Saturday, January 22, 2011

Assistance in finding a place to live in Uruguay

  • Where will you live in Montevideo?:
Where will you live once you arrive in Uruguay? What are the alternatives? First of all you have to decide what is the best choice for the period of time you will be staying. For less than three months the best alternatives will be a hotel or hostel, or an apartment rented per day.
Hotels prices (per day):
2 Stars and Hostels: u$s 20 to 60, depending on the zone they are located.
3 Stars: u$s 40 to 100.
4 Stars: u$s 100 to 150.
5 Stars : u$s 150 to 250.
Apartments rented per day: u$s 40 to 100.

For periods longer than three months it will be better, and cheaper, to rent an apartment or house.

Furnished apartments prices per month:
Studio: u$s 300 to 600
One bedroom: u$s 500 to u$s 1000
Two bedrooms: u$s 700 to u$s 1500
Furnished houses prices per month:
U$s 700 to u$s 3000 depending on the zone.

The normal period for renting is one year, but some owners accept shorter periods, three or six months. At the moment of renting a guarantee is requested. The guarantee is usually an amount equal to six month´s rent to be deposited in a bank. This amount will be returned once the rent is finished. This guarantee will be used by the owner to cover unpaid rent or damages to the property.

A contract must be signed and in some cases additional expenses might be generated, like real estate agent fees or notary public charges.

Renting might generate further monthly expenses:
Common expenses: depending on the services provided might vary from u$s 50 to u$s 200.
Taxes: u$s 10 to u$s 100.
Electricity, gas, telephone, internet and cable TV: depending on usage.

All mentioned amounts are estimated and might vary.
  • What can I do for you?:
Once you decide to come to Montevideo, I can help you find a hotel, hostel or apartment. When you arrive I will meet with you to welcome you and give you general information on Uruguay and Montevideo, or the city where you will be staying, and clarify any further doubts or questions that you might have. I will remain available for further assistance as required.
If you decide to stay for a longer period, in Montevideo, I will assist you in finding an apartment.
I will be open and available for any additional requirements and needs.
  • What is included in my service?
We will meet and decide on what living accommodation you require. I will look for the apartment/house, accompany you to visit them and be your interpreter with the owner or real estate agent. Assist you in all negotiations, explaining and translating all the required paperwork, and accompany you to the signature of the contract and deposit of the guarantee in the bank.  I will be at all times available for further queries and assistance. The service will be absolutely personalized at all times.
  • Fees:
-          A fixed charge of u$s 200.
-          A fee equal to a one month rent if an apartment/house is rented for a one year period.
-          A fee equal to half a month rent if an apartment/house is rented for six or three months.

Monday, December 21, 2009


    One thing you will find once you arrive in Uruguay, is that paperwork is almost a habit. It is, sometimes, frustrating but it's part of the culture so you will just have to play along and hope for the best.

    The following is the necessary paperwork to be able to obtain the Residence Permit to live in Uruguay as a foreigner. Once this is finished you will be given a Cedula de Identidad, the official ID Uruguayan document.

    The fist step is to obtain an appointment to begin the procedure at the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones in Misiones 1513, Monday through Friday from 9.15 AM to 2.30 PM. For this it is necessary to present the document that was used to enter the country (Passport or other ID). 

    Once you have been given an appointment you will need the following:

a) A passport photograph.

b) Proof of income:
If you will be working in a Uruguayan company (could be the Uruguayan office of an international company): a certificate signed by a Notary Public certifying the existence of the Uruguayan company, Legal name, validity, legal period of the society, legal address in the country, registration before the BPS and DGI, people authorized to sign on behalf of the company, position, salary or average income in the case of directors. Local Notaries know how to prepare this document.
If you will be working on your own or will live on own income (retirement, etc.), proof of income (at least  u$s 500 per month) certified by a local Notary Public.

c) Health Certificate issued for legal residency. To obtain it it is necessary to have an updated tetanus vaccine certificate. The Health Certificate can be issued by the authorized private health institution and the cost is about U$ 1.500 (u$s 80) per person. The Certificate must state "APTO PARA RADICACION O RESIDENCIA LEGAL EN EL PAIS".

