Hallie, 39, moved to Uruguay three years ago. She works for a luxury travel agency based in New York remotely. She and her Argentine husband chose to live in Carrasco, Montevideo’s most upmarket neighbourhood. Full of green leafy boulevards and large pleasant homes, their lifestyle comes at a high price tag. Hallie earns extremely well, particularly by Uruguayan standards, but is finding it impossible to save.
I believe that it’s very possible for Hallie to live a life she will love in another part of Montevideo for half of what she is spending in Carrasco. But that is for a consultation with Guru’Guay!
As the fourth of our series on Living in Uruguay Hallie talks to Karen A Higgs, CEO of Guru’Guay about the Uruguay healthcare system—last year she had a baby here. We talk about her experience, what healthcare costs and finding and arranging childcare. Hallie is from Ohio in the USA and lived in Barcelona and Buenos Aires for over a decade before moving to Uruguay.
I can’t thank Hallie enough for her openness to sharing her experience, so that others may benefit. It’s a privilege to have her share such personal information for the benefit of the wider Guru’Guay community of people looking to move to Uruguay.
Don’t miss the full interview above as we go into much more detail. This article has been edited for brevity and clarity. And don’t miss the rest of our series on Living in Uruguay (as a foreigner).
Moving to Carrasco, Montevideo
Karen A Higgs: Hallie, thanks so much for letting us call you whilst your on holiday back in the States. Can you tell me where you’re from originally, what you do and when you moved to Uruguay?
Hallie: I’m originally from Ohio, but I’ve lived abroad for the last almost 20 years. I work in the luxury travel industry for a bespoke travel company based in New York, and I moved to Uruguay almost three years ago.
Karen A Higgs: Why did you choose Uruguay? And where did you decide to live?
Hallie: My husband is Argentine and I lived in Buenos Aires for many years. We were in Barcelona and decided we wanted to be closer to family because we wanted to have a family of our own. And the compromise was, I won’t go to Buenos Aires because it’s a bit large and a bit chaotic. And right now, politically, it’s also a bit complex.
I’d been to Uruguay a few times on vacation and visiting family and just really liked the general climate. I love the air. I like that nature is so close. You’re on the beach, you can drive 2 hours, and you’re in the sierras. It is a great place to be in South America, but not to have to worry about all the kind of chaotic craziness and have a tranquil lifestyle—and a great place to start a family.
We really wanted to be in a place that had green like a lot of green space and natural light. We actually wanted to live in the Ciudad Vieja (Old City) but we found that what we were looking for was more in Carrasco. In Carrasco, you hear birds, there’s lots of green space, there are parks, and it’s like living in a nice suburb, but without feeling like you’re in a suburb because you have a nice little city centre nearby and we can ride our bikes around.
Karen A Higgs: I believe you rent.
Hallie: We do rent. We made a poor decision of putting the rental contract in pesos as the dollar hadn’t been doing super great in relation to the Argentine peso—which is not the case of the Uruguayan peso. It was a bad bet, and came from our Argentine mentality.
We pay 56,000 pesos a month, which I think is reasonable for where we live. The issue is the building expenses which have ended up being two or three times what we were originally told to expect. So that really puts the price up. We pay about 25,000 to 28,000 pesos a month.
So in dollars in total it ends up being around 2200 USD which is a lot. And we would love to get that down.
The building has a garage and 24 hour security and a pool and a gym and a place to have a barbecue and all the amenities which are nice, but maybe not entirely necessary for us. But it’s very comfortable. It’s a brand new building as well. So we were the first tenants, which is pretty nice.
Karen A Higgs: Was it easy to take out a rental contract?
Hallie: We had a three year contract and we negotiated after one year to be able to sub-rent so we could rent it out to somebody else. It was relatively easy because we found a good agent and my husband’s brother in law lives in Montevideo, so we were able to use a property that he owns as a guarantee.
Life in Uruguay – the pros and the cons
Karen A Higgs: What surprised you for good about life in Uruguay?
Hallie: What is really good for me personally is I tend to be like, let’s go, let’s do this, fix this, kind of this immediacy to everything. And when I first arrived, I wanted to apply that to life—to getting paid, to getting my residency, to finding a place to live, just kind of figuring things out.
And at the beginning, I would get frustrated when it didn’t work out that way. Then I realised no one is getting worked up and stressed out on the other end. So there is no reason for you to do that either.
And I have a job that can be very fast paced, very intense, very demanding.
So I find that that climate and that element of the culture is a really nice balance to my personality and to my work with the US market. It’s just a different pace. And I think it helps me have a good equilibrium.
Karen A Higgs: What about something that’s not so great.
Hallie: The only thing that really bothers me is that it’s a very expensive. But there’s nothing really that drives me crazy.
It’s the cost of living that has been the most surprising and challenging. But I also understand that there are different sectors and different lifestyles in Uruguay. And what I’ve realised is that we’ve set ourselves up in a very expensive range and it’s hard to downgrade.
A typical day for a young family in Uruguay
Karen A Higgs: Can you tell me about your family and take me through a typical day of your life in Uruguay?
Hallie: Yeah. So it’s myself, my husband, and we now have a one and a half year old daughter who is Uruguayan. I got pregnant with her in Uruguay and it was a really great experience. Just all the the doctors, all the support I gave birth in the British Hospital, which was like I mean, it was obviously hard to give birth, but it was a dream being there because everybody was so attentive.
Uruguay places a lot of value on family and absolutely loves children. So I love that wherever we go, people are really friendly and very affectionate to this little baby that I have. And that makes me feel very embraced and like I live in a really warm place.
