Personal Safety

Uruguay is a generally safe country for the visitor. A (mildly controversial) policy of rounding up vagrants in Punta del Este ahead of the summer season gives you an idea of the extent to which Punta's city fathers want to keep their resort free of undesirables. In January and February this is arguably the safest major holiday destination in the continent, although you should watch out for pickpockets and not leave possessions out of your sight in shops and restaurants.

You should be aware that thieves target empty houses in Punta del Este (and elsewhere on the coast) out of season; in Montevideo, burglary – sometimes with alarming violence – is a growing problem in the beach suburbs and the subject of much comment by locals and long-term overseas residents alike. If you are planning an extended stay, it is preferable to rent an apartment with a doorman rather than a house that isn't on one the capital's few secure estates.

Montevideo's streets are broadly safe for women after dark, as long as you keep to Pocitos, Punta Carretas and Carrasco. Walking in the Old Town is considered unsafe at night; parts of the Centre are also often practically deserted late in the evening and caution is recommended. There are many pickpockets around the Mercado del Puerto at the weekend, particularly at the busiest periods, e.g. the weeks leading up to Christmas. The Cerro is not an ideal district for strolling – if you visit the fort across the bay from downtown, it's best to go by taxi and have the driver wait for you.

Self-appointed parking attendants will ask for a coin or two to look after your car in the Centre. Most people oblige, mainly out of fear that the attendant will damage the vehicle if he (or she) isn't paid off. Parking attendants outside restaurants and bars in Pocitos, Punta Carretas and Carrasco usually have an arrangement with the establishment, and are identified as such. Car-jacking is uncommon, but it does happen.

Pedestrians should take care crossing the Rambla in the evening at weekends; the road is sometimes used as an improvised race-track by irresponsible (and sometimes drunk) drivers.

Other annoyances: Short-changing is not widespread, but you should still exercise caution in shops and markets in Uruguay. Counterfeit coins and banknotes, meanwhile, are uncommon (not the case in neighbouring Argentina).