Mild and sunny year-round, Uruguay comes alive during the South American summer (December to February), when temperatures hover in the 80sF. Punta del Este kicks into full swing in late December, when the masses arrive for flamboyant New Year’s celebrations. Summer days can be sweltering in Colonia del Sacramento, making its freshwater beaches popular. During the winter months (June to August), temperatures range between 43F and 59F during the day. In beach towns like Jose Ignacio most restaurants and shops close for the winter or open only at weekends.
Carnaval, during the week before the start of Lent, is a very popular time to visit. Montevideo hosts the country's main events, but parades, dance parties and spirited celebrations are widespread.
Uruguay virtually shuts down during Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and celebrates with gaucho-style barbecues, parades and local folk music.
On New Year's Eve the country's beaches are packed with champagne-swilling revellers awaiting spectacular midnight fireworks displays.
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
Montevideo's Carrasco International Airport (MVD) is served by flights from Buenos Aires with Aerolineas Argentinas and Pluna, from Miami with American Airlines, from Madrid with Iberia, from Paris Charles de Gaulle with Air France via Buenos Aires, from Santiago de Chile with LAN and from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo with Gol and Pluna . If you're coming from elsewhere you'll probably need to take connecting flights via one of these cities; Buenos Aires is the most common route, though there is a flight from London Gatwick via Madrid on Air Europa thrice-weekly.
During high season (December to March) there are up to a dozen flights a day between Buenos Aires and Punta del Este Capitán Corbeta CA Curbelo International Airport (PDP), with a flying time of around 45 minutes. Flights at other times of the year are less frequent. See Pluna and Aerolineas Argentinas for further details.
Bear in mind that most international flights to Buenos Aires land at the city's Ezeiza Airport, whereas many flights to Uruguay depart from the domestic Jorge Newbery Airport (commonly known as Aeroparque); it's therefore worth combining a visit to Uruguay with a stay in Buenos Aires, or at the very least leaving a few hours to travel between the 2 airports.
If you're flying between several destinations in South America, consider buying an air pass through LAN or Mercosur, which allow for multiple stops. Both passes must be purchased in your home country; prices vary according to distance covered.
Many visitors to Uruguay arrive by ferry from Buenos Aires. There are regular Buquebus hydrofoil services to Colonia del Sacramento (a journey of 50 minutes) and Montevideo (3 hours). Bear in mind you may have to pay Uruguayan port tax upon arrival.
There's no direct ferry service from Buenos Aires to Punta del Este; instead you'll need to take a boat to Montevideo, then take a taxi from the ferry terminal to the downtown Terminal Omnibus Tres Cruces, from where buses to Punta del Esta depart (COT offers the best service). The trip from Montevideo to Punta del Este takes about 2 hours.
Buenos Aires and Uruguay are connected by a series of road bridges. If you plan to hire a car in Argentina and drive to Uruguay check that your vehicle can be taken across the border and that you have the necessary insurance.
Rent a mountain bike, motorbike, golf cart or four-wheeler to explore small towns like Colonia del Sacramento and Jose Ignacio. Otherwise, taxis and buses are plentiful and cheap. There’s really no reason to drive unless you want to explore the countryside (if so see our car rental recommendations). Uruguayan drivers tend to speed and by their own admission are unpredictable on the road. Taxis stop to drop off fares on main routes.
Citizens of Europe and North America only need a valid passport for stays of up to 3 months. Australian passport holders must apply for a visa from a Uruguayan consulate.
There are no obligatory inoculations unless you're arriving from a high risk area. The most likely complaint is diarrohea, usually from a change of diet rather than encountering anything too unhygienic. The best cure is to drink plenty of bottled water and eat bland food. If symptoms persist over a few days you should seek medical advice. The local consulate or tourist office can usually recommend someone reliable (who will expect to be paid in cash). Most antibiotics can be bought over the counter at a chemist (make a note of any medication you are allergic to).
A 10% tip is customary in bars and restaurants when a service charge isn't included in the bill. If the service is exceptional, then of course tip more at your discretion. Taxi drivers don't expect a tip unless they have been heaving your bags about.
Be ready for rapid-fire Uruguayan Spanish, peppered with slang. Most Uruguayans living in the cities have studied some English at school but don't actually speak it. There are few fluent English speakers outside Montevideo and Punta del Este.