If, for whatever reason, you would like to immigrate then the most difficult question to answer is usually “where to”? If you have never been an avid traveler and have not really seen much of the world it makes the process and decision making even tougher. If you have traveled extensively you may have a better idea, but even then one needs to remember that going on holiday is one thing and actually living there is quite a different story.
There are also many factors surrounding this issue to be taken into consideration i.e. logistics as well as personal preferences. It takes a lot of courage and most of all willingness to adapt to change. After all when we move into a different culture we are the ones that need to adapt.
Our family made a decision 10 years ago to move to Uruguay. We chose Uruguay for various reasons, which I won’t go into right now. Was it easy,? the short answer to that question is: – “no, it was quite a challenge”. But we had made a decision and we were determined to make the best of it. And today we are very happy we live here. Is this is “heaven on earth”? My answer to that question would be: “depending on your attitude, your life here on earth can be heaven or hell”! It’s always your choice.
A few weeks ago a small contingent of South Africans came to Uruguay on an LSD (Look, See & Decide) trip. Something I highly recommend to everyone before making a big move.
So today I would love to share some of their impressions with you. Partially the reason for the trip was to see if it was possible to establish one or more Eco villages for the South Africans. To identify land, have a look at schools, healthcare etc.
Pierre (group leader and initiator of the eco village idea)
Pierre’s objective is to create a safe haven and community project where everyone plays a role and supports each other. Pierre, the group and I spent a considerable amount of time together, scouting for land and generally looking around so everyone could get the feel of the country and the countryside. I do not have an official write up from Pierre at hand, but judging by his positive attitude toward Uruguay, all plans as discussed will be going ahead in order to establish the Eco village. Pierre seems to be totally confident that Uruguay is the ideal location.
My husband and I have been considering immigration for quite some time. Weighing our options, some countries weighed in far too heavy whilst others were not even considered. Countries of which Uruguay was a part of. We came across a group of people considering to make Uruguay their new home. They started planning a “Look-see-decide” trip, and before we knew it we opted to travel with 5 others to explore the feasibility of this crazy idea. We were told to travel during their wettest season to really experience the worst of Uruguay. Being South African one would imagine that having enough rain is not one of the worst things after all. However, we decided to travel between 28th September and 14th October 2019. Never could we have imagined the vast world of unimaginable beauty, acceptance, and yes, safety. The very first thing that we experienced was the open arms of acceptance by the Uruguayan people. They have accepted us no matter where we came from and never once searched for a reason to assist in making our stay a pleasant one. For us South Africans, the biggest concern is safety. Since my return to South Africa, everyone asks me this question- Is it safe there?! Yes, indeed it is. We felt loved as opposed to feeling threatened. We received so much rather than having things taken from us. All together our Uruguay trip was a lovely experience. We are preparing to immigrate early 2020. @ClaudiaZunker, thank you so much for your part in our awesome experience. We cannot wait to meet again!
I had an awesome experience. The Uruguayans are very friendly people irrespective of the language barrier. It’s very relaxed not so busy like Johannesburg. There are a lot of opportunities. Just learn the language. We are definitely going to make Uruguay our new home.
Helet (spent one week apart from the group traveling the remainder of the country with another group member)
My Uruguay experiences
This write up is being compiled to give a transparent view on our experience in UY and to make people aware of any pitfalls.)
We just returned from a 14-day Look See & decide trip from UY.
We were a group of 7 individuals that represented a group fellow South Africans who is looking at emigrating to UY. The focus was to get suitable properties in UY for the establishment of various Eco Villages across UY. Look into business opportunities and get a general feel of living in UY. Maldonado Department was chosen for the 1st Village for its proximity to Montevideo and Punta Del Este.
We were also requested by members of the group to look at the availability of various housing options and ease of accessibility to building materials, groceries and other lifestyle items. There is a misconception that very few of these items are easily available in UY.
It started raining on Monday afternoon and continued on and off for the next 4 days. Most of the land we visited was soaked and water was standing all over. We were also told by some locals that this is normal for this time of the year.
An Itinerary was drawn up by the Tour leader where we would spend some time in the Maldonado area searching for suitable properties and thereafter visit the rest of the country to see what it has to offer. Cities and Places to be visited were Montevideo, Punta Del Este, Punta Ballena, Pueblo Eden, Minas, Tacuarembó, Villa Eden, Salto, Paysandú, Colonia del Sacramento, Colonia, Santa Lucia. In the end the group only visited Montevideo, Punta Del Este, Rocha, Pariapolis and San Carlos.
Various properties were viewed and presented to us be Real Estate agents. Some were suitable for the establishment of such a Village where others would be better to farm on. Property prices in UY are expensive and therefore we tried to see as many as possible in order to get the best deal. The biggest challenge was the fact that UY property law states that only 2 dwellings may be erected per 5ha in the rural areas. This will be the biggest challenge to overcome in order to build the proposed Eco Villages. Meetings was set up with a Town Planner and Architect to discuss the possibilities. We were not part of these meetings as we were exploring the rest of UY at that stage.
We viewed some farmland in the Rocha area but due to the heavy rains could not even get to the property to view it. This could be problematic as too much water can cause various problems with your crops and animals.
We visited some fellow South Africans who is living on a farm outside of San Carlos (which is deemed to be a dangerous town) due to crime etc. We never experienced any of this.
We were met with typical South African hospitality with a braai, some salads and puddings as we are used to back home. Here we heard different stories on everyone’s take on the country. Some have been living in UY for 15 years and others as short as 5 weeks. Some are already making plans to leave for other countries, and some are positive to make the best of their situation in UY.
