Tax free Uruguay: Benefits for non-residents

Automatic tax reductions on car hire, restaurants and hotels when you use your international credit card in Uruguay. Big savings.
By Karen A Higgs
tipping credit cards uruguay
Last updated on September 7, 2023
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When you present your passport or overseas ID in Uruguay, you do not pay VAT on accommodation. Also, when you use a foreign credit or debit card in Uruguay you get 9% VAT deducted from restaurant bills and car hire.

Which credit cards are most accepted in Uruguay?

The most popular credit card in Uruguay is VISA which dominates with 70% of the market. Also useful to have are Mastercard and the local OCA card. Beware that American Express and Diners, popular cards in the USA, are virtually unknown here and you may find that very few places accept them.

Why does Uruguay make tax-free purchases so easy for foreigners you may ask? Reality is, it is designed to attract tourists from Argentina and Brazil who have historically made up the bulk of visitors to Uruguay. Argentina is often in economic strife, and so it’s a benefit to ensure they don’t decide to holiday at home.

Another major benefit for travellers to Uruguay, up to 40% discount on fuel prices on gas stations near border crossings. So lucky you!

BTW, VAT in Spanish is called “IVA” (pronounced EE-vah).

🏨 Zero VAT in hotels and accommodation

This benefit applies upon presentation of an identity document issued abroad. This is invoiced without VAT, so no refund is generated. In other words, the tax is not charged directly.

Valid all year round.

🛍 Tax free on goods

On purchases made in shops that adhere to the system, by completing the corresponding procedure at the time of purchase. When leaving the country, the corresponding procedure for reimbursement must be completed at the identified checkpoints.

Valid all year round.

🧾 9% VAT off on restaurant bills & car hire

These tax benefits apply to services provided to final consumers, paying by debit or credit card issued abroad. Just pay with your card and when you get the bill back to sign, the VAT will be knocked off automatically.

Valid until April 30 2024.

👩‍🍳 9% VAT off on catering services for parties and events

These tax benefits apply to services provided to final consumers, paying by debit or credit card issued abroad. Just pay with your card and when you get the bill back to sign, the VAT will be knocked off automatically.

Valid until April 30 2024.

⛽️ Fuel discounts near the border when paying by credit or debit card

40% at gas stations near the Argentinean border

24% at gas stations near the border with Brazil

Valid all year round.

This information was sourced from the Ministry of Tourism website and will be updated in early October 2023.

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104 Responses

  1. Hola!
    The discount for gasoline is quite useless these days as for the veeeery cheap fuel prices in Argentina. Make sure your tank is almost empty when you cross the border and fill up once you are in Argentina.
    Paying with foreign cc, you’ll get cash back from your bank.

  2. Bom dia, com essa nova alteração a partir do dia 01/setembro/2022 o que muda no IVA continua sendo os 09% ou devemos considerar os 22% ?

          1. I’m currently in Montevideo (11/22/2023-12/20/2023) and have been receiving the FULL 22% IVA off my bill at restaurants when using my Foreign credit/debit card. It also has worked at panaderías and ice cream shops. Hope this helps.

          2. I’ve been receiving 18% off with foreign Mastercard. Confusing that gov website says 9% and others seem to be getting 22%?!

  3. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for sharing this info on your blog!
    I’m visiting Montevideo right now and have been using a US Visa card.
    For several restaurants my receipt has been showing a discount of only about 7%
    For example – 175 UYU, of which 31.56 is IVA, came back as 162.09 BEFORE tip. Another example: 583.000 became 539.99.

    Do you know why this refund is falling far short of the 22%? Have you heard of anyone else seeing this change?

    Thanks,
    Trotter, Globe

    1. Hi Trotter, I’m afraid I don’t know… perhaps someone else can help us out. Best, Karen

      1. The 22% VAT refund ended on April 30, 2022 as noted in the article. It was replaced with a 9% VAT refund effective May 4 -September 30th. The 9% rebate is on the pre-VAT cost: U$200 pizza plus U$44 VAT your total bill would normally be U$244. The 9% rebate would save you U$18 (9% of 200 pizza) for a total cost of U$226. So the overall savings from the total cost (pizza + VAT) is about 7.4%, you save 9% of the cost of the pizza.

  4. Hoy pague en un restaurante con tarjeta argentina en Punta del Este y no me hizo el descuento del IVA, porque? Hay qué pedirlo?

