Cost of living

Never a bargain-basement destination, Uruguay has nonetheless given tourists and expat residents good value for their euros or dollars over the past seven or eight years. But with the Uruguayan peso hardening against the dollar in particular, the country is getting more expensive.

A dollar buys just under 20 pesos at the time of writing, meaning that for food and eating out the country is more expensive than Argentina but not as pricey as Brazil. At the beginning of 2010 local newspaper El País asked a panel of economists how many pesos they thought a dollar would buy at the end of the year. Almost all estimated a value between 19 and 21, so most got it broadly right. Where we give a price in dollars in the guide, we assume an exchange rate of US$1 = 20 pesos.

A couple staying at a 4-star hotel in Montevideo and eating out in good restaurants will spend between US$200 and US$300 a day in Montevideo, and perhaps half as much again in Punta del Este in season. Budget travellers staying in hostel accommodation (or the cheaper hotels downtown) and using public transport might budget for US$50 per person per day. Some websites like offer special rates and discounts which can help you save a few dollars when you book in advance. Where hotels and restaurants in the capital offer particularly good deals, these are mentioned in our reviews. Imported foods and other goods can be very expensive in Uruguay, e.g. a standard tin of Illy coffee sells for US$28 in supermarkets. We have a dedicated chapter with tips on staying in Montevideo on a budget.

Uruguay offers a tax refund for goods made in the country which are exported unused. Look out for the Tax Free for Tourists sign in the windows of participating shops.

Important! You should always try to use a credit card to pay for restaurant bills as you will receive a rebate of 9% of the value of the meal in your credit (or debit) card statement. Buying petrol (gasoline) with a credit or debit card also triggers a refund. Hotel accommodation is zero-rated for foreigners who are not resident in Uruguay.