Uruguay

Driving

The right is the correct side of the road on which to drive in Uruguay. There is always a difference between driving in cities and on country roads and between suburban streets and main trunk routes. Uruguay is the smallest country in South America other than Suriname so long distance driving will not be a problem. A driver experienced in major cities in Europe or North America will probably find driving in Uruguay a relaxed adventure but there are some local peculiarities. Often drivers in North America see an amber traffic light as a challenge to be taken on and beaten. This is dangerous in Uruguay because local drivers tend to anticipate the green light. An amber challenger is more than likely to meet an advancing green jumper with disastrous consequences. It would also seem that most native road users are mind readers or telepathic because turning signals and lane change indications are rarely given. The “Driving in Uruguay Demystified” blog post clarifies most things when read with the comments that follow it. There are the less optimistic or more discouraging commentators on driving in Uruguay. Some guidance on hiring a car in Uruguay will be useful. Most of the worldwide car hire firms a have a presence in the country and there are some local business in the field also. Individual experience at home and observation or, perhaps, practice on a “Golden Rule” (visit before re-settling)trip may be the best guides.

At the "Resources" tab on this site there are some useful links and the book "How to Retire in Uruguay" by Les Johns will provide further information. The book can be obtained directly from this site.

Driving Licenses

Getting a driving license in Uruguay is a little like a lucky dip. There are nineteen departments in the country and each deals with the issue of a driving license differently. This may make things complicated but one commentator has observed that this does make it possible to have eighteen licenses confiscated and still have one department available from which to obtain another. The cost of a license is also difficult to estimate. In Montevideo it is about $US40 (788 peso) if the application is pursued through official channels. There will also be a medical examination fee of $US25. This examination is likely to concentrate on an eye test. A license can also be obtained via driving instructors although the cost is likely to be higher but negotiable. Arrangements can also be made with the instructors’ process so far as any oral tests are concerned which may be useful if there is a difficulty with the Spanish language. Getting a license is not impossible nor expensive but it can take time. Be prepared to spend anything from three hours to a whole afternoon and for much walking between offices.

The documents that may be necessary to support a driving license application will probably be the home driving license, a further identity item, such as a passport, if the cedula de identidad is not available or a certificate from the immigration office confirming the passport endorsement, (this will cost about $US6) and a medical certificate. The license issued may be for a period of two, five or ten years.

The time period for which it is legal to drive on the home license is unclear. It may be just 90 days officially but some reports exist that suggest that overseas licenses have been use for some eighteen months. Police may be open to explanations that tell of delays to the issue of a cedula de identidad. It is always useful to obtain an international driving permit from the home country. Although not strictly necessary it is a good alternative identity document because it incorporates details in many languages in addition to bearing a photograph. It may be irritating to lose an international driving permit or to have it stolen but it is far more inconvenient for this to happen to a passport. Even in many first world countries such as Italy travelers are warned not to carry original documents when moving about in the larger cities. Photocopies of primary evidence will be of immediate use in the event of problem requiring production of an identity document.

Life in Uruguay, as in so many Third World and aspiring First World countries, can be a Kafka-like and casual experience with little certainty and changing attitudes from authorities even in situations that have been experienced previously. Precedents may hold no authority nor be any guide to current or future problems. A mitigating factor for Uruguay is the generally happy demeanor of the people which seems to be a national attribute. This kind of detail will not usually be given by any of the many and popular “authorities” whose major commercial interest is in encouraging life and/or retirement abroad. Caveat emptor has to be the watchword and observation of the “Golden Rule” (visit before settling or committing to anything that may be irreversible) is essential.

The links at the "Resources" tab on this site and the book "How to Retire in Uruguay" by Les Johns which is available from this site will provide further information on this subject.