is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Uruguay. For
more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Uruguay country page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Uruguay
at Level 2, indicating travelers shouldexercise
increased caution due to crime. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Montevideo as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
remains the primary security concern in Uruguay. Since 2016, Uruguay has
experienced a dramatic increase in crime to include armed robberies,
carjackings, homicides, vehicle break-ins, theft, residential break-ins, and
assaults. Criminals are well-armed, brazen, and do not hesitate to resort to
violence if victims resist or if the police attempt to intervene. According to
Ministry, within the past five years the homicide rate has increased by 46%
and armed robberies by 53%. The Ministry’s official crime statistics for 2019
show a rise in armed robberies and a slight drop in homicides and theft after a
significant spike in 2018. While the rate of homicides fell slightly to 11.1 per
100,000 people, it remains among the highest in South America’s southern cone. The
government asserted that half of all murders were due to increasing conflicts
among criminal gangs and drug traffickers. Most criminal incidents occurred in Montevideo,
followed by the Departments of Canelones and Maldonado.
Since the beginning of 2019, there has also been a
wave of violent attacks on police officers and private guards, many with the
intention of stealing their service weapons and bulletproof vests. There
were at least 80 reported crimes against police officers between January 1 and
February 5, 2020, according to a Ministry of Interior report, ranging from
assault to homicide. Review OSAC’s report, Law Enforcement Targeted in Uruguay Crime Trend.
the summer tourism season, crime will typically migrate with the population to
other popular vacation destinations (e.g. Punta del Este, Colonia del
Sacramento). Criminals prey on targets of opportunity: tourists openly carrying
valuables, motorists stopped at traffic lights with valuables visible within
the vehicle, vacant homes, and unattended parked vehicles. Criminals operate in
all parts of Montevideo, including popular tourist areas such as Ciudad Vieja,
Avenida 18 de Julio, Plaza Independencia, and Mercado del Puerto, as well as
other high-traffic areas within the country. Police increase patrols during
periods of high tourist activity in these areas, especially during the visits
of cruise liners in the summer.
in pairs or in small groups, especially in tourist areas such as Ciudad Vieja,
Mercado del Puerto, and Plaza Independencia. Though Uruguayans are very friendly,
visitors should be alert for people who might be intent on creating
distractions for pickpockets.
commonly use a motorcycle when committing a robbery in Montevideo. “Motochorro”
is the term used to describe a criminal who uses a motorcycle to commit a
robbery, combining the local Spanish words for “motorcycle” and “thief.” Motochorros
generally work in pairs. The driver will approach a victim while the companion
steals wallets, purses, phones, or other items and rapidly escapes. During recent
incidents, motochorros targeted victims at stoplights, parking lots, and
ATMs, and outside of hotels while waiting for transportation. Motochorros
have also targeted vehicles traveling to Punta del Este by puncturing a
victim’s vehicle tire and waiting for them to pull over to change the tire to
the end of 2017, Uruguay also began experiencing a significant increase in gas-induced
ATM explosions affecting international and Uruguayan banks. In response to this
criminal trend, some banks in Uruguay have implemented countermeasures such as
removing funds from their ATMs between 1900 and 0700, as well as establishing
agreements to collocate ATMs with local police stations. Exercise increased
caution when using ATMs, especially during non-daylight hours. Review OSAC’s
report, ATM Robbery Trend: Gas-Induced Explosions in Uruguay.
burglaries remain a problem in Uruguay. Single-family residences are more
vulnerable to burglary than apartments. The neighborhoods of Carrasco, Punta
Carretas, and Pocitos have recently been targets of residential burglaries due
to the affluence of residents. Most incidents occur while the occupants are
away, both day and night, though burglaries of occupied residences are not
Other Areas of Concern
there are no "off limits" areas in Uruguay, there are neighborhoods
within the Montevideo metropolitan area where most violent crimes (e.g. homicides,
carjackings, armed robberies) occur. According to the Interior Ministry,
neighborhoods in Montevideo that suffered the highest crime rates in 2019 include
Casavalle, Nuevo Paris, Cerro, Villa Garcia Manga Rurual, La Paloma Tomkinson,
Union, Colon Centro, Penarol Lavalleja, Paso de la Arena, Belvedere and Bella
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
continues to experience a high rate of transit-related fatalities, which are
among the most common causes of death in the country. According to the World
Health Organization, Uruguay’s rate of traffic deaths is 16.6 per 100,000
people, nearly 50% higher than that of the United States. According to the
Uruguayan National Road Safety Unit, motorcyclists and bicyclists account for
70% of transit-related fatalities.
