It’s an adage that applies to most everything.
And the cost of living in Uruguay is no exception.
In 2006, Uruguay was among the least expensive countries in Latin America.
But these days, that’s no longer the case.
So, if you’re looking for rock-bottom living prices, Uruguay is probably not for you.
However, if you’re search is more about good value for your money, Uruguay may still be your place.
That’s because the little country of Uruguay offers a big choice of lifestyle options.
Want to get outside for a little exercise? In Uruguay, choose among golf, tennis, or a long walk on the coastal promenade, known as the rambla.
Feel like an evening of entertainment? Your options in Uruguay include going to the movies, street tango, a variety of live club music, or the ballet.
What about a day trip or weekend getaway? In Uruguay, you can select from a variety of destinations. Visit unique beach towns in the summer, hot spring resorts in the winter, and esteemed wineries any time of year.
And while Uruguay isn’t the cheapest place to live in Latin America, it still offers some significant ways to save on your living costs. For example, with the well-organized bus system and plentiful taxis, most people get by fine without owning a car. And the affordable healthcare plans are a big plus, especially if you’re from the U.S.
Then, read on.
Uruguay is a little smaller than Washington State. It’s located on the east coast of South America between Brazil and Argentina.
The total population of Uruguay is about 3.5 million. About half the population lives in and near Montevideo, the capital city.
The country’s biggest industry is agriculture, which includes cattle and a variety of plant crops. Another big industry is tourism. Uruguay’s beaches attract vacationers from all over the region and the world.
Uruguay is often described as socially stable. All citizens have access to affordable healthcare. Education through university is just about free. And workers receive many benefits, including a pension and 20 days per year of paid vacation.
Three Areas of Montevideo Popular with Expats
• Montevideo’s Pocitos area: Modern and convenient apartment living
• Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja and Centro: Apartment living in the city’s historic area
• Montevideo’s Cordón neighborhood: Apartment living in a revitalized area
Montevideo’s Pocitos area: Modern and convenient apartment living
Montevideo is made up of 62 well-defined neighborhoods. What people call the Pocitos area includes the Poctios neighborhood, the adjoining Punta Carretas neighborhood, and the western portion of the Buceo neighborhood. Altogether, the Pocitos area is about two square miles in size.
In the Poctios area you find two shopping malls, a nice sand beach, and more than 100 restaurants. It’s popular with Uruguayan established professionals, corporate representatives, embassy workers, and expats.
Because of its popularity, apartments in the Pocitos area tend to be more expensive than other areas of Montevideo. So, some expats make a trade off: choosing to live in a smaller apartment to afford the conveniences of this upscale community.
Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja and Centro: Apartment living in the city’s historic area
Ciudad Veija (Old City) and Centro are the oldest Montevideo neighborhoods. It’s where you find the city’s early architecture, the city’s original plazas, and the most museums and galleries. In these neighborhoods, you also find many unique shops and restaurants, the city’s main live-performance theaters, and the financial district.
You can usually get more apartment for your money in Ciudad Veija and Centro than in the Pocitos area. In these neighborhoods, you find apartments in older historic buildings, early-modern era buildings, and new buildings.
Montevideo’s Cordón neighborhood: Apartment living in a revitalized area
Between the Pocitos area and Centro is a neighborhood called Cordón. It’s where you find the main offices and several departments of the State University. And it’s also close to the city’s largest hospital and medical facilities.
Six years ago, you didn’t find a lot to do in Cordón in the evenings. But starting in 2017, that changed when the southern part of Cordón blossomed with trendsetting cafes, nightclubs, and specialty shops.
It’s an area gaining traction with both young Uruguayan professionals and expats. Architecture ranges from early-modern buildings to brand new buildings.
Cordón is a community that is both centrally located and up-and-coming, where you can get more apartment for your money than in Pocitos.
Many English-speakers who move to Uruguay start out in Montevideo, where you find bilingual residency services and Spanish language schools.
In Montevideo, you find several shopping malls and modern supermarkets. You’ll also find a variety of small neighborhood businesses, such as produce stands, butchers, bakeries, cafes, and hardware stores.
Another place to shop is the ferias (like farmer’s markets). Ferias set up once or twice a week in most Montevideo neighborhoods, including neighborhoods in the Pocitos area. It’s where you get the best buy on fresh produce and other whole foods.
Once you become a regular in local stores and feria stalls, your shopping experience will likely include a warm greeting and personalized attention.
Transportation Around Town
Most expats in Montevideo get by fine without a car. The bus system is reliable. And it’s usually a simple matter to get a taxi.
To see a doctor, it’s a three-mile bus or taxi ride from Pocitos to most of the major hospitals and clinics.
Transportation out of Town
Montevideo’s main bus terminal is called Tres Cruces. Here, buses go and come from destinations throughout the country. Most city-to-city buses in Uruguay are clean and modern with large luggage bays, reclining seats, air conditioning, and WiFi.
To give you an idea about the rates, a two-hour bus ride from Montevideo to Punta del Este, Uruguay’s most visited beach resort, costs less than $10. The six-hour ride to Salto, near the hot spring resorts, is less than $32 each way.
