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DRIVING IN URUGUAY

 

 

THREE IMPORTANT NOTES UP FRONT

1.  Don’t turn right on red lights after stopping.  It isn’t legal in Uruguay.

 

2.  Uruguay has a zero tolerance for alcohol when driving, and the penalty for a first time offense is the loss of your driver’s license for a long period of time.  If your license is from a foreign country, it is taken and forwarded to the authority that issued it.  

 

3.  You don’t pump your own naphtha (aka petrol, aka gasoline) at service stations.  Attendants do that for you.  If they do extras like cleaning your windows, checking tire pressure, etc., it is normal to give them a small tip.  Llena (shay-nah) is the word for “full.”

 

 

CAR CARETAKERS

 

In Montevideo, Punta del Este and a few other places, you’ll find men and sometimes women who are directing drivers in and out of street parking spaces, often flagging where the empty spaces are.  Some wear a vest and a badge issued by the municipality, while others are just freelancing.  

 

They are called cuidacoches meaning “car caretakers.”  They are not always that helpful or necessary with parking, but they also keep an eye on the block, warding off those who might want to break into cars to steal things.  They don't patrol private parking lots, such as those that belong to businesses.

 

Cuidacoches work only for tips, which can typically range from 10 to 50 pesos, depending on how long you parked and how much assistance they provided.  Don’t feel too bad about tipping them - there aren’t any parking meters, so overall the parking is cheaper than in many cities, and you’re helping feed a family. 

 

Netflicks produced an excellent 2021 movie, Togo, about a cuidacoche working a block in Montevideo and combating neighborhood drug dealers.

 

 

DRIVER’S LICENSES

 

If you have a foreign driver’s license, you are allowed to drive with it in Uruguay until the expiration date. There’s a little paperwork involved, but it is much easier to use an unexpired overseas driver’s license to get an Uruguayan one, than having to take a written test in Spanish and a driving test on the road.

 

To start the process you will need to have a photocopy of the front and back side of your license notarized and apostilled in the jurisdiction that issued it.  It is much easier and cheaper to get this done before heading to Uruguay.  This document needs to be dated less than six months before you present it to get an Uruguayan license.  Apostilles are done by different authorities in different locations.  In the US it is usually the State’s Secretary of State, but not always.

 

The apostilled photocopy of your driver’s license also needs to be translated in Uruguay by a Traductora Pública, a public translator registered as sworn translator.  They are very thorough, including translation of the category of the license and any restrictions, quoting from the issuing authority’s documentation.  If anything about the license is unclear, they will actually contact the issuing authority for clarification.

Each Department in Uruguay has its own rules for what is required to obtain a driver’s license.  They are very similar but not exactly the same.  For instance, the Intendencia (municipality) of Montevideo Department additionally requires a driving record.  The Intendencia of Maldonado Department does not.  Wherever you plan to get your driver’s license in Uruguay, it is best to check with the Intendencia and get all the required document in your home country in advance.

You also need to get a simple health check.  An easy place to have that done is at the CAVICA lab in Montevideo or Maldonado.  It is cheaper in Maldonado, a bit under 1000 pesos. It’s also faster in Maldonado.  If you need glasses for driving make sure to bring them.

 

With all of the documents in hand, you go to the local Intendencia office.  A car driver’s license will not allow you to drive a motorcycle, which requires a different process.

 

If you are applying for a Uruguayan driver’s license without using a foreign license to obtain it, you will have to take a written test in Spanish, and a driving road test, which must be taken in a manual transmission car, either owned by you or rented.

 

 

EXPIRED URUGUAY DRIVER’S LICENSE RENEWAL

 

Every time anyone renews a driver’s license in Uruguay they must complete a new health check.  If your license is expired less than 2 years, you can renew with no driving road test.  If you are over 75 years old you do have to take a driving road test.  

 

 

BUYING CARS AND FUEL

 

New car dealers in Uruguay keep banker’s hours Monday through Friday.  They are not open evenings, weekends or holidays.  There is very little negotiation done during the buying process, other than getting the dealer to throw in low-cost accessories like floor mats, and there is often a long wait for delivery while the car is being manufactured and then shipped to Uruguay.

 

All cars are imported, and duties are high, but lower if from Mercosur countries like Brazil.  All-electric cars have limited market penetration and charging stations are not plentiful.  Condominiums rarely have them.

 

Plug-in-hybrids are for the most part expensive European luxury brands.  Non-plug-in hybrids can be a good choice, with fuel prices around European levels.  You can see the price of fuel on ANCAPs website.

A good place to look for used cars is on expat marketplace forums on Facebook or WhatsApp.

