Hills and ridges of mountains interchanging with a vast fluvial network enhance the beauty of its landscape. Uruguay’s seaboard, formed by La Plata River and the Atlantic Ocean, presents an endless strip of white and soft sand beaches.
On the south, the landscape is similar to the Argentinian pampas and there are quite undulated plains and little hills. The most important ones are those that belong to Haedo and Grande “cuchilla”. Its highest hill is Cathedral which stands 514 m (1.686 ft) over the sea level.
Peso Uruguayo (UYU; symbol $U) = 100 centésimos. Notes are in the denominations of $U2,000, 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50 and 20. Coins are in denominations of $U 50, 10, 5, 2 and 1.
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Diners Club are the most commonly used credit cards. All are widely accepted in major tourist and business destinations including Montevideo, Punta del Este and Colonia del Sacramento, but in rural areas, it's better to carry cash as many restaurants, shops etc do not accept credit cards.
ATM: ATMs marked with the green Banred or blue Redbrou logo, are reliable and available in all cities, as well as some smaller towns. These serve all major international banking networks, including Cirrus, Visa, MasterCard and Maestro.
Traveller’s cheques: 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 Euros or Sterling.
Currency exchange: 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.
The official language of Uruguay is Spanish. Along the northern border with Brazil, many residents also speak a hybrid of Spanish and Portuguese known as Portuñol. English is widely spoken in tourist resorts.
The country observes Uruguay Time (UYT) as standard time, which is 3 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). When DST is in force, clocks are turned forward one hour to Uruguay Summer Time (UYST), which is 2 hours behind UTC.
Electricity power is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. You can find two types of plugs: 3 large flat prongs or 2 parallel prongs.
Shops open from 9:00 to 19:00 Monday – Friday and from 9:00 to 14:30 on Saturdays.
Banks open from 13:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday. Civil service offices usually open from 10:00 to 16:00, but this may vary depending on the institution.
FOOD AND DRINK
The majority of Uruguayan restaurants are parrilladas (grill-rooms). Italian food also appears on many menus, and seafood eateries abound along the Atlantic coast. Quality of both meat and seafood is generally excellent. Table service is usual in restaurants. Cafés or bars have either table and/or counter service.
• 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).
• Chajá (ball-shaped sponge cake filled with cream and jam).
Tipping: 10% when no service charge is added.
Regional 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 beverages are caña, grappa and locally distilled whisky and gin.
Gifts: Most supermarkets have a small selection of bottles of Uruguayan wine in wooden presentation cases that should survive the trip home in your luggage (starting at about USD 15). For locally made chocolates and sweets, including candied orange peel, try Esencia Uruguay (Sarandí and Zabala street, Old Town). Uruguayans often encourage visitors to take home a jar of their supreme caramel spread, dulce de leche.
Crafts: Best option for its sheer variety is the Mercado de los Artesanos on Plaza Libertad, a cooperative with many stalls. We also recommend La Pasionaria on Reconquista street and Juan Carlos Gómez in the Old Town, which has a hand-picked selection of excellent handicrafts, particularly ceramics.