Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Relocating to Uruguay?

Its no secret that survivalism, disguised under its more politically correct term “preparedness” is in vogue these days. Its been several years now since wilderness survival TV shows have caught the attention of the audience, combining entertainment with all important survival information such as how to properly drink elephant urine (or your own for that matter) and how to pretend to jump into a category 5 white water river, pretending to do it using your pants alone when you actually have a flotation device hidden beneath. Even something like pretending to sleep outdoors during extreme cold when the truth is that both survival expert and crew spend the night at the Holiday Inn has caused the death of people already. As the “end of the world” market grows, articles recommending one location or another without any logic to it are more and more common.

Funny enough, Uruguay is rarely mentioned or recommended. While 100% mainland dependant islands or 3rd world hell holes seem to be the favorite destination if SHTF for most freelance writers, this little gem goes unnoticed by many couch commandos. I already knew about Uruguay, have traveled there before an that’s why in my book I recommended it as the best alternative for relocation in South America. Chile is somewhat similar in terms of social stability but its more expensive, and lets not forget the little issue about being steadily sinking into the Pacific.
Last week I traveled to Colonia del Sacramento. I’ve never been there before and I liked it even more than Montevideo and Punta del Este, almost an ideal location for a survivalist.

What does Uruguay have in its favor?

Location is very much ideal if you want to be away from the main world powers. Usually this would be more of a disadvantage, but if you’re worried about powerful countries nuking each other, this is preferred. At the same its just an hour away from Buenos Aires in boat. I took the slower boat from Buenos Aires, the one that takes 3 hours, but the trip is very enjoyable across the River Plate. The Buquebus boat has a bar inside and a shop, kids have a good time in it. Strategically speaking, you’re still 1 hour away from Buenos Aires, the 7th largest city in the planet, and while crime is a problem here as well as every other problem Argentina has, its close enough to take advantage of the larger metropolis in case you need to buy items that are harder to find (or just more expensive) back in Uruguay. At the same time, river Plate being the widest river in the planet creates the perfect natural barrier. Even during colonial times, the rocky shallow shores of Colonia made it hard for invading forces. Buenos Aires can go to hell in a basket, none of that will reach Colonia.
Regarding supplies, ebay makes it easy to buy just about anything you need in terms of specialized gear.
Uruguay has a low population, 3.5 million inhabitants for its 68,037 sq mile territory. The people are 90% white of European ancestry, mostly Catholic, similar to Argentina.
Gun Laws. While nothing like the ones in USA, they are better than in most other South American countries. You need a gun license to purchase guns up to 9mm, and a collectors one for larger calibers. Like in Argentina, detachable mag fed rifles and carbines in calibers other than 22LR are impossible to get. But its not hard to get a Glock 9mm, lever action rifles, pump shotguns and bolt action rifles. Not perfect but you can still be well armed for 90% of the self defense needs. A carry permit is a bit harder but available for the law abiding citizen. Wish Argentina had similar carry permits. 
Water is more than plentiful. The river Plate and the other rivers make it ideal in terms of water availability.
Regarding food, Land is flat and fertile, Uruguay produces more than enough food. Agricultural activity is 10% of the country’s GDP, putting it in line with countries like Brazil and Canada, but with a laughable amount of population in comparison. Uruguay will be exporting 400.000 tons of beef in 2011. http://en.mercopress.com/2010/09/16/usda-forecasts-uruguay-s-beef-exports-will-increase-to-400.000-tons-in-2011
What does all this mean? That because of agricultural production, its rivers and sea, food is incredibly plentiful in Uruguay. This is all too important if you expect interruption in the import/export channels.
According to Transparency International, Uruguay is the least corrupt country in South America, along with Chile. This is also very important, specially for foreigners that don’t know the local codes of how corruption works in a specific country. You don’t want to relocate only to be beaten to near death and thrown in a jail. Happens often enough in Latin America, specially in anti-American countries, and Argentina’s government openly promotes leftist politics and Chavez like hatred towards US citizens. Crime in Uruguay is very low, safer than many American cities and an Utopia compared to crime riddled Argentina. 

Probably one of the most attractive things about Uruguay is how cheap it is to live there. Its among the top 10 cheapest countries to live in (10th posittion) , and according to International Living, it’s the best because of its life quality. “A first world country in Latin America” according to them.  Sure there’s cheaper, but do you want to live in Narau y Turkmenistán? In Uruguay you could even send your kids to a good bilingual school so they can one day go back to US and study in an American University if you wish so… or rent them an apartment in Buenos Aires across the river and send the to the public university almost for free… You simply have those options in Uruguay, and that’s terrific.

