Relocating to Uruguay?

Its no secret that survivalism, disguised under its more politically correct term “preparedness” is in vogue these days. Its been several years now since wilderness survival TV shows have caught the attention of the audience, combining entertainment with all important survival information such as how to properly drink elephant urine (or your own for that matter) and how to pretend to jump into a category 5 white water river, pretending to do it using your pants alone when you actually have a flotation device hidden beneath. Even something like pretending to sleep outdoors during extreme cold when the truth is that both survival expert and crew spend the night at the Holiday Inn has caused the death of people already. As the “end of the world” market grows, articles recommending one location or another without any logic to it are more and more common.
Funny enough, Uruguay is rarely mentioned or recommended. While 100% mainland dependant islands or 3rd world hell holes seem to be the favorite destination if SHTF for most freelance writers, this little gem goes unnoticed by many couch commandos. I already knew about Uruguay, have traveled there before an that’s why in my book I recommended it as the best alternative for relocation in South America. Chile is somewhat similar in terms of social stability but its more expensive, and lets not forget the little issue about being steadily sinking into the Pacific.
Last week I traveled to Colonia del Sacramento. I’ve never been there before and I liked it even more than Montevideo and Punta del Este, almost an ideal location for a survivalist.
What does Uruguay have in its favor?
Location is very much ideal if you want to be away from the main world powers. Usually this would be more of a disadvantage, but if you’re worried about powerful countries nuking each other, this is preferred. At the same its just an hour away from Buenos Aires in boat. I took the slower boat from Buenos Aires, the one that takes 3 hours, but the trip is very enjoyable across the River Plate. The Buquebus boat has a bar inside and a shop, kids have a good time in it. Strategically speaking, you’re still 1 hour away from Buenos Aires, the 7th largest city in the planet, and while crime is a problem here as well as every other problem Argentina has, its close enough to take advantage of the larger metropolis in case you need to buy items that are harder to find (or just more expensive) back in Uruguay. At the same time, river Plate being the widest river in the planet creates the perfect natural barrier. Even during colonial times, the rocky shallow shores of Colonia made it hard for invading forces. Buenos Aires can go to hell in a basket, none of that will reach Colonia.
Regarding supplies, ebay makes it easy to buy just about anything you need in terms of specialized gear.
Uruguay has a low population, 3.5 million inhabitants for its 68,037 sq mile territory. The people are 90% white of European ancestry, mostly Catholic, similar to Argentina.
Gun Laws. While nothing like the ones in USA, they are better than in most other South American countries. You need a gun license to purchase guns up to 9mm, and a collectors one for larger calibers. Like in Argentina, detachable mag fed rifles and carbines in calibers other than 22LR are impossible to get. But its not hard to get a Glock 9mm, lever action rifles, pump shotguns and bolt action rifles. Not perfect but you can still be well armed for 90% of the self defense needs. A carry permit is a bit harder but available for the law abiding citizen. Wish Argentina had similar carry permits. 
Water is more than plentiful. The river Plate and the other rivers make it ideal in terms of water availability.
Regarding food, Land is flat and fertile, Uruguay produces more than enough food. Agricultural activity is 10% of the country’s GDP, putting it in line with countries like Brazil and Canada, but with a laughable amount of population in comparison. Uruguay will be exporting 400.000 tons of beef in 2011.
What does all this mean? That because of agricultural production, its rivers and sea, food is incredibly plentiful in Uruguay. This is all too important if you expect interruption in the import/export channels.
According to Transparency International, Uruguay is the least corrupt country in South America, along with Chile. This is also very important, specially for foreigners that don’t know the local codes of how corruption works in a specific country. You don’t want to relocate only to be beaten to near death and thrown in a jail. Happens often enough in Latin America, specially in anti-American countries, and Argentina’s government openly promotes leftist politics and Chavez like hatred towards US citizens. Crime in Uruguay is very low, safer than many American cities and an Utopia compared to crime riddled Argentina. 
Probably one of the most attractive things about Uruguay is how cheap it is to live there. Its among the top 10 cheapest countries to live in (10th posittion) , and according to International Living, it’s the best because of its life quality. “A first world country in Latin America” according to them.  Sure there’s cheaper, but do you want to live in Narau y Turkmenistán? In Uruguay you could even send your kids to a good bilingual school so they can one day go back to US and study in an American University if you wish so… or rent them an apartment in Buenos Aires across the river and send the to the public university almost for free… You simply have those options in Uruguay, and that’s terrific.
I liked the small town of Colonia a lot, the views are great the tranquility, the prices in the non-tourist areas. According to my tourist guide in Colonia, an average monthly wage is 300 USD. I found this to be rather low but I’m sure a family can live ok with 1000 USD, and couple could sure live well spending less than that. You’re used to a better lifestyle? You can go as crazy as you want in Uruguay. Punta del Este has beach resorts with homes that cost several million dollars, but you can live well for cheap too. That’s the beauty of it.
Between the ranches, country and beaches there’s lots of fresh air and outdoors activities all across the country.
The one thing I don’t like about Uruguay? Politically, they’ve recently elected a leftist, President “El Pepe” Mujica.
Banking is easy in Uruguay. Considered the Switzerland of Latin America, you can have a numbered account to keep your money safe (or as safe as it can be in the banking system)
Final note, anyone seriously considering visiting Uruguay, and wanting my help, feel free to contact me through email.
Take care guys.