lighting, inadequate pavement markings, and substandard road surfaces are
contributing factors to traffic accidents throughout the country. Several of
the main highways are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist
traffic speed-related accidents including: Route 1 (between Montevideo and
Colonia), the Ruta Interbalnearia (between Montevideo and Punta del Este),
Route 9 to the east (that leads to Punta del Diablo, La Paloma, La Pedrera, and
Cabo Polonia), and Route 2 (between Rosario and Fray Bentos). The frequency of
road accidents rises during the summer beach season (December to March),
Carnaval (mid-to-late February), and Easter week due to an increased volume of
tourists and holiday-related alcohol consumption.
extra caution when traveling outside of Montevideo. There is a reduced level of
police patrols and first-responder availability in rural areas.
may drive using your foreign driver’s license in Uruguay. If you plan to obtain
a Uruguayan driver’s license, you must apostille your U.S. driver’s license in
the state that issued your driver’s license, as the U.S. Embassy cannot provide
consular certificates attesting to the validity of a U.S.-issued driver’s
caution and drive defensively. Driving in Uruguay is on the right side of the
road, as in the United States. Seat belts are mandatory. Always use headlights.
Children under 12 years must ride in the back seat. Motorcyclists must wear
helmets and reflective vests. The use of cellular phones, as well as texting,
while driving is illegal. Drinking maté (a popular, caffeine-rich
infused hot beverage) while driving is also illegal. Right turns at red lights
are illegal. Drivers approaching an intersection from the right generally have
the right of way, but drivers do not always respect this right. Drivers already
in traffic circles generally have the right of way. Flashing high beams
indicates intent to pass or to continue through unmarked intersections. Drivers
often ignore lane markers, change lanes and make turns without signaling,
ignore speed limits and disregard traffic signs. Motorists may make frequent
and sudden stops on any road, especially when driving along Montevideo’s
riverfront (Rambla). Motorcyclists often drive the wrong way down one-way
streets, use sidewalks to avoid lengthier routes, or drive between vehicles
when traffic stops.
in an accident involving injury should stay in place until a police officer
arrives. The insurance company will generally respond to the scene as well.
Some major roads are centrally monitored via live camera feeds and emergency
response may arrive quickly. Contact 911 immediately to report an emergency, and notify your
rental company if in a rental car. For emergency roadside assistance, call the
Automobile Club of Uruguay at 1707 or "Car Up" at 2628-1555. Even non-members
can use this fee-based service.
law requires your vehicle to contain a specific road safety kit (e.g. hazard
cones, flares, reflective vest, fire extinguisher), which you can find at most
grocery stores or gas stations. Rental vehicles should have these basic kits.
outside the capital or small towns is hazardous due to a scarcity of bike
paths, narrow road shoulders, and unsafe driving practices.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
ride share car services, and remise (private car) services are safe to
use. Use clearly marked taxi stands, phone-taxi service at 141, and online
apps such as VoyenTaxi and Uber over hailing a cab on the street. These options
are usually reliable during mass shutdowns of public transportation. Most taxis
do not have functioning seat belts in the back seat. There have been no issues
reported with the use of Uber.
buses are safe to use but can be crowded, and pickpockets and bag snatchers sometimes
target patrons. The public bus system utilizes pre-determined routes and is
generally dependable. Regular labor strikes can halt public transportation with
minimal advance notice. Review OSAC’s report, Safety
and Security in the Share Economy.
there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers
registered in Uruguay, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not
assessed the government of Uruguay’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance
with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety
U.S. Department of State has assessed Montevideo as being a LOW-threat location for terrorist
activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Montevideo as being a LOW-threat location for political
violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Demonstrations,
some expressing anti-U.S. sentiment, occasionally occur in Uruguay,
particularly near the U.S. Embassy, Legislative Palace, Independence Plaza, City
Hall, Batlle Park, Liberty Plaza, and the universities in Montevideo. While
most demonstrations are peaceful and non-violent, travelers should avoid large
gatherings or events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate, protest, or
cause damage as a byproduct of celebrating an event, such as after soccer
matches. Although public law requires a permit to demonstrate, local police typically
do not enforce this rule.
there is anti-U.S. sentiment in some circles, this sentiment rarely, if ever,
takes violent form. Occasional political protests target the U.S. government,
but political violence against the Embassy or other U.S. interests has been
non-existent in recent years.
