In this post, we pick up where we left off in Part II of our series citing our top tips for a quick look-see of Uruguay. As always, let us know what you think by posting your comments or questions here or on our Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter pages. You’ll also find a comments block at the end of this post.
Part III: Our Top Tips List
Tip #8. Price shock: Expect prices similar to those in the U.S. for hotels, dining out, and shopping
If you think Uruguay is going to be as inexpensive as Ecuador or some other South American countries you’ll encounter price shock.
Don’t expect cheap prices for anything here. The cost of gas is a little higher than prices in in the U.S. as of the Fall of 2017: 45 Pesos for a liter (about ¼ of a gallon), or 184 Pesos for one gallon (184/29 = $3.13 USD).
The costs of dining out are about the same as in the U.S. if not higher. Our meal for two at Alberto's in Montevideo for an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert each would have cost us $71.37 with tip, if the VAT tax were not deducted. Keep in mind, this is the price a Uruguayan would pay.
In short, deducting the 22% VAT tax when you use your VISA card will yield the most significant savings you’ll realize as a traveler in this country.
By the way, here's what we got for our $1,696.72 Peso ($58.50) meal …
Tip #9: Currency sticker shock
Don’t freak out over the currency symbol on items for sale. The USD currency symbol is placed in front of prices in Uruguayan Pesos! Don’t get confused.
This item at Burger King DID NOT cost $99 USD! (: >). It is 99 Uruguayan Pesos!
Tip #10: Internet shock
If you do some research before you arrive, you’ll undoubtedly read from multiple sources that Internet service here is the fastest in South America. This may be true if you live in country and pay for hard-line service. But we didn't see it. Service at our hotel was modest (6 MB downloads).
The question is, how true is it for you, the roving visitor? Most visitors look for Wi-Fi service if they don’t buy a SIM cards for their cell phones.
Wi-Fi is alleged to be widely available in Uruguay. Based on our experience traveling in Montevideo, Colonia, and Punta del Este, this is a qualified true. But just as in the ‘States and elsewhere, it is not universally true. Where it is available, speeds vary significantly, and sometimes, are downright slow. Remember, it you’re a tourist and using Wi-Fi in downtown Montevideo, chances are, someone else around you are also using it at the same time. And the same applies in Colonia and Punta del Este — two top towns for tourists and expats in the country. More users mean slower service speeds.
T-Mobile — Great for cellular service worldwide
We use the T-Mobile Simple Choice America Plan. This gives us free texting and surfing, usually at 3G speeds, in 160 countries. Like other cellular providers, this company changes it's plans frequently to attract customers. The plan we use may no longer be available or may be offered with modifications. Here's their latest offering.
If you're from the U.S. and spend a lot of time traveling abroad, T-Mobile is a great service to use worldwide if you know you will not purchase SIM chips abroad. You’ll have the ability to make and receive phone calls, receive authentication texts from your bank or other service providers, text friends and family, and use specialty apps like Skype and WhatsApp. Sometimes, we’ll get LTE speeds — although LTE outside the U.S. on our plan usually means “not real” LTE service.
The proviso here, of course, is we’re using SIM chips from our U.S. based cellular service — and that limits service speeds abroad.
Cellular Service in Uruguay
One person we talked to told us she never gets speeds higher than 3G no matter where she is in the country. This intersects with our experience — 3G also — using our T-Mobile account. 3G is not quite fast enough for real time navigation and finding stuff browsing the web.
In sum, if you’re going to spend some time in Uruguay, pay for in country cellular phone service chip and install it in your phone. Make sure you get a high-speed data plan with it. You’ll need that to navigate, look up stuff on Trip Advisor, and use the online translator services — for those of you who forget to study Spanish prior to arrival (:>)
Note: Hang on to those old cell phones you don't trade in or otherwise sell. They can come in handy when you need an extra phone with a host nation cell phone chip.
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 …