Introduction to Uruguay

Uruguay is one of South America’s undiscovered gems, a welcoming and charming country with dramatic coast lines and hidden treasures.

Nestled between Brasil, Argentina and its rugged Atlantic Ocean coast, Uruguay features a large number of sandy beaches, rolling hills and vast, wide open spaces in the countryside.

Its warm, friendly population of only 3 million –  who you’ll see supping yerba maté tea as the sun goes down – live peacefully in an area the size of England and Wales.

Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, is vibrant and home to some scorching tango nights as well as many art-deco buildings.

The coast has lovely beaches and warms seas, which the locals flock to, to relax, swim and sunbathe.

Journey inland and into the countryside you can stay at estancias to taste the rural life, and perhaps some horse riding.

 

Geography of Uruguay

Uruguay is a green and verdant land of rolling hills and pastures, and has distinct areas to enjoy including 10 national parks.

The 660km of coast offers beautiful and dramatic atlantic beaches the further north you go, some many miles in length, others more intimate and with cosy places to stay and place to swim. Those nearer Montevideo and the famous Punta del Este cater more for sun and sea lovers.

There are several estancias and vineyards to visit along the coast, as well as inland.

The interior gets very warm and humid in summer, but with a hire car it’s a lovely and fresher get away up into the hills, with Cerro Catedral at 514 metres (1,686 ft) the highest point in the country.

In the east are several wetlands and lagoons from which many birds and animals can be seen.

To the west of the country lies Rio de la Plata, which forms an enormous river border with Argentina. As you move upstream, you encounter wetlands replete with wildlife and forests.

In the north you will hardly see a soul, and have to yourself the unexplored gorges, gold mines and vineyards of this incredible ‘little’ country.

Weather in Uruguay

The climate is mild, with temperatures that range between 23-35ºC in the summer months (Dec-Feb) and between 5 and 15ºC during winter (Jun-Sept).

During the summer, it’s pleasant and warm at the coast, with plenty of sunshine to enjoy for sun seekers on beaches.

As you move into the interior of the country, conditions become much hotter and more humid.

In Montevideo, you can expect mainly warm spring and autumn temperatures, although there are some cool days (especially early in the morning or at night) and perhaps some rainy days, too.

Visas for Uruguay

British nationals do not need a visa for Uruguay.

Your passport need only be valid for at least the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.

Non UK residents please check with the Uruguayan embassy or consulate in your country of residence.

Vaccinations for Uruguay

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Uruguay visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Anti-malarial protection is not required.

Quick facts about Uruguay

 

Official name: Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Country population: 3,500,000

Capital city: Montevideo (1.4 million)

Largest cities: Montevideo, Salto (100,000)

Languages: Spanish, Portuguese (official)

Latitude/Longitude: 34º S, 56º W

Official currency: Uruguayan Peso

Major industries: Agriculture (soya/beef), tourism, wine, wool

Time zone: GMT-4

Uruguay Festivals

6 January 

Festival: Epiphany 

Exchange of gifts and family meals. Start of carnival season.    

Location: Countrywide.   

 

February   

Festival: Fiesta de La Candelaria 

Processions, dance and music. 

Location: Countrywide.  

 

February / March  

Festival: Carnaval and Las Llamadas 

Fancy dress, music, parades, fireworks.  

Location: Montevideo and countrywide.  

 

March / April 

Festival: Semana Santa / Easter week 

Street parades. 

Location: Central Montevideo.  

 

25 August 

Festival: Independencia 

Independence day – celebration of Uruguayan culture – various activities 

Location: Country wide 

Flight advice

Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.

International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.

Typically, you fly to a country’s capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination.

 

Flight connections

Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.

Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.

 

Tickets

Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America – this is most common for flights on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia.

The final travel instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.

 

How do I check in?

Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us.

If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).

To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.

Some flights will allocate seats at the check in desk at the airport and some may not allocate seats at all.

 

Help flying via the USA (ESTA form).

The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.

More information can be found on their ESTA website.

Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.

Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.

This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Security in Uruguay

Uruguay is one of the safest places to visit in South America, and indeed the world.

Having said that, there is petty crime and you are advised to be on guard as you would on any tour, especially in Montevideo and at night time.

