Uruguay is the most gay friendly country in South America and 5th friendliest in the world according to the Spartacus International Gay Guide. That’s based on its institutional, socio-economic, cultural and tourism development, says a recent publication (March 2022) by DW.com.
In 2005, the capital Montevideo became one of the few cities in the world to have a homomonument – a rose-colored granite in the shape of a triangle inscribed with the words: “To Honour Diversity is to Honor Life”. It’s tucked in a little plaza in the Old City of Montevideo (though the plaza is miserable and deserves a good make-over).
Gays in Uruguay – part of the furniture?
In Montevideo, it’s common to see gay couples—men and women—holding hands on the rambla, the 25-km promenade that borders the River Plate. And while older generations may be taking their time to come around to the changes, younger generations are openly supportive of gay peers.
There are just a few gay bars and my experience is that gay men and women don’t tend to ghettoise. They are very much part of the general fabric of society. Though there is a certain air of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
A gay emigrant to Uruguay living in Colonia writes: “I live in the Uruguayan equivalent of the Bible belt with my partner of 28 years and thus far have encountered no negative vibes at all. I’ve met with a few surprised looks from officialdom but nothing negative whatsoever. … Unlike the US, UK and Ireland, being gay has never been a crime here so there isn’t the same historical baggage and resentment that you still find in certain places… an individual’s sexuality is viewed as a personal matter and is of no concern to the neighbors (except perhaps for a bit of gossip.)”.
Progressive same-sex legislation in Uruguay for a century
The early twentieth-century is characterised by a golden era of progressive national politics which included the separation of church and state in 1917. In 1934, homosexuality was decriminalised. The same year the age of consent was lowered to 16 – regardless of who you were having sex with.
The past decade has seen big changes regarding rights for gays, lesbians and trans
Anti-discrimination laws are in place since 2003, and gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the military and jointly adopt children since 2009.
Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions since 2008 and since 2013, to marry
Transgender people have been able to change their gender on official documentation since 2009.
So it looks like it’s time to plan your visit to the gay-friendliest nation in South America!
Chihuahua, a nudist beach several miles west of glitzy Punta del Este has the only hotel exclusively for gay men in the whole of Uruguay.
Further reading about gay Uruguay in English
- Gay Montevideo
- Uruguay adopts friendly business certification (2018)
- Uruguay singer Ana Prada champions LGBTI rights (2014)
- A coming-out story is told in one of Guru’Guay’s 5 Uruguayan films you must see
Many thanks to Rodrigo Borda, of Friendly Maps and half of the first gay couple to register to marry in Uruguay, for letting me pick his brains for this article.
Cover photo by Romerito Pontes.
Dear Readers, many of the commenters below were interested in staying in my guesthouse. We had many gay guests, in fact our first ever were two wonderful gay couples from Canada. However after ten years (2010-2020), we closed the guesthouse so I could dedicate myself full-time to Uruguay. If you are looking for wonderful gay-friendly accommodation, do check out our recommendations of memorable places to stay in Uruguay. – Greeting from the Old City of Montevideo! – Karen
What would it be like to retire to Uruguay from the U.S.A.? Can you give details on rental property and living expenses?
Hi David, we are producing a video on retiring to Uruguay as part of a series on living in Uruguay. If you’re seriously considering retiring to Uruguay please consider a one on one consultation to discuss all your personal needs. Best wishes and happy new year! — Karen
Hi there! I am going through a gender transition, and was wondering if you had any advice on safety while traveling to Uruguay. I imagine Montevideo and other cities are safe places to be, but are there any areas I should avoid in my travel? Thanks
Hi Willis, anywhere that you are likely to go as a tourist, I think you can be confident that you are going to be well treated. Uruguay in general treats foreigners from English-speaking countries very well. Enjoy! — Karen
I’m a 76 year old gay Male. I hope to visit Uruguay next year, 2020 around April or May. Would it be possible to receive some information about your hotel? I would appreciate it.
Hi Don, we’d LOVE to have you come and stay. April is a particularly lovely month, though May can be great too. You can find Casa Sarandi and our other recommended accommodation in Montevideo on our website or go direct to the Casa Sarandi website. Looking forward to meeting you — Karen
Aloha from Sunny Hawaii: Am making my travel plans for 2017 and I think I will be heading to Uruguay for my vacation. Enjoyed your website and look forward to seeing more there soon! Have a nice day and now I am heading for the beach! (:
Hi I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Currently traveling in Argentina and will be in Montevideo again in late October/early November. I am writing a Uruguay guide for gay backpackers. And again I love all the info in your blog but just a note I’m bothered when you write “that gay men and women don’t tend to ghettoise” this implies that when people ghettoise they make a choice to separate themselves. This is not the case, people are ghettoised – it is something that is done to them, it is not a choice they make. I’m sure you did not mean harm by writing that but still wanted to offer up that thought.
Hello! Yes, I was using ghettoise in its informal sense. Perhaps I am influenced by its use in Spanish where for instance Argentinian friends of mine living in a little enclave in Costa Rica would refer to their Argentine-only neighbourhood as ‘the ghetto’… Looking forward to reading your posts on Gay Uruguay, it’s time there was more updated info! Best best — Karen
Im planning a trip to Uruguay last three weeks of september.
Do you have any rooms available?
I will be travelling alone. Staying in or near Montevideo for the first 5-7 days then would like to travel a little before returning for the last 3 days.
Thanks and i look forward to hearing from you.
Hi Chris, we do. 🙂 You can take a look at the rooms here http://www.casasarandi.com/rooms/. I will send you an email in the meantime and we can sort out what works for you. All the best and looking forward to meeting! Karen.
I lived in Montevideo in 1962-1963
Loved it then, plan to return, from Hawaii then and still from Hawaii.
Hi Hunton, funnily enough yesterday we had a New Zealand couple staying at our guesthouse who had returned to Montevideo 40 years after their first visit! I think it’s time for you to come 🙂 Best – Karen
My partner and I plan on visiting very soon. I cant wait to experience!
I plan to visit Uruguay soon. But, I need some contacts there? Any suggestions.
Hi Scott, what kind of connections can we assist you with? — Karen