d) Exact date of entry to the country presenting the entrance card.

e) Criminal Record certificate issued by the Federal Police institution (FBI or similar) and authenticated by the Uruguayan Consulate in you country of origin (the consulate located closest to your town) and then by  the Uruguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This document can also be obtained from the Interpol office in Montevideo.
If before coming to Uruguay you have been living for more than 5 years in a different country (not your own) them you must present 2 Certificates, one issuee by this country and another one from you country of origin.

f)  Identity Document that was used to enter the country (passport or ID in the case of Mercosur countries) and a photocopy.

g) In case the spouse is also requesting the residency, then it is necessary to present the Marriage Certificate authenticated by the Uruguayan Consulate in you country of origin (the consulate located closest to your town) and then by the Uruguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a photocopy.

h) Birth Certificate authenticated by the Uruguayan Consulate in you country of origin and then by the Uruguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and photocopies, of those who are requesting the residency, and of any Minor Children there might be. This document has to be presented in the Dirección Nacional de Registro Civil (Uruguay 933) where you will be given a Uruguayan legal Birth Certificate.

    All documents written in English (or any other language) must be translated into Spanish, signed and stamped by a Certified Public Translator. If you do not speak Spanish then you will have to be accompanied by an interpreter.

    This explanation covers most of the alternatives. For more specific information you can contact me directly.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bienvenidos al Uruguay

    I’m back:

    Sorry for the delay in posting. I was away on vacations and and have been working on some projects for the future.

    I went to the south of Argentina and Chile. Mountains, glaciers, snow in springtime, long walks in the woods, and losing myself in nature. But I'm not going into that at this moment. Anyone planning to go there and want information, please write to me at

    I met many people from different countries. I noticed that when I told them I lived in Uruguay, many did not know anything about this country. I told them about my blog so they could find more information, but I found that I did not have "basic" information on Uruguay. So, let's get the facts.

    URUGUAY is a country located in the south-east of South America. It's the second smallest country in the subcontinent after Surinam, with a total surface of 176.214 (68037 sq.mi). It has borders on the north and north-east with Brazil and on the West with Argentina. Its coasts are washed on the south by the Rio de la Plata and East by the Atlantic Ocean.

    It has a population of 3.5 million, 88% of European origin, mainly Spanish. The rest are of Native and African origin.

    The official language is Spanish, with the particular intonation of the Rio de la Plata shared by Argentina and Uruguay. According to the United Nations, Uruguay is the country with the highest literacy level of Latin America.

    The official name of the country is Republica Oriental del Uruguay. This refers to the fact that, before its independence, it was an eastern province of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata. Please refer to my July post on the early history of Uruguay.

    It is a democratic country with a parliamentary political organization, governed by a President elected every 5 years and a General Assembly formed by the Senate (Cámara de Senadores) and the House of Representatives (Cámara de Diputados).

    The country is politically divided into 19 Departamentos. The capital, and biggest city, is Montevideo with 1.7 million people, being the southernmost capital city of the world. Located on the coast of the Rio de la Plata, Montevideo is also a very important port. The seat of the Mercosur organization, international common market formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, is located in Montevideo.

    Uruguay's landscape is mostly flat with some low hills on the south-east. Its fertile soil has made agriculture and cattle the base of the economy, exporting large quantities of meat and cereals mostly to the United States, Brazil and Argentina.

    Another important source of incomes is tourism. Uruguay has many important beach resorts on the coasts of the Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantida and Piriapolis on the Rio and La Paloma, La Pedrera and Punta del Diablo on the Atlantic, are some of the most important ones. And of course, Punta del Este, with beaches on both, has become one of the most important seaside resorts of South America. Visitors from all over the world, mainly Argentina and Brazil visit the beautiful and warm beaches of Uruguay.

    Music is a very important part of the Uruguayan culture. The main traditional types of music are the Tango (please see my post of August) and the Candombe. The Tango has a mixed European and African origin and developed in Argentina and Uruguay, and the Candombe ia of African origin and became popular mostly in Uruguay. The Folk, Popular and Rock musics are also very important and there is a surprising number of musicians for such a small country. The Candombe music is the base of the very popular celebration of the Carnival, every year in February.

