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URUGUAY – GENERAL INFORMATION

   
                      Fig.1 – Uruguay Flag

GEOGRAPHY

Uruguay is located in East South America. It is bound by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and southeast, Brazil to the north and Argentina to the west. The southern region of the country is a continuation of the Argentina Pampas while the northern region is a continuation of the basaltic plateau of Brazil. In between these regions are rolling plateau with a low range of hills called Cuchillas. The two major Cuchillas are the Cuchilla Grande and the Cuchilla de Haedo which are separated by the basin of the Rio Negro. The country’s principal rivers are the Rio Negro, Uruguay, Rio Yi and the Rio Cebollati, which flows into the country’s largest lake, Laguna Merin.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

Uruguay’s aboriginal inhabitants were the Charrúa Indians, a hunter-gatherer people who cared little for outsiders. They killed the explorer Juan Diaz de Solís and most of his party when the Spaniards encountered them in 1516. By the 17th century, the Charrúas had prospered and, abandoning hostilities, began trading with the Spanish. In 1680, the Portuguese founded Colonia on the estuary of the Río de la Plata as a rival to Spanish-held Buenos Aires on the opposite shore. Spain responded by building its own citadel at Montevideo. Uruguayan hero José Artigas fought against the Spanish but was unable to prevent a Brazilian takeover of the Banda (the original name of the eastern shore of the Río de la Plata). Exiled to Paraguay, he inspired the ’33 Orientales’ who, with Argentine support, liberated the area in 1828 and established Uruguay as an independent buffer state between Argentina and Brazil.

In the early 20th century, the visionary President José Batlle y Ordóñez achieved far-reaching reforms and made Uruguay the only ‘welfare state’ in Latin America. During his two terms as president – 1903-07 and 1911-15 – he implemented a range of free social services, abolished capital punishment and sought to curb the country’s legacy of strong-arm rule. Uruguay soon flourished on the back of the rural livestock sector but its failure to grow, coupled with the country’s lack of natural resources, meant the welfare state became increasingly fictitious over time. The country’s former prosperity had ebbed away by the 1960’s as state-supported enterprises became riddled with corruption. The country slid into dictatorship and was thrown into turmoil by the Tupamaros, an urban guerrilla movement which appeared publicly in 1967. In 1971, the military was invited to participate in government, Congress was dissolved, and the Tupamaros were effectively wiped out.

Elections held under a new electoral system in 2000 brought Colorado Party candidate Jorge Batlle to power. Since, he’s pursued a conservative agenda, promoting growth and foreign investment, reducing the size of government, selling state monopolies, and attempting to resolve the issue of the disappearances that occurred during the military occupation. The economy, however, has been dogged by problems beyond the direct control of Uruguay: the devaluation of the Brazilian currency, the collapse of the Argentinian economy and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the important beef industry.

THE PEOPLE

The ethnic groups include 8% mestizo, 88% whites and 4% blacks and very few native Americans.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting. Uruguayans are very hospitable and like to entertain both at home and in restaurants.

Normal courtesies should be observed. Smoking is not allowed in cinemas or theatres or on public transport.

LANGUAGES

Spanish. Some English is spoken in tourist resorts.

GOVERNMENT

Republic since 1830.

TIME ZONE

Uruguay is 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

 ELECTRICITY

Electricity in Uruguay runs on 220 volts, so bring a transformer and adapter along with any electrical appliances. Note that most laptops operate on both 110 and 220 volts. Some luxury hotels may supply transformers and adapters.

CLIMATE

Uruguay has a temperate climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year with an average annual precipitation of 36 inches. The coolest month is June and the warmest is January. The prevailing winds are the Zonda, a northerly hot wind that blows in summer and the Pampero, a cold southerly wind that blows in winter. Average temperature ranges in Montevideo are from 43-57ºF in July to 63-82ºF in January.

