In this post, we pick up where we left off in Part I citing our top tips for a quick look-see of Uruguay. 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.
Part II on our Top Tips List
Tip #4: Use ANCAP Mini-Market Gas Stations
You’ll need a place to fill up your rental car, buy snacks as you travel, and to go to the bathroom while you’re on the road. Enter ANCAP’s.
They’re all over the country in towns and always along the major highways. You can’t miss them. They are a welcome relief when you need to find a bathroom.
Look for the larger ANCAP facilities bearing the MiniMercado label. They offer convenience store shopping. And some have sit-down coffee or lunch bars offering up fresh food prepared on-site.
Tip #5: Avoid taxis except for short, in-town trips
Taxi’s in Uruguay can be expensive — plain and simple. It cost us $44 for a one-way trip from the Holiday Inn in downtown Montevideo to MVD airport — a distance of 24 km or 14.9 miles. Does that seem like a reasonable price to you? It pays to negotiate fares to the airport or on holidays as special rates apply.
So, you might be thinking, why would I even think about taking a taxi if I have a rental car? The answer is straight forward.
Parking is a huge problem in downtown Montevideo. Remember, one half of the entire population of the country lives there. Getting around with a taxi makes sense if you plan to stay in town. Of course, city buses run day and night.
The rule of thumb with taxis is much akin to what you would follow in your home nation. Use them for short, in-town trips, and they’ll put less of a dent in your pocketbook.
Town car-like pickups are expensive too. It cost us $44 to take a town car from the port at Montevideo to our hotel — literally about ¼ of a mile. Again, we got the higher “hotel rate” since we booked this service through our hotel. We paid for the convenience since we had extra bags from an earlier trip to Ushuaia, Argentina.
Tip #6: Pay with U.S. Dollars if you don’t have Uruguayan Pesos
The U.S. Dollar (USD) is strong across the world right now. The exchange rate is 29 Uruguayan Pesos to the USD. Sellers will happily accept dollars from you.
Keep in mind, if you hand over $20 bills, you’re liable to get change in Peso’s and at an unfavorable exchange rate to you. It’s best to carry an array of 1, 5 and 10 USD bills. Or better yet, pay for everything on your VISA card, and enjoy the 22% VAT tax break whenever it applies.
Tip #7: Speak or learn Spanish before your arrival
The ability to speak Spanish is a necessity in this country. If you do not speak the language you’ll have difficulty ordering, asking directions, or doing just about anything at all that requires communicating with other people.
If you are among that category of traveler who — ahem — thinks he can get by speaking English and sign language, you're in for a rude awakening. Few people here, in our experience, willingly speak English. And those we’ve encountered had difficulty so doing. Can you blame them? After all, many of us expect if not hope foreigners speak our language when they visit our home nations.
Somehow, the impact of the English-speaking dominance of the Internet has not yet trickled down to this country. And even if you know some Spanish, you’ll need to adjust your ear in Uruguay.
The Uruguayan Spanish Variant
Uruguayans speak a variant of Spanish called Rioplatanese. It sounds a bit like Portuguese with word truncation and variations of sounds.
Not surprisingly, there’s been some linguistic cultural crossover from Brazil, a neighbor to the North. Yet, you’ll find this variant of the language too in Buenos Aires. Think of this as all part of the lower half of South America experience.
A clear Buenos Dias that would be acceptable Mexico or Ecuador, becomes muddled Buen Dia (Bwen D phonetic) in Uruguay, almost as if, the two words were in fact, one.
Take note, or as they say in Italy, Noto Bene: study Spanish for at least a month before you arrive. A Pimsleur course can help. You’ll learn “by ear” and it’s a great way to build up some vocabulary and phrases in the language.
If you’re an older adult learner with no prior training, you’ll find Warren Hardy’s online video courses quite helpful. Warren is an expat living in Mexico for the last 20 years. He knows baby boomer adults learn differently than younger people and his online web tutor classes are specifically designed to help older learners.
Carry a Phrase Book
You’ll also find it’s important to carry around a Spanish phrase book with you. These are especially useful when cellular connections don’t work well. We’ve had good luck with the Lonely Planet Latin American Phrase Book. But there’s other good books like the Berlitz Spanish Phrase Book out there too.
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.
Until next time … ~ Karla