The second-smallest country in South America, Uruguay borders Argentina, Brazil and the South Atlantic Ocean. Expats moving to Uruguay will discover a country blessed with soft rolling plains and low hills, and beautiful coastal areas made up of fertile lowlands. The country has a population of just under 3.5 million, most of whom live in the capital, Montevideo.
Being a high-income country with low rates of poverty, Uruguay doesn't experience some of the serious economic inequalities of its neighbouring Latin American countries. The country's economy has also shown significant growth in recent years, which has increased job opportunities for both locals and expats.
Living in Uruguay as an expat
Although Spanish is the official national language of the country, Uruguayan Spanish has quite a few differences owing to the considerable influence of Italian immigrants over the years. Even expats who are able to speak Spanish may take a while to adjust to the dialect. Also, though most Uruguayans are able to understand English, they may not necessarily speak it fluently. We therefore recommend that expats attempt to learn at least some Spanish, particularly if planning to do business in Uruguay.
While some expats are able to secure work in Montevideo’s agricultural, construction and aviation industries, most expats working in Uruguay are employed in the diplomatic or financial services. Coastal towns such as Punta del Este also offer employment opportunities in the services and tourism sectors, and a number of expats also move to Uruguay to teach English.
Despite ranking number two in South America in the 2022 Global Peace Index, street crimes are still common in Uruguay, particularly in Montevideo. That said, as long as expats keep a watchful eye on their valuables when walking or when using public transport, they should be just fine.
Cost of living in Uruguay
The reasonable cost of living, favourable tax laws, affordable and exceptional healthcare, and high quality of life have attracted many European and North American expats to Uruguay, particularly to the Punta del Este and Costa de Oro coasts.
Expats should budget carefully though as the cost of living in Uruguay is rising. The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living ranks Montevideo at 54th out of 227 cities evaluated, this is up 69 places from the previous year's rankings.
As is usually the case, accommodation will likely be an expat's biggest expense. This is also largely dependent on where expats choose to settle in Uruguay, the capital city will naturally be the most expensive while the other cities and rural areas and suburbs will be more affordable.
Public transport is largely accessible and reasonably priced thanks to the country's compact nature. Eating out will set expats back quite a bit, but fortunately, other entertainment activities are fairly cheap throughout the country.
Expat families and children
Uruguay has a highly regarded education system, with public schools offering free education from kindergarten to tertiary level. School is only compulsory for students aged six to 11, and all classes are taught in Spanish. Expats generally prefer to send their children to one of a number of international schools, which are predominantly located in Montevideo.
Healthcare in Uruguay is of a high standard and reported to be among the best in Latin America. Everyone is entitled to medical care via the national healthcare system, including foreigners, but given the fact that private hospitals in Uruguay offer a highly affordable private hospital plan, known as a mutualista, most expats go this route.
Climate in Uruguay
Uruguay has a temperate climate, with mild and humid winters and hot summers. The climate is influenced by its location in the Southern Hemisphere, proximity to the South Atlantic Ocean, and the prevailing winds.
In the summer months of December to February, the temperatures can reach up to 86°F (30°C) in the daytime, and often stay warm at night. Humidity is also high during this period, particularly in coastal areas. Rainfall is scarce in the summer, although occasional thunderstorms may occur.
In the winter months of June to August, temperatures usually range from 41°F to 59°F (5–15°C), with colder temperatures at night. Rainfall is more frequent during this season, particularly in the south of the country.
Expats moving to Uruguay who make an effort to learn the language and build a life in the country will find it a beautiful and hospitable home.
Population: 3.4 million
Capital city: Montevideo
Neighbouring countries: Argentina borders Uruguay to the west of the country. Brazil borders Uruguay to the north and east.
Geography: Uruguay is a small country with a warm, temperate climate. The terrain mainly consists of plains and rolling hills, with fertile farmland along the South Atlantic coastline.
Political system: Presidential republic
Major religions: Christianity (Catholicism)
Main language: Spanish
Money: The currency of Uruguay is the Uruguayan Peso (UYU). One peso is divided into 100 centésimos.
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz
Internet domain: .uy
International dialling code: +598
Emergency contacts: 911 (Police), 105 (Ambulance)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road.