Down and Out in Montevideo, Uruguay

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After four days in sunny Punta del Este, we headed to Uruguay’s capital – Montevideo. Big mistake. As we got out of our taxi upon arriving, I asked our driver if the area was “seguro,” or safe. He shook his head firmly, “no,” and said it was quite a dangerous area. Despite the frequent taxi driver scam with telling you your hostel is in a bad area and then taking you to an equally unsafe place where he gets a commission, from the look on his face, I knew he was telling the truth.

We checked into our hostel just an hour before we said we would. The door was wide open in what did seem like a rather dodgy area. Anyone could have just walked in from the street. The place looked like a dump. We had looked online and all hostels in Montevideo got terrible reviews. This one was new so we figured we’d give it a try. Bad call. The guy running the place was clueless and gave me attitude when I questioned the safety of the area. We were so desperate and didn’t have the energy to find a new place. So we decided to stay one night.

Graffiti on the very unattractive streets of Montevideo.Graffiti on the very unattractive streets of Montevideo.
Graffiti on the very unattractive streets of Montevideo.31-Mar-2011 14:37
 

It looked like old homeless guys were living there. He told us our room wasn’t ready. We sat in the lobby to wait, he went running up the stairs with a set of sheets and towels. Just when we thought we could settle down in our room, he came back to tell us the lock on our door didn’t work. Fantastic. We said we’d wait despite his suggestion that we go out to eat, we didn’t feel safe heading out at night in a sketchy area. So, we waited for 30 minutes as one of the resident homeless guys banged away installing the new jury-rigged lock. Insane. We wound up cooking instant soup we had with us and crashing for the night.

The next day we decided to spring for a nice hotel with a pool and a free buffet breakfast.

Luxury for 1 night in our $82 three-star hotel room following the disaster at our first hostel.Luxury for 1 night in our $82 three-star hotel room following the disaster at our first hostel.
Luxury for 1 night in our $82 three-star hotel room following the disaster at our first hostel.31-Mar-2011 17:03
 

After seeing an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” which highlighted Montevideo’s food market, we headed to check it out and had a nice lunch at a parilla (grill) there.

A huge assortment of meats on the wood-fired grill at Estancia del Puerto (as seen on Anthony Bourdain's show), Mercado del Puerto.A huge assortment of meats on the wood-fired grill at Estancia del Puerto (as seen on Anthony Bourdain’s show), Mercado del Puerto.
A huge assortment of meats on the wood-fired grill at Estancia del Puerto (as seen on Anthony Bourdain's show), Mercado del Puerto.31-Mar-2011 15:10
 

We also had a peak inside the Mausoleo de Artigas. This huge monument in the Plaza de Independencia pays tribute to José Gervasio Artigas, one of the heroes of the Uruguayan Independence. Down the steps from the monument is the mausoleum, which contains an urn with Artigas’ ashes. We were lucky to watch the changing of the guard while there.

The Mausoleo de Artigas mausoleum.The Mausoleo de Artigas mausoleum.
The Mausoleo de Artigas mausoleum.31-Mar-2011 14:27
 

After just a couple of days in Montevideo, we decided the city wasn’t for us and that Uruguay was an (expensive) bust and headed out. You can’t win ’em all.

About Heather

Heather and Erik set off on a round-the-world trip in April, 2010, travelling overland through Central and South America before getting engaged in Antarctica. In 2011-2012 they tackled Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

7 thoughts on “Down and Out in Montevideo, Uruguay

  1. Nestor

    I saw that same episode of No Reservations and all that grilled meat looked amazing. That would be my main reason for visiting Montevideo. Did you see any similar grill-type set up anywhere on your travels in South America?

    Reply
    1. Erik

      Hi Nestor! It was certainly the highlight of Montevideo. You can find great parilla grills all over South America, especially Argentina and Uruguay. A real meat-lovers’ paradise!

      Reply
    2. Reneta

      Maravilloso! existe algo mejor que enttncraroe con amigos una tarde de feriado?,Scd!, hacerlo en MUTATE. Para quie9nes no fueron, pueden imaginarlo. Gonza y Santi hicieron de las suyas para sorprender una vez me1s a sus amigos, seguidores y clientes con un evento por deme1s ameno. Todo muy cuidado, desde el delicioso menfa a la ambientacif3n patrif3tica que incluyf3 escarapelas, retrato con Artigas, un mini Artigas, etc. La buena mfasica nos acompaf1f3 toda la tarde y fueron desfilando por el dj set Be1rbara, Antar, Paola. Para muchos la sorpresa fue EL LUGAR, es que Mutate Montevideo todaveda se este1 haciendo conocer (bien vale la pena darse una vuelta)y te recibe con una coleccif3n de prendas fanicas y desde mi punto de vista INCREIBLES. A eso sumamos mobiliario, accesorios, coleccif3n femenina (amores trash couture) y otras chucherias para el deleite de los consumidores que saben lo que quieren. En hora buena amigos! x muchas me1s tardes patrias esto recie9n comienza 😉

      Reply
  2. guruguay

    Hi there, I can understand your disappointment but I just wanted to say that your stay could have been different! I run a small guesthouse and our visitors have the BEST time when they come to stay. But I admit, you do need to have insider contacts for that to happen.

    Uruguay is a small country tucked away between Argentina and Brazil of just over three million people. It’s still relatively off the beaten track for travellers – primarily in my opinion due to a lack of good information in English. Guidebooks are often woefully inadequate – dedicating a (slim) portion of a guide to Argentina to Uruguay. Even famous guidebooks (I won’t name names) send their authors for just a few days to visit the entire country. Naturally the info available is pretty crappy.

    I’ve been trying to fill that gap for just over a year with my blog http://www.guruguay.net.

    And I was really sad that you had such an uninspiring time in Montevideo. I have been living here for almost 15 years and what I love about it is that it is a city with an incredibly vibrant cultural life. But again, unless you are in the know (and read Spanish) then chances are you could think that there is nothing to do…

    To help remedy that I post suggestions of things to do most evenings in Montevideo https://www.facebook.com/Guruguay1. If ever you make it back this way, do get in touch – things will be different, I promise!!

    Reply

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