 

  • Leave paper valuables in the hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking only what you need for the day.
  • Carry a copy of your passport, leaving original in safe along with your air tickets. N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • Special care is needed in the old town in Montevideo, where you should consider not taking a daypack unless accompanied. We suggest you secure this, and have your camera in the bag.
  • Be very careful around the old town of Montevideo at night, as well as the Pocitos neighbourhood. Avoid quiet streets or streets with poor lighting. Always take a taxi to the door of your hotel at night.
  • In fact, especially if alone; it’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.
  • If you hire a car, keeps doors locked and windows up while driving around Montevideo. ‘Snatch’ robberies can happen while the car is stationary. Keep purses, bags briefcases or other valuables out of sight, on the floor or in the boot.
  • Break-ins of parked cars do happen, particularly in the Carrasco neighbourhood of Montevideo.
  • There is petty crime on beaches during peak seasons – be careful when leaving your possessions while you are in the sea.
  • Beware of the distraction techniques of con men/women, especially in crowded areas.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
  • Where possible, try to avoid inter-city travel at night (there are few night buses anyway).

Food and drink in Uruguay

Starters

Choripán                      Grilled spicy sausage served in a small baguette type roll.

Empanada                    Pastie commonly filled with ground beef (mince) or cheese.

Chivito                          Sandwich with sliced steak, ham, cheese, eggs and mayonnaise.

Morcilla Dulce             Blood sausage with raisins or walnuts.

Pancho                         Frankfurter in a bun with in ketchup, mayonnaise or sometimes mustard.

 

Mains

Asado                           Barbecue – an assortment of meat (all types of cuts) and often offal is included.

Asado con cuero          Barbecue with the whole animal ( sheep or cow) spread eagled on a cross near glowing charcoal.

Empanadas Gallegas   Fish pie filled with tuna, onions and bell peppers.

Milenesa                      Beef (or chicken) that is crumbed and fried.

Pastel de Carne           Similar to a cottage pie – minced beef green peppers and eggs topped with mashed potatoes.

Pascualina                    Pie filled with spinach and egg.

 

Desserts

Alfajores                      Two shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche (caramel), covered with chocolate.

Bizcochos                     Pastry. Many are sweet, some are savoury.

Dulce de Leche             A caramel that is widely used ion deserts.

Dulce de Membrillo     Quince jelly.

Flan                               Milk, egg and sugar pudding , usually topped with caramel.

 

Drinks

Vino Tinto                     Red wine

Vino Blanco                  White wine

Clerico                          Wine mixed with fruit juice.

Grappamiel                   Grappa with honey

Mate                              Yerba mate tea.

 

Money matters

Currency & Money Exchange

Uruguay’s monetary unit is the “Uruguyan Peso”.

Most of your transactions will be in pesos, but US dollars are often accepted, too, if they are small denomination, unmarked and undamaged bills. Try to take USD 10s and 20s.

ATM debit/credit cards are now widely used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees), and there are ATM (‘hole-in-the-wall’) machines widely available in towns and cities. In smaller coastal/interior towns, cash is harder to come by, so do stock up in Montevideo.

When changing money, use a bank or casa de cambio (bureau de change). Ask for ‘billetes chicos’ (small notes, i.e. 20, 50, and 100) as obtaining change outside towns and cities can be difficult. Count your pesos carefully before handing over your US dollars, and look out for forged notes.

Exchange rate: USD 1 = 30 Uruguyan Pesos (approx.), June 2018.

 

Eating and drinking

Uruguay has a big wine and meat culture, but with relatively low wages and a very expensive cost of living, eating out is not always cheap. Wine is often cheaper than beer.

You can easily spend more than USD 100pp on food and wine in top end restaurants/vineyards/haciendas. Be warned that a drink in even the most modest looking of cafés may cost more than you pay at home.

Prices vary greatly, below is a rough guide to what you can expect to pay in Uruguay.

 

Local café/restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 3

Menu del dia: USD 10-20

Coffee: USD 2

 

Tourist style restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 3-5

Main dish: USD 15-20 upwards

Coffee: USD 3

Plugs and voltages

Electricity

Uruguay uses a current of 230 volts, and a frequency of 50Hz.

