Uruguay is the richest country in South America and redefines the area as one of the most modern jurisdictions. It has a liberal approach and a well-developed social security system. The healthcare system is just as good, not to mention the education.
In terms of business, Uruguay offers 0% income tax if the income is generated from other sources but Uruguayan. With these thoughts in mind, it is no surprise why so many business people choose Uruguay – not just for business, but also to live there.
Visiting Uruguay – What to expect
Relocating to Uruguay is one thing, and visiting as a tourist is a different thing. Obviously, you cannot move to a different country without experiencing the local lifestyle first – the best way to do it is as a tourist first.
Nearly half the country lives in Montevideo – the capital. This is the main center of Uruguay – politically, culturally, and economically. The city architecture resembles the Spanish architecture of the 18th century, so expect to walk around many colonial settlements.
Other than that, there are beautiful landscapes to admire all over the country.
As a tourist, you should never miss Montevideo. You can hang around small cobbled roads in the old town, but also visit local churches and admire the colorful architecture. There are plenty of cultural attractions too – such as Theatre Solis.
Local markets will give you a good idea of the local lifestyle – plenty of stuff to purchase, a good atmosphere, and many places to eat great food. If you are into physical activity, you will find many jogging parks.
As you live in Montevideo, you will be able to explore small towns and villages with a unique spirit. Moreover, there are coastal lagoons that will give you a good opportunity to relax. If visiting as a tourist seems alright, you should rent and move there for about half a year then.
This is how you can explore Uruguay other than as a tourist.
Living in Uruguay – A few ideas
Living costs for someone who lives there are different from living costs for tourists, who are expected to spend a lot of money. Uruguay is normally a high income country, especially when compared to other jurisdictions in South America – the income per capita easily exceeds $16,000.
Despite the higher costs, value for money is there. You will spend more money in Uruguay, but you will experience a much better lifestyle than in any other country in the area. Whether it comes to healthcare or education, there are both private and public providers.
The Uruguayan peso is the local currency, which is quite poorly rated. One euro could give you around 30 Uruguayan pesos, yet fluctuations may occur. Generally speaking, the minimum income is around 350 euros. Most families can fetch up to 1700 euros a month or even more.
A free public health insurance is given to those who pay social security. But then, the private healthcare system is not too expensive either. You can also get insurance policies for private medical care – not too pricey anyway.
Education is free and mandatory for kids up to 14 years old. Superior education is free and open, so any high school graduate can get to university. Uruguay has the highest literacy rate in South America, so get ready to deal with a qualified workforce if you start a business there.
Montevideo is the most expensive city in Uruguay, especially when it comes to real estate. There are more factors that could affect the rental or purchase cost. A single bedroom flat can cost around 350 euros a month, while a three bedroom one may go up to 1,000 euros.
The same rule applies to purchasing a property. You could get a three bedroom house for 100,000 euros in a small town – the same house would cost 300,000 euros in the central part of the capital. Bills will cost around 150 euros a month – with Internet averaging around 25 euros.
In terms of transportation, the public network is quite reliable. Buses are known to arrive on time. You could get monthly passes too. Taxis might be a bit more expensive, but still affordable. You can also purchase a car – again, prices vary widely.
The South American cuisine is one of the factors driving people to Uruguay. Uruguayans love grilled meat and sandwiches, but there are also options for vegetarians and vegans. They also like coffee, so you can get a brew in pretty much any restaurant out there.
Unless you go to a fancy restaurant, you will find prices very affordable – whether you count a local restaurant, a street takeaway, or just a fast food shop. Should you cook yourself, expect to pay around 200 euros for groceries on a monthly basis.
Just like in any other civilized country, you can find reputable brand clothing that costs as much as in any other country. Then, you can also find no brand clothing, which will cost much less. There are plenty of options for sports lovers too – gyms, tennis courts and so on.
All in all, Uruguay offers a friendly environment with educated people, great beaches, and quality public services. It is a reasonable country in terms of costs and represents a gem in South America, coming close to western living standards.
Now that you have a few ideas about the country, what is the best place in Uruguay to live?
MontevideoMontevideo could be the best place in Uruguay to live if you like the hustle and bustle of big cities. Despite being the capital and hosting about half of the local population, Montevideo is still a peaceful city that can offer a bit of tranquility.
The southern part of Uruguay runs around Rio de la Plata, a wide estuary. Montevideo is located close to the river. It is a cosmopolitan city that provides access to both modern facilities and old school buildings and services.