After being stuck in the Maldonado area for 6 days without getting suitable properties, it was suggested that myself and another group member left the group and started exploring the other areas in UY as per the original itinerary. We hired a car and set out on Sunday morning heading towards Rivera.
We viewed another 9 Ha property 29 km from Rivera that could become a village. If the rezoning can be obtained from the Municipality.
We visited the following towns and Cities on this trip: Minas, San Gregorio, Rivera, Tacuarembo, Salto, Paysandú, Mercedes, Fray Bentos.
The countryside in UY is beautiful and reminds me of South Africa. It was noticeable that there are lots of farming activities in the countryside, especially in the northern areas where wheat, maize and canola fields were in abundance. The general upkeep of the properties was also noticeable better than down in Montevideo and Punta Del Este.
The following was posted on a Facebook group by a South African who now lives in Punta Del Este and who we met in person. I cannot put it in better words.
“The Good News:
Uruguay is a wonderful country and probably the simplest and least expensive country for South Africans to obtain residency (± $2,500 USD) with the option of citizenship within 3 – 5 years.
* Safe and devoid from violent crime and by far the least corrupt country in South America;
* A culture of tolerance, friendliness and helpfulness.
* An abundance of natural resources – more than ample water and with 92% renewable energy (wind and hydro generated);
* Functioning public services with specific reference to health and education;
* Sound infrastructure – good roads, excellent mobile and internet connectivity and an excellent public transport system;
* Vision of the importance of food security – a very high emphasis on agriculture (even though the population is 3.5 million Uruguay produces enough food for 28 million).
But then the Reality:
As mentioned by other commenters it is expensive to live in Uruguay – on average ± 1.7 – 1.8 times more expensive than in South Africa.
Uruguay is an extremely bureaucratic country, everything, with specific to administrative issues, takes so much longer. Every document for each purpose, irrespective of how trivial it is, must be the originally signed, notarised, translated into Spanish and delivered. Professional fees are very expensive – fees I have encountered for the above varied between $65 USD (a simple one-page document) to $450 USD. If you apply for anything – to open a company, register a business, anything in effect there are hordes of (unnecessary in my opinion) documents, is very timeous and accrues significant costs.
The language is a problem – irrespective of how anyone may sugar coat it – if you cannot speak Spanish it is extremely difficult (bordering on impossible) to obtain employment. You will also be an outsider and might not be paying the same price for an item/service as the locals.
A figure of between R1.0 to R2.0 Million was mentioned to have available when one moves to Uruguay solely for the purpose of survival until you “find your feet”. I am in accordance with that, with the delays due to the bureaucracy and the language issue it will take some time to start gearing an income. Starting salaries are also often not sufficient to cover rent and basic living expenses.
In summary – Uruguay is a very attractive country, very reminiscent of South Africa 40 years ago. But it is very expensive to live here.
Learn Spanish to a level where you can communicate without any help from a translator.
Make sure you have a steady income before going to UY.
Cars are expensive. You will have to make use of public transport.
Rental housing is available but also at a premium price.
Farmland can be hired at very reasonable rates.
Make sure you can adapt to the weather in the coastal area.
Do not think that you will walk into Uruguay and start your business that was working in SA and it will just carry on as normal. The people in Uruguay look after each other’s interest and do not easily trust foreigners in their communities.
Imports are nearly impossible to do as they protect their own industries.
I have, for now decided that UY will not work for me and my family. I am very glad that I did the Look, see and decide tour in order to make an informed decision regarding me and my families future. I will encourage anyone that is thinking of moving to UY to go on an LSD tour yourself and decide whether Uruguay will work for you and your family.
Ek het Uruquay vreeslik geniet.Mense baie vriendelik,baie mooi en veilige land. / I enjoyed Uruguay very much. People are very friendly and a very beautiful and safe country.
My family and I are moving to Uruguay and starting a business there. I am going to stay in the city and will try to keep in touch with everyone who is here in Uruguay or is moving later. I hope to make friends with expats and new immigrants because support among ourselves is important. I wish everyone the best of luck and hope your plans work out for you. We can no longer afford to fight with each other. / Ek en my familie gaan Uruguay toe trek en ‘n besigheid daar begin. Ek gaan in die stad bly en sal probeer kontak hou met almal wat hier is in Uruguay of later kom. Ek hoop om vriende te maak met expats en nuwe immigrante wat ondersteuning onder mekaar is belangrik. Ek wens vir almal voorspoed en hoop julle planne werk. Ons kan nie meer bekostig om met mekaar te baklei.
So there you have some valuable feedback from a very diverse crowd of people, who did not know each other before they set out on this trip.
Please remember that all of them were only here for a short period and some of the impressions as well as opinions and or statements may not be entirely accurate. We need to remember to compare apples with apples, and this is one thing most people seem to forget when they look at property prices. When looking at property prices and pieces of land along the Uruguayan coast we need to compare those prices with areas along the coast in South Africa i.e. Cape Town as well as the North Coast. We cant compare living in Midrand, Boksburg or Edenvale with living in Cape Town or Umphlanga Rocks either. Of course when moving inland, as is the case in any country the land prices are cheaper.
Hopefully their insights will help a little toward making a decision. I however strongly recommend that anyone wanting to move to Uruguay comes here first on a 2 week LSD trip to see firsthand what its all about.
If you require more information about Uruguay please feel free to leave me a message and I will get back to you as soon as possible and put you in touch with all the right people. Please also feel free to join my Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/mygypseyme where you can also leave me a message. Please also note that all the photos above where shared by the traveling members of this group.
Ciao for now!
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