Sample Cost of Living Budget
How much does it cost to live in Uruguay? It depends on a number of factors, such as where you live, your lifestyle, and the performance of the dollar. But to give you an idea, here’s a sample budget for two people renting a two-bedroom apartment in Cordón.
|Rent (two-bedroom apartment in Cordón)||$700|
|HOA fees (common building expenses)||$125|
|Transportation (taxis, buses etc.)||$140|
|Gas (for cooking)||$5|
|Electricity (assumes use of AC and heat)||$160|
|Water||$16 (may be included in HOA)|
|Internet (packaged with phone)||$36|
|Cell phone (two basic cell phone plans)||$48|
|Healthcare (two basic healthcare plans)||$120|
|Food and home supplies||$800|
Note: With other costs, such as gifts, clothing, charity, and travel, many expats spend around $3,000 per month.
Most Uruguayans are descendants of Italian and Spanish immigrants. And in the European tradition, most Uruguayans are accustomed to smaller living spaces than what is typical in the US and Canada. Many one-bedroom apartments in Montevideo are around 500 square feet, with many two-bedroom places between 650 and 700 square feet.
If you decide Uruguay makes sense for a real estate investment, and buy an apartment instead of rent, your monthly living costs will be less.
While you find a variety of healthcare options in Uruguay, the most popular and affordable option is a hospital membership plan called a mutualista.
As a mutualista member, you go to your hospital or one of its satellite clinics for all your care. It covers your doctor visits, tests, treatments, surgeries, emergencies, and hospital stays. Besides your monthly payment (often less than $60) your only cost is a small copayment for each visit or test. Many mutualistas also provide discounts for medications.
The cost of electricity can vary a lot depending on the efficiency of your heating or air conditioning unit, how you use it, and the size of your apartment. Because of this, actual costs can range from significantly less to significantly more than the sample budget estimate.
For example, my electrical costs are much less than the budget estimate. I currently live in a 45-square-meter apartment in Montevideo and am careful with energy. In the summer, I’ll wear shorts and open windows to create a cross draft. In winter, I dress warmly. I only use heating and air conditioning when it’s uncomfortably cold or uncomfortably hot.
However, others with larger homes (for example, 1,400-plus square feet), with electric in-floor heating systems, that set a thermostat to keep an even temperature, will likely pay significantly more than the budget estimate during the winter months.
The internet plan listed on the sample budget is for unlimited use over a fiber optic line with an approximate download speed of 60 Mbps and upload speed of 10 Mbps. The service includes an incoming phone line with phone number.
What About Living in a Rural Area?
People living in rural areas of Uruguay often pay less for rent, groceries, and other household items. However, they’ll likely have the additional expense of a car or truck. So the monthly cost of living in a rural area often comes out to around the same as living in Montevideo.
What About Other Areas of Uruguay?
Other places in Uruguay popular with English-speaking expats include Carrasco, Punta del Este, Atlántida, and Piriápolis.
On the eastern edge of Montevideo is the neighborhood of Carrasco. And further east, outside the city limit, gated private communities, such as La Tahona.
These areas, popular with successful professionals, business people, and embassy workers, are characterized by large single-family homes, elite sports clubs, and top-flight private schools. The cost of living is more than Pocitos, with many household budgets north of $100,000 per year.
Another area popular with expats is Punta del Este, Uruguay’s largest beach resort city. It’s a well-developed beach resort with both single-family homes and residential towers. Most of the homes are summer places. However, a growing number of both expats and Uruguayans live here full time.
Punta del Este is famous for many things, being inexpensive isn’t one of them. Groceries and home supplies can cost more than anywhere else in Uruguay.
While Punta del Este is on the expensive side, you can live next to Punta del Este in the middle-class city of Maldonado for a lot less money—and still be close to the beaches and atmosphere of Punta del Este.
Living in Maldonado’s centro, you’re close to good mutualistas for healthcare, and a weekly street market with the freshest foods at the best prices. In Maldonado’s centro, you also find good reliable bus service around Maldonado and back-and-forth to Punta del Este.
Two additional areas popular with expats include Atlántida and Piriápolis. Both are peaceful coastal towns in areas of natural beauty. Atlántida, 28 miles east of Montevideo, is known for its many trees. Piriápolis, 25 miles west of Punta del Este, is known for its hills and boat harbor.
Like Punta, many of the homes are summer places—though smaller and more modest. And like Punta, more expats and Uruguayans come to live in these communities full time.
In both Atlántida and Piriápolis, you can find both apartments and single-family homes to rent for around $700 per month. It’s a low-key lifestyle with the potential to cost less than Pocitos. However, it usually ends up costing about the same because most expats in these smaller communities own a car to get around.
Consider Budgeting for Spanish lessons
One expense not included in the sample budget you may want to consider is Spanish lessons. Learning some basic Spanish helps you get by, shows respect, and increases your social opportunities.
To get off to a good start in Uruguay, you might begin with a home course before you make the move. Then, when you arrive in Uruguay, take a month or two of intensive lessons at one of Montevideo’s Spanish language schools.
So, there you have it. The cost of living isn’t as low in Uruguay as it used to be. However, many find the lifestyle opportunities, combined with affordable health care, add up to a value that’s just the ticket.