Relocating to Uruguay? — 49 Comments

  1. This is sounding fantastic and I just starting looking into this. How in Heck did this get over looked (fortunately not by Ferfal)?! Yes, my nieghbor is proving to be the smarter man, but why didn't he tell me about? Thanks a bunch, I'll be hot on this tomarrow. A

    Here's how Wikitravel describes immigration, work permits etc:

    "There are numerous English language schools which are looking for native speakers as teachers. They can arrange papers or pay teachers under the table. The pay is not good, but enough to live on in Montevideo. Work permits are not particularly difficult to obtain and Uruguay lets you convert a tourist visa to a work visa without leaving the country. Residency visas without permission to work simply require you prove access to $500 USD a month. Work permits are not particularly hard to get."

  2. I was under the impression that at a minimum a TOFFEL certification was needed to teach English. I've been thinking of getting one.

    It seems like the pay would be very low, the equivalent of making minimum wage, or less, in the U.S.

    I did some research on Uruguay and looked at some of the pictures online. The stereotype I have in my mind is of a photo I saw of a huge gathering of motorcycles (mostly Harley's) in a downtown area, it looked like fun and they looked like a good bunch of people.

    Someone somewhere remarked that Uruguay was a lot like Iowa, only with much milder Winters.

    Just some thoughts from someone who has never been there, but might go someday.

    I wish I could take my stuff with me when I went. Leaving them behind is some type of separation anxiety I suppose.

  3. PS Uruguay appears to be flat to rolling land, with no geographical barriers between her and Brazil or Argentina (although broad Playa River does separate her from Buenos Aires, as Ferfal noted.)

    On the other hand, she does not have oil or mineral deposits that foreign invaders would covet and her military is probably adequate to ensure that any rewards from invasion would be less than the cost.

    Her low-density population is between areas of Argentina and Brazil which are much more densely populated (Buenos Aires, Porto Alegre).

    Goode's Atlas indicates that Uruguay has good fishing areas off the coast and big sheep herds along with grape vineyards on south coast. However, she does not appear to have Argentina's huge maize and wheat areas (to the west of Buenos Aires) and her diet seems to have fewer calories than what's available to the average citizen of Argentina, although protein seems adequate.

    CIA Factbook indicates Uruguay's banking industry took a big hit during Argentina's crisis because lots of Argentine depositors pulled out their money (probably needed to buy food etc in Buenos Aires.)

  4. I keep reading about Uruguay online and it seems like a wonderful place indeed, but…I'm wondering if they're not rather silly about tariffs, given the *really* old cars that seem to be in common use in pictures and in a movie or two I've seen-I'm talking 1920s and 1930s cars in this case. I know that I found an old Sports Illustrated article (from a google search of "old cars in Uruguay") from 1969 that covered this, and the fact that a new (at that time) $3,000 Chevrolet went for closer to $12,000 ($70,000+ in today's money) once all the taxes, tariffs, and government fees were added, in Uruguay. Is this still an issue for cars and other imported goods, or no?

  5. FerFal,
    Have questions about guns as a collector. Can I get in a 30-06 and a 45 ACP,45 Long Colt and is it possible to get in a 223?

      • FerFAL–

        I’ve been looking at Costa Rica, Chile, and Uruguay to escape the police state US.

