Uruguay

White Line

Uruguay Free Country Guide: Expats in Uruguay

Why move to Uruguay? Everything Expats in Uruguay need to know about traveling,
living, retiring and moving to Uruguay

Capital City

Montevideo

GDP

$71.1 billion

Population

3,407,213

Currency

Uruguayan Peso

Language

Spanish

Time / Call #

UTC -3 / +598

Safety
69%
Cost of Living
71%
Visa & Residency
86%
Healthcare
70%
Climate
74%

Table of Contents

Living in Uruguay – A safe haven in Latin America

You may be wondering, is Uruguay a good place to retire? Well, the overarching answer is yes! It is rapidly becoming a popular digital nomad and retirement destination mostly because of its affordable living and warm temperature. This small South American country may not be on many people’s radars but choosing to live or retire in Uruguay has become a favored decision. 

Uruguay is the second smallest country on the continent. Sometimes dubbed “the Switzerland of South America ”, Uruguay is bursting with geographically diverse landscapes. Sandwiched between neighboring countries Argentina and Brazil, this small country has 660 km of coastline. White sandy, palm tree lined beaches are plentiful, and Uruguay even boasts some of the most luxurious beach resorts. When you are not by the beach you can enjoy the country’s vineyards, which produce some of South America’s best, most flavorful wines. 

Resort in Punta del Este, Maldonado, Uruguay
Resort like luxury accommodation in costal town of Punta del Este

There are a plethora of practical factors that mean living in Uruguay is a good idea. Uruguay is considered one of the most progressive countries in South America. It is politically, socially, and economically stable. There are no threats of earthquakes or hurricanes like in other nearby countries, providing further evidence as to why living in Uruguay is a good idea. If living in a country with modern infrastructure and services is important to you, then Uruguay also offers this. People are drawn to the country because you can live in awesome cities and the beautiful countryside, whilst still experiencing a top quality of life abroad.  

Sunset colors in Punta del Este, Uruguay
Move to Uruguay to enjoy the sunset colors in the resort town Punta del Este

Living in Uruguay is what you make of it. There is so much on offer in this small country in terms of lifestyle it really is up to you to decide what kind of Uruguayan life you want to embrace. The Capital city of Montevideo has a vibrant cultural scene, whereas costal towns like Punta del Este is a beach lover’s paradise and beach town Atlántida has more of a small town feel.  Choosing the best place to retire in Uruguay is tricky only because there are so many excellent choices. 

Uruguay’s population is around 3.4 million, and around half of these people live in the capital, Montevideo and its metropolitan area and old city. Uruguay has a multicultural heritage which has made its people widely accepting of cultural diversity and foreigners. Uruguayan people are mainly Spanish and Italian immigrants. They are friendly, accepting and always up for a good time. Whether locals are enjoying the tango, folk music, a jazz session or some of the nation’s food they do so together with a great sense of community. 

Often overshadowed by its much larger neighbors, Uruguay is still an incredible destination to visit as a tourist and an excellent place to retire too. If you are searching for a safe haven in South America, then living in Uruguay is an excellent option.

Climate 

Uruguay’s pleasant climate is one of its most attractive features. The country enjoys a humid subtropical climate, with average temperatures between 40°F and 80°F year round. The evenings are characterized by cooler temperatures especially if you are living by the ocean. Unlike many South American countries there isn’t a distinctive wet and dry season in Uruguay. Typically, the mid-summer months of January and February experience very little rain in comparison to the rest of the year. Frost is rare and snow is something you just won’t see here. Very few people have and use air conditioning as the ocean breeze makes for very pleasant climate and cool evenings. Heat is needed in the wintertime.

 

Lifestyle

If you’re looking to retire to Uruguay, then you’ll want to know what your day to day lifestyle will be like. In terms of location, Uruguay offers it all. If you want your retirement in Uruguay to be fast paced then head to the nation’s capital city, Montevideo. This city always ranks highest for quality of life in South America. If you want to relocate to Uruguay for a slower pace of life, then head to the countryside. Coastal areas like La Paloma are charming, characterful and perfect for a relaxed retirement. 

Tennis court and Quality of life in Montevideo, Uruguay
Very few places in latin America can compare to the quality of expat living and life that Uruguay has to offer. Tennis courts in Montevideo

Ask Uruguay expats what they love most about their lifestyle and many will attest to the liberal and lively atmosphere. Uruguay is a super progressive South American nation. Uruguayans are renowned for being highly tolerable and accepting of a variety of cultures and beliefs. The Economist even voted it “Country of the Year” in 2013.