    1. Hola, Claudio. La devolución del IVA es automática y la verás reflejada en el saldo de tu cuenta/tarjeta. Por lo general no es instantánea, sino que demora hasta 48 h hábiles. Así que si eso fue hoy, probablemente aún no la veas. Si pasado ese plazo aún no tenés la devolución, te sugiero contactar al restaurante para que te de una explicación (puede que estén registrados como otro rubro que no sea restaurante). Saludos, Federico

    1. Hello Brandon, it usually rolls over. We’ll keep you posted. Best wishes from Uruguay — Karen

  5. Doesn’t look like it is still applied. I’ve made a few purchases at my local pizza places where I always get refunds. Nothing has come through this month. What a shame. Any news about when they’ll start this benefit again?
    Thanks

    1. Hi John, it was a benefit put in place by the previous government which was in power for 15 years. Since March we have a new government. I’m not sure if they are planning to continue this. Besides it was a benefit very much aimed at Argentine tourists and the borders are closed currently due to Covid 19. Bookmark this page though. We’ll be announcing as soon as we hear that there’s a return. All the best, Karen

  6. Planning to go to Uruguay at the end of August as long as the COVID-19 closures don’t get extended until then. Wondering if anyone knows if the vat automatic refund as been extended??? Thank you.

  7. Hi I’ve been in Montevideo for 3 days now. My credit card (VISA) was charged adjusted/reduced amounts at all the restaurants/coffee shops I ate at (total amount minus VAT) but one (Vegan Wraps – very strange, receipt showed discount but cc was charged full fee). But I shopped at Fog and Disco supermarkets 4 times, and each time, the receipt showed the 22% VAT deduction, BUT my credit card was still charged the full amount. I wonder if I will receive a refund from my bank in a few days OR maybe supermarkets aren’t included by this policy? Then why the receipts still show the adjusted/reduced amounts?

    1. Hi Alina, welcome to Uruguay. Smaller places will often pay minimum tax rates and are not categorised as restaurants. That is probably what happened to you at Vegan Wraps. If you read the article above you will see that supermarkets are NOT included. Best wishes, Karen

      1. I see, thanks so much Karen! Just for everyone’s info – it seems most coffee shops I’ve been to including Starbucks, my deduction has been 18%. And although I didn’t get any deduction in supermarkets/shops, I did get 18% deduction buying bread, seasonings, and other food products at DELISHOP which is both a restaurant/cafe and a store (I bought a vegan muffin, a jar of olive dip – I guess the trick is to buy whatever that’s available in supermarkets at this kind of resto/cafe/shop combo!

  8. I can confirm this worked several times in the Moby Dick pub at Punta del Este last night… Discount immediate on the receipt for a Mastercard (multi currency card)

  9. Great to see this offer is still ongoing and now it is June! Saw a tourist publication for visitors from Peru promoting this benefit so they must have extended it.

    1. Hi CJD, yes, the offer is still ongoing and given the situation in Argentina, likely to continue into the future, as it is a benefit that is specifically focused on attracting visitors from Argentina.

  10. Hello, I am just about to go to Uruguay and wonder if this 22% off offer with foreign credit card is stil alive these days. Could you please let me know. Many thanks. Additionally I have somewhere read that when paying Mastercard the amount deducted is not shown on the final bill but is somehow added later to the transaction in my statement. Seems strange but would like to know in order not to have any issue or discussion in the restaurants. Thank you for your kind advice.

    1. I’ve just used a mastcard in Macdonalds last Friday. Spend about 264 pesos. Received a 47.61 pesos refund yesterday! Nice benefit. I must try in El Faro as we spend a fortune in there at the weekends! Not quite 22% but still good. Works out at about 18% not sure why.

      1. Actually 22% over the NET value not Gross which I didn’t realise. It will say on the receipt Aplica Devol
        ucion IVA – Ley 17.934.

        1. It would be great if we could compile a list of establishments that comply to this law. Maybe there are some other outlets that are not just restaurants. Does anyone know if Iberpark offer this discount?

          1. Hi CJD33, all restaurants should be complying with this. Some don’t if they are legally categorised as for example a bakery. Best — Karen

      1. Karen, Is it correct to say that the new IVA 9% refund only happens at “participating stores” rather than happening automatically everywhere? And that it is “for everyone” – in other words, there is no benefit to being a tourist using a foreign issued credit card anymore?

        1. Hi Patricia, the 9% refund is happening on all credit cards ie “for everyone” in all restaurants. So currently there is no additional benefit for foreign issued credit cards. This will change from October 1 when we will return to foreign issued credit cards having the 22% VAT refunded automatically. Cheers – Karen

    1. Hi, does anyone know what the deal is now? Can anyone clarify if this only works for credit cards and not debit cards as it seems to say in some comments? Do you have to be able to see the discounted amount on the receipt at the time of paying for the meal, byt then expect to only see the adjusted (cheaper) amount reflected on your statement after a few days? Please help! Thanks

      1. Hi Anna, my understanding is that the discount works for both type of card. Previously using VISA, the discount showed up right away on the chit/voucher that you sign, and I was told that with MasterCard (I don’t have MC) the discount showed up for the first time on your bank statement. But that was a few years ago. More recently I’ve been informed that the discount should show up right away on the chit regardless of card. Hope that helps. — Karen

  11. I notice that the sales tax discount applies until April 2018. We had our first meal last night and it was not applied automatically. so had not read this far in your book so did not know about it. So it seems that one might have to ask. This was a v. upmarket restaurant in Pocitos.

