Montevideo, Uruguay Report of what it's like to live there - 03/11/14
Personal Experiences from Montevideo, Uruguay
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is our third posting; we did two years in Lima, Peru and two years in Kinshasa, DRC.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Arizona. 24 hours +/-. American Airlines to Miami, then routed to AZ. AA has one flight to and from daily. It is the only American flagged carrier here so choices are limited. Flight to and from is always full or over-sold, older aircrafts are being used, and the flight has a 'history' of delays leaving from Miami. You can go to Rio or Buenos Aires and get on United or Delta for flights somewhere other than Miami.
3. How long have you lived here?
Have been here 15 months.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Trailing spouse of U.S. government employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Nice apartments for those with school age kids; houses for families and higher ranking employees. Houses are in the suburbs near the schools. 10 minute drive and 25 minutes from the houses.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Not bad choices, there are a few big chain stores that have everything you need. Or there is a little store on just about every corner. Every store delivers. You will find there are farmer's markets all over the city on different days. Some are just farmer's markets and some have arts/crafts, household needs, clothes, etc. Cost on everything is high and the cost of living allowance doesn't make up the difference.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Anything you can't live without - spices, salsa, liquor, paper products, sports equipment, clothes. Remember the high cost of things here because of the high import tax.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's and Burger King are the American fast food choices. Nothing here is really fast food. There are a lot of good places to eat here, but beef is the main thing. You can find other stuff, but you need to just look around. Local food is very bland, even the salt and pepper seem a bit bland.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
There is the yearly hatch of moths and after it rains, there will be mosquito hatching. But, over all, it's not bad at all.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch. Not the best delivery record, a few to several days will go by without mail coming in. For whatever reason, it is not regularly loaded onto the daily flight from Miami.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Yes, but can be expensive because of the requirements of the government - paid leave, mandatory pay raises, contributions into medical fund, etc.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I am sure there are facilities, I don't use them and cannot speak about them. The Embassy has one in the basement. A walk on the Rambla is a very nice thing.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Visa seems to be the card of choice, followed by MasterCard. We have not had any problems using credit or debit cards. But, there is a 22% VAT added to everything. The card company may refunded that amount, our Visa card does.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
We attend the local church and service is in Spanish.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more, the better. But, a lot of the local people speak some English. It is taught in the public schools.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, yes, yes. None of the public transportation is equipped to assist - taxi or bus. Some of the newer buildings might have some work done to assist. The older buildings, none to little. Sidewalks are terrible - if there are sidewalks. The Rambla and the newer areas are the exception.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes and yes. There is a very limited train service but buses go everywhere in the country and are affordable. Taxis are small and cramped (added security stuff). There is only one taxi company that will bring you into town from the airport and is a bit expensive. Going to the airport, you can take a bus or taxi.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Small and something you don't mind getting bumped. What parking is here is terrible - small and tight and hard to get into. Parking in our apartment is a 6-8 point turn when the other spaces are taken up. Any car will do, the roads are in pretty good shape, it is the drivers that cause the problems. If you bring a car with you and choose to sale it here, you can get what you paid for it. Again, a very high import tax is placed on cars bought here. I have never heard of a car-jacking here, just some smash and grabs. Fuel prices at any gas station is set by the government.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, cost about US$100/month. It has been ok but expect to not have service for some unknown reason for short periods of time. Internet and phone service is a government monopoly and they are installing fiber-optics slowly, but surely.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Embassy provides phones to employees and a SIM card to EFM. Seems like all the locals have at least two phones. You can also get a SIM from any of the service providers
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Not that I am aware of. They like their pets here and there is plenty of pet care available. Haven't seen this many professionals dog walkers since San Francisco. But, there is a stray dog problem here, as there is in most cities. Depending where you are, the sidewalks can full of dog crap. A lot of the parks or green areas have been taken over by the dog walkers to run the dogs. Some of the areas are just nasty.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
No. Unless you bring something with you - telecommute, work for an international company, speak Spanish like a local. Then, there is the usual work permit issues, as is everywhere.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Yes, of course. There is always the chance to donate your time, money and labor.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Usual business dress code at work, more relaxed in public. Much more relaxed around the Rambla.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, Uruguay is a left leaning country. Crimes done by kids are usually not charged or they are released soon leading to an increase in purse grabs, smash and grabs from cars (usually a car with a single woman in it), some muggings, and drug related crimes. Uruguay has just recently made marijuana use legal. There are hopes that doing so will decrease the amount of crime.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No, not really. Some of the usual stuff; hay fever, colds, flu and the like. Very good medical care at many clinics or hospitals.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Very good. There are special articles about how clean the air is here because of the constant breeze from the ocean or river. There is not much industry here to pollute, but there is enough. Uruguay is a rural country with Montevideo being the largest city.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winters are cool; summers are very warm to hot. There are seasonal rains during the summer months; this year has had more rain than usual.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, soccer is king! Most of the golf courses have some kind of programs to start the kids in golf.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Fair sized and morale seems to be good. There are a lot of worse places to be posted. Generally, everyone is pretty happy. But, having said that, there is always someone who is just not going to be happy about anything.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Asado is the thing. A lot of the social life is based around an all day asado. But, there are movies, plays, dancing (Tango), etc. Uruguay has the longest Carnival season in the world. Dinners start late, most places don't open until 8:30PM or later.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes for all. Lots of things to do to keep everyone as busy as they wish to be. Sports, the beach, movies, travel, etc.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Uruguay has made legal civil union for gay/lesbian. But, this is a very Catholic country.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not as much as I would have expected. But, the history of the country is that the local population was assimilated into the Spanish, British, Italian people has they took over the country.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Uruguay is a peaceful and laid-back country. There is a lot of history that can be searched out. But the neighboring countries get all the attention - Brazil and Argentina.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Explore, travel, wine tours, search out something new and different. Uruguay is a small country and you can do day drives everywhere.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Stuff for the asado, mate, antiques, gaucho related things. There really isn't much local arts and craft, some, just not a lot.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Very mild, slow paced (driving is another subject), beach loving, asado loving, friendly people, wine tours, stays on working ranches, trips to Buenos Aires, Punta del Este.
Save money? You really have to watch it; this is an expensive place to live: gas prices are double that of prices in the States, most things are imported and a very high import tax is added. Cars are priced out of sight here.
10. Can you save money?
You can and if you try. But, this is always a tough answer. A lot depends on how much you are earning - one income or two, kids or no kids, travel a lot or not, eat out a lot or not.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
With the amount of information on the internet, we were pretty aware of what we were getting into. Plus, the Embassy was great at keeping us informed.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes - after we started finding out where things were and how things were done.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Coldest winter stuff, expectations of Latin America (Uruguay is the Switzerland of South America).
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and sun protection, the sun here is just brutal (there is a hole in the ozone layer over the country). Patience, advanced driving skills, taste for good wine.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Internet will get you everything you need.
7. Do you have any other comments?
Any post will be what you make of it. We have enjoyed it very much and would come back. There is a small group of expats who have retired here for the lifestyle.