Italy‘s and Spain‘s influence can be felt all over the country as  Uruguayans are primarily of Spanish and northern Italian descent. A former Spanish colony, present-day Uruguay’s colonial heritage and stable politics and economy blend to give the country a unique European flair and feel.

 

Language

Something to take into consideration is the language. As liberal as Uruguay are, they are homogenous in terms of linguistics. Spanish is the first language of 99% of the population. You may be thinking, that’s not a problem, my Spanish is greatbut be warned the Portuñol -Uruguayan Spanish- (a mix of Spanish and Portuguese) dialect is a little difficult to get used to. English is also not widely spoken, so learning how to speak Spanish or carrying around a phrase book might be a good idea to make life feel more comfortable and fully enjoy the expat life. 

 

Safety and Security

Uruguay ranked as the safest country in South America on the 2020 Global Peace Index. Using the same index, Uruguay ranked 47th out of 163 countries, with the U.S. ranking 121st by comparison. This isn’t to say that crimes don’t happen, but it is nice knowing that you are looking at retiring somewhere that has a safe reputation. 

 

Let’s talk about Montevideo. The nation’s capital is home to 1.3 million people, just under half of the country’s population. Despite this number of people there is relatively little crime in the city. There are of course crimes, but most don’t end up being violent if criminals don’t meet resistance. 

 

Something to consider when taking road trips is where you keep your valuables. It’s best to keep them out of sight because at intersections people have been known to reach into open-windowed cars and take belongings. 

Cost of Living 

A few years back Uruguay was easily one of the most affordable countries in Latin America. Fast forward to today and admittedly, Uruguay isn’t the cheapest place to live, well not by South American standards. Yes, compared to places like California, expat life in Uruguay is cheap (around 20% cheaper), but in comparison to Panama it’s considered expensive.

 

You can expect to pay around $450 for a one bed apartment building on the outskirts and $530 for a city center pad which is a reasonable cost. It should be noted that places such as Punta del Este area (a popular destination for retirees) is one of the most expensive places to live in the whole country. You can expect to pay around $150 in monthly fees for utilities, including water, heating and hydro. In terms of food and drinks, you can buy a local beer for just $2 (78 Uruguayan pesos) and a kilogram of bananas for around $3. Shopping local is always going to help keep costs lower but generally speaking prices compared to the U.S. are cheaper. 

Fresh local produce in market in Uruguay
Local produce and food is both very tasty and affordable compared to the US and western Europe

Owning a car in Uruguay can be a big expense and can cost you more than in the US due to Uruguay’s very high automotive import duties. Good news is that you can more or less balance this cost out as healthcare is rather cheap. If you do get a retirement visa you can also move your car to the country without paying any taxes.

Your monthly costs will depend on your location and lifestyle, but generally you can live quite comfortably on about $2,300 per month.

Taxes 

If you spend more than 183 days a year in the country, then you will have to pay tax on any money you earn in Uruguay. One of the good things about their system is that you don’t need to report many worldwide income types that you earn outside of Uruguay in Uruguay. This includes, capital gains, retirement pension, rent income, and social security payments. 

 

Visas and Residency Process 

Expat living requires some planning. Good news is that Uruguay is one of the best and easiest places in the world to obtain a visa and Uruguayan citizenship. For North American expats and US citizens obtaining a tourist visa is relatively easy. Retiring and moving to Uruguay means that you need to obtain the Uruguay Retirement Visa that will make you a legal resident and also gets you an Uruguayan passport. Uruguay retirement visas are issued to foreigners living and moving to Uruguay who receive a pension from other countries.

 

In order to be eligible for this visa you must either purchase a property that has a minimum value of $100,000 or receive a minimum of $1500 per month from a foreign source. This can be in the form of a state pension from other countries. All foreign documents that you present must be apostilled from your country of origin. 

 

Healthcare System

When moving to Uruguay you will want to check out your expat health insurance options. Uruguay offers good quality public healthcare system and infrastructure that’s widely accessible. The country is at # 65 in the World Health Organization’s global ranking system.  

Old Car Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
The picturesque streets of Colonia del Sacramento

One of the most attractive elements of their healthcare system is the private hospital health insurance membership plan called mutualista. Under this health insurance system individuals moving to Uruguay can get access to good quality and affordable private hospital healthcare for a monthly membership of about US$100 with a small co-pay. Long term healthcare plans that local and most expats living in Uruguay can obtain are better value for money.

