My Life as a Remote Worker in Uruguay
I moved from Washington State to Uruguay in 2006. For my first eight years or so in the country, I lived in Punta del Este, one of the foremost resort destinations in South America. During high season, the local airport in Punta fills with private jets, while the harbor is jam-packed with boats, including large yachts. But living in this exclusive resort town comes with a high price tag, so in 2014 I decided to simplify my life and cut my living expenses. I sold my beach condo in Punta and moved 80 miles west, into an affordable apartment in Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo.
So, what’s it like living as a remote worker in Montevideo? I’ll tell you. But, first, a little background.
Montevideo is Uruguay’s only large city, with a population of 1.4 million. It sits on the Río de la Plata, a large sea-like estuary on the east coast of South America. Montevideo’s culture is unpretentious. In general, warm human connections are more prized than social status.
When it comes to lifestyle, Montevideo possesses an Italian flair. That’s because almost 65% of Montevideo’s population is of Italian descent. It’s an influence you’ll detect in some earlier building designs and on restaurant menus. You’ll also notice the Spanish dialect here includes a distinct Italian intonation.
Montevideo is comprised of 62 neighborhoods. Many remote workers live in the neighborhoods of Pocitos, Punta Carretas, and the western edge of Buceo. These connecting neighborhoods form a 2-square-mile section of the city commonly referred to as the Pocitos Area.
In the Pocitos Area, you find modern apartment buildings, two shopping malls, more than 100 restaurants and cafés, and a long beach.
However, today a growing number of remote workers are choosing to live in older neighborhoods, such as Ciudad Vieja, Centro, and Cordón, where you get more apartment for your money. I live in Ciudad Vieja (Old City). It’s the original site where Montevideo was founded more than 290 years ago. From my apartment, it’s a short stroll to the city’s original plazas, a number of landmark restaurants and cafés, museums, galleries, and two large performance theaters.
The Ciudad Vieja (Old City) neighborhood of Montevideo boasts stunning architecture and numerous entertainment options.
Ciudad Vieja is just eight-by-14 blocks in size. It’s the most visited area of the city by travelers. It’s where you find the city’s highest concentration of government buildings, professional offices, and the main branches of most banks. You also find plenty of apartments, which range from affordable units to luxury penthouses.
Like most people in my neighborhood, I shop the traditional way. Instead of driving to a supermarket and loading up on groceries for the week, I go out every couple of days on foot in my neighborhood. I buy fresh produce, fish, and cheeses at the local street market that sets up twice a week. And I buy free-range eggs, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and Uruguayan olive oils at Molienda, my favorite health-food store.
Most days, I go for a jog on the Montevideo rambla, a wide coastal promenade that runs the full length of the city’s waterfront. And it begins close to my apartment. In the winter, I run in the middle of the day. In the summer, I go in the evening when it’s cooler.
Montevideo’s rambla is the perfect place to go for a run or gentle evening stroll.
Once or twice during the week, I meet a friend for a coffee. My favorite place is the Sometimes Sunday Café, a cool spot owned and operated by a Colombian couple. Taking work breaks to shop, run, or go out for coffee unloops my thoughts, allowing me to return to my current writing project with a fresh perspective.
Some weekends, I’ll go to dinner with friends. Uruguay’s national dish is steak barbecued over wood fire. After that, Spanish dishes (like empanadas, paella, and chorizo) and Italian dishes (like pizza, ravioli, and gnocchi) are most popular. With that said, you find a wide range of other cuisines in Montevideo. Watering holes include wine bars, craft-beer bars, Irish bars, and jazz bars.
Besides going to restaurants, some of the remote workers I know enjoy visiting the wineries just outside Montevideo. These include Bodega Bouza and H Stagnari. The blood-alcohol level to legally drive in Uruguay is zero. So most English speakers go to wineries with Wine Explorers. It’s a tour company that offers a package including transportation, bilingual guides, and an exquisite midday meal paired with fine wines.
You can find a lot of interesting places to visit throughout Uruguay. So, it’s no surprise many remote workers based in Montevideo plan occasional weekend getaways. My favorite getaway destinations include several of the beach towns that dot the Uruguayan coast between Montevideo and the Brazilian border; the rural interior; and the hot spring region in the northwest part of the country.
So, there you have it—what it’s like living as a remote worker on a budget in Montevideo. I’m living in a cool historic district. I’m doing work I enjoy. And my cost of living is a third of what I’d be spending back home.
By David Hammond
Photo credit: ©Jim Santos