Whether you are a tourist or you decide to live there, you will love the old city. It is loaded with culture and history, but it also makes a good place to relax and enjoy the local lifestyle. Get out of it, and you will be hit by modern innovation – high rise office buildings and glass designs.
Just like any other capital out there, Montevideo obviously has numerous shopping malls – more or less modern, high end restaurants and facilities, as well as the main hospitals in the country. If you want to blend into the local tech industry, you have to be in Montevideo.
Those who need a bit of break from the crowd and city life can always escape to Rambla, a place where you could peacefully walk your dog, chill, have a picnic in the park, skate, or jog. It is different from what you get in the urban jungle.
During the summertime, Rambla becomes a large entertainment center, with the authorities providing swimming lessons, beach sports, exercise, and other activities for both children and grownups. There are also a few expat communities in Montevideo gathering around on a regular basis.
This is practically a narrow strip of land. It goes from Montevideo, and it is located along with Rio de la Plata. It consists of more municipalities, but a few of them stand out in the crowd. San Jose and Colonia are some of the main departments there and responsible for agricultural production.
The place has been inhabited and used for different purposes overtime, but the Swiss were the first to inhabit it in its modern history. Back then, the Swiss mostly dealt with dairy farming, so this explains why the area is such an important agricultural center.
Now, as you explore the area, you will inevitably run into Colonia del Sacramento – a joy to walk around. This is an old-fashioned quarter with lots of history and culture. It became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in the 1960s.
Take a walk around and step back in time. You will find old-fashioned colonial buildings, cobbled streets, and the tranquility you need after a long day at work. There is nothing better than having a coffee in one of the local cafes.
Located close to the port, Colonia del Sacramento is a common attraction for wealthy people in other South American countries too. For example, you can take the ferry and make it to Buenos Aires – the capital of Argentina.
This is also the reason wherefore so many Argentinians own holiday homes in the area.
Generally speaking, finding temporary accommodation – such as for a holiday – in the area is difficult. Surprisingly, many places are empty and used as holiday homes, yet they are not rented out for extra money.
The coastal part of Uruguay is one of the most attractive in South America, but also one of the safest. Crime is insignificant in the area, which is not something you can say about beaches in Brazil, for example.
There are plenty of resort towns on the Uruguayan coastline – different styles, different facilities, and different standards. Some of them are pure resorts, while others used to be small fishing villages – all in all, there is something for everyone out there.
All these places are locally known as balnearios.
These locations tend to attract different category of people. They are not meant for the tech-savvy individual looking for connections in the capital. Instead, they are more suitable for retired people and investors.
Retired expats are looking for sunny places with lots of entertainment – the beach is usually a must. Then, the investor goes in a different direction. Investing here will give you a good return on investment for more reasons.
First, you could rent properties throughout the holiday season – hotel rates, meaning you will make a fortune. Many investors also rent these places throughout the wintertime to those who do business or live there – not necessarily tourists.
All these balnearios are also suitable for freelancers. They can work from any part of the world, as long as they get an Internet connection. While not always a general rule, many digital nomads choose coastal areas to enjoy the beach – after all, what can be better than working while on holiday?
Properties here cost more in the holiday season – whether you want to rent or buy.
Punta del Este
Punta del Este does have some notoriety among locals, but foreigners will not find it the most exciting place in the world. Back in the day, this was one of Uruguay’s main seasonal destinations – great for holidays and vacations. However, the area went completely dead during the wintertime.
The area gained in population overtime. More and more expats appreciated the holiday feel of Punta del Este, choosing to relocate there. All in all, one thing led to another, and Punta del Este has a constant population of about 20,000 people now.
Foreigners and their lifestyle preferences changed the aspect of this place. These days, you can find high rise buildings lined down the street. From many points of view, this place looks like Miami – and its popularity keeps going up.
This is not the only beach town in the area though. More and more surrounding areas attract foreigners, meaning expat communities grow stronger and stronger. Take La Paloma, for instance. It used to be a small fishing town.
These days, La Paloma attracts surfers from all over the world. It may not be as developed as Punta del Este, but it is quieter and more relaxing. Plus, chances are it will follow the same trend as more and more people turn in.
Piriapolis is another area that brings back good memories among locals. The town is east of Atlantida and was established at the end of the 19th century. It was the first beach resort location in Uruguay’s history, so it was the one and only choice for decades.
