The Oriental Republic of Uruguay (República Oriental del Uruguay) is a country in South America and it is one of the most awesome countries ever.
More than half of Uruguay's population is concentrated in the capital of Montevideo, meaning a very low population density in the country's interior. In the Uruguayan countryside you will doubtlessly encounter some of the most laid back, friendly folks you could imagine. Humble, generous and curious about anyone passing through, it is the people rather than the geography that make travel memorable in this overlooked corner of the continent. The tranquility of the countryside and the openness of the people will leave an impression on any traveler. Uruguay is a relatively small country, so traveling from the top Northern city to Montevideo would not take much time. From Rivera (a border town with Brazil) to Montevideo it is about 520 km.
If not hitchhiking, you can use the extensive bus network. The main terminal for all directions in Uruguay is Tres Cruces in Montevideo. If you go east (Punta del Este, Rocha departamento), your best bet is COT. Fares vary per season, but currently are about 10 USD (January 2015) for a transfer from Montevideo to Punta del Este, including Free WiFi on their buses. During high season, make sure to make reservations in advance, or wait longer until there's a bus with free seats available.
Montevideo is the only city in the country where it's not recommended to sleep on the street, in the rest of the country you can sleep rough without a care. In the countryside, when camping out or walking through fields, be aware of (toxic) snakes. Football stadiums are recommended. Another option in the countryside is to do a visit to the local police office. They most likely might be bored and in many cases invite you for dinner and to sleep in the station, or to put your tent nearby.
The Uruguayan government currently provides a refund of VAT up to 22% to various tourist services such as dining, events, hotels and so on to visitors who pay with their respective foreign credit- or debit cards. (January 2014).
Don't forget to try alfajores, a cookie-ish delicacy. And to maximize your experience, you'll need to drink a lot of mate. For Uruguayans, it is practically a religion. Everyone carries a thermos and a mate gourd pretty much everywhere they go. Me convidas con un mate? is a good way to start a conversation and make a new friend.
Chivitos is also an excellent choice in Uruguayan food. More a fast food, it is a huge flattened sandwich, that consists of 3 to 4 kinds of vegetables with a huge piece of meat. In the countryside, the chivitos will cost around 100-130$, and in Montevideo or more touristic places, it can range from 170 to 400$ (Dec 2013).
Like in Argentina, Uruguay is also known for their traditional barbecues called asado. Especially in towns like Rivera or Tacuarembó, barbecues starts from 6 pm and meanwhile everybody drinks, sings and dances until the meat is gone, which will be already 10 pm. Expect to eat huge amounts of meat, especially in towns. One of their favorites is probably the sausage that has cheese inside it. A delicious treat ! Again, like in Argentina, the dulce de leche is very widely known.
Vegetarians can find pasta about anywhere for 5 US$ in restaurants, as well as lots of fruits. The water for the most part is safe to drink.
Dumpster diving is a dream in Uruguay, except in the big cities (read more). Also, you can always ask for left overs, outside of Montevideo it works quite well.
You can buy a ANTEL prepaid SIM card for about 150$ (price not confirmed) at any kiosk in the country, already charged with some cash to make calls. Recommended for internet access (3G) with the prepaid card is the BAM (Banda Ancha Móvil sin contrato) service, which lets you charge your SIM with e.g. 1.152 GB for a 3 month period for about 300$ by simply sending an SMS to the given number. Connectivity is great along the coast, in the deep countryside however, it might vary.
Uruguay has very liberal visa policy.
Why is Uruguay awesome
- President of Uruguay, José Mujica, has been described as "the world's 'humblest' president", due to his austere lifestyle and his donation of around 90 percent of his $12,000 (£7,500) monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. He might also give a lift for a hitchhiker
- Production, sale and consumption of cannabis is legalised.
- Hitchhiking works great.
- The Economist named Uruguay "country of the year" in 2013.
- Uruguay has a warm temperate climate with almost unknown freezing temperatures.