, and tourism.
Tucked between two of the continent’s most popular tourist destinations, Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is seeing a steady increase in tourism. Montevideo, the capital city, is one of the most popular destinations for visitors in the country, along with the picturesque colonial Portuguese city of Colonia del Sacramento and the trendy beach city Punta del Este.
Uruguay’s small size shouldn’t put off travellers. The country has plenty to offer with its mix of different lifestyles, blending the historical and modern in an eclectic and alluring way. Visitors come here for the combination of ultra-modern resorts and host of cultural activities, historical sites and beautiful nature.
Uruguay boasts a great balance between natural beauty and tourist infrastructure. The country has long stretches of unspoilt beaches and extensive grasslands and bucolic countryside. At the same time, there is a wide variety of accommodation, from luxury hotels and spas, to estancia stays, hostels and simpler cabins and camping options for those looking to get in touch with nature. Uruguay caters well to the luxury traveller, budget backpacker, and everyone in between.
MAIN REGIONS OF URUGUAY:
Uruguay is composed of eleven major regions: Montevideo, Canelones, Maldonado, Rocha, San José, Treinta Tres, Cerro Largo, Tacuarembó, Artigas, Colonia and Rio Negro. Its most famous cities and tourist routes lie on the coast. The beauty of the beaches, tranquility, lifestyle and easy access from the Rio de la Plata have made the coastal cities important tourist and economic centres for the country. These can be found in the following areas:
Sitting in the south of Uruguay, where the Rio de la Plata meets the Atlantic Ocean is Uruguay’s capital city, and the department of the same name. Small by other standards, especially compared to its large neighbouring capital across the river, Montevideo is home to nearly 50% of Uruguay’s population.
Montevideo is an eclectic and cosmopolitan city known for its various facets attracting different types of tourists from the region and around the world. Its main neighbourhoods are Centro, Ciudad Vieja, Pocitos, Punta Carretas, Buceo and Carrasco. The city has long stretches of beautiful beaches, with historical architecture and tall skyscrapers just a few steps away.
Montevideo is a great destination for travellers interested in culture, football or the world’s longest Carnival celebration. To plan your trip, here are 10 attractions in Montevideo that you shouldn’t miss.
The third most populated state of Uruguay is the region that draws the biggest crowds to Uruguay. This is because of its idyllic beaches, extensive network of hotels and the favourite destinations of celebrities: Punta Del Este.
The most famous resort city in South America is the place to be seen in summer. It’s packed with trendy nightlife, luxury apartments and gourmet restaurants. Maldonado also holds other attractions such as the Isla de Lobos, an island off the Punta coastline where you can see a colony of sea lions and fur seals.
This region borders on Argentina, with its capital city, Colonia del Sacramento, located just 60km from Buenos Aires. This proximity to one of South America’s most popular destinations makes this part of Uruguay one of the most popular tourist spots. Its main cities are Carmelo, Florencio Sánchez Rosario, and Conchillas among others, but the most famous is Colonia del Sacramento.
180 km from Montevideo, Colonia is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its cobblestone streets and lanes filled with trees, this historic colonial city was founded by the Portuguese in the late seventeenth century and still retains much of this Portuguese heritage. There are many sites to see in Colonia, including the charming historic quarter, museums and the abandoned bull ring. The town's coastline is also one of the best places to enjoy the sunset in Uruguay.
The department that borders Brazil contains more than 50 km of Atlantic coastline. 200 km from Montevideo is La Paloma, one of the most visited seaside resorts in the summer. Other cities and towns which attract tourists are Castillos, Punta del Diablo, Cabo Polonio, La Pedrera, La Coronilla and La Barra del Chuy. Rocha also has two historic national parks, beaches, lakes, rural areas, dunes and a wide range of accommodation options. Rocha’s beaches are characterised by white sand and cool waters. The Rocha coast provides a more laid-back summer escape for those looking for a more rustic beach holiday.
HOW TO GET TO URUGUAY:
Citizens from a number of countries, including the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, don’t need to a visa to enter the country, and can stay for 90 days. You can see the visa policy of Uruguay here. Most visitors to Uruguay combine their visit with a larger South American itinerary. The easiest way to travel to Uruguay is via Brazil or Argentina.
Most international flights land at Montevideo’s Carrasco International Airport (MVD). From the US, American Airlines has a direct flight to Uruguay. From Europe, LAN/TAM, Iberia, Air France and Air Europa fly to Uruguay. Most flights have a connection through Brazil or Argentina.
Montevideo’s airport is conveniently situated outside of Montevideo towards Punta del Este, with easy access to both cities. There also international flights to Punta del Este. Taxi and bus services are readily available at both airports.
If you’re driving a car from Brazil or Argentina to Uruguay, be aware that you need to travel with the vehicle’s paperwork, the owner’s ID and driver’s license. If the vehicle is not in the driver’s name, you will need to get the owner’s written permission, which should be signed by a notary public.
There are several border crossings if you are driving to Uruguay. The most popular one between Brazil and Uruguay is Chuy (Chuí on the Brazilian side). This is the most convenient crossing to take if you’re planning on exploring the northern coast and towns like Punta del Diablo.
The roads in Uruguay are calm, but be careful when driving in the country, traffic laws are strict and rigidly followed.
There are also multiple buses running between Argentina and Uruguay, as well as Brazil and Uruguay. Bus travel is comfortable with 2 ticket classes, one with seats that fold completely flat into a bed. Meals are also served on board. Long distance buses from Montevideo depart from the Tres Cruces terminal.
By far the easiest and most popular way to get from Buenos Aires to Uruguay is by boat. There are multiple ferries that run between Buenos Aires and Colonia and Montevideo.
Buquebus has the most extensive service. They have a fast ferry (1 hour) and a slow boat (3 hours) to Colonia, as well as direct services to Montevideo. Tickets can be booked online on the company’s website.
Other options by boat are Seacat Colonia, an affiliate of Buquebus, which offers trips to Colonia, Montevideo, Piriapolis and Punta del Este. Colonia Express also offers various routes, generally at the cheapest
Read a more in depth guide on travelling from Buenos Aires to Montevideo.
Now that you have an overview of Uruguay, it’s time to start planning your vacation. To plan your itinerary in advance, book yours tours in Uruguay online with Uruguay4u. Our support team is on hand to help you put together your perfect trip, and to answer any questions you have about travelling in Uruguay.