        You recommend Uruguay over Chile?

        Any chance I can bring my cherished personal protection…an assault rifle? And how about bringing a decent-sized stash of gold and silver coins?

        Thanks. One more note: your book, of which I’ve bought three copies to give to my father and best friend, is excellent. It changed my thinking on survival.

        • Ja! no Michael, no chance of bringing any assoult rifles 🙂 Chile is a the most serious, most stable country in South America. Some would call it a 1st world country, I still think its not one yet, but pretty close. The problem with chile is that there’s still some of the common south American problems such as crime. Not as bad as Argentina but still not very safe, and it also happens to be pretty expensive. To make matters worse, you have the earthquakes which are a huge negative point in my opinion. Now, IF you have the moeny for it, afford the better off places, i some of he less complicated areas in terms of sismic activity, then its one of your best options for relocating to South America.

          • Hi Fernando,

            Just a couple quick questions. There was a comment up above about the cost and type of cars available in Uruguay. Is it really that bad? Do most people have cars? What is public transportation like – especially in the smaller towns? Is it possible/advisable to drive from the US to Uruguay? Are there any precautions one should take before undertaking that trip? I’d want to ship my guns down before I left. Is there a service that will hold the packages for me?


          • Hi Paul, yes its very expesnive, people most get around with very well worn cars,a nd those are still expensive. Public transportation is ok to bad, dont expect much, but most peopel still use it.I dont think you cant get guns shipped, first work out your imigration status before trying to send guns that way. That’s a long trip you have in mind, I’d say too risky and expensive. Better send your car by boat. Check how many cars each of your can send and maybe buy another one to take and sell over there to make some extra bucks.

  6. Ferfal,

    I had read somewhere that rifles were limited to 6.5mm. Is that really the case, or could I get away with a .300 Winchester Magnum bolt action hunting rifle and a .30-30 lever action?

    Is reloading ammunition legal in Uruguay? If not, is there a good selection of hunting cartridges, or are the choices really limited?

    Lastly, you had mentioned that magazine fed rifles were not permitted. Is that only for semi-automatic rifles? If a bolt action or lever action hunting rifle uses a 5 or 10 round detachable magazine, is that ok?

    Thank you for your time,

  7. Hello Ferfal,

    I am thinking about relocating with my husband. He is White and I am Black and a mixture of many other things. Are there racial issues we should be concerned with? He is a teacher and we are both college educated. We do not have to be rich, but we need to live well enough to take care of our small children 1 and 4. Our goal is to be out of American by January of 2014. Any advice or help you could privide would be much appreciated.

    Our other options are Belize and Australia.

    Kindest regards,


    • No doubt, you’ll be far better off in Australia than in Uruguay. Yes, South America in general, there’s significant prejudice. I’m not saying you wont find it elsewhere too but in places like Australia or new Zealand (one of the best standards of living) its less likely, especialy among educated people.
      Good luck to both of you!

      • We are coming for year long a visit in June. We ruled out Australia and Belize and are looking at back at Uruguay. I was thinking about the prejudice issue and being from Indiana I can not imagine being treated any worse. We will be looking at Punta del Este, Montevideo and Salto. The only other option are Paraguay Costa Rica, Venezela,MALTA, Tuscany and Panama.

        • Well, you’ll always be a foreginer unless you reloacte to an expat community. in that case people will tend to be pretty open minded an friednly if you do your part! 😉

        • Hi, my family and I are considering moving to central or south america before the end of next year. I was wondering, if you don’t mind me asking, why you ruled out Belize? I am curious as that is one of the countries that is on our list along with other countries right now such as Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Also, have you moved yet and if so do you mind sharing where to and the reasons why? I’d really appreciate any info!

    • Australia is #2 police state, and New Zealand will be hanging-on with any WWIII, with the incipient China-US build-up in that region.

        • Sorry to deliver the harsh reality of far south America to you, however, you need to know that individuals of African descent are not very welcome south of the Brazilian border. There are exceptions made for lighter skinned Afro-Americans, but in general you will not be viewed in a positive light and will be constantly selected by authorities for questioning.

        • Australia is a police state?!!! What happened to Australia? When did this develop? just past few years? or longer? I used to live there. Sad to hear.

    • Hello Marvina:
      Just reading your 2012 post and considering a move also. Did you end up choosing Uruguay? And, if so, where did you land?
      Hope all is well!

