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SafetyTravel Safety: Americas: Uruguay

Uruguay: Oriental Republic of Uruguay
Capital: Montevideo
Population: 3,386,575
Currency: Uruguayan peso (UYU)
Languages: Spanish, Portunol, or Brazilero (Portuguese-Spanish mix on the Brazilian frontier)
Religions: Roman Catholic 66% (less than half of the adult population attends church regularly), Protestant 2%, Jewish 1%, nonprofessing or other 31%
Borders: Argentina 579 km, Brazil 985 km

Uruguay is a middle-income nation with a developing economy. The quality of facilities for tourism varies, according to price and area. The capital city is Montevideo.

Due to Uruguay's close proximity to the Tri-Border Area (Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay), activities related to terrorism are a concern, but there are no recent reports of credible threats directed against American interests in Uruguay specifically. Throughout Uruguay, there is little anti-American sentiment. Almost no acts of civil unrest have been reported within the country. Demonstrations and public protests occasionally occur, although they are not directed against the United States. U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Uruguay are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. If such an event occurs, additional advice may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone numbers listed in paragraph 18. The locations and times of demonstrations are generally advertised in advance in the local media.

In the capital city of Montevideo, petty street crimes, such as pick pocketing, purse snatching, confrontational robberies, and thefts from unsecured automobiles, occur daily. Such crimes are usually non-violent, but the potential for violence exists if perpetrators are armed and victims resist. Potential thieves roam at all hours seeking �targets of opportunity� in the downtown areas of Montevideo such as Ciudad Vieja, Avenida 18 de Julio, Plaza Independencia, and the vicinity around the port. Visitors should avoid walking in those areas and use taxis when possible, especially at night. Victims are usually foreign tourists, individuals openly carrying valuable items, and motorists in unlocked vehicles stopped at busy intersections, particularly on Montevideo's riverfront road known as the Rambla. Drivers should keep all car doors locked, the driver's window open only one inch, and purses, bags, briefcases and other valuables out of sight on the floor or in the trunk. Parked cars, particularly in the Carrasco neighborhood, are also increasingly targeted for break-ins. During the summer months (December-March), beach resort areas such as Punta del Este attract tourists, and petty street crimes and residential burglaries--similar to those that occur in Montevideo--rise significantly. Visitors are advised to exercise common sense in the conduct of their activities around Montevideo and in Uruguayan resort areas. They should be very attentive to personal security and their surroundings in the aforementioned areas. 

Uruguayan law enforcement authorities have increased the number of uniformed policemen on foot in areas where criminal activity is concentrated, and the number of patrol cars in residential areas. The clearly marked patrol cars are equipped with cellular phones and the phone numbers are conspicuously painted on the vehicles.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Uruguayan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Uruguay are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. 

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18. 

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16. 

The Uruguayan Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing strictly enforces all regulations regarding hunting permits, as well as seasonal and numerical limits on game. Visitors who contravene local law have been detained by the authorities and had valuable personal property (weapons) seized. Under Uruguayan law, seized weapons can only be returned after payment of a sum equivalent to the value of the property seized. Hunters are also subject to stiff fines for practicing the sport without all appropriate permits.

Facilities for medical care are considered adequate. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at Within the Uruguayan Office of the Presidency, the Sistema Nacional de Emergencias would handle local disaster response.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Uruguay is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance: 

Safety of Public Transportation: Good 
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Good 

The Uruguayan Ministry of Transportation is responsible for maintaining safe road conditions countrywide. Excerpts from its voluminous Spanish-language road conditions inventory (unavailable on Internet) may be requested from the Embassy by fax at 598-2-408-4110 or e-mail at The Uruguayan Ministry of Interior highway police (tel. 1954) are responsible for traffic safety on highways and other roads beyond city limits. In urban and suburban areas, transit police and municipal employees share road safety responsibilities. Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Wearing seat belts and using headlights on highways and other inter-city roads 24 hours a day are mandatory. Children under 12 must ride in the back seat. Motorcyclists must wear helmets. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited. Right turns on red lights and left turns at most intersections marked with a stoplight are not permitted. Drivers approaching an intersection from the right or already in traffic circles have the right of way. Flashing high beams indicate intent to pass or continue through unmarked intersections. For driving under the influence, violators are fined and confiscated licenses may be retained for up to six months. In accidents causing injury or death, drivers are brought before a judge who decides if incarceration is warranted. 

Inter-city travel is via bus, taxi, car service (remise), car and motorcycle. Speed limits are posted on highways and some main roads. Most taxis have no seat belts in the back seat. Cycling outside the capital or small towns is hazardous due to a scarcity of bike paths, narrow road shoulders and unsafe driving practices. 

Illumination, pavement markings and road surfaces are sometimes poor. Route 1, which runs between Montevideo and Colonia or Punta del Este, and Route 2, between Rosario and Fray Bentos, are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist traffic. Road accidents rise during the austral summer beach season (December to March), Carnaval (mid-to-late February) and Easter Week. 

Within Montevideo, the emergency number to contact the police, fire department, rescue squad, or ambulance service is 911. In the rest of the country, dial 02-911 to connect with the Montevideo central emergency authority, which will then contact the local emergency service. The Automobile Club of Uruguay responds to emergency calls for roadside assistance at 1707, �Car Up� at 0800-1501 and the Automobile Center of Uruguay at 2-408-6131/2091. SEMM (tel. 159) and UCM (tel. 147), Montevideo-based ambulance services manned by doctors, have agreements with emergency medical units in other cities. 

The Uruguayan Ministry of Transportation is designing a road-specific web site. Current government web sites contain some road safety-related information at: and 

For specific information concerning Uruguayan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Uruguayan National Tourist Organization offices in Coral Gables, Florida via the Internet at or at tel. (305) 443-7431.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Uruguay's civil aviation authority as Category 2* - not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Uruguay's air carrier operations. Consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Uruguay's air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at 

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the U.S. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 13, 2004

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