I usually ride my bike to what I call my co-working space, but it’s actually just my favourite cafe. They let you sit there and have great coffee, I look out this beautiful window and there’s trees and plants, and you can also sit outside when it’s warm outside. So I love starting my day, sitting outside. There’s kind of like energy, but it’s a very kind of low key energy. So I like that.
Around midday I’ll ride my bike home to have lunch at home. My husband will come home from the studio. He can also ride his bike there. And then we’ll pick up our daughter at daycare, which is about a 15 minute walk. And then have a really nice dinner.
During the week we have a bit more structure and then on the weekends we’ll have a barbecue, see friends, go on a walk, go away for the weekend—which is very easy to do because you can drive an hour and a half or 2 hours and be in an entirely different setting like a gorgeous beach or an estancia inland.
So I really like the pace of life and the quality of life that we have in Montevideo. I think it’s quite exceptional really. But there’s also, I think, a simplicity to things which I like. It’s really grounding.
And another thing that I really enjoy, especially not being like in the US, is that consumerism exists, but not to the level of the US.
Karen A Higgs: And so you touched on friends. How easy did you find it to make friends?
Hallie: I haven’t found it super easy, to be honest. I found it easy to make like expat friends for lack of a better term. I’ve met some really interesting people, similar age, also some with kids.
I’ve made a few Uruguayan friends, but I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to really develop a deeper friendship. Naturally, you know, when you’ve grown up in a place, you have your friends from high school, you have your family, you have your partner’s family. People have a lot going on.
I find people to be very friendly and warm, but I find it difficult to kind of go deeper and really develop a friendship. And maybe that just takes time. I’ve heard that Uruguayans take a little bit longer to open up and yeah, I’m still learning, so I don’t have an answer there.
Working remotely doesn’t help and having a baby. You spend a lot of time at home when they’re newborn. So I want to branch out and continue to meet people.
Childcare in Uruguay
Karen A Higgs: What’s available where childcare in Uruguay is concerned? Is it easy to find and what does it cost?
Hallie: We got very lucky. I did pre-natal pilates classes and we added to their WhatsApp group for mothers. I just asked, Hey, does anybody have a nanny? And I got sent a few options. And literally the first one that we met with was a really good fit and it has worked very well with her. She’s about 21 and studying medicine. She’s great—very responsible and reliable. There’s a fine line between having somebody formally employed versus informal and we learned how to navigate that.
There’s an excellent daycare centre in our neighbourhood. My daughter started half a year ago when she was one. There are two teachers for seven kids in a house with a garden. The kids wear these cute little uniforms and you can just tell they’re happy to get dropped off. They’re happy when you pick them up.
Between the babysitter and the school we pay about 700 dollars a month for almost full time. That’s been one of the most seamless parts of where we live and how easy it was to set up work.
Healthcare in Uruguay (as a young family)
Karen A Higgs: Could you share your experience with health care—how it works for you, the quality and the costs—as a young family.
Hallie: When we first moved here, everybody had recommended the British Hospital and because of wanting to get pregnant and give birth in a foreign country, I wanted to be very comfortable. The standards I think are the same as the US or Europe or even better as far as the service is concerned. The facilities are world class, I would say. I think originally I paid 130 dollars a month for just myself.
My husband joined a much cheaper option. His coverage was about 40 dollars and I think it’s good. For appointments you have to call a few months in advance.
But the British Hospital was like a whole other level.
Cost of living in Carrasco, Montevideo
Karen A Higgs: You live in the most expensive part of Montevideo and you’re a young family. I was wondering, if you’d be so kind as to share details about how much you’re spending in the different areas that will be so helpful for other people. And if there are like that you would have done differently, based on the experience that you have.
We love living in Carrasco, but living in, like you said, one of the most expensive neighbourhoods, all the services and even just the cost of the supermarkets nearby are high. You kind of end up in this bubble world where everything seems super expensive. And I know that there are other ways to do it.
As I mentioned, we have about 2200 USD with rent and the building expenses. Having a car in Montevideo is also expensive because we have our monthly car payments, gas, insurance and I think it’s about 700 USD a month with everything. Childcare is about 700-800 USD a month and we spend about 1200 USD a month on groceries.
So our fixed costs are probably 6-7000 USD a month which is a lot in Uruguay, especially when you see the salaries that people are paid. So we’re always like: how do people survive?
I think our error was getting into this comfortable high-end sector. We didn’t look at tons of apartments. We just went for what seemed like a nice, comfortable, beautiful place. And, you know, we’re paying the price of that.
Even though I have a good income and my husband has a property in Spain, we feel a little kind of hard to know how we would make the next steps regarding getting a mortgage, interest rates, etc. It’s been frustrating and it’s hard to understand how social mobility works in a place like Uruguay. Even though as far as rankings go, it’s a good place to live.
The cost of living is very high if you live in Carrasco. Before I moved here, I wish I had known the real cost of things and had a better sense of how to be strategic about what elements that were costly to include and those not to include.
Following the interview Hallie decided to set up a consultation with Guru’Guay to get answers to these questions. It’s very possible for Hallie to live a life she will love in another part of Montevideo for half of what she is spending in Carrasco and to become part of the Uruguay social system.
Karen A Higgs: And the biggest difference between your life before and now?
The biggest difference between my life before and now is that—even though I have a full time job and a one and a half year old daughter—I’m hardly ever stressed. The surroundings—where I live and the environment—and the people and the vibe don’t allow you to be stressed even if you want to.
Karen A Higgs: You’re going to live longer in Uruguay
Hallie: I feel great. Yeah. And I need your advice.
HUGE THANKS to Hallie Neumann. We are so grateful.