    The most popular sport is football (soccer). Uruguay was the first World Soccer Champion in 1930 and won a second Championship in 1950, in this case beating Brazil in the final match in the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The local teams of Nacional and Peñarol have won numerous international tournaments. The Uruguayan national team will take part in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

    There is a lot more to say about this small but beautiful country. I will go into more details of different aspects in future posts. If there is anything in special you want to know about, just ask. I'll be more than glad to give you the necessary information.

    Thanks, and see you in the next post.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Truco - The traditional card game of Uruguay

The game of Truco (Tick) is one of the most popular card games in the Rio de la Plata. It came originally from Spain and it is also played, with variations, in other countries of South and Central America.

It is played with the Spanish cards deck, that has 4 cards less than the French/English deck. Ace through 9 and the court cards Sota (Jack), Caballo (Horse) and Rey (King). No 10 in this deck. The Truco, furthermore, is played without the 8 and 9 cards which means that only 40 cards are used. The four suits in the Spanish cards are the following:

Espadas (Swords)
Bastos (Clubs)
Oros (Coins)
Copas (Cups

In Truco the points are obtained rather by the player´s skills in getting the opposing player to believe one has the cards one does not necessarily have. It would be a bit like Poker. The better you lie the greater opportunities of winning the game.

Truco is not usually played for money, but only for points and for the fun of it. Many times the match is organized after an Asado as a way of spending a fun afternoon. It is played by two teams of two players who sit facing each other, although there are variants for 2, 3 and 6 players. The winner is the team to first reach 30 points. The points can be counted with beans, matches or some other sort of small element. They can also be jotted down onIt is also common to count the points in a piece of paper. It also requires great team work, as winning depends also on understanding your partner and knowing the cards he has. To do this there are signals that are sent to the player's partner, so he know how to play his own cards.

I will now explain the rules of Truco. About half way you will probably get lost and think the game is too complicated. It is not. There are three things that are basic. Once you learn those the rest is easy. Those three things are:

A) The order of importance of the card
B) The challenges
C) How points are counted

NOTE: the game of Truco is played with slightly different rules in Uruguay and Argentina. I will explain here the Argentine variation because it is simpler and it is the one I know better.

A) The order of the cards, from the highest to the lowest value is the following:

1)    Ace of Swords
2)    Ace of Clubs
3)    7 of Swords
4)    7 of Coins
5)    The four 3s
6)    The four 2s
7)    The Aces of Coins and Cups
8)    The four Reyes (Kings)
9)    The four Caballos (Horses)
10)  The four Sotas (Jacks)
11)  The 7s of Clubs and Cups
12)  The four 6s
13)  The four 5s
14)  The four 4s

The points in Truco are not won by the value of the cards one has, but by challenging the opposing team. There are three "challenges" in the game:

B) The Challenges:

Flor (Flower): any three cards of the same suit. If the two teams have a flower, something very unlikely, then the value of the cards is added and the hand with the highest value wins. It can be agreed, before the game starts, to play without Flor as there is no real challenge and the points are obtained just by luck.

Envido: any two cards of the same suit. The value of an envido is 20 points plus the sum of the two cards. The court figures have 0 value. For example an Envido made of the 3 and the 6 of coins has a value of 29 points (20+3+6). The highest possible Envido is 33 points (20+7+6). The player with the highest points wins the challenge.
Truco: by challenging the opposing team with a "Truco" you are telling them that you are certain you are going to win the round.

C) How points are counted:
Flor: it's worth 3 points. If a Flor is counter challenged (both teams have Flor) then the highest valued Flor wins 6 points.

Envido: Not accepted : 1 point
             Accepted : 2 points
             Doubled : 4 points

Truco: Not accepted : 1 point
           Accepted : 2 points
           Doubled : 3 points
           Re-doubled : 4 points

If in a round there are no challenges the team that wins the round gets 1 point.

