The second-smallest country in South America, Uruguay borders Argentina, Brazil and the South Atlantic Ocean. Expats moving to Uruguay will discover a country blessed with soft rolling plains and low hills, and beautiful coastal areas made up of fertile lowlands. The country has a population of just under 3.5 million, most of whom live in the capital, Montevideo.

Being a high-income country, with low rates of poverty, Uruguay doesn't experience some of the serious economic inequalities of its neighbouring Latin American countries. The country's economy has also shown significant growth in recent years, which has increased job opportunities for both locals and expats. 

Living in Uruguay as an expat

Although Spanish is the official national language of the country, Uruguayan Spanish has quite a few differences owing to the considerable influence of Italian immigrants over the years. Even expats who are able to speak Spanish may take a while to adjust to the dialect. Also, though most Uruguayans are able to understand English, they may not necessarily speak it fluently. We therefore recommend that expats attempt to learn at least some Spanish, particularly if planning to do business in Uruguay.

While some expats are able to secure work in Montevideo’s agricultural, construction and aviation industries, most expats working in Uruguay are employed in the diplomatic or financial services. Coastal towns such as Punta del Este also offer employment opportunities in the services and tourism sectors, and a number of expats also move to Uruguay to teach English.

Despite ranking number one in South America in the 2020 Global Peace Index, street crimes are still common in Uruguay, particularly in Montevideo. That said, as long as expats keep a watchful eye on their valuables when walking or when using public transport, they should be just fine.

Healthcare in Uruguay is of a high standard and reported to be among the best in Latin America. Everyone is entitled to medical care via the national healthcare system, including foreigners, but given the fact that private hospitals in Uruguay offer a highly affordable private hospital plan, known as a mutualista, most expats go this route.

Expat families and children

Uruguay has a good education system, with public schools offering free education from kindergarten to tertiary level. School is only compulsory for students aged six to 11, and all classes are taught in Spanish. Expats generally prefer to send their children to one of a number of international schools, which are predominantly situated in Montevideo. 

The reasonable cost of living, favourable tax laws, affordable and good healthcare, and high quality of life have attracted many European and North American expats to Uruguay, who are particularly drawn to the Punta del Este and Costa de Oro coasts. Expats who make an effort to learn the language and build a life in Uruguay will find a beautiful and hospitable country to call home.

Fast facts

Capital city: Montevideo

Neighbouring countries: Argentina is one of the two countries that border Uruguay and is situated west of the country. Brazil borders Uruguay to the north and the east of the country. 

Geography: Uruguay is a small country with a warm, temperate climate. The terrain mainly consists of plains and rolling hills with fertile farmland along the South Atlantic coastline.

Political system: Presidential republic

Major religions: Christianity (Catholicism)

Main language: Spanish

Money: The currency of Uruguay is the Uruguayan Peso (UYU). One peso is divided into 100 centésimos.

Time: GMT-3 

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz 

Internet domain: .uy

International dialling code: +598

Emergency contacts: 911

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road.