All you need to know before moving to Uruguay



Uruguay is a Spanish speaking nation of over 3 million which is located on the Atlantic coastline of South America. The overwhelming majority of Uruguayans are of European ancestry. Spanish visited as early as 1516 but were unable to conquer the area from the native Charrua Indians for some time after that. The Portuguese were also competing to settle the area around present-day Uruguay.

Uruguay has recently made headlines for being the first country in the world to legalise marijuana. The South American nation limited cannabis purchases to 10 grams each week, in an effort to prevent illegal resales. Purchases of registered marijuana buyers will soon be monitored through cards linked to an electronic data. Authorities assured that buyers’ names will not be shared with pharmacy staff.

The Uruguayan government is a constitutional republic, which is currently headed by PresidentJosé Mujica. The executive branch of government is led by the president and a 13-member cabinet while the legislative power is exercised by a two-chamber General Assembly. The judicial arm is composed of the Supreme Court, the Benches and Judges. Uruguayans are the most satisfied citizenry in terms of how democracy works in the country, a recent Latinobarómetro survey revealed.

Despite its size, Uruguay has one of the best performing economies in the emerging-market world. It was the only country in the Americas that did not report economic slowdown during the global financial crisis. The unemployment rate in the Spanish-speaking nation is at a record low of 6.1%. The biggest employers, excluding the public sector, are in the construction, mining and energy sectors. Tourism, which contributes $800 million to the economy each year, employs more than 160,000 local and foreign workers. The high demand for skilled workers has led to government campaigns encouraging Uruguayan expats to return home and fill in the widening labour gap.

The nation of 3.4 million people is one of the top destinations in Latin America. Foreign students and retirees settle in the country primarily due to its low cost of living while foreign workers come from the wide range of job opportunities. Uruguay has the 6th highest quality of life in the continent, according to a 2005 survey. Expats enjoy excellent healthcare and premium quality of life at low costs.

More than half of the total population live in cities; expats are scattered in the capital Montevideo and beachfront resorts in coastal areas. The top cities both for tourist visits and relocation are Colonia del Sacramento, Montevideo, Punta del Este, the Rocha Coast and Piriápolis.

With or without legalised marijuana, Uruguay is a top choice for expats relocating abroad. In a Huffington Post interview, a British retiree in Punta del Este said: “We all dream about living in a resort area with a beautiful beach. But unless you're Donald Trump, or you know about a place like this one, you just can't do it. That's why I'm here. Life is good in Uruguay."

Essential relocation information



Uruguay is a South American country which is famous for its dramatic landscapes and beautiful coastlines. It possesses one of the most strategic locations in the south which makes it a magnet for foreign investors, therefore attracting many expats who are searching for employment abroad. Despite Uruguay’s small geographical area and population, you can expect a good career in this country because of its flourishing economic status where you will find job opportunities in various sectors such as banking, logistics and tourism. So if you have decided to venture in a land that is considered to outrank its neighbouring countries when it comes to social development, here are a few guidelines that will surely help you out.


Many online portals post real estate properties in Uruguay. Some of these advertisements include the price and location of the rentals so it will be helpful to browse through these even before you relocate so you can have an idea about the housing market. Once you get to Uruguay, you can read local newspapers for listings or contact local English speaking realtors. These professionals know the neighbourhoods very well, have more options and can help you communicate with Spanish-speaking landlords.

Always include a separate budget for your utilities since some landlords do not include this in your rental payment. In Uruguay’s main cities, the average monthly cost for basic services like water, electricity, gas and garbage collection is €95. You can also apply for internet connection which is around €25 per month and mobile service where local prepaid calls are charged €0.25 per minute.

House and Apartment Hunting

Foreigners are allowed to acquire real estate properties in Uruguay since there are no restrictions from the government. However, most expats find it more practical to rent rather than to buy since some are only in the country for a few years. There are many rentals in Uruguay where you can choose between a short term and long term lease agreement. A huge number of expats are residing in Montevideo, the capital and most significant city in the country. Here, the cost of a one bedroom apartment starts at €420 per month and €670 for a one bedroom unit. You can also find cheaper accommodations in neighbouring cities for around €350 monthly for a one bedroom flat and €570 for a three bedroom unit.

International and Local Schools

There are several schools in Uruguay that uses the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) as well as English and Spanish languages in teaching. You can enrol your child in one of these institutions like the St. Brendan’s School. Uruguay provides free education from primary to university level. One of the most prominent local school in the country is the Universidad de la República (Uruguay), which is the largest and oldest (founded in 1849) public institution in the country.

Moving Your Belongings

Many expats hire shipping and removal companies to help them bring their belongings abroad. There are international and local movers who provide door to door services to Uruguay where they will pick up your packages and facilitate the whole moving process until you receive your belongings in your new home. The average transit time to the Port of Montevideo is 19 days, depending on your country of origin. Once the containers arrive, local customs officials will conduct an inspection of the cargos. For more information about Uruguay’s import regulations, click here.