Most cameras, phones and computers are dual or multi voltage and probably won’t need a convertor – please check before leaving.

Some items you may bring, such as hairdryers, may need a convertor. They may short if you use them without the correct convertor.

 

Plugs

Uruguay mainly uses two-pin, round-pronged C plugs, as well as compatible F and L plugs, and sometimes you can find I (i) Type plugs.

 

Type C plug

Type C plug

 

 

 

 

 

 

Type F plug

Type F plug

 

 

 

 

 

 

Type L plug

Type L plug

 

 

 

 

 

 

Type I plug

Type I plug

 

Communication

Dialling codes

The international code for Uruguay is +598.

Montevideo landline numbers begin with a 2, everywhere else a 4, and most mobiles with 099.

 

Landlines

Uruguay landlines are 8 digits long. To call landline-landline, simply dial the 8 digits.

If using your own mobile phone to call a landline, dial the country code and then the number, e.g. for Montevideo (numbers start with a 2), dial +598 2 1234567.

 

Mobiles

Mobile phones start with a number 099, followed by 6 more digits.

If you are dialling Uruguayan landline/mobile to mobile, simply dial a 099 and then the 6 remaining number.

If using your own mobile phone to call a Uruguayan mobile, dial the country code, then omit the 0 of 099, then the remaining digits e.g. +598  99 123456.

Almost all unlocked phones will work in Uruguay with a local SIM, however – check with your provider before arrival if your phone will work.

Roaming charges may be high – again, best to check before arrival.

 

Internet

Most hotels, cafes, restaurants and airports offer free and generally good Wi-Fi.

There are plenty of locoturios – internet cafes – offering cheap and good internet in most towns and cities.

 

Post

Head to the state postal service, Correo Uruguayo.

Useful Spanish phrases

Learning a few words of Spanish can really ingratiate you with the locals you’ll encounter, adding to the enjoyment of your holiday.

Below are some basics to get you started.

 

Greetings:

Good morning                                         Buenos días

How are you?                                         ¿Cómo estás?

Good afternoon                                      Buenas tardes

Good bye                                               Adiós

 

Most frequently asked questions (theirs):

Where are you (plural) from?                   ¿De dónde eres (son)?

What time is it?                                           ¿Qué hora es?

Where have you come from?                    ¿De dónde vienes?

Give me (frequent, unwelcome question)    Dáme / regálame

 

Most frequent questions (yours):

How much is it?                                      ¿Cuánto vale?

What is this place called?                       ¿Cómo se llama este lugar?

What’s your name?                                 ¿Cómo te llamas?

Do you have a map?                                ¿Tienes un mapa?

 

In the street / places:

Where can I find a currency exchange?    ¿Dónde encuentro una casa de cambio?

Where is there a cash machine?                ¿Dónde hay un cajero automatico?

Where is the underground/subway station? ¿Dónde esta la estacion de metro/subte(Buenos Aires)?

Where can I find a taxi?                             ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi?

Where can I find a Supermarket?            ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un supermercado?

Where is the hospital?                               ¿Dónde esta el hospital?

Where can I find a restaurant?               ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un restaurante?

 

In the hotel:

What floor am I on?                                   ¿En qué piso estoy?

Where are the elevators/lifts?                 ¿Dónde están los ascensores?

How do I access the Internet?                 ¿Cómo puedo acceder a Internet?

How do I call for room service?                ¿Cómo llamo para el servicio de habitación?

How do I call down to the front desk?      ¿Cómo llamo a la recepción?

 

In the restaurant:

A table for two/four please                     Una mesa para dos/cuatro, porfavor

I would like to drink…                             Me gustaria tomar….

May I see a menu?                                   Puedo ver la carta/menu?

I would like to order..                              Me gustaria pedir…

Can you bring me the check/bill please.     Me trae la cuenta por favor

 

Emergency:

I need help.                                              Necesito ayuda.

I have lost my passport.                        He perdido mi pasaporte.

Someone stole my money.                    Alguien robó mi dinero

I have been robbed.                                Me han robado

I need to call the police.                         Necesito llamar a la policía

I need to call the (country) Embassy     Necesito llamar a la embajada de (country)

Help!                                                           ¡Socorro!

