Welcome to Travel Planning 101. Find country specific information about where you are going and what to do to prepare to get there!
- Travel highlights of the country.
- Fun facts and background information.
- History notes, facts on currency, health, holidays and transportation.
- Pre-departure tips, when to go, and visa information.
- Information on weather and electricity plugs.
- Suggestions on things to do if you have extra time to explore on your own.
Places To See
Parque Nacional Santa Teresa
More an historical than a natural attraction, this coastal park contains the hilltop Fortaleza de Santa Teresa, begun by the Portuguese but captured and finished by the Spaniards. Santa Teresa is a humble place, but Uruguayan and Brazilian visitors enjoy its uncrowded beaches and decentralized forest camping. The park gets crammed during Carnaval.
Mercado del Puerto
The Mercado del Puerto is a wrought-iron superstructure sheltering a gaggle of restaurants (watch out for the steakhouses - they serve up slabs the size of your head). Saturday lunchtime is a fun time to come - the market is crammed with locals (who use the market to cruise each other) and musicians liven up the area.
Museo Didáctico Artiguista
Built between 1771 and 1797, the Cuartel de Dragones y de Blandengues is a block of military fortifications. Its Museo Didáctico Artiguista honors Uruguay's independence hero. Artigas was a very busy guy - check out the maps of his battle campaigns and don't miss the room with the bronze busts of the Liberators of the Americas.
When to go?
Uruguay's main attraction is its beaches, so most visitors come in summer. Along the Río Uruguay, summer temperatures can be smotheringly hot, but the hilly interior is cooler, especially at night. Between late April and November, strong winds sometimes combine with rain and cool temperatures.
Travel Visa Overview
Visas are not required for citizens of western Europe, Australia, USA, New Zealand, Canada or those from neighboring countries (who need only national identification cards). All visitors need a tourist card, which is valid for 90 days and extendable for a similar period.
European plug with two circular metal pins
Several different viruses cause hepatitis; they differ in the way that they are transmitted. The symptoms in all forms of the illness include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains, followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored feces, jaundiced (yellow) skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
There are 6 known types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, E and G. G is not dangerous. A and E are passed on by the fecal-oral route of transmission; there is a vaccine. Seek medical advice, but there is not much you can do apart from resting, drinking lots of fluids, eating lightly and avoiding fatty foods. A and E cause an acute illness, but you will recover fully from it.
B and D are passed on via blood, saliva, semen and vaginal fluids. They can be passed on by close contact, sexual contact, and blood-to-blood contact. The symptoms of hepatitis B may be more severe than type A and the disease can lead to long-term problems such as chronic liver damage, liver cancer or a long-term carrier state. There is a vaccine.
Hepatitis C is only passed on from blood-to-blood contact. There is no vaccine.
Although there is pronounced seasonal change during the year, the winter months (June to August) are fairly mild, with average temperatures ranging between 6°C (43°F) and 15°C (59°F). Summer is comparatively cool at this latitude, with average highs peaking around a pleasantly warm 28°C (83°F). Add to that the abundant sunshine and this is a great time to visit. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed over the year and tends to fall quite moderately in just a few days.
History and Culture
Pre-20th Centure History
Uruguay's aboriginal inhabitants were the Charrúa Indians, a hunter-gatherer people who cared little for outsiders. They killed the explorer Juan Diaz de Solís and most of his party when the Spaniards encountered them in 1516. By the 17th century, the Charrúas had prospered and, abandoning hostilities, began trading with the Spanish.
In 1680, the Portuguese founded Colonia on the estuary of the Río de la Plata as a rival to Spanish-held Buenos Aires on the opposite shore. Spain responded by building its own citadel at Montevideo. Uruguayan hero José Artigas fought against the Spanish but was unable to prevent a Brazilian takeover of the Banda (the original name of the eastern shore of the Río de la Plata). Exiled to Paraguay, he inspired the '33 Orientales' who, with Argentine support, liberated the area in 1825 and established Uruguay as an independent buffer state between Argentina and Brazil. Uruguay's independence was officially recognized in 1828.
Uruguay's fragile independence was repeatedly threatened during the 19th century - by Argentina and Brazil and, economically, by Britain. Federalist forces, in collusion with Argentina, besieged Montevideo from 1838-51 and helped create two warring political parties, the Blancos and the Colorados. Around the same time, the British introduced new wool, meat and rail industries. They also replaced the rangy criollo stock with their own cattle, thus commercializing one of the country's few abundant resources. For the remainder of the century, the contest between the Blancos and Colorados continued, immersing the country in civil war, dictatorship and political intrigue.
In the early 20th century, the visionary President José Batlle y Ordóñez achieved far-reaching reforms and made Uruguay the only 'welfare state' in Latin America. During his two terms as president (1903-07 and 1911-15) he implemented a range of free social services, abolished capital punishment and sought to curb the country's legacy of strong-arm rule. Uruguay soon flourished on the back of the rural livestock sector but its failure to grow, coupled with the country's lack of natural resources, meant the welfare state became increasingly fictitious over time.
The country's former prosperity had ebbed away by the 1960s as state-supported enterprises became riddled with corruption. The country slid into dictatorship and was thrown into turmoil by the Tupamaros, an urban guerrilla movement which appeared publicly in 1967. In 1971, the military was invited to participate in government, Congress was dissolved, and the Tupamaros were effectively wiped out.
The much-hated military continued to hold sway in national politics until 1984, when Julio María Sanguinetti won the presidential election. His government implied a return to democratic traditions, fostering a process of national reconciliation. It began with a widespread political amnesty, but there were no new radical economic policies. In 1990, free-market reformer Luis Alberto Lacalle took office. In 1994, however, considerable opposition to Lacalle's plans for wage restraint, spending cuts and major state sell-offs paved the way for Sanguinetti to take control once again.
Elections held under a new electoral system in 2000 brought Colorado Party candidate Jorge Batlle to power. He pursued a conservative agenda, promoting growth and foreign investment, reducing the government's size, selling state monopolies, and attempting to resolve the issue of the disappearances during military occupation.
The economy, however, was dogged by problems beyond the direct control of Uruguay: the devaluation of the Brazilian currency, the collapse of the Argentine economy and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Restructuring foreign debt, an offshore banking industry and tourism development has helped steady the ship.
In 2002, the coalition of Colorado and Nationalist parties dissolved, resulting in a power shift that saw Tabaré Vázquez elected in 2005 at the head of the Frente Amplio, a coalition of left-leaning parties.
Recently, there has been a standoff between Argentina and Uruguay over the latter's plan to build two paper processing plants on the Río Uruguay.
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