If you want to bring your pet with you, make sure that it has an Import Permit and current rabies vaccination at least 30 days prior and not more than one year before import. You also need to get a Veterinary Certificate for Uruguay from a licensed veterinarian which clearly indicates that your pet is healthy, free of parasites and communicable diseases to human.

Taxis and buses are the most common types of public transport in Uruguay. But if you still want to import your vehicle, make sure that it is unused, and you have an import authorization from the Ministry of Finance. Other documents that you should prepare are:

  • Proof of Ownership
  • Deed of Sale
  • Purchase Invoice
  • Registration
  • Driver’s License

You will surely love Uruguay’s perfect combination of warm summers and windy springs. While you are busy working towards success, there are a lot of beaches and scenic landscapes waiting to relax you during weekends.

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How to live like a local



Uruguay is one of the least populated nations in South America with just estimated total inhabitants of 3.4 million people. Despite being the second smallest country in the continent, Uruguay is still considered as an expat magnet and a powerhouse that offers competitive job opportunities and an excellent quality of life.

Smacked right in the middle of its popular neighbours Brazil and Argentina, its no wonder why Uruguay wasn’t always a top choice for expats. But with the significant economic development during the recent years, this small Latin American country eventually made its mark on the map. Uruguay is a one-stop destination for foreign nationals that are searching for thriving career opportunities and a better life. Aside from its favourable tax laws, affordable cost of living and top quality health care system, this nation also boasts mesmerising sunsets, vast green fields, picturesque low hill ranges and stunning coastlines that nature lover can resist. Uruguay finally stepped out from the shadow of its goliath neighbours and expats bound here are up to an unforgettable experience.

Fun-filled Family Activities

Half of Uruguay’s nationals and a majority of the international community live in Montevideo, the capital. This city has a beautiful blend of tradition and modernisation whereas gleaming malls co-exist with picture-worthy historical and cultural sites. Expat parents who want their kids to learn more about Uruguay’s rich heritage can start their trip at Plaza Independencia, one of the most significant plazas in the country that was built in commemoration of Uruguay’s independence hero José Artigas. Next stop is the Teatro Solís that first opened in 1856 and now serves as an attraction to those who want to get a glimpse of Uruguay’s diverse culture of performing arts. Another must see is the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales whereas the walls are adorned by Uruguay’s largest collection of paintings including the works of Blanes, Figari, Gurvich and Torres Garcia.

Expat families can also spend their free time by watching a game between Uruguay’s most followed football teams: the Peñarol and Nacional. Other popular leisure activities in this country are swimming, sunbathing and surfing that is best experienced on the oceanic coast or in La Paloma, La Pedrere and Punta del Este beaches. Kids can also enjoy the great outdoors by setting up a camp in Santa Teresa, a national park located 35 kilometres south of the Brazilian border.

Expat Driving in Uruguay

Foreign nationals are allowed to use their home country’s driver’s license or their International Driving Permit (IDP) while citizens of the United States can use their licenses for 180 days. Afterwards, expats must need to apply for Uruguayan driving license by presenting their domestic licenses and a diplomatic note from their respective Embassies. However, applicants should know that Uruguay is divided into 19 administrative departments and each department has varying procedures when it comes to license application.

Driving in Uruguay is on the right-hand side of the road and buckling up is mandatory for all passengers. Expats should also know that it is compulsory for them to use dipped headlights even in daylight. No child below 12 years old is allowed in the passenger’s seat and the minimum driving age is 18 years old. The permitted alcohol level for drivers in Uruguay is 0.03%. Speed limits are 90-110 kilometres per hour in open roads or highways and 50 kilometres per hour in towns. Some of the documents that expats must have with them at all times while driving in Uruguay are:

  • Valid Driver’s license
  • International Driving Permit (for those who don’t have a local license yet)
  • Vehicle registration documents
  • Insurance certificates

Breaking Down the Language Barrier

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is considered homogenous from a linguistic standpoint. Spanish is the de facto or official language of this country. Its residents also speak a plethora of minor languages such as Italian, German, Russian, Portuguese and Plautdietsch. Though expats will find young Uruguayans speaking English, particularly in Montevideo, it will still be helpful for them to learn Spanish before flying in because nearly 99% of this country’s population use their mother tongue. Some of the most basic Spanish words that newcomers can use are:

  • Hello – Hola!
  • How are you? – Como esta usted?
  • What’s your name? - Cómo te llamas?
  • My name is – Mi nombre es
  • Good Morning – Buenos Dias
  • Good Evening – Buenos Noches
  • I don’t understand – No comprendo
  • Please say that again - Me lo puede repetir, por favor?
  • Do you speak English? - Sabe hablar inglés?
  • How much is this? - Cuánto cuesta?
  • Please – Por favor
  • Thank You – Gracias


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