Method of Play:

To begin the game the dealer shuffles the cards and asks the player on his left to "cut" the deck. Once this is done he deals three cards to each player, starting with the one on his right. Some players believe that the cards should be dealt from the bottom of the deck.

The players pick up their cards. In order for the team to play the best possible way, it is necessary for each player to tell his partner if he has any high value cards. To do this he uses expressions on his face. The face signals used in Truco are the following:

Ace of Swords - raising the eyebrows
Ace of Clubs - winking an eye
7 of Swords - a half smile to the right
7 of Coins - a half smile to the left
The four 3s - biting the lower lip
The four 2s - throwing a kiss (silent of course)
The Aces of Coins and Cups - forming an "O" with the mouth
High points for Envido - wiggling the nose (remember Bewitched?)
Low points for Envido - eyes closed

The hardest, and most important, part of passing the signals, is to do it without the other team seeing you. You don't want them to know your cards.

Then begins the discarding and the challenges. Once a challenge is claimed, in a loud voice, the only possible answers are: QUIERO (I accept) or NO QUIERO (I don't accept). No other expressions are acceptable.
If a player has a Flor, he must declare it before any card is played. He must say aloud, "Flor". If the other team does not say anything then he gets 3 points. But if the other team happens to have a Flor too, then the player who has it in his hand repeats, "Flor". The point of the three cards are added (using the method of the Envido) and the team with the highest count wins 6 points.

Then comes the challenge of the Envido. The player who has Envido must declare it before discarding, but he can do it after the other players have discarded. He declares "Envido". If the other team does not accept then the team that declared obtains 1 point. If the other team accepts, the player with the Envido declares in loud voice how many points he has. The team who wins gets 2 points. But if a player of the team that has been challenged repeats the word "Envido", and the counter challenge is accepted, hen the winner gets 4 points

The discard continues. The player who discards the highest valued card wins the discard, and the team that wins two out of the three discards wins the round. At any point of the discard, a player can declare "Truco". This means he expects to win the round (or at least he wants the other team to believe he will). In this case there is a third valid reply, "Quiero Retruco" (I accept and I counter the challenge). If he says this then he becomes the challenger. The original challenger can now accept or not the challenge, but he has another option, "Quiero Vale 4" (I accept for 4 points). This is a counter counter challenge. Of course, if accepted, the winner takes 4 points. The object of raising the stakes (Retruco and Vale 4) can be, either to obtain more points, or to scare away the other player when one does not necessarily have good cards.

I know it sounds complicated, but explained card games are always more complicated than played card games. If you ever get the chance of seeing a game of Truco, just hang around and watch. You will see it is quite exciting. The next step will be to find a place at the table, and find a partner. Who knows, you might be a much better lier than you think. Try it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The Tango is the typical music of the Rio de la Plata region of South America and of the two great cities on the shores of this river - Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Both cities claim its origin but essentially the origin is common to both and as such tango has developed with a certain character in each place.

It is generally accepted that the Tango is originally from three cities - Buenos Aires and Rosario in Argentina and Montevideo in Uruguay. Its distinctive music is played by a typical orchestra or a sextet composed of piano, two bandoneons, two violins and a double bass. The "bandoneon", a type of accordion of German origin, is essential in creating the distinct sound of tango.

The dance begins with an embrace between the man and the woman (although it was originally danced between two men). It is very sensual and the movements of the bodies are very complicated, but there are classes and milongas for all levels.

As a song, the Tango tells stories related to the lives and hardships of everyday man and woman. Its main themes are love - especially unrequited or lost, betrayal, the passage of time, the low down neighbourhood (arrabales) and death. These songs very often use the slang language of Tango called "lunfardo" One of the greatest poets of Tango, Enrique Santos Discepolo, defined it saying that "the Tango is a sad thought that is danced", its passion is also a way of working through grief.

The Tango is an urban music, and it developed together with the cities of its origin. It contains a mixture of African, Latin American and European music. It is closely related to the process of immigration. In the mid 1800´s the "working class" both in Montevideo and in Buenos Aires was made up mainly of three groups -

Black people of African origin who had been brought as slaves and then freed, they had played a very importance role in the war of independence.

