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Uruguay 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Western Hemisphere > Uruguay; Western Hemisphere > Uruguay > Montevideo

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Uruguay has been assessed as Level 1: exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Montevideo does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Montevideo as being a HIGH-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s Uruguay-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

Crime remains the primary security concern in Uruguay. Street-level crime (pickpocketing, purse snatching, assault, armed robbery, general theft) is common in Montevideo. During the summer tourism season, crime will typically migrate with the population to other popular destinations (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 popular tourist areas of the capital such as Ciudad Vieja, Avenida 18 de Julio, Plaza Independencia, and Mercado del Puerto, as well as other popular areas within the country. Police typically increase patrols during periods of high tourist activity in these areas, especially during the visits of cruise liners in the summer. 

Traveling in pairs or in small groups is recommended, especially in tourist areas such as Ciudad Vieja, Mercado del Puerto, and Plaza Independencia. Though Uruguayans are very friendly, visitors should be alert to people who might be intent on creating distractions for pickpockets.

Uruguay continues to experience a significant level of violent crime. Criminals are well-armed, brazen, and do not hesitate to resort to violence if victims resist or if the police attempt to intervene. Ministry of Interior (MOI) statistics for 2017 indicate that violent crime, such as armed robberies, has decreased since 2016. Homicides, however, have increased with the majority of homicides occurring in Montevideo.

Residential burglaries remain a problem in Uruguay. Single-family residences are more vulnerable to burglary than apartments. The neighborhoods of Carrasco, Punta Carretas, and Pocitos experience the largest number of residential burglaries due to the presence of many affluent residents. Most incidents occur while the occupants are away, both day and night, though burglaries of occupied residences are not uncommon.

Other Areas of Concern

While there are no "off limits" areas in Uruguay, there are neighborhoods within the Montevideo metropolitan area where a majority of violent crimes (homicides, carjackings, armed robberies) occur. These areas are Casabo, Cerro Norte, Cerro, La Teja, Casavalle, Borro, Marconi, 40 Semanas, Hipódromo, Villa Española, Malvín Norte, Bella Italia, and Tres Ombúes. Embassy employees are cautioned to avoid these areas. 

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Uruguay continues to experience a high rate of transit-related fatalities. Poor illumination, inadequate pavement markings, and substandard road surfaces are contributing factors to traffic accidents throughout the country. Extra caution should be exercised when travelling outside of Montevideo. There is a reduced level of police patrols and first-responder availability in rural areas. Primary routes between Colonia, Montevideo, and Punta del Este are particularly vulnerable due to heavy traffic that creates greater opportunity for speed-related accidents. The incidence of traffic accidents typically increases during the summer months due to an increased volume of tourists and holiday-related alcohol consumption. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Public Transportation Conditions

Taxis, public buses, ride share car services, and remise (private car) services are safe to use. The use of clearly marked taxi stands and online apps such as voyentaxi.uy and Uber are recommended over hailing a cab on the street. There have been no issues reported with the use of Uber. For more information on ride-sharing, please review OSAC’s Annual Briefing Report “Safety and Security in the Share Economy.”

Terrorism Threat

The 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.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

While there is anti-American sentiment in some circles, this sentiment rarely, if ever, takes violent form. Occasional political protests target the U.S. Embassy, but political violence against the Embassy or other U.S. interests has been minimal to non-existent in recent years.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The 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.

Civil Unrest

Civil unrest is very rare in Uruguay. Demonstrations often take place at the Plaza Independencia and along Avenida 18 de Julio. Most demonstrations in Montevideo are peaceful and non-violent. Although public law requires a permit to demonstrate, this is typically not enforced by the local police. 

Post-specific Concerns

Critical Infrastructure

Visitors should stay at reputable hotels in the Punta Carretas, Pocitos, or Carrasco areas of Montevideo. Outside of Montevideo, reputable hotel chains should be used. 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, extra cash, credit cards, and passports should always be secured in the safe. For more information on fire safety in hotels, please review OSAC’s Report, “Fire Safety Abroad.”

Police Response

The Uruguayan National Police have a trained and capable response force. Their approach to policing is largely reactive and does little to deter street crime and burglaries. Police, at times, face shortages of resources and funding. In addition, Uruguayan law prevents prosecution of minors for non-violent crimes. Many crimes are committed by adolescents who are often released within 24 hours.

The Centro de Comando Unificado (CCU) is the national 911 system of Uruguay. The CCU continues to improve its capabilities to respond to incidents but is hampered by high volumes of non-emergency calls. These calls frequently result in wait times of up to five minutes before a caller with a true emergency is connected to a dispatcher. Additionally, there is limited availability of English-speaking dispatchers. Once dispatched, police response time to incidents is generally fast. Most police officers, particularly those assigned to patrol duty, speak only Spanish.

Crime Victim Assistance

Police/Fire/Ambulance: 911

Medical Emergencies

Ambulance Services

SEMM: 159 or 598-2-711-1111

SUAT: 133

UCM: 147

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Uruguay.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Country Council in Montevideo did not meet in 2017. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Embassy of the United States of America

1776 Lauro Müller

Montevideo, Uruguay, 11200

Hours: 0800-1730

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Switchboard (24-hours): 598-2-1770-2000

Website: http://uy.usembassy.gov

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to Uruguay should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

Uruguay Country Information Sheet