Local Currency in Uruguay

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Money and Currency in Uruguay

The Uruguayan currency is the Peso. Prices are often quoted using the U$ symbol, which may be easily confused with the US$ (US dollar) symbol. * US$1 = U$21.59 (Uruguayan Pesos)

  • €1 = 26.32 U$ (Uruguayan Pesos)

Uruguay is like many developing countries in that the retail industry is still dominated by small specialized shops, small supermarkets, and small, crowded shopping malls. There are no true department stores in the country remotely comparable to the giant stores found in New York or Paris. In the entire country, there is only one true hypermarket, Geant (operated a joint venture between local chain Disco and the French chain Geant), that constitutes a reasonably decent facsimile of hypermarkets elsewhere (down to the huge parking lot, high ceiling and wide aisles). Uruguay does not have the big box "category killer" stores for which the U.S. is famous (and which have been copied to a lesser extent in Australia and Europe).

Uruguay does not manufacture most consumer goods locally. Most items in the stores have either been imported from China, or from Argentina or Brazil. Even worse, Uruguay charges high import tariffs and high value-added tax (IVA) of about 23% on virtually everything. Accordingly, most goods cost as much as in Australia, Canada, or Europe (or higher) and are much more expensive than in the U.S.

Some parts of Uruguayan stores feature numerous high-quality brands familiar to any North American, like Dove soap, Colgate toothpaste, Listerine mouthwash, Del Monte canned fruit, and so on. There are other brands with familiar logos but strange names; for example, Coca-Cola's South American juice brand is del Valle, which has a logo similar to Coca-Cola's North American juice brand, Minute Maid.

However, Uruguay is not a major priority for most other brands found in the developed world, which means their products are rare or nonexistent here. Locally available brands (as noted, imported mostly from China) tend to be of poor quality. Because the Uruguayan market is so small and most Uruguayans are still relatively poor compared to consumers elsewhere, Uruguayan retailers lack the bargaining power of their North American or European counterparts. In turn, Chinese factories often sell their highest-quality product lines to the dominant First World markets and send their mediocre-quality product lines to Uruguay and other small developing countries. For example, while American and European consumers are accustomed to advertisements for luxury bedding made of 700+ thread count textiles woven from Egyptian or pima cotton, luxury bedding in Uruguay consists of 250+ thread count textiles woven from cotton/polyester blends.

Popular items to buy include yerba mate gourds, antiques, wool textiles, and leather goods: jackets, purses, wallets, belts, etc. With regard to textiles and leather goods, although the prices may look like great bargains, one must keep in mind that local designs are inferior to designs elsewhere. Uruguay is still decades behind other countries when it comes to the quality of metalworking, which is a serious problem since leather goods like purses and belts have metal parts like clasps and buckles. 

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