Unlocking the World

Traveling to Uruguay during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN StaffUpdated 26th August 2021
Montevideo, set on the River Plate, is one of South America's great capitals.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you're fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on August 26.
(CNN) — If you're planning a trip to Uruguay, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

Uruguay successfully kept a lid on Covid-19 cases at the start of the pandemic, but the second wave and its variants have hit hard. The small country has had one of the highest death rates per capita in the world in recent months, though numbers are now decreasing.

What's on offer

Often overlooked by travelers in favor of neighboring Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is one of South America's loveliest countries. Montevideo, the coastal capital on the River Plate, is perfect for strolling, while the wild Atlantic coast has some of South America's most impressive beaches. And then there's the wine -- Uruguay's tannat grape has been much maligned in the past but is having a resurgence of popularity. A new crop of modern vineyards around Jose Ignacio means this is swift becoming one of the fanciest wine regions in South America.

Who can go

No visitors, as of yet -- although there's a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Uruguay had mooted a reopening in March 2021, but with the virus now taking hold in the country, it did not follow through. However, the government has now announced plans to open the borders to all fully vaccinated foreigners who present a negative PCR test on November 1.
From September 1, foreigners who own homes in Uruguay will be allowed entry, if they are fully vaccinated and present a negative PCR test. Expect more details nearer the time.
For now, after the borders were closed even to residents during January, things have now returned to as they were before: only Uruguay nationals and permanent residents can enter the country, as well as those traveling for family reunification, diplomats, haulage drivers, or those traveling for urgent business purposes, who must apply in advance for permission to enter. Cruise ships can only dock in Montevideo to refuel and resupply -- passengers cannot disembark.

What are the restrictions?

Returning nationals and permanent residents must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure and provide a sworn statement confirming the absence of symptoms. They must also confirm that to their knowledge they have had no contact with any Covid-positive patients in the past 14 days.
All arrivals must undertake seven days of quarantine, at which point there is the option to take a further PCR test, and be released if it is negative. Those who do not wish to take a second test can quarantine for 14 days instead.
All arrivals must also have insurance covering treatment for Covid-19.
Visitors, when allowed in, must be fully vaccinated and presenting a negative PCR test. Expect full details to be announced nearer the time.

What's the Covid situation?

Uruguay has registered a total of 384,392 Covid cases as of August 26. Although that doesn't sound as much as other countries, at the start of March there had been just 60,000 cases over the whole pandemic. Deaths have rocketed, from a total of 928 at the end of March to 6,022 as of August 26. However, both infections and deaths are slowing down. Although Uruguay had one of the highest death rates per capita in the world over its winter (the northern hemisphere summer), case numbers are now stabilizing.
The rise was initially blamed by some experts on domestic tourism, which many had hoped would help save the beleaguered economy at a time when foreign visitors are not permitted -- but it appears it was the Brazilian variant doing the damage. It meant that Uruguay went from a low-risk country welcomed by most others in the world, to being banned even by Sweden and the UK, which have notoriously high death rates.
As of August 26, 71.74% of the population is fully vaccinated.

What can visitors expect?

Although there's no official lockdown -- President Luis Lacalle Pou has opted for what he calls "responsible liberty" -- Uruguay has mandated the use of masks and social distancing. Many bars and restaurants remain shut until further notice, although some are offering delivery. Police patrol markets to ensure that the rules are being followed, and those under 65 are asked not to shop between 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. so that older people can do so safely.
The mayor of Maldonado, home to some of the country's best beaches, has told local media that he is discouraging tourism, and that if he could block the roads from Montevideo to his area, he would. Two natural parks in the area have been closed, though others remain open.
Towns such as Colonia, a popular tourist destination which saw 80% of arrivals from abroad, are trying to repitch themselves to the domestic market.

Useful links

Our recent coverage

Uruguay is home to one of the world's most exciting up-and-coming wine scenes. Read about one of the country's most exciting vineyards.
Uruguay featured in our film of South America's finest scenery, and Sofitel's conversion of Montevideo's grand old casino in Carrasco made it in our list of the best South American hotels. Uruguay is also rated for its ethical tourism.