The gauchos, who were similar to the North American cowboys - expert horse-riders who lived in the pampas and worked for whoever paid for their services herding cattle. But when the ranches began to be fenced, their freedom was limited and many emigrated to the cities.

The third group were the immigrants. They came mainly from Europe, looking for work and wealth. Many originated from Italy, Spain, England, Portugal, Germany and Syria-Lebanon which created a very ecclectic culture with aspects of the many different nationalities combined.

The people from these three groups went to live mostly in the suburbs, near the riverside, on the slums called arrabales. The tango was born as an expression of their feelings, their hardships and their lives. In this way the Tango can be compared to the Blues in The United States.

The Tango music was commonly played at the brothels. There it began to be heard by people of higher classes, who took it out of the slums and helped it spread. As it became more popular it also became more professional and musicians with more knowledge of music began composing.

In the beginining of the 20th Century the voice and face of Tango, for many still the most important tango singer of all history, was Carlos Gardel. He was born in Tacuarembo, in northern Uruguay, but grew up in Buenos Aires. There he became a well know singer and he travelled to Paris and then New York where he made a number of movies. He died in an air accident in Medellín, Colombia, when he was 48 years old.

The golden age of Tango is considered to be the decade of the 1940´s, with great orchestras like those of Juan D'Arienzo, Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Pugliese and Anibal Troilo and great composers like Julio De Caro, Juan Carlos Cobián and Osvaldo Fresedo. Great lyricist like Enrique Cadicamo, Enrique Santos Discépolo and Homero Manzi and great singers like Roberto "Polaco" Goyeneche and Edmundo Rivero.

In the late 1950's, musicians like Mariano Mores and Anibal Troilo began to experiment with new sounds. But the man who changed Tango music drastically was Astor Piazzola. Piazzola brought to Tango dissonant harmonies and different rythmic bases that were closer to jazz. He also brought influence from classical music. He used different instruments like electronic keyboards, bass guitar, drums and sax. Although his music was claimed not to be Tango by the classicists, his new approach became very popular amongst younger people. He is now internationally considered one of the greatest musicians and composers of the 20th Century.

Tango is still nowadays a very popular music. Singers like Argentina's Adriana Varela or Uruguay's Laura Canoura, Malena Muyala and Francis Andreu have brought new strength and voice to classical tango. Groups like Bajofondo Tango Club, composed of Uruguayan and Argentine musicians, have fused tango with electronic music and rock and recieved excellent reviews. Argentine pianist Adrián Iaies has fused it with jazz.

It has been a long road for Tango. From the slums and whorehouses of Montevideo and Buenos Aires, to the international musical scene. I know that not understanding the lyrics is missing part of the essence of Tango, but there is a lot more that can be enjoyed. From watching two people do the magic and mysterious ballet of the Tango dance, to learning how to dance it yourself. Or just listening to the universal fascination of the music of Astor Piazzola or the warm voice of Carlos Gardel.

Tango is there for all of us to experience, regardless of your nationality or language, it communicates so many emotions that are universally understood.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dulce de Leche

    Dulce de Leche (Sweet Milk) is the most popular candy in the Rio de la Plata. As with many other things, there is a dispute between Uruguay and Argentina regarding its invention. The important thing is not "who" invented it, but the fact that it was invented and it is here with us to make our lives a lot sweeter.

    Legend has it that an important politician many years ago (I will not give names to avoid nationalities) asked his cook to warm some milk with sugar to accompany the Mate. The cook got distracted (for political reasons that we won´t go into) and the milk started to boil. When she remembered and went back to the kitchen the milk had become something brown and thick. When her boss tasted it he liked it and it became a new sweet to be enjoyed at all times. That's how Dulce de Leche was "invented".

    It is, of course, not exclusive of the Rio de la Plata. With different names it exists throughout Latin America. Manjar in Chile and Ecuador, Manjar Blanco in Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador and Panama, Arequipe in Colombia and Venezuela, Cajeta in Mexico, Fanguito in Cuba, and Dulce de Leche in Argentina, Uruguay, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Republica Dominicana and Costa Rica.