  8. We are considering relocating to Uruguay but would like to visit first and are thinking of doing so the end of March. Is it their fall and what are the temperatures there that time of year? Also, where do you recommend one would want to live that enjoys city life but wants to raise a family in a safe environment with decent schools nearby? Thank you.

    • You’ll be fine with a normal winter jacket, its not that cold. Sounds like you should stay close to montevideo. Careful though, living well wont be as cheap as you might think.

    • We are locating soon. Be sure to look at the area around Laguna del Sauce. It’s close to Punta del Este and Montevideo, but great farm land and if you can find the right land you can have a view across the giant lake and see the Atlantic (sunrise and great sunsets).

  9. Great information, thanks so much. My family is seriously looking to move to Montevideo and I am interested in securing work (would visit first to interview). I speak some Spanish as my mother is from Spain and I am a successful photographer / videographer. Any job related recommendations that I can look into?

    Warm regards and thanks for your advice.



  10. I have a relative living there; I visited Montevideo and Punte del Este last year and it is a great country; most people have small newer cars (like VW Jetta or Gol) and the best value is a diesel pickup truck- gas is somewhat expensive and some unimproved roads are best with higher clearance.

    People are great and warm, but there are very poor areas and little crime. Jobs are hard to come by and wages are low, but quality of life is good and family values are high.

  11. I’m considering leaving the USA and have been looking around… I really like a lot about Thailand, being close to china’s Industrial complex, and the climate especially, but it is impossible to become a citizen. I have no need to ‘live well’ as described by most people. My desire to leave the USA is driven mostly by the insanely stupid building code; I just plain cannot live with myself while complying with it, it’s outrageously effing stupid. but anyway, I’d be happy living in a pair of shipping containers with a deck and outdoor bathroom in between them. Rural. Very rural. Off Grid. What I’ve always wanted, but so overpriced in the USA that it isn’t worth doing. I already like in the USA for less money than you’re describing living in Uraguay for. How cheap could I get by in Uraguay? Visit first? I’d ahve to leave all of my favorite toys behind… Sadface.

    • All items imported to Uruguay are EXPENSIVE. High import tariffs (+/- 60%) and sales tax (22%). Locally produced food is cheap. Restaurants are cheaper than Australia (where I am from) but ,may be the same as in the USA. Cars are expensive and there is limited choice as mostly small cars are preferred. Gas is US$2/liter (4.2 liters to a gallon). To buy an equivalent 4 bedroom house in Punta Del Este or in the outskirts of Montvideo is going to cost much the same as in good middle class suburbs in the US. But if you want a larger block an hour from these locations you can get a 4 bedroom house on a few hectares for the same price. You need to speak Spanish. English is uncommon unless you network with expat groups or people in the accommodation industry.
      However Uruguayan people are extremely patient and generous! After being here for a week I have not come across a single local who showed any irritation at my lack of spanish. Taxis and shop keepers are all very honest. There is no apparent corruption. It has the lowest corruption in south america.
      To survive a good middle class life style as in the west you need a monthly income +/- US$2,000 -3,000. this is difficult to earn in Uruguay so you need a pension or international income. Income tax is low I think up to 25% (but not entirely sure of that). Foreign income is tax free.
      They love their dogs in Uruguay and there are western style pet stores and vets all over. they cater to the K-9 with the most expensive taste in dog biscuits.
      Dont import anything with a motor eg: cars, lawn mowers, chain saws. You will get hassles with import duties etc.
      When in Uruguay on a visit check the malls/shops. You will see which items are available and which are not, so you’ll have an idea on what household items to send/bring.
      to be off the grid you’d probably need to bring your own solar panels, double glazed windows to retain heat in the winter.
      Google expats uruguay and you should find some helpful blogs websites. also search youtube. just take note of the dates as you may end up watching or reading some outdated items.

      • one more thing. only the main highways are in good shape. some wealthier and the city streets have bitumen. the rest of the streets are dirt roads.
        there are also some poorly maintained roads around and you nee to be alert to dodge the pot holes at times

    • In my opinion, one month does not make you an “expat” – further more are you sure that you were even in Uruguay? I’ve been there a number of times and my experiences do NOT match yours. Uruguay is NOT perfect, but as an alternative to other countries – it’s a breath of fresh air. Suggest you stay in the USA, you will do best with what you grew up with. Your article and toxicity is very sad and I sense that your poor attitude reflected in your interactions and view of the country. Maybe you would do well in France…….