Overtime, with the expansion of other cities, Piriapolis lost some of its popularity. However, many foreigners who visited it fell in love with its atmosphere and decided to move there. Today, Piriapolis has a large expat community and more groups meeting on a regular basis.
Piriapolis could be the best place in Uruguay to live if you like a mix of old-fashioned habits and modern services. While it is, indeed, more expensive than other similar places, it can go somewhere in the middle range – for example, Puntal del Este is more expensive.
If you like walking and hiking, this is one of the few places in Uruguay where you can do it. Piriapolis is surrounded by tall hills that provide lots of opportunities for those who appreciate relaxing walks after long working weeks.
The history of this place is another thing that makes it unique. It is highly related to Don Francisco Piria. The mystic designed the town and came up with a layout based on alchemy. The kabbalah influences are quite obvious – even if you do not want to move there, the city is worth a tourist visit.
As you explore the town and aim to go for the main house – the so called Castle Piria, you will find the way there paved with statues of Greek gods. Each of them represents a different metal used in alchemy. Apart from these attractions, you will also find a nature reserve and a few interesting hotels.
Until recently, Piriapolis was still seen as a holiday resort town. There were no major supermarkets within the area of the town, but more and more shops popped up, providing easy access to anything you may like.
There are more or less managed and beautiful beaches all over the coastline in Uruguay. Some of them are more famous than others, so they are better looked after. For instance, Punta del Este is by far the most famous beach in the country, so you will find lots of amenities around it.
But then, if you go a bit further, you will find Costa de Oro. This area spreads over 30 miles. It is a long stretch that may not be as famous as others, but it definitely has some of the most attractive beaches and landscapes.
Atlantida is one of these places. It is only about half an hour drive from Montevideo on a good day with no traffic. Therefore, you can live in an idyllic place, but still have access to the capital of Uruguay for business connections.
As you enter this town, it feels like you are stepping back in town – at least half a century. It is the type of place that will take you back to the 1960s, especially in terms of architecture. However, there are obviously a few modern amenities too, such as bars, restaurants, and supermarkets.
The two supermarkets dominate the shopping aspect of Atlantida, yet, you have more options and a bit of variety too. For example, if you are after fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, you might as well try out the local open markets.
Apart from food, you will also find clothing and toys at various discounts.
From many points of view, Atlantida offers an intriguing experience. You can find old-fashioned houses with thatched roofs, as well as standard casitas – some sort of buildings common in South America. Then, there are art deco buildings to add a bit of color too.
Since the area is slowly becoming more modern, you will spot a few high-rise buildings too, but this is it.
There are plenty of things to visit in Atlantida as well, so you can be a tourist before actually settling there. If you are into reading, you can visit the former place of Pablo Neruda, where he used to bring his mistress.
Then, there are houses in all kinds of funky shapes. For example, one of them is shaped like an eagle, while another one is built like a ship. If you like animals, you can check out the local zoo – not too big or impressive, though, but worth a visit.
Those who like local events and culture can find out more about the atmosphere in Atlantida during the local carnival in the Uruguayan summer. There are all sorts of attractions and entertainment, as well as local crafts fairs.
Talking about entertainment, do not miss the theater and the movie house – random events hosted every now and then. For example, those who like dancing will appreciate the random tango nights every now and then.
August is the month of American music in Atlantida. For some reason, locals appreciate American oldies. Therefore, you will find many places hosting oldies nights – quite a lot of fun. Bottom line, Atlantida is an old-fashioned way that does not draw too much international attention, but it has personality.
Locals love it. Since there are not as many foreigners as in Montevideo, the cost of living is quite low.
For instance, you could rent a small bungalow on the beach for less than $500 a month. There is a local agency – basically, a local language school – that can help foreigners find temporary homes, especially during off season.
When it comes to foreigners, the local expat community is quite small, but it is growing. There are monthly newsletters and even meetings if you want to make some new friends, as well as a wide variety of events. Most expats are close to the retirement age or retired.
As a short final conclusion, it is difficult to determine the best place in Uruguay to live. The country has plenty to offer. It is often overlooked by those looking for cheap, yet civilized places to live, yet it has grown to become the richest country in South America.
Some parts of it are modern, yet they still maintain the old-fashioned architecture and atmosphere. Some others are completely outdated, but in a good way. Basically, if you want to go back in time, there are plenty of places that will give you a top-notch experience.
Whether it comes to the beauty of this country, its stability, or the business opportunities, Uruguay is definitely worth some consideration.