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Roving in Uruguay: Top Tips to see the Country by Car – Part I

Uruguay. It’s a small, somewhat off the-beaten path, Atlantic coast country in the southernmost third of South America. Snuggled next to neighbors Brazil and Argentina to the north and west, this country is about the size of the U.S. State of Missouri with a population of 3.5 million, with one half of the entire population living in the capital city of Montevideo.

This is a country not prominent in the international news prior to the 2010 World Cup victories projecting the national soccer team into the limelight of worldwide attention. Yet, it’s home to the most famous and iconic jet set class beach getaway in South America — Punta del Este.

A couple at the beach near Punta del Este Uruguay
A couple at the beach near Punta del Este Uruguay

The cultural heritage and appearance of the people and the historic architecture the capital city of Montevideo is decidedly European. But you only need visit Colonia —just 32 miles by line of sight from Buenos Aires on the west coast of the country— to bask in an area reminiscent the Spanish Colonial lifestyle of yesteryear.

Old Bull Fighting Ring-Colonia
Old Bull Fighting Ring-Colonia

Unlike many in Latin America, this country presents a clean, first world image with up-to-date infrastructure — like good roads throughout. Outside the downtown areas in the capital city of Montevideo, streets, roadways and properties are generally clean and free of debris, trash, and sewage, unlike some Latin American countries.

These qualities make Uruguay an ideal candidate for a quick, sweeping, orientation trip for the world rover. That’s why we’ve put together this series of stories citing our top tips for getting a quick look-see of this country.

Part I on our top tips list

Tip #1: Book a rental car

The best way to see this country is by car. Can you take bus? Sure. They’re plentiful and not all that expensive. In fact, they are the primary means of transport for many in this country.

But if you crave the freedom to come, go, start, and stop when you want to, you’ll find a rental car is your best choice.

If you arrive by plane you can book a high-quality, relatively low cost, rental car for pickup at any international airport. The Montevideo-Carrasco airport (MVD) and rental car agencies there run 24 hours a day.

If you arrive by ship or the ultra-fast Buquebus that runs between Buenos Aires and three port cities Uruguay daily, you can book a rental car online and pick it up when you arrive.

Tip #2: Book your rental car locally or thru an online discount source to save money

 If you follow our stories on here you’ll know that price-performance is a central theme in our reviews on how you can afford to rove the world. Brand name rental cars and their loyalty programs will cost you more.

See our separate story, How To Save Money On Renting Cars Abroad, to get some useful tips on how to find a cheaper rental car.

We booked an SUV for our trip through Uruguay at Economy Car Rentals. The cost? $283.61 for a 7-day rental.

Rental Car Receipt-Uruguay
Rental Car Receipt-Uruguay

Had we booked this same vehicle through a brand name rental car loyalty program in our home nation (United States), the costs would have been much higher. We checked out one of our brand name rental car programs to compare prices. A full-size car for a 7-day period was $450.00. No quote for an SUV was available online. We had to call for a quote — even though we were top tier members in the loyalty program for this rental car company!

Note: Tip #3 below relates to this tip!

Tip #3: Use a VISA credit card for all in country buys to avoid the 22% VAT

Uruguay wants tourists to visit the country and spend money. To entice visitors, they’ve set up an arrangement whereby all foreign credit or debit card purchases for restaurant, hotel and rental car charges automatically take off the 22% national VAT. This offers up huge savings for travelers.

Stated differently, it is to your disadvantage to use cash for all but the smallest purchases! We used our VISA card for buys of $5 to $10 in convenience stores all the time!

Restaurant Receipt
Restaurant Receipt: Note the Descuento for the VAT. And note the Propina (Tip). You be asked to pay a tip everywhere you go!

VISA dominates the market in Uruguay. MasterCard is used somewhat. But be prepared to pay cash if you plan to take an American Express, Diners, or other non-VISA card with you.

This brings us back to tip #2 again. Why book your car in your host nation before you leave, when you can reserve it in Uruguay, pay for your rental on arrival, and get the deduction for the 22% VAT in country?

When you book through Economy Car Rentals, they reserve a car for you by taking a down payment via your VISA card. You pay for the car in country. This is how you realize the savings on the 22% VAT.

Stated differently, again, if you book a car in your host nation via your loyalty club program, you may not realize these savings based on our experience.

Up Next

In our next post, we’ll pile on more useful, relevant practical tips for you, our colleague in roving travel. These tips are up-to-date from our Fall 2017 adventure through Uruguay — knowledge you can use right now if you travel to this country.

As always, let us know what you think by posting any comments or questions here on our Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter pages. You’ll also find a comments block at the end of this post.

Until next time … thanks! ~ Karla

We’re Karla & Tom, travel content creators and founders of RoverTreks.com. When we are not international travel, we explore North America in our Leisure Travel Van (LTV) Unity to discover new stories for our readers. Our stories connect the past, present and future to inspire audiences and span an array of topics to include culture, history, law, public policy, space, technology security, travel, and the future. You'll find some of our stories about RV Life here and on the blogs of Leisure Travel Vans and the Family Motor Coach Association.

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