Prosperous and Politically Sane: Have You Heard of This Hidden Gem in South America?

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on October 1, 2020 in Live Better

In May 2006, I arrived in Uruguay for a two-week stay. During my time exploring this gem of a country, I experienced a peacefulness that seemed to emanate from both the landscape and the culture. 

As my planned departure date grew near, I felt reluctant to leave. The idea of making a new life in Uruguay took root in my mind. So I canceled my return flight to the U.S., and spent two additional weeks investigating Uruguay as a place to live.

Five months later, I moved to Uruguay to give it a one-year trial. Fourteen years later, I’m still here.

During my first seven-and-a-half years in Uruguay, I lived in Punta del Este. It’s a coastal resort known for beautiful beaches and landmark restaurants. 

Many of the apartment towers there offer hotel-like services. Where I lived, homeowner’s association fees covered a team of porters, daily maid service for my apartment, and beach attendants in the summer.

 When you live in Punta del Este, you experience a dramatic social rhythm. During the Southern Hemisphere summer months, the year-round population of around 25,000 jumps to hundreds of thousands when vacationers arrive. 

It’s a crazy time. Among the travelers is a jet-set crowd. In early January, the Punta del Este airport fills with private jets. And the menu of Punta del Este events expands to include top-end fashion shows, polo tournaments, and yacht racing—all with after-parties.

During summers in Punta del Este, I met a lot of interesting people. But as an introvert, I balanced my social time with quiet days away from the hubbub. I spent many mornings reading and writing. In the afternoons, I’d go for a run. In the evenings, I’d walk to the end of the Punta del Este Peninsula to watch the sunset.

In winter, I socialized with a small group of year-round friends. Once in a while, we’d club all night. But more often it was low key—meeting up for a barbecue or going out for a night of pizza and bowling.

Shortly after moving to Punta del Este, I started a blog about expat life in Uruguay. By 2011, my blog traffic averaged 11,000 to 14,000 page views per month. In 2012, I started writing about Uruguay for International Living. And before long, I started getting editorial assignments to other South American countries. Life was good.

In 2014, I moved from Punta del Este to Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, for a lower cost of living. I settled in the neighborhood known as Ciudad Vieja (Old City). It’s the original eight-by-14-block peninsula where Montevideo was founded in 1730.

The apartment building where I live is 105 years old (relatively new for the neighborhood). I appreciate the character of the place. It includes plaster walls, high ceilings, and custom-milled hardwood doors and window frames.

Montevideo, Uruguay’s affordable capital, boasts incredible architecture and stunning beaches.

Like most people in Montevideo, I live comfortably without a car. Everything I need on a regular basis is close by—such as a market, butcher shop, health food store, hardware store, and pharmacy. Besides that, a street market sets up in my neighborhood twice per week. It’s where I buy fresh fish, produce, and cheeses.

Montevideo offers good bus and taxi services. So going across town for a doctor’s appointment or social event is affordable and convenient. 

Working as a freelancer in Uruguay comes with advantages. If you work with companies in the U.S., the time zone is convenient. Uruguay is three to four hours behind London and one to two hours ahead of New York. It’s four to five hours ahead of Los Angeles and Seattle.

Uruguay offers the highest fiber-optic internet penetration in Latin America. And costs are reasonable. With my basic plan, I get unlimited use with speeds of 60 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 10 Mbps up for $31 per month. Faster options are available and reasonably priced.

In Montevideo, if you get tired of working at home, you’ll find lots of options. These include more than a dozen coworking spaces and many interesting coffee shops. Also, most plazas in Uruguay provide free WiFi.

I’ve met a wide range of self-employed people working online from Uruguay. The most numerous are programmers. I’ve also met a variety of consultants, online coaches, and other writers. Like me, these freelancers are grateful to live in such a safe, welcoming, and prosperous place.

By David Hammond