    It is simply a preparation of milk, sugar and vanilla, boiled for a long time until it becomes thick and creamy.

    If you want to try it the hard way:

         Milk: 3 liters
         Sugar: 1 Kilogram
         Sodium bicarbonate: 1/2 spoon
         Vanilla: 1 pod or a small quantity of essence.

    Cook all the ingredients together over low heat, stirring all the time until the milk starts to boil. Lower the heat to the minimum and keep stirring, preferably with a wooden spoon doing an 8 movement, until the mixture begins to thicken and darken. Raise the heat until it starts to boil again. Remove from the heat and let it cool. It is ready to be tasted.

    If you want to do it the easy way just go to the supermarket and buy a jar of Dulce de Leche Lapataia or Conaprole. If this is too easy then do the following:

    Get a can of condensed milk. Put it inside a large pan and cover it with water. Boil for 2 hours. Take it out of the water (very carefully) and let it cool. Open it and you have a can of Dulce de Leche.

    The Dulce de Leche can be used in many different ways. It can be eaten out of the jar, one of the great pleasures in life, or mixed with other things. Some of the great things to eat with Dulce de Leche are bananas, pancakes, flan (creme caramel) or cakes. The Alfajor is a round pastry filled with Dulce de Leche, extremely popular in Uruguay and Argentina. There is a cake called Milhojas (Thousand Leaves) that is made of many thin layers of pastry, each one separated by a thick layer of Dulce de Leche, and covered with meringue. Try it, you won`t regret it.

    If you have a sweet tooth then any or all of this things are highly recommended.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Working in Uruguay

    I think the biggest problem to find a job in Uruguay, for foreigners, is your knowledge of Spanish. Unless you are fluent in Spanish your alternatives are limited. The second big problem, and I don´t want this to be a put down but it is a reality, is that salaries in Uruguay are generally low.

    This being said, here are some alternatives:

    Working as teacher of English or another language:

    Berlitz ( is a good place. The pay is not great but previous teaching experience is not required, they train you, so it might be a good place to start.

Langland Institute ( The pay is better, but previous experience is a plus.

    Most of the other English teaching institutes require some type of English teacher certificate. Some of them are the Anglo (, the Alianza (, London Institute (, Instituto Dickens (, or the Alliance Francaise ( for French speakers.

    Other international companies that hire non Spanish speakers are the Indian company Tata Consultancy Services ( and the American company Sabre Holdings ( That´s where I work, so if you want more information just contact me at

    Of course, there´s always El Gallito, the classified ads of the El Pais newspaper. Look for the section called TRABAJOS. Some of the ads published are in English.

A Friend Away From Home

I too am a foreigner. I have the advantage of coming from a country that is just round the corner. But I spent most of my childhood and adolescence as a foreigner, so I understand very well what it like is to be away from home. We could say that I became an expert in creating a home away from home. In times when there was no Internet and no cell phones, one had to get used pretty fast to life in new, far away places. And it was at those moments when one learned to really appreciate a friendly face, a soothing voice and a warm handshake. One felt that even living in a different culture and hearing a different language, one could find, and one always did find, a friend to make one feel a little less lost and lonely. Uruguay is very similar to Argentina, so it took no effort for me to feel at home here. Specially when the reason that brought me here is a lovely Uruguayan lady. We´ll get into that later on. But it really amazed me to find such a large quantity of foreigners, mostly from countries that are not so close at hand, living in this beautiful country. I have had the opportunity of meeting some of them. And I thought: "wow, even if the weather is great, it must not be so easy living far away from countries like Canada, USA, Switzerland, India or France. But I have been there so I can understand the feeling. And then I thought, what can I do to help them feel less far away? Could I find a way of becoming their friend away from home? I would really like to. I know Uruguay and the Uruguayan culture very well. I speak some of their languages. I understand them. Yes, I think that might work. I´ll try to help them and become their friend. And that is what I want to do. I am here to help you, to understand you and to try to make your stay in this great country as pleasant as possible.
Just ask, we´ll see what we can do.