The cost of travel in Uruguay is about 20% higher than in Argentina, though still lower than Brazil.
In the first half of the 20th century, Uruguay was known as the “Switzerland of South America.”
In the 21st century, its reputation as a summer vacation destination for the continent's elite only builds on that reputation.
However, the country's small size and efficient bus system allow even the stingiest travelers a chance to discover the country within a few days.
The Uruguayan Peso. In July 2019, the exchange rate hovered around: 35 pesos = 1 US Dollar
It's best to view Uruguay as a cash-based economy and act accordingly. If tour companies or restaurants do take plastic, it's likely to be with a noticeable surcharge.
Most ATMs accept international debit and credit cards, with a maximum withdrawal of 5,000 pesos per transaction.
If you have a higher daily withdrawal limit through your bank, you can make multiple withdrawals.
Cost of Accommodation
Hostels in Uruguay are on par with the USA, Australia, or Europe.
Rates can easily double or triple per night in the Summer season (late December through February) when demand is highest.
Breakfast is often included in the price of a bed, though what's on offer will vary.
Typically, you can expect bread (w/jam, bread, dulce de leche), yogurt, milk and cereal, and juice, coffee, and tea.
As far as standard hostel breakfasts go, it's on the better end of the spectrum.
- Hostel dorm beds: $10 – $20 (350-700 Pesos) in the low season, $20 – $30+ (700 to 1,000+ Pesos) in the high season.
- Hostel private rooms: Way too expensive, as you will need to pay for the empty beds in the dorm — unless there are single bedrooms available.
- Budget hotel room: $40+ (1,500+ Pesos)
Cost of Apartments
If you want to stay for a few weeks or more, it'll make sense to rent an apartment.
If you intend to visit during the Summer season, you'll have to book two to three months earlier. Otherwise, it'll be tough to find something once you arrive.
- 1-bedroom apartment in Pocitos, Montevideo: $750+
- 1-bed apartment in Punta del Este (low season): $300+
Hostels offer reliable broadband internet with Wi-Fi. If you can afford it, Uruguay would make a terrific summer spot for operating a location independent business.
Cost of Food
Food in Uruguay is not cheap, which leads many backpackers to cook for themselves to save money.
During my visit to the country in 2012, I spent about $15 (528 UYU) per restaurant meal (including tip).
These were regular restaurants, nothing fancy. Expect to pay more if you want a river/ocean view, or a more sophisticated atmosphere.
- $27 (951 UYU) – Steak lunch at Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo
- $25 (880 UYU) – Lunch w/river view at Bar Montevideo on Pocitos Beach in Montevideo
- $12 – 15 (423-528 UYU) – Lunch or dinner in Punta del Diablo
- $10 (350 UYU) – Eight small squares of pizza w/bottled water in Montevideo
- $8 (282 UYU) – Chivito (steak sandwich)
Cost of Drinking / Going Out
Partying in Uruguay isn't cheap either. Liter bottles are the norm and perfect for sharing.
Restaurants and Bars
- A standard serving of Chopp (a domestic beer): $3 (105 UYU)
- 1-liter bottle: $5 (175 UYU)
Cost of Transportation
Uruguay's coastal cities, beaches, and inland towns are all connected by an extensive network of bus routes.
The distances are short, and the fares are closer to what you'd pay in Ecuador than Argentina.
Plus, the inter-city buses are modern, clean, and comfortable. Most feature reliable Wi-Fi.
Sample Taxi Fares (Montevideo, metered)
- Montevideo, between the old city and Pocitos: $9 (315 UYU)
- Montevideo, between Tres Cruces bus terminal and old city: $7 (245 UYU)
Sample Bus Fares
- Montevideo city buses: $0.50 (17.5 UYU)
- Montevideo to Punta del Este (Copsa Este): $10 (350 UYU)
- Punta del Este to Castillos (COT, en route to Cabo Polonio): $10 (350 UYU)
- Punta del Diablo to Colonia: $30 (1,050 UYU)
Ferries from Buenos Aires
- 1-way ticket w/Buquebus (booked online, two days in advance): $55 (1,937 UYU)
Uruguay's small size means there's little demand for domestic flights.
Montevideo boasts a modern international airport. However, most budget travelers will arrive in Uruguay via bus from Brazil or ferry from Buenos Aires.
Cost of Activities & Attractions
There are plenty of things to do in Uruguay. However, Uruguay is predominantly a Summer beach destination, so the most popular activity is always free.
- 2-hour kiteboarding lesson in Punta del Diablo: $15 (528 UYU)
- Steak lunch at Mercado del Puerto: $25 (880 UYU)
- Staying at a Gaucho Ranch: $35 (1,232 UYU) per night (expect to pay a little more for a day trip)
- 4 hours of horseback riding in Punta del Diablo: $40 (1,408 UYU)
Overall Cost of Travel in Uruguay
Despite Uruguay's small size, it's one of the more expensive countries to visit in South America. But, this isn't a reason to skip it altogether.
On the contrary, because it's so small, you can quickly get a feel for the country after just three to four days.
The best ways to save money are to visit outside of the peak Summer season (late December to February).
March and April are the shoulder season, so it'll be easier to find accommodation, yet there will still be warm weather and people around.
Cooking for yourself is another way to save, as is cutting back on alcohol and partying.
Daily Travel Budget: $50+