I get asked this question a lot and my answer is: sometimes. Out and about in the street, use Uruguayan pesos (Uruguay currency). If you try to offer a smaller business or a taxi driver another currency they won’t know what the exchange rate is and, not wanting to rip you off, may not be comfortable accepting them.
Colonia del Sacramento is the exception as it depends a great deal on day-trip tourism from Buenos Aires. Virtually all businesses there accept Argentine pesos, Brazilian reals and dollars as a matter of course at a reasonable exchange rate.
During the summer time, even small beach town businesses are usually fine to accept dollars and other currencies . Check the rate before but outside of the larger resorts they are very honest and offer you the regular rate.
All over Uruguay larger supermarkets will usually accept payment in dollars, as long as you are fine with receiving your change in pesos. Their rates are normally the market ones.
Highway tolls must be paid in cash but can be paid in dollars, Argentine and Brazilian currencies as well as Uruguay pesos of course.
Argentina and Uruguay – they both use pesos, right?
They do, but they have very different values. Don’t fall into the common mistake, thinking that what applies for Argentina is the same for Uruguay. It doesn’t.
It’s really easy to exchange money in Uruguay. When you read more about the money exchange situation in Uruguay you’ll see it is very simple and straightforward. Just another confirmation that Argentina’s (often crazy monetary) situation and Uruguay’s are completely unrelated. Ha!
And the rates are generally good. In fact Uruguay is a great place to exchange Brazilian reals and Argentine pesos into dollars if you have any left over and don’t need more pesos. Or to exchange dollars into Argentina pesos so you have cash on hand for when you arrive in Buenos Aires.
So why do the ATMs dispense dollars?
It may seem strange but cash machines in Uruguay dispense both Uruguay currency in pesos and US dollars.
Uruguayans, like the citizens of many other Latin American nations, typically save in dollars. So we usually have separate bank accounts in pesos and dollars. So don’t be surprised to see property prices, rental values and the price of electrical and luxury goods labelled in dollars. And you’ll be able to pay hotel bills in dollars.
When not to use cash. When you use your international credit or debit card in restaurants and for care hire in Uruguay, you get the 22% VAT back directly when you pay with your credit card.
It’s a crazy benefit that the Uruguayan government has decided to give to travellers.
For other money-saving tips like this, check out the Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo. (Click the link to download the digital version or click the image right to buy it on Amazon)
Photo: 401(K) 2012
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