    1. Hi Andrew, no, it’s supposed to happen automatically on the receipt that you get when you use your international credit or debit card. Check the receipt and before you sign it, if the discount is not applied then draw the wait staff’s attention. Years ago the discount only happened automatically with VISA, but I have been told that now it also happens on Mastercard etc. If it is not applied then you should certainly tell the manager and get the discount, particularly in an upmarket place! Which was it? Cheers — Karen

      1. Hi Karen

        Yes, should have put on my specs. They took it off automatically. Interestingly yesterday we had a drink at a cafe in the Cathedral square which did not accept credit cards. I cannot recall which one by name. It eas next to the Club Uruguay though.

  12. Thanks for this article. I have noticed that paying with my Dutch debit card or Visa credit card in both cases show the discount being applied on the bill. However, looking back on my statements, only with the credit card the discount was actually applied and on the debit card the original amount was charged.

    1. Rogier, I am afraid I am not really sure what might have happened… I would check with your bank, especially if you have receipts you can show where the discount has been applied. Good luck! All the best, Karen

    2. Hi Rogier, did you by any chance look deeper into this? I’m having the same issue and the ING is saying they can’t influence the amount deducted.. Thanks!

      1. Hello, wenn spent two nice weeks in Uruguay. Everybody recomended payments by International debit cards. In our case Master Card the discount ley 17934 was everytime recognized and deducted but in the final Factoring included again.
        Due to this tax-free offer we spent more than planned together with generous tipps and now we remain a bit upset. Hope netter experiences for all of you from Carmela, Germany

        1. Hi Carmela, I can imagine how disappointed you must be feeling. It’s horrible to have a sour taste in your mouth after having had a good time. I am going to pass your message on to the ministry. Let’s see what they have to say. Perhaps you would like to send me some supporting documentation (screenshots)? Please send to info@guruguay.com. All the best, Karen

          1. Hallo Karen, thanks a lot for your reply and support. We will send you some docs as example. We like Uruguay and Uruguay people. I believe that Uruguay deserve happy turists from abroad. Best greetings from Carmela

          2. Glad to be of assistance, Carmela. I have written to the vice minister for tourism on your behalf. I am not hopeful of a fast response, especially not at this time of year, but let’s see what happens. Happy holidays! Karen

          3. Hi Carmela, well, the vice minister responded immediately, and is now looking at the other receipts you forwarded me later #GottaLoveUruguay :). I have asked them to now contact you directly. Do let us know the final outcome! — Karen

  13. Hello,
    Can anyone tell me where to get a tax free form?
    I came to Uruguay thru the buenos Aires boat but using my Canadian cc here. I flew in and out of BA. Can I do the tax back anywhere else besides the airport?

    1. Hi Carolina, my understanding is that certain shops tuned in to working with tourists will fill in a tax form for you. You can also get them at the airport. For the tax back on restaurant and car hire purchase, as mentioned the refund automatically occurs at your time of purchase. Best, Karen

  14. Hi guys – does anybody know if the VAT applies to buses traveling from Uruguay to Argentina?
    Just wondering if its worth heading down to Tres Cruces to book my ticket in person.
    Thank you!
    Tobin.

  15. Hi do you know if we can claim the tax back on other shopping – maybe when we get to the airport on our way back?
    We bought some stuff in Lanas de Uruguay in La Barra and they had a ‘tax free’ sign. The lovely lady was trying to explain how we go about it – but my Spanish is so bad I couldn’t understand!!

    1. Hi Gill, yes you will be able to claim your tax back on purchase in the airport. The good news is that as the Montevideo Carrasco international airport is very small, it’s usually a fairly painless process with short lines 🙂

    2. Hi Gill. You will have to go to the customs with your receipt and tax free form, ask for a stamp on it and inform the credit card you want the credit. Best wishes.

  16. Hi, I am planning to visit Montevideo In August 2016. Was VAT refund renewed ? Thank you. Best regards. Lucio.

      1. We are in uruguay currently (July 2016) and have seen a great discrepancy in IVA deductions when using our credit cards from the US. Sometimes it is 22%; sometimes it is 1%. Why is that? These purchases are all in restaurants/bars and paid with a foreign visa. Thanks for any help that you can provide.