 

VEHICLE INSURANCE

 

When buying car insurance in Uruguay, it is almost essential to use a broker.  The insurance companies pay the broker commissions, so there is no additional cost for the buyer, and the broker will get quotes from the companies most likely to provide the best rates.  Additionally, insurance companies in Uruguay prefer to deal with brokers in the middle, rather than with end users.

 

Inexplicably, car insurance premiums increase each year, regardless of your claims record.  When renewing, your broker should always get quotes from at least three providers.  The insurance companies do not share information with each other, so if you have to make a claim for an accident where you were at fault, you may get a better rate the next renewal by switching providers.

 

SUCIVE AND PATENTE

Two terms you will hear frequently as relates to taxes and fees on car ownership and operation are Patente and Sucive.  This is what they mean:


Patente de Rodados or "Vehicle Registration" :

 

Sucive (Sistema Único de Cobro de Ingresos Vehiculares) or "Single Vehicle Income Collection System" :

 

Highway Road Tolls

 

Some highways in Uruguay have toll booths, and cash payments have been phased out in favor of a telepeaje (electronic toll) system.  When you pass through a highway toll gate, a camera records your license plate and a toll is attributed to the car.  If you are driving a rental car, the company will charge you any tolls when you turn it in.

The best way to pay highway tolls is to attach a free Tag de Telepeaje (electronic toll tag) on the inside of your windscreen, just above where the rear-view mirror attaches.  You can request on-line that a Tag be sent to your home free of charge and receive it in 3-5 days.  It is just as easy, though, to drop by any Abitab or RegPagos to pick up a free Tag.  Many banks also have them.  

 

You need to set up your Telepeaje account on-line, registering your car and Tag.  You also have to set up a deposit balance with a debit or credit card.  The card used can be an international one.   Rather than needing to monitor and top the balance up manually, it is easiest to set an auto top-up, so that when your balance gets down to 100 pesos, an automatic top-up of 500 pesos will be charged to the card.

Once you have your account set up and a Tag attached, you just drive through the Solo Telepeaje lanes at the road toll locations and the payments will be fully automatic, as will the top-ups if you have set it up that way.  You don’t have to use the Telepeaje option to pay road tolls.  You can pay them in person at any Abitab or Redpagos, but with a twenty-percent surcharge, and if you don’t pay within 30 days, there are added charges.

 

Tourists driving their own vehicles in Uruguay can sign up on-line for a Pase Turista, 48 hours before going through toll booths.  The Pase Turista has a different set of rules and payment options.

 

PAID STREET PARKING IN MONTEVIDEO

 

There is paid street parking in the Ciudad Vieja, Centro and Cordón neighborhoods of Montevideo, on street sections marked with an “E.”  Payments can be made in person  at an Abitab, Redpagos or some other kiosks, even days in advance. You’ll need to pay in person if you do not have an Uruguay cell phone plan.  

 

Payments can be made with an Antel, Moviestar or Claro cell phone, and there are no resulting scraps of paper to put on your dashboard. The text and app options are shown here.  The latest WhatsApp option is shown here.  This is a brief summary of how the three options work.

 

1.  TEXT – for this method you send a text in this format:

 

     a. the phone number you will text to is 466 

 

     b. The message you will send is as follows:

 

          ~ type the letter E and a space

          ~ type the matricula (license plate number) of the car and a space

          ~ type how many minutes you would like to park, only in multiples of 30 

          ~ For example, if your licence plate wes ABC1234, and you wanted to park  

             for an hour, the text you would send would be as follows:   E ABC1234 60

          ~ send the text.  

          ~ When you are asked to confirm, respond with “Si.”  If you are not asked to 

             confirm, you should repeat the process.

          ~ the charge will be included in your cell phone bill.

2.  WHATSAPP – In December of 2023, the Intentdencia of Montevideo added the ability to pay for parking using WhatApp.  The advantages of this method are that you can book for a minimum of 15 minutes and are not required to book half hour increments.  And when you are departing the parking space you can WhatsApp “FIN” (for finished) and you will be billed for the exact number of minutes used.  The charge and payment will be through your Sucive account.  You need to do a simple set up on WhatsApp before using this method, as shown in the link above.  

3. T2Parking - is a parking app that the Intentdencia of Montevideo has designated as another option for paying for street parking.  Google can confuse it with similarly named T2 MobilPay, a parking system used only in Canada - they are not the same.  T2Parking has a video in English, explaining how the app works, and mentions that their system can also work with SMS, phone calls, and other methods.  They offer various payment methods including credit card, electronic wallet, bank account and others.

SAFE DRIVING!

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