Road Rules In Uruguay: Driving Facts You Need To Know

There were tears, frustrations, and arguments as mum took on the role of hand inspector during my practice sessions.

"Check your fingers on your bow," mum said for the umpteenth time that day. I had a new violin teacher who was trying to correct a bad habit I'd developed of holding my bow the wrong way. Unfortunately, correcting the habit was proving far harder than I first imagined. I did ok while I focused on the new hand hold, but as soon as I shifted my focus to something else it would sneakily slip back into the old position and I'd be back at square one.

But what's this got to do with road rules in Uruguay?

Driving habits meet new road rules

If you've driven in a foreign country before then we're probably already on the same page. There are road rules you need to be aware of that can be very different to the ones you automatically follow at home. The road rules in Uruguay are no different. These are the 3 areas that we found to be most challenging when we first got behind the wheel:

  • Basic road rules in Uruguay that were very different from home
  • Driver responsibilities it's essential to remember
  • Road signs and markers to guide you on your way

Basic road rules in Uruguay that were very different from home

sign-showing-no-overtaking-on-the-brow-of-a-hill
Road rules in Uruguay include not overtaking on the brow of a hill

Number one for us was the need to drive on the right. If you're coming from countries like the UK, Japan, or Singapore, this particular road rule is a toughie. You think you're doing fine and then a roundabout appears or a left turn. These were the times we found we really had to concentrate on what we were doing. Luckily we were both virgins to the right side of the road so we were constantly looking out for each other on our car trips across the country.

Next up is the speed limit. The road rules in Uruguay state that the national speed limit is 110 km/h. However, for the majority of national routes that we travelled, the limit was actually fixed at 90 km/h. The speed limits are clearly signposted so you just need to check as you're driving. Just don't make the assumption that because 110 km/h is the national speed limit, that's it's ok to do this on all the national routes. It's not.

Last but not least in our basic set of rules is one-way roads. As soon as you hit any cities of a decent size in Uruguay, you'll find yourself in a one-way system that can be confusing if you're not expecting it. There will usually be 2 main roads that cross the center of the city that are two-way, but everything else is one-way. If you get lost, stop to ask someone for directions otherwise you could end up going round and round in circles!

Driver responsibilities. What do you need to remember?

There are driver responsibilites that are part of the road rules in Uruguay that are also different from home. Starting with your headlights.

Whenever you drive on a major route you must drive with your headlights on. It doesn't matter what time of day it is, they must always be on. As far as we could work out, you didn't need to have them on if you were just driving round town. However, we found it easier to just turn them on every time we started the car then we knew we had this particular rule covered. Just remember to turn them off when you leave your car.

lorry-waiting-at-the-traffic-lights-in-uruguay
It's headlights on for this lorry. Even at midday

It's also the drivers responsibility to make sure that they, and everyone else in the car, is belted in. Seatbelts are the law. We've often seen people travelling without them but if you get stopped by the police, don't say you didn't know. Thankfully, seatbelts have been an engrained habit since we were children in the UK so no problem there.

And what about alcohol? The road rules in Uruguay have zero tolerance. If you're driving, the acceptable limit is officially nil. We've heard talk of people driving after drinking but the reality is we haven't seen any evidence of this after 3 months of travelling across the country. It's a simple case of don't drink and drive.

Road signs and markers to guide you on your way

The last part of our road rules in Uruguay focuses on the road signs you're going to see as you make your way around. What should you expect? And what do you need to look out for?

When you travel along any national route in Uruguay you'll see kilometre marker posts showing you exactly where you are. For example, the route that connects Salto and Tacuarembo in the north of the country starts at 0 in Salto and counts up to Tacuarembo. If you're coming in the reverse direction... well it's in reverse. Many estancias and rural guesthouses will include these kilometre markers as part of their directions to find them.

When we visited El Galope from Montevideo, we had to turn right at kilmetre 114.5 on national Route 1. It sounded very strange to us as it was the first time we had to follow these kind of directions. But it worked perfectly. It's a great way of knowing where you are in Uruguay.

kilometer-marker-and-road-sign
This is the kind of kilometer marker post you'll see as you drive round Uruguay

So what about the major sign posts that tell you what road you're on? Are they good? Hmmmm. This is where we came unstuck a couple of times. The major roads like Route 1 are clearly signposted and easy to find. But if you try any of the less major routes as we did (try Route 21 from Mercedes to Carmelo), all of a sudden you're left blind with nowhere to go.

We could see we had to turn somewhere from looking at the map. But we couldn't spot a single sign post telling us where to go. So what to do? It was time to stop and ask the locals for directions in our very basic Spanish. And Uruguayans are the nicest people to ask. Just stop and ask as many times as you need until you hit a marker that tells you where you are again. It worked for us : )

And there you have it. These are the road rules in Uruguay we found the most challenging during our stay. Just remember to be careful of your driving habits. It's all too easy to slip back into driving on the left instead of driving on the right if you lose your concentration. And if you can, have someone in the car who's also helping in case you have a memory block and can't remember what to do as you head towards that fast approaching roundabout.

What's next? Well if you haven't already, now's a good time to start checking out how much it costs to rent a car while you're here. Head on over to our car hire in Uruguay page for more information.

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