Uruguay is one of the most European countries in South America. This tiny country, sometimes referred to as a low-tax territory, has one of the highest costs of living but also one of the highest standards of living in the region.
Every region of Uruguay has a distinct personality, which allows expats to choose the one that best suits them.
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The Greater Montevideo Area
The Rio de la Plata, a broad estuary river, dominates most of the southern portion of Uruguay. Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, sits near the mouth of the river. This cosmopolitan city offers an interesting blend of the old and new.
The county’s history lives within the old city, while many high-rise offices and residences occupy other neighborhoods. Cultured, friendly, and laidback, Montevideo draws many expats who love city life.
The thriving metropolis of Montevideo houses a number of high-end, multi-story shopping malls, trendy restaurants, and the country’s major hospitals. Montevideo is also the place to be if you want to connect with Uruguay’s tech industry.
When people want to escape the city, they head to the Rambla, where locals jog, skate, stroll through the park, and walk their dogs.
In the summer, the Rambla turns into an urban beach, with municipally supported swimming classes, beach volleyball, outdoor exercise classes, and more. Several expat communities meet in Montevideo on a weekly basis.
San Jose and Colonia, Uruguay’s agricultural and home of dairy farming, stretch along the western shores of the Rio del Plata. The Swiss were the first settlers in Colonia, which might explain why the region is famous for its dairy farming.
The Portuguese originally founded the historic quarter of Colonia del Sacramento, which was granted UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status in 1960.
A short ferry ride from Colonia brings you to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Many Argentinians have bought summer homes in this area.
Uruguay’s beach resort towns, called balnearios, attract a different type of expat. Some are expat retirees, while others are investing in Uruguayan real estate, which they rent out over the colder summer months.
A third type, the digital nomad, often chooses this beach environment. For the most part, coastal Uruguay has fewer crime issues than the beach areas in other Latin American countries.
The beaches of Uruguay extend along the entire length of its coastline. Although Punta del Este is Uruguay’s most famous beach, the 30-mile stretch that makes up the Costa de Oro offers some of the best in the country.
Although the town evokes images of a 1950s resort town, it has a variety of modern conveniences, including two major supermarkets.
Most people shop at the Feria or open markets for fresh produce, where fruits, vegetables, toys, and clothing are available and are very popular with locals and tourists alike.
Uruguay’s philosophy of personal freedom makes Atlantida an architecturally intriguing destination. Homes with thatched roofs sit next to Art Deco-inspired and traditional South American “casitas.” Just two high-rise buildings occupy the entire town.
Atlantida also has some quirky attractions, such as the former love nest for Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and his mistress and a house in the shape of an eagle.
During the Uruguayan summer, Atlantida has a small carnival with a Ferris wheel, a mini roller coaster, and a local crafts fair. The town has a movie house and a theater.
Uruguayans also have a fascination with US oldies music, and in August each year, many locations host an official Nostalgia Night. This all-night party takes the chill out of the Uruguayan winters.
Properties in Atlantida are far less expensive than what you would find in other coastal Uruguay towns.
Renting a small house near the beach for between $500-$900 per month is possible. You will need to speak with locals to help you find temporary residences, especially in the off-season.
Atlantida has a small but growing expat community, mostly from the US, and Canadian expats here are between the ages of 45 and 80.
Heading east from Atlantida, you reach the town of Piriapolis. Founded in 1893, it was Uruguay’s first beach resort town. A sizable international expat community meets every month and calls Piriapolis home.
Piriapolis is more expensive than Atlantida, less expensive than Punta del Este, and one of the only places in Uruguay with big hills that can almost be considered mountains.
Piriapolis has an intriguing history. A mystic named Don Francisco Piria designed the layout of the town in accordance with the principles of Alchemy and Kabbalah. Even if you do not decide to live here, Piriapolis is worth a visit.
Statues of Greek Gods, each representing a metal used in alchemy, line the pathway to Piria’s hilltop house, called Castle Piria. The house is now a museum. The town also has a nature reserve and an Art Deco-inspired hotel.
Punta del Este
Punta del Este was once a seasonal destination that went to sleep during the winter months.
Because of a growing number of English-speaking expats, Punta del Este and the neighboring capital Maldonado now has a population of about 170,000 people, with about 15,000 new residents in the area since the pandemic.
High-rise condominiums, including Trump Tower Punta del Este, line the streets and make it look like Miami.
Several other beach towns east of Punta del Este are slowly attracting a small expat community. La Paloma, a surfing and fishing town, is far less built up than Punta.
Uruguayans are generally middle class and are very proud of their European origin. In comparison to its neighbors like Argentina, Uruguay has a more functioning government with less chaos but also with a lot less excitement than you can find in Bogota, Colombia, for example. If you are looking for a very laid-back and very tranquil lifestyle, it may be a good fit.
Our founder Mr. Andrew Henderson shared his thoughts on Uruguay and spoke about the attraction of Uruguay as one of the most tax-friendly countries and the best passports in South America.
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