Calculate a bit more time than you would normally take for your journey and sit back and relax on some of the emptiest roads in the world.
You may be the only driver for miles around on Uruguay’s country highways (yes, this is a highway in the interior). The roadmarker (known as a “mojón” in Spanish) tells you the number of kilometres you are from a major intersection or town. Direction are often given in the countryside based on the roadmarkings. ie get off at “Km 145,500” means you’d turn off this highway 500 metres after this marker.
1. Beware of pot holes
Uruguay’s highways between major tourist destinations ie Colonia to Montevideo to Punta del Este to the Brazilian border are in great shape.
However in the interior, even major roads may be full of potholes.
The speed limit inland is 90 kilometres per hour. That’s 56 miles per hour. But at times you will find yourself down to 60 kph because of poor road surfaces.
These babies were a foot wide in diametre (30 cm) and an inch or so deep and were numerous on Ruta 7 in Lavalleja.
I don’t mean to imply you need a 4 x 4 to drive on Uruguayan country highways -a standard car is just fine-, but you do need to take your time as you drive. Remember, the journey is all part of the experience.
2. Beware of cows
This was filmed thirty minutes north of Montevideo on Ruta 5 – Uruguay’s main highway running from the north to the south of the country. Enough said.
3. Beware, children crossing
When passing a school by law you must slow your car right down to a crawl. When schools are in session, you’ll usually see signs like this one.
4. Beware of unexpected curves and respect road signage
Country highways tend to be super straight but then suddenly there’s a zig zag, or a speedbump! Always drive alert and keep your speed down. Always respect roadsigns – especially those indicating when not to overtake. Road surfaces may not be great, but signage is usually pretty good.
Country highways usually cut through the middle of country towns. This sign indicates a speedbump which are frequent for obvious reasons.
5. Beware the blazing sun to the west
Take sunset into account when you are calculating drive time to your destination. Uruguay’s gently rolling countryside provides little shade when driving west in the late afternoon. The sun will be in your eyes obscuring your vision.
And there are few street lights in the countryside. So calculate reaching your destination ideally well before sundown.
6. Beware truckers’ sunburn
Between November and April, use sunscreen when you are in the car for more than fifteen minutes. Otherwise you are guaranteed sunburn on your one arm, one side of your face, and/or neck. Uruguay is affected by a hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic.
7. Be nice. Greet fellow travellers
Drivers and bystanders typically raise a hand to acknowledge each other’s presence in the countryside. I guess it has something to do with the fact that you may pass just three cars an hour on some highways!
Join the locals and greet passing gauchos on horseback, road workers filling those pot holes and other folk you cross on your journey. These will undoubtedly be the same folks that will help you out if you get a flat/run out of gas/etc.
Photos and video: Guru’Guay
The Montevideo international airport is 15 miles from the city centre. You can take a taxi, shuttle or bus. The most common way is private transfer.
Unashamed shout-out for local car hire company, Mariño Sport, in Uruguay. I’ve been impressed by their great service and personal touch since 2010.
Driving in the interior of Uruguay is a real pleasure. Calculate a little extra time and relax on some of the emptiest roads in the world.
There’s zero tolerance. Not even a glass. The police are hot on breathalysing tourists right now. And the consequences could be worse than you think.