Purchases

"Bueno, entonces"

The challenge of learning the language  in Uruguay is that you have to use a local tutor, text or program.  Rioplatense is the local dialect of Uruguay and parts of Argentina.  There are some big differences between the Spanish here to that spoken in Mexico or other parts of Central and South America. You cannot learn Rioplatense from the huge online language program Rosetta Stone, or books published for other areas. We just signed up for a new Rioplatense program called "Bueno, entonces".  This is in addition to our normal private tutoring in Uruguay.  "Bueno, entonces" is a completely irreverent, crass, cheeky language program that makes you laugh out loud- along with learning.  They describe themselves as Rosetta Stone meets South Park.  Word of warning: this is not for the easily offended. If you think you may be offended, you probably will be. If you want to check it out, don't say that I didn't warn you.

We think it is funny, interesting and certainly will not put you to sleep.  After the first few lessons, we're hooked and can't wait to see what happens next.  Kind of like a steamy latino-telenovela: very fun and a surprise at every turn.

Bueno, entonces is available in DVD's or download to PC/iphone/ipod touch.

If you want to learn more about Rioplatense Spanish, click here.

Miami-Box for Shipments from the USA

I needed to view and approve samples for work, but they were 6000 miles away in Minnesota.  I weighed my options: FedEx and UPS were quoting in the $160-200 USD range to get a 2 kilo box to uruguay.  I thought that was insane and was determined to find a better way. Mail would be cheap, but there is a hell of an ordeal to claim your package at the Correo Central and pay aduana (taxes) if necessary- plus stories of packages never arriving and I couldn't take that chance.  I decided on Miami-Box. Miami-Box is a parcel forwarding service between Miami, FL and Uruguay.  Set up a free account on their website and you get a unique address to send packages to in Miami.  This is a great solution for items purchased online or gifts from family and friends. Once a package arrives for you in Miami, you are notified via email and you have a few options depending on the purchase price of the package: if under $100 USD, you can opt to pick up your package at the airport and handle the aduana (taxes) yourself (with Miami-Box supplying the paperwork for you), or you can opt for full service delivery, with your credit card on file being billed for the aduana and delivery fees.  I decided on the latter and it was so convenient.  Not necessarily inexpensive, but convenient.

My little 2 kilo package cost me $99.60 on a $30 retail value.  A little painful, but still cheap in comparison to what UPS or FedEx were quoting.  The fees were broken down as follows (all in USD):

Airline freight from Miami (based on weight) $27.00

Aduana Taxes (based on retail value of $30 + freight of $27.00)  $36.00

Delivery (optional) $15.00

Handling  $15.00

Administrative fees  $6.60

___________________________

Grand total of $99.60 USD

The package arrived within 5 days, in one piece and hand delivered to my door.  I will try priority mail next time for comparisons sake.  The correspondence with Miami-Box throughout the process, as well as the delivery were all extremely professional.  I would certainly recommend their service.

*As noted on the Miami-Box site, books and magazines are not taxed to bring into Uruguay.  I will definitely use Miami-Box in the future for that purpose. They are also offering 60 magazines without the normal subscription cost for a limited time.  Please see their site for details.

Remate- The Craigslist of Uruguay

Except in Uruguay, it is a physical location and not an online 'for sale' ad. You can find any assortment of thing for sale at these remates (or auction houses). There are everything from antiques, to rugs, small appliances, farm equipment, architectural salvage and even cars.  Yes, you can even buy 'normal' furniture and housewares, which is a great resource for an expat trying to set up a household here.

One of the best remates that I know of is Castells. I've been told this remate is most often frequented by Uruguayos, and as such, is not as expensive as some of the extranjero remates.

Castells is located at Galicia 1069.  It's about a 10 minute cab ride from  the Pocitos/Punta Carretas area. The main furniture sale is every Tuesday at 2 PM. When I've been there, this sale has been very informal and in a large back room. The front main auction room is full of antiques and fine art pieces, with everyone sitting down and was what you'd envision of a "civilized" auction. The back room was with everyone standing, crowded around a given piece of furniture and the auctioneer on a small podium. You can visit early on Tuesday or on any other day to see the sale items ahead of time. Occasionally the rooms for the separate sales are reversed, so keep your eyes open.

There are other rooms as well, one upstairs and another in a garage area, full of items that sell on different days. Some is household goods and small appliances (upstairs) and outside has everything from architectural artifacts, to farm equipment to cars and all sorts of random junk.

There are no numbers or paddles for bidding, you just raise your hand. If you are the highest bidder, someone will come over to you and take your information and a deposit on the piece (30% of the sale price).  You get a receipt and can pay the balance and pick up your purchase the same day or within 24 hours.

A few notes before you hit the remate:

  • The auctioneer shortens all his numbers for speed so the current bid may come out as "ochen" instead of "ochenta".  Be aware- especially if your not so fluent in Spanish yet.
  • The upholstered pieces can occasionally be of questionable quality and I have heard stories of items having bugs. Check out a piece carefully before bidding/buying. You wouldn't want to get it into your house and find out that you have 10,000 new friends.
  • There are taxes added to the final sale price, to be paid when you pick up your purchase.  This is  a total of 16.5% unless otherwise specified.

Even if you're not in the market for new stuff, the remates are a great place to go and experience a part of Uruguayan culture. Have fun!

Géant

We'd been hearing about this superstore in Uruguay called Géant Hipermercado (pronounced sheee-awnt, we believe), which was located just past the Carrasco area and wanted to check it out.  Géant was described to us as a something like Super Target or Walmart. There is only one location in Uruguay and because of the distance from our home in Pocitos, it was a whole afternoon event.