          1. Thanks for the quick response! We were at Patagonia Brewing Co. and had two beers and an appetizer. Our iva refund rates have varied every time we go out to eat from 22% to 18% to the sad 1%. Are certain items not included in the discount or does it just depend on what the establishment decides? I should note that these are all restaurant purchases of food and drinks, paid for by a US-issued Visa.

          2. Hi Violet, the establishment does not decide, it’s a law here. I am thinking that the 1% is the discount that any payment made with a credit card, regardless of country of issue, receives nowadays from the Uruguayan government. 3% with a debit card. Ah! I think that maybe IVA has just gone down to 18%. Let me check this and get back to you.

          3. I appreciate your diligence! I have been getting between 18 and 22 everywhere else. Just that one stop. Very odd! And I really liked the establishment and the servers.

          4. I am also interested in knowing if there are discrepancies…. and also if they give the IVA back for both credit and debit cards (not pre paid VTM, but actual bank cards that debits from your balance account)

  17. I have find this page very useful, muchas muchas gracias! I am just wondering if this is still going on after the 31st of March 2016? I am travelling to Montevideo early June 2016.

  18. We have a home in Punta Carretas and you will also obtain the discount when purchasing gasoline. Quite a good value!

      1. Hi Edwin, I fully expect it to be renewed. The economic situation in Argentina is difficult, and this is an incentive the Uruguay Ministry of Tourism offers to attract tourism. Best, Karen

  19. This is such a great wealth of information right here and just in time for me as I travel to uruguay in a few days time! Thank you so much! I just wish I had discovered you earlier so I would have time to buy your book!!

    1. Hi Florencia, thanks for the appreciation! You still have time to buy my book – and if you liked the site, you will LOVE the book. A digital copy is perfect for people travelling. You can choose what suits the devices you are travelling with – pdf for tablets, or a version for mobile phones. The URL is http://guruguay-shop.com/shop. Buying the book you’ll support my work, so thank you!

  20. Hi thank you for sharing this information. I am traveling in October (by myself), and I am a little nervous. Is Montevideo a dangerous city?

    1. Hi Guiliana — sorry I didn’t answer you earlier but I wanted to be able to respond to you once I had written a post about personal safety in Montevideo, because I get asked about this a lot. Once you read the post you will see that you should NOT be nervous at all, as long as you take the regular precautions that we should all take in a large city. We receive a lot of single women guests in our guesthouse in the Old City and they go out alone at night without a problem. Have a great time! — Karen

  21. The discount works differently depending on which card you use. With Visa cards, the discount shows up right away on the receipt, but with MasterCard you only see it on your monthly bill.

  22. In case anybody else is curious about this – I paid for several meals using my Canadian credit card when in Uruguay. At the time of payment, I didn’t receive a discount and the full price (converted into Canadian dollars) was charged to my credit card. Several days later, I received refunds of around 18.0% on each of these purchases (18.0% is 0.22/1.22). So, at least in my case, the discount wasn’t applied at the time of purchase, but was done after the fact.

    I actually got frustrated and started paying cash for everything (why face a 2.5% surcharge for foreign currency transactions on my credit card if I’m not getting the discount?) but it looks like this discount does, in fact, work – with some patience.

    Of course, that was just my experience. I’m curious if anybody else has had any (good or bad) luck with this?

    1. Hello Peter,
      I got all my restaurant refunds immediately on the receipt as long as I used my credit card (which was a Visa from the US). Just returned (Aug 2016) and the VAT level is currently 18.03%. I expect the gasoline VAT refunds will come on my statement. Didn’t purchase any goods at participating retailers over UYP 500, so I can’t comment on that, but I know you have to fill out paperwork at the store and stop at the airport for refunds on those qualifying goods.

      Maybe you have figured it out by now, but at least in the US (and I assume now in Canada), many credit card issuers offer good (no annual fee) cards that do not charge an FX or international purchase fee – like the 2.5% you mentioned). Usually their exchange rate is among the best. Always good for an international traveler to have at least one of those to avoid the fee and high exchange rate trap, then you can use the card without worrying.

      I also think the 1% – as mentioned by others below – was just a promo thing for credit cards (they are giving up to 15-20% on locally issued cards currently to encourage merchant “system participation”).

    2. In addition to the government tax break, if you pay with a card from Bank of Santander most of the restaurants have a sign 30% off

      1. Hi Rocky, I think you’ll find that the discounts offered–usually advertised on signs outside establishments–by Santander, Scotiabank, Itau, etc, are for Uruguayan creditcard holders only. All the best, Karen

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