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  13. The above ‘negative’ review of Uruguay is pretty weak, in my opinion. Sure, everyone is entitled to like and dislike places as they please but they were raising complaints such as “the waves weren’t as good as people said” and basically the standard, North American laments about intense sterility that they’re used to living there in Ohio (or wherever).

    Uruguay is oversold when comparing it to “Switzerland” in any way, however the negative review above seems more an example of people having delusionally unreasonable expectations and immense inexperience with other cultures and nations.

    Unrelated, I will never, ever admit the people who would saddle themselves to place like the United States because of whatever false sense of security you feel by owning an AR15. I mean, sure, I’m pro gun rights all the way and I realize to some they’ve become like religious fetish objects, however I’d much rather live in a country where I cannot own an AR15 yet an significantly less likely to ever need one than a country that permits ownership but is rapidly devolving into a police state hell hole.

    While I am 100% pro gun rights, I must admit that to a certain degree, they are an illusory freedom. As we’ve seen, Americans won’t be rising up to defend much or overthrow anyone so they’ve basically become nothing more than fetish objects for hobbyists and Walter Mitty’s.

    I’m sure reading that, they’ve written me off as an “ANTI LIB OBAMA LIB OBAMA” or whatever their mantras have become. Untrue. I am, however, someone who decided living somewhere that doesn’t suck, where I’m not being survieled by the government, where the police don’t have full authority to put their fingers in my rectum on a routine traffic stop, well, that was just so much better than living in a country that calls itself ‘free’ because you can own an AR, yet has more people in prison than anywhere else and treats its citizens like shit.

    • I hate to say it, but you’re probably right. Gun ownership is our (in the US) illusion of freedom, ant TPTB are working ever harder to rid us of it.
      The US is indeed becoming a fascist police state, and it’s getting worse seemingly by the day. On paper, the US is one of the most free countries in the world, but the reality is very different. The “war on drugs” and “war on terror” have completely shredded our Constitution. All an agency has to do to destroy you completely is to invoke drugs or “terrorism”. It’s a little scary.
      I’m looking for an escape myself. I have a few places in mind, and Uruguay is one.
      As an aside;
      If one has the money to relocate out of the States, he probably has the ability to aquire just about any gun he wants, anywhere he wants. Just don’t be an idiot showoff. Loose lips and all that.

  14. Hi Fernando,

    I’ve read your articles on the internet for some time now.

    I’m a single woman in my early 50’s .. concerned about what is happening in this country.

    Is there a way to communicate with ex-pats in Uruguay that you can recommend? I put a post on Craigslist and have had a few responses but they were from men who are looking to relocate as well.

    I’d like to talk to someone who is actually living in Uruguay.

    Any suggestions?

    Thanks so much,


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  16. Hello Belinda, I read your comments and understand. I just returned from Uruguay and I am a senior in my 60,s. If you wish to ask me a few questions re relocation, I may be able to help as I am in the learning stage myself. Feel free. Ann

    • Hi, I was wondering if you would not mind sharing, if you happen to know, if homeschooling is legal there in Uruguay? I have young children and plan on homeschooling wherever we go at least for a few years.
      Also, my youngest is quite young and we are delaying vaccinations due to them being immunocompromised. Do you know anything of what the vaccination regulations are over there? I appreciate your time and any info you are able to provide!

      • It’s not, but there is little enforcement. Signing up for an online school will get you through it. They kind of ignore expats unless you get really involved in their systems. There are vaccination requirements, but there is little enforcement. Going a few years… or not at all shouldn’t be a problem.

  17. Hello Im planning on moving to Uruguay next year and am from western Va, Im a country boy and want to find a rural location say 50 to 80 km from the coast, Fishing and kayaking! Im not wealthy nor want to be, I want a small cottage within bicycle ride to shopping. I enjoy a life with minimal modern amentities. Could I get a rustic cottage or shack for 10k

      • Are you speaking from the perspective of a western oriented thinker? Cause here in Wv I’ve traded work for land with no money. I believe you aren’t looking into a man’s ability to spread joy, love and knowledge wherever he goes. I can be happy in a soft walled tent in a Grove of trees

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