Uruguay Currency and Money Matters

The purpose of this article is to familiarize you with Uruguay currency, provide you with the current exchange rate, and explain the options for the traveler to handle money matters in Uruguay.

Getting to know Uruguay currency 
The currency of Uruguay is the Uruguayan peso (peso uruguayo), which is divided into 100 centésimos. (Currency code: UYU)

 Coins come in 1 peso, 2 pesos, 5 pesos, and 10 pesos, and 50 pesos. Banknotes come in 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000, and 2000 pesos banknotes. There is a list of the people depicted on the face of Uruguayan bank notes at the end of this article.

Uruguayan peso exchange rate
The link above goes to the webpage of the Banco Republica website which displays the exchange rate of various currencies to the Uruguayan peso.

Compra means "buy". It is how many Uruguayan pesos you would get for one unit of the currency you were exchanging.

Venta means "sell" it is how many Uruguayan pesos you would have to give to get one unit of the indicated currency.

Uruguay currency and the US dollar
While the Uruguayan peso is the official Uruguay currency, the US dollar is widely used. Smaller travel expenses such as restaurant meals, taxi fares, and most shop items are usually priced in Uruguayan pesos. Larger travel expenses like car rentals, hotels, and vacation rentals are usually priced in US dollars.

Most restaurants and businesses with prices in Uruguay currency will take payment in both Uruguayan pesos and US dollars (however, they might only make change in Uruguayan pesos.) Many restaurants and hotels in the beach resort community of Punta del Este will also take payment in Argentine pesos, Brazilian real, and euros.

Using Credit cards
Visa and MasterCard are taken at most restaurants, grocery stores, clothing stores, and car rentals. Using a credit card assures a fair exchange rate. You will usually be asked to provide your passport number with your signature.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs)
Automatic Teller machines connected to international networks are plentiful in Uruguay. ATM’s in most places will accept major bank cards and issue, at the customer's choice, either Uruguayan pesos or US dollars. Some ATM’s now have instructions in both Spanish and English. Most ATMs have a 300 US dollar per card daily withdrawal limit.

Exchanging money in Uruguay
Cambios are private businesses where you exchange one currency for another. In addition to Uruguay currency, Cambios exchange US dollars, Argentine pesos, The Brazilian real, and the euro.

Cambios are numerous in places of international activity such as Punta del Este and Montevideo’s Centro. The rate of exchange is posted in front of each cambio, so you can compare. The exchange rate at a cambio is usually more favorable than at a Uruguayan bank. And the service at a cambio is usually much quicker than a bank, as well.

It's common practice to get US dollars from an ATM and then exchange a portion of the withdrawal for Uruguay currency at a cambio, where you can usually get the best rate.

Money handling tips
• If you plan to use a currency other than the Uruguayan peso in a restaurant, ask first if your currency is accepted. ALSO learn the exchange rate for your currency in the restaurant or business before you make your decision to spend.

• My personal experience has been that the cambio in Montevideo’s Carrasco airport has a very poor exchange rate. If you need Uruguayan currency upon arrival, just exchange what is needed to get to where you are going, and then exchange additional amounts at a more competitive rate.

• Notify your credit card company of your travel plans so they don't freeze your account for unusual card activity when you start using it in Uruguay.

• For security's sake, put your money in your wallet and back in your pocket or purse before you leave an ATM booth, a bank, or a cambio.

• While bank cards are accepted many places, it's not uncommon for vacation rentals managed by owners or small management companies (who don't have merchant accounts) to require payment in cash.

• Load your wallet from largest bills to smallest bills so you can easily pick out what is needed for your purchase without the need to take it all out to see what you have.

• Ask for some small bills when you exchange money at a cambio. It is easier and more polite to buy small ticket items with small bills. You will not have the problem of the small shop not having change.

People depicted on Uruguay's currency 
All Uruguayan coins: General José Artigas (1764-1850): Led the fight for Uruguay’s independence

The 20 pesos banknote: Juan Zorrilla de San Martín (1855–1931): A poet who served as a Deputy of Montevideo and an ambassador.

The 50 pesos banknote: José Pedro Varela (1845–1879): Sociologist, journalist, and politician

100 pesos note: Eduardo Fabini: (1882-1950): Music composer

200 pesos banknote: Pedro Figari (1861-1938): Early modernist painter, lawyer, writer, and politician

500 pesos banknote: Alfredo Vásquez Acevedo (1844-1923): Lawyer and politician who published important criminal and civil codes

1000 pesos banknote: Juana de Ibarbourou (1892-1979): Poet

2000 pesos banknote: Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga (1771 - 1884) Priest, naturalist, and botanist. He helped found Uruguay's national library and university.