While I felt that my experience in Buenos Aires was nearly opposite of Charlie’s, my experience in Uruguay was, for the most part, exactly how Charlie described it. I also visited more of the country than he did so I can give a more general overview.
Let’s start with the prices, he’s pretty much spot on there. No arguments from me. It’s not cheap, and it’s not expensive, with a couple notable exceptions; good steaks ($10-$20) and good wines ($10-$20 per bottle) and taxis ($4-5 for a decent ride) are pretty cheap.
I have to disagree with Charlie on the food, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as he claims. The thing about Uruguay is that the price of entry for eating out even the shittiest junk food is relatively high but the silver lining is that the cost of upgrading to a nice restaurant over a shitty junk food joint is comparatively small. For example you’re going to easily pay $8-$10 for the really low end junk food Charlie laments but it’s easy to eat something really nice in a really nice restaurant for $15-$20. And there are great restaurants, you just have to do your homework to find them. La Cocina de Pedro, Tandory or +Natural are places I would highly recommend in Montevideo, for example.
It’s true the menu in Uruguay is beef heavy, but so what? Many people love beef and pay a premium price to eat it, especially in restaurants, the world over. I say: enjoy! Uruguay has more cattle than people so it makes sense they eat a lot of beef and the beef in Uruguay is of top notch quality. It’s true it’s a little tough to find other cuisines but so what, when in Rome… I’m totally satisfied eating a nice big steak every day for a week or two when the steaks are as good as they are in Uruguay. I was able to find some alternatives such as vegetarian food without looking too hard and I didn’t find the food to be flavorless or lacking spice as long as I chose the restaurants wisely. If you just pick a place at random, forget it, you will get crap. That said, I did what I always do when in an unfamiliar location: I asked like minded locals and expats and I checked review sites like Tripadvisor and Foursquare to find what I was looking for. I didn’t have any horrific dining experiences and the prices I paid tended more towards reasonable to even cheap than they did expensive, but again this is for decent restaurants, the average place on the street is shitty and overpriced.
If you are into wine you will be pleasantly surprised by Uruguay’s red wines. Although their wines are virtually unknown on the international scene, they are excellent and reasonably priced. Be sure to try some Tannat which is considered the “national grape” in Uruguay. If you’re more into white, stick to Argentina.
On women, yes it’s true Uruguay is not leading the world in this category and probably not even above average, despite Charlie’s highly plausible theory to the contrary. Also I have to say the population tends to be pretty chubby in general. Not morbidly obese like the US but unpleasantly plump which is understandable when you see what the average Uruguayan junk food diet looks like, in fact I was kind of surprised they weren’t fatter! I did find one exception to the rule in Montevideo, every time I ate lunch near Plaza Constatucion I saw quite a few stunningly hot secretary types. I don’t know where they go when they’re not at work but for some reason, this square is the spot. It’s not a destination you would go to meet women but if you’re there, it’s not impossible and it’s certainly day game friendly. The other notable exception is the town of Colonia, but unless the exchange rates shift such that Colonia becomes cheaper than Buenos Aires you’d be a fool to go to Colonia instead of Buenos Aires. To be fair, any good looking girl you see in Colonia is just as likely to be a tourist as a local and highly probably from Argentina since it’s only a one hour jet boat ride away and the port is right in Colonia.
Despite the fact that Colonia looks like a place that should have a stellar cafe and dining scene, the food does suck there and is comparatively overpriced. Note to restauranteurs: Business opportunity alert, set up a decent restaurant in Colonia, there are tons of tourists and rich Argentinians passing through there daily! Exceptions to the rule are Charco for fine dining (not cheap) and El Buen Suspiro for wine tasting and snacks.
Outside of the cities, I can honestly say that I don’t remember seeing a single truly stunning girl. Definitely looks were average at best and even those were few and far between. If I had to live in a small town in Uruguay I think I would be suicidal. Boring, no decent bars or restaurants, no chicks, basically hell for single dudes.
A discussion of Uruguay would not be complete without mentioning their carnival scene. Locals told me they have the longest lasting carnival in the world and it’s supposed to be a month long party. It sounds fun and it looks fun. If you’re going to visit Uruguay and Montevideo in particular, carnival is probably a prime to do it.
Sadly I never made it to Punta del Este which is Uruguay’s go to party place in the summer. Everyone raves about it. I suspect that it’s probably way overpriced compared to many superior alternatives. It supposedly draws in all of South America’s elites, which to me screams rich douchebag scene and overpriced everything. The “gold Apple watch” of beach holiday destinations perhaps.
At the least there must be some hot chicks there but I would also not be surprised if it isn’t sub-par compared to the alternatives and Punta must be a serious gold digger magnet as well. On the other hand, if I ever have the opportunity to visit I’m going to take it and approach it with an open mind. That said if you’re looking for a fund beach holiday that won’t break the bank you’re likely much better off with Costa Rica, Mexico, Thailand, Bali, Boracay or one of the hundreds of other options out there.
Before closing this article I have to comment on doing business in Uruguay. Forget it! Don’t get me wrong, Uruguayans are nice, friendly and good, warm hosts but they are some of the laziest people I have ever encountered in my life. Everything there is “mañana”, tomorrow literally but in reality it’s more like next month or next year. I have yet to witness a more retarded, more backwards bureaucracy, these guys almost make Singaporean retardation seem bearable. Everything requires forms and stamps and notaries. Notaries are also fucking expensive and they are slow and incompetent like everything else in Uruguay. Something simple like opening a bank account can easily become a multi week process involving lots of meaningless documents. The bottom line is that you should avoid doing business in Uruguay at all costs, if you are the entrepreneurial type check out Chile. They have an awesome program for startups.
Last note of interest: pot is now not just “tolerated” in Uruguay but legal. I’m not a big pot head myself but for some travelers this may be important. If nothing else, hopefully it will up the quality.