 

Responsible Travel - our ethos

Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.

Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.

We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.

We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.

With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.

Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.

Responsible Travel - travel tips

Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:

  • Find out about your destination – take some time before you go to read about the cultural, social and political background of the place and people you are visiting.
  • Go equipped with basic words and phrases in the local language – this may open up opportunities for you to meet people who live there.
  • Buy locally-made goods and use locally-provided services wherever possible – your support is often vital to local people.
  • Pay a fair price for the goods or services you buy – if you haggle for the lowest price your bargain may be at someone else’s expense.
  • Be sensitive to the local culture – dress and act in a way that respects local beliefs and customs, particularly at religious sites.
  • Don’t undermine the local economic systems – we recommend you don’t give gifts, especially sweets as there are few dentists in the Andes. Much better to spend time chatting, playing and showing postcards of home. If you would like to donate clothes and shoes etc we are more than happy to do so through the relevant channels. Your tour leader can do this for you and some of the projects we support can be visited.
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals or of people’s homes – and remember that you may be expected to pay for the privilege.
  • Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth – this can accentuate the gap between rich and poor and distance you from the cultures you came to experience.
  • Make no promises to local people that you can’t keep – be realistic about what you will do when you return home.
  • Minimise your environmental impact – keep to footpaths and marked routes, don’t remove any of the natural habitat and reduce the packaging you bring.
  • Don’t pollute local water courses- use biodegradable products, and wash basins.
  • Slow down and enjoy the differences – you’ll be back with the familiar soon enough.

Our environmental policy

All our activities are governed by our respect for the environment and the people who live in it. We aim to make a positive impact both in the UK and in the Andean countries we work in (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).

We agree with the principals of sustainable development and specifically promote environmentally aware tourism in the Andean countries, in order to preserve the heritage of the people who live there and to help protect their environment.

In the UK we use recycled paper where possible, recycle what we can and attempt to keep waste to an absolute minimum.

Throughout South America we work together with local people, paying them a fair price, and putting money into the local economy. We do this by using local agents, local trek staff and experienced and qualified local mountain and cultural guides who have an in-depth knowledge of their own country. Our porters on the Inca Trail are fairly paid, carry a maximum load of 20kg and are supplied with tents and food. In other areas we use donkeys or horses to carry loads.

We use locally owned services such as hotels and restaurants, wherever possible. We buy fresh local produce for all of our treks from markets in each departure town. We use public transport whenever possible and feasible.

We have ongoing contact with the teams that we work with and also with local families in the areas we trek through, developing relationships with them and donating goods such as clothes and shoes to their communities, through appropriate local agencies. We also support local Peruvian charities, specifically NIÑOS in Cusco, and CARE in the Huaraz area, plus Huchuy Yachaq.

If you have any suitable (warm) clothes and shoes that you would like to donate to Peruvian children please take them with you and give them to your tour leader, who will ensure they go to a suitable organization.

When out on tour we encourage learning about the countries we travel in, the local culture of the teams we work with and the areas we pass through. Our guides hold informal talks with groups to inform about and discuss with them all aspects of local life. This helps understanding of the area and appreciation of the people who live there.

Our group sizes are kept to a maximum of 16 people, and we encourage smaller groups where possible. This minimises the negative impact we make on the local people, the wildlife and the environment, and increases the quality time spent in contact with the local people and environment.

When trekking we adhere to a responsible tourism code of practice and are also involved in ongoing training of our trek staff.

Health and Safety

A full Health and Safety document will be sent to you at the time of booking and before you travel.

You can also read it on our website, or contact us for more information.

Travel Insurance

It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for trip cancellation (by you), activities involved and destination. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue.

We work with Travel Nomads, who offer insurance solutions to people in more than 140 countries across the world.

Should you decide not to purchase this insurance, you must provide us with details of your alternative insurance with or before your final payment.

And lastly...

Many of our tours travel through remote areas.

We believe our clients should be aware that the remoteness of some of our tours so very special could also cause certain problems.

Thus, whilst we endeavour to minimise the chances of anything unexpected happening, it has to be noted that no itinerary can or should be rigidly adhered to.

This is the very nature of adventure travel and we expect our clients to be prepared for delays and slight alterations in our programmed events.

 

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