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If you are considering driving in Uruguay, which I truly recommend as one of the best ways to see the country, there are a few things you must first know. Renting a car in Uruguay is relatively easy, with a few big companies like Hertz and Budget in each big city.
I did a coastal road trip in Uruguay, from Montevideo to Punta del Este to Punta del Diablo (post coming soon!). The coast of Uruguay is absolutely breathtaking, with miles of pristine sandy beaches, surf schools, beach parties, and more. But on the inside of the country, you can find beautiful small towns, miles and miles of farmland, and green rolling knolls covered in sheep and cows. Whatever route you choose to drive in Uruguay, it’s sure to exceed your expectations… it sure did mine!
Although rental car companies may brief you, there are a few things about driving in Uruguay that I found out myself and thought might be useful to future travelers. So before your big Uruguay road trip, check out these tips for driving in Uruguay.
But first, make sure you check out my other Uruguay posts:
- One Week Uruguay Itinerary: Uruguay Travel Guide
- Things to Do in Punta del Este + 1 Day Self-Guided Walking Tour
Colonia del Sacramento streets. Check my Uruguay Itinerary to learn more about this town!
Driving in Uruguay: You Must Keep Your Headlights On at All Times
It’s the law that your headlights must be on at all times, night or day. Not sure why, but it is what it is.
Driving in Uruguay: 4-Way Intersections + No Stop Signs
In cities, especially Montevideo, there will be lots of four-way intersections between grid-style streets… but no stop signs (or any sign for that matter). The rule is that the car to the right has the right of way.
This will be a mess at first, but eventually, after some sketchy moments, you’ll get used to going if you see a car on your left and stopping if you see a car on your right. If you aren’t sure, just make sure to yield at intersections like this.
Driving in Uruguay: Highway Tolls
Carry cash on you when driving in Uruguay, because there are toll stops along some main highways that only accept cash. This would have been good for me to know, and would have prevented me from getting lost for an hour looking for ATM’s in the Uruguayan country after making a U-turn on a crowded highway. Tolls are about 96 pesos (about $3) and there’s usually no way to circumnavigate them.
Driving in Uruguay: Gas Is Expensive
Oh dear lord, did the gas prices give me an anxiety attack. I was stoked to have a huge adventure driving around Uruguay (which I did and I honestly regret nothing) but the gas prices will burn a hole in your pocket… or more realistically, set your entire pants on fire.
It’s about 50 pesos/L, and cost me $50 to fill up the tank…. twice in 3 days. Driving in Uruguay is worth it to stop at tons of awesome places you wouldn’t even come close to seeing on a bus, but try to split the cost with others if you’re on a budget.
Driving in Uruguay: Manual Transmissions
Most people in Uruguay drive a manual transmission, and it’s easier to rent a car if you can drive one. That being said, automatic cars are available, but there aren’t as many as manual ones. Being a forlorn American who never learned how to drive a manual, I was able to find an automatic… but I was lucky!
- Rentacars.com can help you find an automatic car rental if you need one.
Driving in Uruguay: One-Way Streets are EVERYWHERE
Uruguay is the king of one-way streets. They’re in every city and basically every metropolitan area imaginable. And, sometimes Google Maps doesn’t know that they are one-way. Just make sure to think twice before turning and make sure that if it’s a one way street, it’s the right way.
Driving in Uruguay: Dirt/Sand Roads, Potholes, and Cows
If you find yourself out in the country or near the beaches, many roads will turn to dirt or sand. These kinds of roads might also have lots of deep potholes to watch out for. Any car should be able to handle it, but it’s something that is good to know!
Also, in that Uruguay literally has 4 cows to each person (12 million cows, and 3 million+ people) you will definitely encounter some of these animals while driving in Uruguay. Most main roads at least go inland through the farmland/countryside for a little while, and chances are there will be cows going places as well. Keep an eye out!
Driving in Uruguay: Parking Attendants
The country is full of parking attendants wearing little vests who apparently are there to keep watch of your car while you are at the market, beach, viewpoint, or literally anywhere you might be going. These parking attendants will attempt to direct you in and out of a parking spot (even if you are completely capable of parking on your own) and will ask for money after they do so.
I really don’t know the legitimacy of these people, and how expected it is to give them a few pesos. I found it a bit annoying when they tried to help me back out of my parking spots and quite frankly just got in the way, and I gave one guy 50 pesos (just under $2) after he helped me turn off the alarm on my rental car and struck up a conversation. Maybe their more important function is to keep watch of your car while you;re gone, but I don’t know. The other times I just said I had no cash. Maybe their more important function is to keep watch of your car while you’re gone, but I don’t know. I have a hard time giving people money who I don’t feel have actually helped me in any way…. sorry.
Driving in Uruguay: Lanes
Lanes seem to be optional a lot of the time when driving in Uruguay. I couldn’t really figure this one out. Sometimes cars would all squeeze in anywhere at a red light, while other times using a turn signal was necessary to change lanes on a highway. I guess try to respect lanes if you can even tell where they should be!
Also, the right lane is often used for parking and stopping of cars, trucks, and busses. You won’t always be able to drive on the right for this reason.
Driving in Uruguay: Where to Rent
Now that you’re ready, it’s time to rent! I rented my car from Hertz Uruguay, but there are a few companies in the area. To find what’s best for you, check out these companies below:
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