Exchanging cash is cheap and easy. You can change money in an exchange bureau (cambio) or a bank.
You do not need to show ID.
You won’t be charged commission.
The best exchange rate is given for US dollars with Euros a close second. There is very little difference between buying and selling US dollars.
Getting the best rate
The National Bank (BROU) is the classic reference Uruguayans check when they are going to exchange money. To see the regular rates locally, look for the table called “Cotizaciones” (Rates). The rates shown are for buying and selling of US dollars, Argentina pesos, Brazilian reales and Euros.
Generally exchange bureaux (except for the thieving hounds at the airport) offer similar rates. I have noticed that the exchanges in some of the posher neighbourhoods like Carrasco and Pocitos are less competitive than in the city centre.
If you are exchanging more than a hundred dollars ask the teller what their best rate is (say, “Cual es tu mejor cambio para 200 USD?”). You will invariably get up apx 0.25 pesos more for your dollar, which can mount up.
No commission charged
Take advantage of this. If you have excess Brazilian reales or Argentinian pesos, it might well be worth your while changing them into dollars before you move on, given you don’t have to pay commission.
If you exchange too many pesos, it is worth changing your excess back into USD before you move on to your next destination.
Do not exchange money at the airport
The airport has very bad rates (paying out 20% less on average). If you need money straight away, withdraw money at one of the airport ATMs and plan to exchange in the city centre.
For other money-saving tips like this, you should really consider buying my Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo. You’ll be supporting this site and getting a great travelbook that will save you money as well as make your stay in Uruguay really unique.
Withdrawing cash at ATMs
ATMs dispense Uruguayan pesos – and US dollars!
Yes, so different to neighbouring Argentina, where is it virtually impossible to get hold of dollars.
There are ATMs in the airports, bus stations and at the port in Montevideo. Be aware that outside the principal cities and larger towns, ATMs are hard to find. Along the coast in Rocha, pick up cash in Chuy or La Paloma.
Most taxi drivers will not accept 1000 pesos bills. Withdraw an amount that will give you change eg 3800 pesos, rather than 4000.
Exchanges in Montevideo are open regular business hours, typically 9am till 7pm Monday to Friday. To exchange on weekends or until 10pm, go to a shopping centre exchange house.
Note banks only open in the afternoon from 1-5pm.
Do Uruguayan businesses accept dollars or Argentine pesos?
It is best to pay with Uruguayan pesos however many businesses or even taxis are likely to accept smaller dollar bills if you are in a tight spot.
Colonia is the exception as it depends a great deal on day-trip tourism from Buenos Aires. Virtually all businesses there accept Argentine pesos and dollars as a matter of course at a reasonable exchange rate.
During the summer time, beachtownbusinesses are also usually fine to accept non-Uruguayan currencies, but you may want to check the rate that that they will give you.
Larger supermarkets will usually accept payment in dollars, as long as you are ok with receiving your change in pesos. Their rates are normally the market ones.
Don’t fall into the common mistake, thinking that what applies for Argentina is the same for Uruguay. For all the reasons mentioned above, this is just another confirmation that Argentina’s (crazy monetary) situation and Uruguay’s are completely unrelated.
However, Uruguayans, like the citizens of many other Latin American nations, typically save in dollars. So don’t be surprised to see property prices, rental values and the price of electrical and luxury goods labelled in dollars.