Diseases and vaccinations
Uruguay is a clean temperate country with very few nasty diseases or health risks, and a good standard of health care. There is a low risk of rabies and no malaria, and a very low risk of dengue fever, although in 2009 Argentina’s health ministry belatedly admitted an outbreak affecting up to 15,000 people in Chaco and other northern states. Cities such as Paysandú are working hard to eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the dengue virus; you should in any case take precautions against mosquito bites in the daytime.
At the time of writing, there was no risk of zika, but it would be wise to check the ‘Other Risks’ page of TravelHealthPro for the latest advice. There is no yellow fever in Uruguay, nor is there a certificate requirement to enter the country. However, if you plan to visit countries that do have the disease, such as Brazil and rural parts of Argentina, then vaccination is recommended at least ten days before arriving in the endemic area. The vaccine is not suitable for everyone, so be sure to seek medical advice before booking a trip outside Uruguay.
Apart from yellow fever, as described above, no other vaccinations are required, but make sure you’re up to date with tetanus and diphtheria (which now come together with polio as the all-in-one Revaxis) and hepatitis A jabs. Entry requirements can be checked with the Ministry of Public Health and further information is available on the CDC website.
Medical care in Uruguay is good but can be expensive; foreigners will usually be expected to pay cash, and arrange reimbursement from their insurer later. Travel insurance is essential, more so that you can be flown out if necessary. Pharmacies supply most internationally available medications, and the well-trained staff are able to supply most drugs, except for narcotics, without a doctor’s prescription. A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on istm.org.
There’s little casual crime in Uruguay, generally seen as an oasis of personal security in South America. Even so, you should take sensible precautions, especially in Montevideo. Avoid looking like a wealthy tourist: leave jewellery and other such valuables at home. If you carry a bag in addition to your pack, never put it down: keep it under your arm or over your shoulder. Do not keep valuables in it: not only can it be snatched, but it can also be picked, slit or slashed open. The same applies to a ‘bum bag’, although this is a handy way to carry a compact camera.
Divide your money and travellers’ cheques between at least two different places, in your baggage and on your body. For your passport and cash reserves, use a moneybelt, neck pouch or secret inside pocket. Alternatively, you can sew a hidden pocket into the front of your trousers or shorts. If your passport is too bulky to carry comfortably and safely, take some other form of identification, such as a driving licence or photocopies of the key pages of your passport. Keep the numbers of your travellers’ cheques, passport, credit cards and flight itineraries separate from other valuables, so that if they are lost you can replace them more easily; it’s also smart to leave them as an email message to yourself. You can even scan or take digital photos of passports and flight itineraries and attach them to your email.
In some ways, Uruguay is a conservative country, but it’s not ridiculously macho and religion has relatively little sway. Although gender roles are traditional, with women largely identified with child-rearing, especially outside Montevideo, female travellers can relax as this is one of the safest and most hassle-free Latin American countries. Men may shout and whistle, but as a rule that’s as far as it goes. There certainly are bars where women should not go alone, but they’re pretty obvious. Dressing and behaving reasonably modestly is simply good manners in a conservative society, but this is less necessary in the main beach resorts.
Travelling with a disability
Facilities for travellers with disabilities are very limited in Uruguay, although you’ll find that in Montevideo bus routes CA1 and 125 are fully accessible to wheelchairs, as is Plaza Independencia, according to signs posted there. Modern Antel phone centres are built to a standard design with ramped access. It was decreed that Uruguay should be accessible by 2018, and while it didn’t hit this target entirely, wheelchair ramps and accessible taxis are appearing fast. Footways can be terrible, so wheelchair users may spend a lot of time in the road – which isn’t especially dangerous, given the considerate local drivers.
Montevideo doesn’t have the kind of gay tourism scene now found in Buenos Aires, but it’s a relaxed place and there are various gay-only and gay-friendly clubs. According to the 2016 Spartacus Gay Travel Index, Uruguay is the most gay-friendly country in Latin America, and the tenth worldwide; it’s a tolerant, laid-back country where religion has little power.