To obtain an Uruguay health card you need a simple medical exam at an approved medical location, your birth certificate (requirement for an Uruguayan ID Card), and your marriage certificate, if you are married.

 

Real Estate 

If you intend to move to Uruguay, you will be pleased to know that as a foreigner (retired or working) you have the same rights and protection when buying property as Uruguayan citizens. This makes it a popular place for foreigners to invest in real estate. You don’t even need to have a permanent residence permit or a temporary residence permit  to buy property. All you need is a valid passport and proof of funds in a bank account.  You’ll need to find a good real estate broker that speaks English and also an Escribano, a type of buyer attorney. 

 

So, what exactly can you get for your money on the Uruguay property market. There are a ton of different housing options, it really just depends on what you are searching for. From city apartments, to farmland, beach lots, to country estates there’s something for everyone’s bank account. 

sunset in farmland with beach lot in San Gregorio de Polanco, Uruguay
Sunset in farmland with beach lot in San Gregorio de Polanco

Apartments in Montevideo are the a popular real estate investments made by most expats moving to Uruguay. Apartments and family homes in costal towns like Punta del Este are also frequently purchased by foreigners.

In the Pocitos area of Montevideo you can buy a one-bedroom 430 square foot apartment in a newer building for around $147,000. Moving to Uruguay in places like Punta del Este is expensive in comparison to the rest of the country. You can find a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment close to Brava Beach for around $208,000.  

Sculpture La Mano de Punta del Este, Uruguay
“The Hand” Sculpture (La Mano de) Punta del Este

Best Places to Live in Uruguay

So, you are already tempted and now want to know the best places to live in Uruguay. 

 

Montevideo

If you are looking for a cosmopolitan destination to live and retire, then Montevideo is a good option. Montevideo is one of the best places to live and retire if you are moving to Uruguay because it’s got everything you will need. The city has 62 barrios (neighborhoods) which each have their own unique charms and quirks. Montevideo is filled with cultural delights, including art museums, theaters, music venues and even the ballet. This is an eclectic place to live, with different cultures coming together to create an accepting and lively urban space. 

 

Punte del Este

Punta del Este is Uruguay’s answer to the Hamptons or Saint-Tropez. Originally just a summer destination the growing and large expat community has resulted in this being a popular year round destination. There are an increasing number of people who retire in Uruguay and other expats that settle in Punta del Este. This seaside city is decked out with beaches, yacht clubs, casinos and top notch restaurants. There’s everything you’ll need for a comfortable retirement in this Uruguayan city. 

 

Atlántida

If you are looking to moving to Uruguay for some peace and quiet, then consider Atlántida. This small coastal town is filled with pines and eucalyptus trees. It may be smaller but it’s fittingly located just an hour’s drive from the conveniences of Montevideo. Atlántida usually has a population of around 6,000 people, however when summer vacationers arrive this figure can double.

 

Proximity to the United States

It should first be acknowledged that getting a direct flight from the U.S. to Uruguay is pretty rare. Flights tend to connect to Panama, Peru or through São Paulo, Brazil and on average are around 15 hours from New York. Though the journey may be long, it’s good to know that the time difference between New York and Montevideo is just two hours. So, you will be able to communicate easily with family back home. 

Activities and Recreation 

Without doubt Uruguay’s favorite pastime is soccer. Whether you’re a soccer fan or not, being an Uruguay expat means it is time to get on board with the football fever that grasps this nation. When visiting Uruguay, you’ll find most locals support one of either the Peñarol or the Nacional. These are two of the most popular teams in the country and their Uruguayan Clásico games are stuff of legend.

Horses in Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
Beautiful horses in Cabo Polonio

Perhaps you’re rolling your eyes at the idea of living in a nation consumed but soccer, well not to worry. Uruguayans and Uruguay expats alike can enjoy a plethora of recreational activities. From boxing to horse racing, surfing to golf, hiking to ecotourism and ecolodges, the Uruguayan lifestyle is one of outdoor relaxation and fun.

 

Bottom Line 

There are a myriad of attractive features that have started to draw people to retire in Uruguay. Great climate, vibrant latin and colonial culture, fascinating landscapes, rolling hills, beautiful costal towns, friendly locals, accessible infrastructure, good public healthcare, free education, good international schools and low crime rates will make this a magical place to spend your golden years.

On top, purchasing property is and healthcare is affordable. Uruguay is one of the very few progressive countries in the region that are economically, socially and politically stable creating a safe environment for retirees and expats moving to Uruguay.

 

Here is a list of the Pros and Cons of traveling, living, retiring and moving to Uruguay 

Pros

Cons