Uruguay uses the peso as its official currency and has done so for many years. The peso in use at the moment is officially the peso uruguayo, even though it was originally introduced to replace the old peso in 1993! Inflationary circumstances after the First World War led to a number of new versions of the currency being issued.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
As is the case with other peso currencies around the world, the currency uses the dollar symbol when amounts are written down. It also has the letter U after the symbol to distinguish it from other dollar amounts. So for example 20 pesos would appear written as $U20.
There are currently five coins in general circulation, and these are the $1, $2, $5, $10 and $50 peso coins. Aside from these you can also use several banknotes – seven in all. These are the $20, $50, $100, $200, $500, $1,000 and $2,000 notes. As you might expect it is harder to get change if you try paying with the higher valued notes.
From past to present – the history of the Uruguayan peso
As we have already seen, inflation has led to re-issues of the peso over time. The currency has been used in the country for many years – ever since it was first settled by the Europeans – but different versions are quite commonplace as you look back through history.
The current peso uruguayo replaced the Nuevo peso which replaced the original peso. The existing version has been in place for more than 20 years so it remains to be seen how much longer it will be used for. Will inflation result in yet another change to a differently named peso at some point in the future, we wonder?
How to get hold of the Uruguayan peso
It is pretty easy to get hold of all the pesos you could need for your time in Uruguay. There are plenty of cash machines around in major towns and cities, but you must make sure you use the right ones. Look for one of two logos – either the green Banred logo or the blue Redbrou logo. These tell you the machines will accept foreign bank cards. According to the latest information the cash machines can dispense local peso notes or US dollars, so make sure you choose pesos.
You might want to take some traveller’s cheques into the country with you so you have something to use and exchange straight away. If this is the case it is best to get them in US dollars. These are the easiest ones to exchange even if it might take a while to complete the process. When you arrive at the airport in Uruguay you can exchange actual US dollars for local pesos as well, so bear this in mind.
In some cases establishments will also accept US dollar banknotes as payment for goods or services. Check first before you try paying with these notes though, and remember it is always good to have some pesos on you. As is the case in all countries, the largest of the peso notes can be tricky to get accepted as it might mean you need lots of change, depending on how much you spend. As such it is often better to withdraw cash several times from cash machines rather than withdrawing one large amount. This reduces the odds of receiving large notes.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Uruguayan peso
It is quite easy to get the latest exchange rate whenever you need it, such as in the weeks before you go on holiday there or on a business trip. You probably have a currency converter you use quite a lot; use this to find the peso and to work out the latest exchange rate. You can type in UYU to find the right peso to get the exchange rate for.
Bear in mind that bureaux de change will have their own exchange rates based on this main figure. This is why it is a good idea to check around and see which bureau de change offers the best rates on the market for exchanging your own currency.
If you are thinking about going to Uruguay it makes sense to get up to date information about your trip and the situation in the country. You can do this by visiting the UK government website at https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/uruguay.
Travelling safely with Uruguayan pesos
The capital of Uruguay is Montevideo and it is here that much of the crime – such as it is – exists. Many tourists enjoy visiting the capital and as is the case with all capital cities around the world petty crimes have been increasing here.
You can take practical and common-sense steps to try and minimise the odds of being targeted in this way. For example keep your belongings and valuables out of sight and with you at all times. If you leave a bag unattended don’t be too surprised if it disappears. Similarly it is good not to carry any more cash or cards around with you than you absolutely have to. If you use cash machines make sure you do so securely and check no one is crowding you or trying to look over your shoulder to see your pin number. If you can use a machine inside a bank this is the best and safest option.
If the hotel or accommodation you are staying in provides you with a safe, use it for any belongings or valuables you don’t need to carry with you. In addition to this the UK government official website recommends you carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times. Your actual passport should stay in your hotel safe for the duration of the time you are in Uruguay.
Where to spend your pesos in Uruguay – and what to spend them on
Uruguay can be found in South America and shares borders with Argentina and Brazil. Its capital city, Montevideo, can be found halfway along the southern coastline. Its positioning here means it has a bustling port and a third of the total number of residents in the country can be found here. If you get a chance to see the city don’t miss Ciudad Vieja, which is one of the highlights. This is the oldest part of the city and while it is very modern in some ways it also has some old buildings and classic sights. Don’t miss de Julio Avenue, which is best known for its superb collection of Art Deco buildings.
Elsewhere in Uruguay there is much more to sink your teeth into. You could try visiting Colonia del Sacramento for example. The historic quarter here has been rightfully granted UNESCO World Heritage Status. It boasts a history that stretches back over 300 years, with cobbled streets and a definite preference for single storey dwellings. Take your time to wander through the streets and squares to appreciate the history all around you.
Punta del Diablo is a great place to visit if you want to explore a town that boasts a delightful beach. This is becoming better known and more loved all the time, so if you want to consider visiting it you shouldn’t waste any time. In years to come it may well be a lot busier than it is at the moment.
You could also venture across to Isla de Lobos, which is a small island just off the main coast of Uruguay. This is a nature reserve and you can catch a boat from Punta del Este Uruguay to get there. If you get a well-organised trip you will learn much from the people who take you there. Punta del Este is well worth a look in its own right too – among other things you can see La Mano. This is quite literally a hand sculpture – you will see the tips of four huge fingers and a thumb poking up out of the sand. It’s quite remarkable to witness if a little strange too!
A trip to Lussich Park would not be a bad idea either. The park has a history stretching back over 100 years and it is a botanical garden to be admired. Indeed it is admired and revered by many who are in the know from all over the world. The park is named after its creator, a man called Antonio Lussich. He may not have realised what he was creating at the time, but now it stands as a testament to his hard work.
Uruguay may not be the first country you would consider visiting in South America. However as you can see it has plenty of tourism opportunities to consider. You can spend your pesos on getting into such tourist sites as Lussich Park or visit the capital Montevideo to enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes available there. Whatever you have planned, your trip to Uruguay might be a real surprise.