I liked the small town of Colonia a lot, the views are great the tranquility, the prices in the non-tourist areas. According to my tourist guide in Colonia, an average monthly wage is 300 USD. I found this to be rather low but I’m sure a family can live ok with 1000 USD, and couple could sure live well spending less than that. You’re used to a better lifestyle? You can go as crazy as you want in Uruguay. Punta del Este has beach resorts with homes that cost several million dollars, but you can live well for cheap too. That’s the beauty of it.
Between the ranches, country and beaches there’s lots of fresh air and outdoors activities all across the country.
The one thing I don’t like about Uruguay? Politically, they’ve recently elected a leftist, President “El Pepe” Mujica.
Banking is easy in Uruguay. Considered the Switzerland of Latin America, you can have a numbered account to keep your money safe (or as safe as it can be in the banking system)
Final note, anyone seriously considering visiting Uruguay, and wanting my help, feel free to contact me through email.
Take care guys.



Anonymous said...

Yeah, the only reason I haven't relocated the wife and me south is because I can't relocate my "toy" collection to any place else...

Anonymous said...

This is sounding fantastic and I just starting looking into this. How in Heck did this get over looked (fortunately not by Ferfal)?! Yes, my nieghbor is proving to be the smarter man, but why didn't he tell me about? Thanks a bunch, I'll be hot on this tomarrow. A

Here's how Wikitravel describes immigration, work permits etc:

"There are numerous English language schools which are looking for native speakers as teachers. They can arrange papers or pay teachers under the table. The pay is not good, but enough to live on in Montevideo. Work permits are not particularly difficult to obtain and Uruguay lets you convert a tourist visa to a work visa without leaving the country. Residency visas without permission to work simply require you prove access to $500 USD a month. Work permits are not particularly hard to get."

Patrick said...

Maybe Pepe will keep those goddamn Monstanto seeds out of the country and that would vindicate him for the rest of his positions.

Don Williams said...

I'll stick with my analysis from last November: Uruguay is tailored made for communes and hippy pacifists:


Right between the Big Boys of the South American continent -- Argentina and Brazil. What could possibly go wrong?

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that at a minimum a TOFFEL certification was needed to teach English. I've been thinking of getting one.

It seems like the pay would be very low, the equivalent of making minimum wage, or less, in the U.S.

I did some research on Uruguay and looked at some of the pictures online. The stereotype I have in my mind is of a photo I saw of a huge gathering of motorcycles (mostly Harley's) in a downtown area, it looked like fun and they looked like a good bunch of people.

Someone somewhere remarked that Uruguay was a lot like Iowa, only with much milder Winters.

Just some thoughts from someone who has never been there, but might go someday.

I wish I could take my stuff with me when I went. Leaving them behind is some type of separation anxiety I suppose.

Don Williams said...

PS Uruguay appears to be flat to rolling land, with no geographical barriers between her and Brazil or Argentina (although broad Playa River does separate her from Buenos Aires, as Ferfal noted.)

On the other hand, she does not have oil or mineral deposits that foreign invaders would covet and her military is probably adequate to ensure that any rewards from invasion would be less than the cost.

Her low-density population is between areas of Argentina and Brazil which are much more densely populated (Buenos Aires, Porto Alegre).

Goode's Atlas indicates that Uruguay has good fishing areas off the coast and big sheep herds along with grape vineyards on south coast. However, she does not appear to have Argentina's huge maize and wheat areas (to the west of Buenos Aires) and her diet seems to have fewer calories than what's available to the average citizen of Argentina, although protein seems adequate.

CIA Factbook indicates Uruguay's banking industry took a big hit during Argentina's crisis because lots of Argentine depositors pulled out their money (probably needed to buy food etc in Buenos Aires.)

Anonymous said...

I keep reading about Uruguay online and it seems like a wonderful place indeed, but...I'm wondering if they're not rather silly about tariffs, given the *really* old cars that seem to be in common use in pictures and in a movie or two I've seen-I'm talking 1920s and 1930s cars in this case. I know that I found an old Sports Illustrated article (from a google search of "old cars in Uruguay") from 1969 that covered this, and the fact that a new (at that time) $3,000 Chevrolet went for closer to $12,000 ($70,000+ in today's money) once all the taxes, tariffs, and government fees were added, in Uruguay. Is this still an issue for cars and other imported goods, or no?