Uruguay experiences seasonally
high winds (the pampero is a chilly and occasional violent wind that
blows north from the Argentine pampas), droughts, and floods. Because of the
absence of mountains, all locations are particularly vulnerable to rapid
changes from weather fronts.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Uruguay’s telephone system is fully digitalized. The country has
one of the highest broadband penetrations in Latin America, with high
fixed-line and mobile penetrations.
Visitors to Montevideo should stay at reputable hotels in the
Punta Carretas, Pocitos, or Carrasco areas of Montevideo. Outside of
Montevideo, use reputable hotels. The hotel should provide private security and
rooms with safes, and adequate locks on all doors and windows. Although the
quality of hotel safes varies, always secure extra cash, credit cards, and
passports in the safe. Review OSAC’s
reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for female travelers.
There are no legal restrictions on
adult, same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI+ events in
Uruguay. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s
webpage on security for faith-based travelers.
Uruguayan law prohibits
discrimination against persons with disabilities, but the government does not
effectively enforce these provisions. Transportation services generally are not
equipped for access by persons with disabilities. Sidewalks and crosswalks are
often in need of maintenance and/or accessibility ramps and can present
challenges to persons with disabilities. Review the State Department’s webpage
on security for travelers with disabilities.
Recent changes in legislation
allow Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents of Uruguay to purchase limited
amounts of marijuana at government-approved pharmacies, join a registered
marijuana club, or grow a limited amount of marijuana for personal use. It
remains illegal for tourists and other foreign visitors in Uruguay to purchase
and consume marijuana. Anyone who purchases or consumes marijuana, and who does
not fit into a legal category of use, may face arrest and prosecution under
Uruguay is a small-scale transit
country for drugs mainly bound for Europe, often through sea-borne containers. Smuggling
of firearms and narcotics continues to be an issue along the Uruguay-Brazil
border due to weak border control. There is increasing consumption of cocaine
base and synthetic drugs in the country.
OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation or
exportation of certain items. These include precious jewels, gold, firearms,
pornography, inflammable articles, acids, prohibited drugs, plants, seeds, and
foodstuffs as well as antiquities and business equipment. Uruguayan Customs
also prohibits the importation of subversive materials aimed at overthrowing
the government or promoting anarchy, genocide, or other globally condemned
practices. Read the State Department’s webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
The emergency line in Uruguay is 911. The
Uruguayan National Police has a well-trained and capable response force. It has
significantly increased the use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras throughout
the country to monitor for potential criminal activity. Under the former
administration the National Police’s general approach to policing was largely
reactive rather than taking proactive steps to deter street crime and
burglaries. Since Uruguay’s Presidential inauguration in March 2020, the new
administration has taken measures to launch security operations increasing street
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
emergency ambulance services lines in Uruguay are 133 (SUAT), 147 (UCM), and 159 or +598-2-711-1111 (SEMM). Medical care facilities in
Uruguay are adequate, and most are comparable to U.S. standards. The
responsiveness of emergency, personal ambulance service is generally within
U.S. standards, but there may be service delays if questions about health
insurance coverage arise. Ambulances contain a medical doctor, enabling
advanced treatment/care en route to the local hospital. Find
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the U.S. Embassy Medical Assistance page.
Travelers on cruise ships with stops in Uruguay should verify
their overseas health insurance coverage. Most health care providers in Uruguay
accept cash and credit card payments. The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
Carry prescription medication in original packaging with your
doctor’s prescription. There is no restriction on types of medication you can import
for personal use. Some medications may not be available in Uruguay, so bring a
sufficient supply for your stay. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.
While rare, the Uruguayan summer
can bring about an increase in diarrheal illness and mosquito-borne diseases,
so use insect repellent. There are no special vaccination requirements for
Uruguay. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for
Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council
OSAC Uruguay Country Council initiated in 2019. Interested private-sector
security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin
America Team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
1776 Lauro Müller, Montevideo 11200
Hours: 0800 – 1730
Before you travel, consider the