Clothes to Wear:

Mediumweight clothing for winter; lightweight clothing and raincoat required.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

All United States citizens entering Uruguay must have a valid passport.  U.S. citizens traveling on a regular passport do not need a visa for a visit of less than three months.  Air travelers are required to pay an airport tax upon departure.  This fee may be paid in U.S. dollars or in Uruguayan pesos.  Visit the Embassy of Uruguay website for the most current visa information.

U.S. citizens traveling in Uruguay are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State’s travel registration page in order to obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency.

Embassy Locations:

U.S. Embassy in Uruguay
Lauro Muller 1776, Montevideo 11200

Tel: (598) (2) 418-7777
Emer. A/hours tel:

(598) (2) 418-7777 ext 2311
Fax: (598) (2) 418-4110

http://montevideo.usembassy.gov/

Embassy of Canada to Uruguay

Plaza Independencia 749, office 102, 11100, Montevideo

Tel: (011 598 2) 902-2030
Fax: (011 598 2) 902-2029

http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/uruguay/

Health:

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Banks & Currency:

Peso Uruguayo (UYU; symbol $U) = 100 centécimos. Notes are in the denominations of $U2,000, 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of $U10, 5, 2 and 1 and 50 centécimos.

Visitors are advised to buy local currency at banks and exchange shops, as hotels tend to give unfavourable rates. Inflation in Uruguay, though less severe than in other Latin American countries, leads to frequent fluctuations in the exchange rate.

American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly used credit cards. ATM’s marked with the green Banred or blue Redbrou logo serve all major international banking networks, including Cirrus, Visa, MasterCard and Maestro.

Traveller’s Cheques can still be cashed at some banks and exchange shops in major tourist hubs. US Dollar traveller’s cheques are more widely accepted than those issued in Sterling.

There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency.

Banking Hours: Mon-Fri 1pm-5pm.

Communication:

Country code: 598. The local telephone service, which is operated by the government, is good.

Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone operators. Visitors should check with their service provider before traveling. Coverage is good in urban areas and patchy elsewhere.

There are Internet cafes in main urban areas.

Airmail to Europe takes three to five days. Post office hours: 8am-6pm (main post office in the old city, Montevideo: 9am-7pm).

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

The majority of Uruguayan restaurants are parrilladas (grill-rooms). Table service is usual in restaurants. Cafes or bars have either table and/or counter service. There are no set licensing hours.

National specialities:

  • Bife de chorizo (rump steak), asado de tira (short ribs) and other barbecued meats
  • Chivito (steak sandwich with accompaniments including cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, ham, olives and pickles)
  • Morcilla dulce (sweet black sausage made from blood, orange peel and walnuts) and morcilla salada (salty sausage)
  • Dulce de leche (milk sweets)
  • Chaja (ball-shaped sponge cake filled with cream and jam).

National drinks:

  • Uruguayan wines are of good quality. Popular drinks include clericó (wine mixed with fruit juice) and medio y medio (half dry white wine and half champagne)
  • Yerba mate, a bitter tea of Native American origin, is extremely popular with locals
  • Local spirits are caña, grappa and locally distilled whisky and gin.

Nightlife:

Theatre, ballet and symphonic concerts are staged in Montevideo from March to January. Tango is nearly as popular as in Argentina. There are discos in downtown Montevideo and coastal suburbs such as Pocitos and Carrasco. There are several dinner-dance places in Montevideo. Large Montevideo hotels have good bars. When there is music for dancing, the price of drinks increases quite considerably. There are also several casinos.

Shopping:

Special purchases include suede jackets, amethyst jewellery and paintings. The Tristan Narvaja Market is famous for its antiques and there are many antique shops in the Old Town.

Shopping hours: Mon-Fri 9am-12pm and 2pm-7pm; Sat 9am-12:30pm.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

In restaurants, it’s customary to tip about 10% of the bill. Taxi drivers do not require tips, although you may round off the fare for convenience.

LAUNDRY

Most hotels will arrange affordable laundry services for guests.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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