There are just a few commuter rail services in and around Montevideo. There are certain tourist trains that do not run on a set timetable. You may locate them by listening for announcements at the Montevideo railway station. There is no consistent long-distance rail service. The bus is the most common mode of public transportation (local buses inside Montevideo and from Montevideo to other main cities of the country).
Uruguay has a well-developed internal bus system that is, in reality, the only method to travel between cities if you don’t own a car. Interdepartmental buses depart from the Tres Cruces station in Montevideo, which also handles international buses. The routes are often served by many firms, and the buses are regular, safe, and pleasant, with reasonable prices.
Tickets may generally be purchased online, at bus terminals, or on board the buses themselves, depending on the operator. If you purchase tickets in advance of departure, you will be assigned a reserved seat; otherwise, you may sit in seats that are not already filled (there is space to stand in the aisle). At the very least, a separate ticket salesman/inspector was on board the COT company’s buses, selling and inspecting tickets.
Taxis in Uruguay are safe and reasonably priced, costing about USD2 each kilometer. In Uruguay, all taxis have set prices and utilize meters.
The major highway runs from Montevideo to Punta Del Este (Uruguay’s biggest tourist destination), and it is double-laned on both sides. However, this is an anomaly, as most roads are single lane, therefore exercise care while driving long distances (a “long distance” in Uruguay is 500 km maximum) and attempting to pass another vehicle. Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you at all times.
Citizens of many countries (including the United States) just need their driver’s license, passport, and credit card to rent a vehicle in Uruguay; only residents of a few countries need an International Driver’s Permit. Imports of vehicles and fuel are both highly taxed. As a result, the majority of Uruguayans choose to purchase automobiles with fuel-efficient manual transmissions, making automatic transmission vehicles uncommon and costly. You may expect to pay about USD $50/day and up for a vehicle rental if you can drive a manual transmission, while those who can only drive automatic transmissions (mostly citizens of Canada and the United States) would pay around USD90/day and more.
Filling up the petrol tank on a typical compact car like a Chevy Aveo can set you around USD60 or more. ANCAP, the state-owned monopoly, has traditionally been Uruguay’s only gasoline retailer. (The term comes from the “National Administration” for “combustibles,” alcohol, and Portland cement.) ANCAP now competes against Petrobras and Esso. Because all gas stations are full-service, you’ll need some basic Spanish to instruct the attendant to fill it up.
Driving in Uruguay is fairly comparable to driving in Europe, except with fewer traffic signals and more roundabouts. North Americans used to crazy big-city driving (New York or Los Angeles) will find it easy to adjust. Uruguayans, like many other developing nations and portions of Europe, have a habit of splitting lanes or creating their own lane. Because manual gearboxes take longer to spin up, Uruguayans prefer to wait for the cross-traffic yellow light and then jump the green about a second ahead, which means you should never run yellow lights if you can safely stop. Many crossings are simply designated by yield signs. If you don’t see a sign, consider it a surrender. If you notice a stop sign (“Pare”), it means stop, please stop, most likely because the junction is blind and someone was murdered there.
Because Uruguay has not yet adopted sensor loops, all traffic signals are on timers and you will have to wait regardless of whether the cross-street is busy. (Some local drivers may just run the red after waiting for a few minutes if there is no cross-traffic.) Right turns on red after stopping are not permitted. While driving, headlights must be switched on at all times.
Uruguay, like most of Latin America, has a penchant for massive speed bumps at the outskirts of towns that the road goes through; this is also true for important highways. These are well marked and demand vehicles to slow down to 20 km/h or fewer; failing to do so will send one’s automobile flying.
Drivers in Uruguay are required by law to maintain both hands on the steering wheel at all times, which means they cannot use a portable mobile phone while driving.
Most intercity routes have speed limits ranging from 75 km/h to 110 km/h, with 90 km/h being the norm on most sections. Uruguay lacks long-distance highways, expressways, or motorways. Routes 1 and 5 to the west of Montevideo have been upgraded to highways for brief sections.
Keep an eye out for pedestrians and slow-moving traffic on the road, particularly in rural regions and lower-income neighborhoods. Because cars are so costly, many Uruguayans rely entirely on foot, taxi, scooter, motorbike, or bus to get about. Uruguay, like many developing nations, lacks the means to adequately repair sidewalks in impoverished areas, resulting in cracked, potholed, or worse sidewalks. As a result, even when there seems to be a sidewalk or footpath adjacent to the road, people will often be seen strolling in the roadway.
The national roads of Uruguay are well-kept, well-designed, simple to drive, and in good shape; they are managed by the private Highway Corporation of Uruguay (CVU) under the direction of the National Highway Directorate (DNV). CVU levies a normal toll (UYU55 for a typical car) to traffic traveling in both directions at toll plazas strategically located across the nation near key river crossings (where it is difficult to find a toll-free detour). Transitions between CVU/DNV and local department highway maintenance are usually indicated with prominent signage (if the startling difference in pavement condition isn’t already apparent). The condition of roads under local care varies greatly.
The Ruta Interbalneria, which connects Montevideo with Punta Del Este, is Uruguay’s most significant long-distance highway. It is a four-lane road with a wide median. It’s worth noting that the IB was constructed as an expressway, which means that cross-traffic still crosses at-grade at junctions rather than at interchanges with overpasses and underpasses. The majority of other roadways are two-lane.
Outside of the nation, it is virtually difficult to acquire printed road maps of Uruguay. Fortunately, ANCAP offers an outstanding map bundle at all of its petrol stations, which contains three maps as of 2012. Two of the maps are big foldable sheet maps. The first is a high-level highway map that shows the whole Mercosur group on one side and Uruguay on the other. The other is a comprehensive Montevideo street map. The third map is a booklet that includes comprehensive street maps of all departmental capital cities as well as a number of other important cities, including Punta del Este.
Google Maps, Microsoft’s Bing Maps, and OpenStreetMap all offer great coverage of Montevideo, and the first two also cover the rest of the nation. Although there are now mobile applications that allow users to download OpenStreetMap data in advance to their cell phone, OpenStreetMap’s coverage in regions outside than Montevideo and Punta del Este remains limited.
Another noteworthy feature is that only internet map services properly represent the one-way streets that are prevalent in Montevideo and other Uruguayan cities and villages. Almost all Uruguayan paper road maps (including ANCAP maps and official Ministry of Tourism and Sport maps) lack arrows to indicate the direction of one-way streets.
Take note of the emergency phone numbers clearly displayed on the roads and remember them. Uruguay is not a hazardous nation, but since it is mainly agricultural and sparsely inhabited between cities, it may take a long time to walk to the closest pay phone if your vehicle breaks down. It is advised that you bring a mobile phone with you. Antel is the state-owned telecommunications firm that serves as the primary provider.
Hitchhiking is quite popular in rural regions, and it is as safe as it is elsewhere. Outside of Canada, Uruguay has the lowest level of violent crime in the Americas. Do not hitchhike alone if you are a woman. Play it cautious, but it’s more probable that the vehicle will crash (1 in 100 probability) than anything terrible will happen.