Uruguay, a little David of a country between the Goliaths of Argentina and Brazil. Except in the famous story, David beats the odds and triumphs over Goliath, but that’s besides the point. This small and largely empty nation of around 4 million people (and 12 million cows, more on that later) was something of a stop off for us, but a worthy one. We weren’t there long enough to give a full destination guide, but here are a few pointers.
- If you go to Uruguay, you will go to Montevideo, as nearly one third of Uruguayans live there. Despite its size, there really isn’t that much to do in the city, a couple of days will more than suffice. A walking tour is a nice option to make sure you don’t miss anything.
- Uruguay is, to put it simply, is bloody expensive. Despite similar soil and growing conditions to their neighbours, Uruguay grows very little of its own food, aside from the aforementioned cows, of course. Consequently, they import a lot, and they do so expensively. Expect food and drink to cost you double what it would in Argentina or Brazil.
- Further to the outrageous costs, the secondary money problem you will have in Uruguay is actually getting hold of some bloody cash. ATMs in the country are oddly picky, often empty and, when they actually work, annoyingly expensive. Some don’t like Mastercards, some don’t like Visas, and some just plain don’t like you. I had the most success with the BBVA bank ATMs, but they charge you US$5 a go, so get out all the cash you need in as few transactions as possible. Oddly, I didn’t have a problem paying by card in any of the shops.
- Third and final mention of cows, I promise. Beef is the national cuisine of Uruguay. Everything is beef, and there are a million different cuts and they are as confusing as they are delicious. There is a cool guide to the various cuts here this is an Argentine page but it’s the same kind of deal. Asado – basically barbecue – is a big deal here, so go to the Mercado Publico in Montevideo to check out some of the best.
- Coming soon to a supermarket near you – Uruguayan wine. The world knows about Argentine wine but Uruguay is yet to get in on the action. It is widely available in the country, and thankfully it is very cheap and very tasty.
- Your next stop in Uruguay is likely to be Sacramento del Colonia, or plain old Colonia for short. This lovely little town is one of the oldest in Uruguay, and consists of lots of lovely painted houses, cobbled streets, loads of little artsy, crafty shops and restaurants and bars. It is extremely touristy but very pleasant, and the sunset over the Rio de la Plata is quite spectacular. It’s probably worth a few days just to chill here.
- Getting around Uruguay usually involves bus journeys. The bus network is pretty good, and not as expensive as other things in the country would suggest. Which is a relief.
- From Colonia, it is easy to get to and from Buenos Aires via the Buqebus ferry. It takes about an hour and a half and you can pre-book online but you only really need to buy a day in advance. Take note, your ticket will say to arrive 2 hours before. THIS IS NOT NECESSARY. An hour is more than enough, treat yourself to a lie-in.