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Punta del Este, Uruguay

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Travel Infomation Description

Road Conditions and Safety: Traffic fatalities are among the most common causes of death in Uruguay. According to the World Health Organization, Uruguay?s rate of traffic deaths per 100,000 people is 16.6, nearly 50 percent higher than that of the United States. According to the Uruguayan National Road Safety Unit, motorcyclists and bicyclists account for 70 percent of transit-related fatalities. 

Illumination, pavement markings, and road surfaces for secondary roads can be poor. Several of the main highways are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist traffic speed-related accidents including: Route 1 (between Montevideo and Colonia), the Ruta Interbalnearia (between Montevideo and Punta del Este), Route 9 to the east (that leads to Punta del Diablo, La Paloma, La Pedrera, and Cabo Polonia), and Route 2 (between Rosario and Fray Bentos). The frequency of road accidents rises during the summer beach season (December to March), Carnaval (mid-to-late February), and Easter week. 

If you are in an accident involving injury, stay in place until a police officer arrives. The insurance company will generally respond to the scene as well. Some major roads are centrally monitored via live camera feeds and emergency response may arrive quickly. You should contact 911 immediately to report an emergency, and notify your rental company if in a rental car. 

Uruguayan law requires your vehicle to be equipped with a specific road safety kit (hazard cones, flares, reflective vest, fire extinguisher, etc.), which you can find at most grocery stores or gas stations. Rental vehicles should have these basic kits.

Dial 911 in an emergency. For emergency roadside assistance, call the Automobile Club of Uruguay at 1707 or "Car Up" at 2628-1555. Even if you are not a member, tourists can use this fee-based service.

Traffic Laws:

  • You may drive using your foreign driver?s license in Uruguay. If you plan to obtain a Uruguayan driver?s license, you must apostille your U.S. driver?s license in the state that issued your driver?s license, as the U.S. Embassy cannot provide consular certificates attesting to the validity of a U.S.-issued driver?s license.
  • Driving is on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Seat belts are mandatory.
  • Headlights must be on at all times, day and night.
  • Children under 12 years must ride in the back seat.
  • Drivers must keep a first-aid kit in the car, which can be purchased at local grocery stores or gas stations.
  • Motorcyclists must wear helmets and reflective vests.
  • The use of cellular phones, as well as texting, while driving is prohibited. Drinking ?mate? (a popular, hot beverage in Uruguay) while driving is also prohibited.
  • Right turns at red lights are prohibited.
  • Drivers approaching an intersection from the right generally have the right of way, but this right is not always respected.
  • Drivers already in traffic circles generally have the right of way.
  • Flashing high beams indicates intent to pass or to continue through unmarked intersections.
  • Drivers often ignore lane markers, change lanes and make turns without signaling, ignore speed limits and disregard traffic signs.
  • Motorists may make frequent and sudden stops on any road, especially when driving along Montevideo?s riverfront (Rambla).
  • Motorcyclists often drive the wrong way down one-way streets, use sidewalks to avoid lengthier routes, or drive between vehicles when traffic is stopped. 
  • If you plan to drive, use caution and drive defensively.
  • Cycling outside the capital or small towns is hazardous due to a scarcity of bike paths, narrow road shoulders, and unsafe driving practices. 

Public Transportation: Ride sharing services are monitored to ensure that they comply with safety standards at least equal to those applied to the taxi system. Taxis can be hailed from the street, by phone (141), or by using one of several apps. Most taxis do not have functioning seat belts in the back seat. Public buses can be crowded, and patrons are sometimes targeted by pickpockets and bag snatchers. The public bus system utilizes pre-determined routes and is generally dependable.

Regular labor strikes can halt public transportation with minimal advance notice. Travelers should have alternative plans, such as ride sharing apps, or consider hiring a private executive car (remise). All of these options are usually reliable during mass shutdowns of public transportation.

See our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Uruguay?s national tourist office and Montevideo?s Transit Authority Manual (Spanish only).

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Uruguay, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Uruguay?s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.

Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este, Uruguay

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