Exchanging cash is cheap and easy. You can change money in an exchange bureau (cambio) or a bank.
- You do not need to show ID.
- You won’t be charged commission.
- The best exchange rate is given for US dollars with Euros a close second. There is very little difference between buying and selling US dollars.
Getting the best rate
The National Bank (BROU) is the classic reference Uruguayans check when they are going to exchange money. To see the regular rates locally, look for the table called “Cotizaciones” (Rates). The rates shown are for buying and selling of US dollars, Argentina pesos, Brazilian reales and Euros.
Generally exchange bureaux (except for the thieving hounds at the airport) offer similar rates. I have noticed that the exchanges in some of the posher neighbourhoods like Carrasco and Pocitos are less competitive than in the city centre.
TIP If you are exchanging more than a hundred dollars ask the teller what their best rate is (say, “Cual es tu mejor cambio para 200 USD?”). You will invariably get up apx 0.25 pesos more for your dollar, which can mount up.
No commission charged
Take advantage of this. If you have excess Brazilian reales or Argentinian pesos, it might well be worth your while changing them into dollars before you move on, given you don’t have to pay commission.
If you exchange too many pesos, it is worth changing your excess back into USD before you move on to your next destination.
Do not exchange money at the airport
The airport and ferries have very bad rates (paying out 20% less on average). If you need money straight away, withdraw money at an ATM in the port or airport and plan to exchange in the city centre.
For other money-saving tips like this, check out the Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo. (Click the link to download the digital version or click the image right to buy it on Amazon)
Withdrawing cash at ATMs
ATMs dispense Uruguayan pesos – and US dollars!
Yes, so different to neighbouring Argentina, where is it virtually impossible to get hold of dollars.
There are ATMs in the airports, bus stations and at the port in Montevideo. Be aware that outside the principal cities and larger towns, ATMs are hard to find. Along the coast in Rocha, pick up cash in Chuy or La Paloma.
Most taxi drivers will not accept 1000 pesos bills. Withdraw an amount that will give you change eg 3800 pesos, rather than 4000.
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With Karen A Higgs, the founder of Guru’Guay & an internationally-recognised expert, regarding your unique situation and needs.
Exchange opening and closing times
Exchanges in Montevideo are open regular business hours, typically 9am till 7pm Monday to Friday. To exchange on weekends or until 10pm, go to a shopping centre exchange house.
Banks only open in the afternoon from 1-5pm.
So why do the ATMs dispense dollars?
It may seem strange but cash machines in Uruguay dispense both Uruguayan pesos and US dollars.
Uruguayans, like the citizens of many other Latin American nations, typically save in dollars. So we usually have separate bank accounts in pesos and dollars. So don’t be surprised to see property prices, rental values and the price of electrical and luxury goods labelled in dollars.
Why do I see the price in dollars everywhere?
In Uruguay, $ is the symbol for … pesos! The symbol for US dollars is U$S or US$ or USD.
More useful reading
[Article first published: 29 Jun 2014. Last updated: April 27 2018]
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