Geant outside

The DM1 bus run by Cutsca is the easiest and least expensive way to get to Géant. There is a full schedule available online. This bus stops at all the major malls: Punta Carretas, Montevideo Shopping, Portones, then Géant and finally out to Zona América (the tax-free business zone outside of the city).  There are a few stops in between all the malls and we caught it on the corner of Ellauri and 21 de Setiembre, right outside of McDonalds.  It is 24 pesos per adult and the bus was a comfortable coach-type with large reclining seats. With the limited stops, it took about a half an hour to get to Géant and it was fun to see parts of the city without having to drive ourselves.  The bus stops are very fast, so you need to be standing and prepared to exit the bus from the back when it stops.

Géant was a whole different world than what we've seen in the small grocery stores or malls around Pocitos/PuntaCarretas.  Géant was the anchor in a huge complex with a mall and casino around it.  The bus lets you off across the street, but it's only a short walk through the parking lot to the main doors.

Géant is owned by the Disco chain of stores (using the same 'Más' loyalty card) and it has many of the same items.  The store is huge, with 64 check out lanes and more selection than we've seen before in Uruguay, in nearly every category. There are appliances, home electronics, full grocery store, clothing, toys, housewares, books and some furniture.  We also noticed some larger "bulk" sizes in the food and toiletry areas.

Geant-inside

The selection of baby and child items here was better than I have seen at any one store before: clothes, diapers, carseats, highchairs, baby proofing items, diapers and tons of toys. Prices for these items still weren't cheap by any means (Geneva's 48 pack of XG Babysec diapers were 312 pesos and a pair of toddler fleece pants were 299 pesos) but the selection was good.

Do not walk into Géant expecting North American quality products though.  There is a different standard of quality in Uruguay.  Many items are made in China and are just different than what we have learned to expect.  I know that Uruguayos don't like these cheap products either, but it's all that's available.  I never thought I would miss my neighborhood Target store!

We walked out of there with a few random items that caught our eye, but nothing big. We stopped for a moment at the food court to grab a snack and off across the parking lot to the bus stop again.  You can bring your cart right up to the bus stop if needed. The DM1 bus took us back to our stop at Ellauri and 21 de Setiembre for another 24 pesos per adult and we had a short walk back to our house.

Géant also delivers for those living in Carrasco, Punta Gorda and surrounding areas. See their site for more details.

Hipermercado Géant

Av. Ing. Giannattasio y Av. A la Playa Tel.: 601 53 53

Hours 8:30 AM-10 PM everyday

Email Us With Questions!

We have had a great response to our blog and receive email frequently from people who are interested in moving to Uruguay and are looking for more information. I've been corresponding with a woman from the United States who was looking for info about a possible move here with two kids. I wanted to include a few excerpts from our email conversation regarding the most expat-friendly neighborhoods and costs of goods/services in Uruguay.

Thanks for the note! To address your questions about the Pocitos, Punta Gorda and Carrasco neighborhoods:

We love the Pocitos/Punta Carretas areas. They are considered higher end, safe and very expat friendly areas that are still close to downtown. We live on the border between the two "barrios" listed previously and are within walking distance to just about every service and store that we could want. Cabs and public transportation are excellent, so we have no problems in this area without a car. There are a lot of high rises in this area and nearly all the buildings are attached to each other. While we know of a few people with small yards here, it does not seem to be common. Our house does not have a yard. Instead, we have a small front garden and a back patio.

Carrasco is gorgeous, with big houses and large yards that feel more like any United States suburb. You would definitely need a car in Carrasco it is around a 15-20 minute drive from where we are living (on a good day with no traffic). Punta Gorda is one barrio/neighborhood closer to downtown Montevideo than Carrasco and from what I hear, it has a similar feel to Carrasco.

If you click on Google Map Montevideo, you will see the names of the different neighborhoods (you may have to zoom in) and you can get some perspective to their relationship to one another. The little pin on the map is between Punta Gorda and Carrasco. If you follow the coast to the left you will find Pocitos and next to it at the point near the bottom of the screen, Punta Carretas.

To address your question regarding items that are less or more expensive than the US: Cars and gasoline here are very expensive, as is most technology including computers and home electronics. Kids/baby stuff here is also extremely expensive (2-3x more than what you'd pay in the US). I just looked for a potty seat for my daughter at a local shop and the only decent one I found was a Safety 1st model that is $50 here but only $23 on Amazon.com. On the flip side, food, most services, child care and medical are all much cheaper than what we experienced in the US.

The lifestyle is definitely different in Uruguay. We love it but we also know people here who are having problems adjusting. They expected it to be more like the US or Europe, I guess. With such a small market in Uruguay, many consumer goods are not the quality that you'd get in the US and the imports are insanely expensive due to all the import and sales taxes. Plan trips to Buenos Aires or the US to get anything you can't find here. While you technically could ship anything here, there is a very hefty price tag attached!

Good luck with your decision and feel free to email with any more questions- Lisa

If you have any specific questions and would like to email us directly, please use the 'Contact' link at the top right of the site, or feel free to leave a comment on this or any of our posts. Thanks!

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Feria Vegetables

There's been recent talk in the Uruguay blog community about cost of food and I agree wholeheartedly with everything that has been said. Go to the many the ferias around town for great, inexpensive produce, fish, eggs and cheese.  I might add, go to any of the ferias outside of Pocitos, Punta Carretas or other "upscale areas" of Montevideo for even cheaper prices. I found what I believe to be the ultimate frugal feria score: approx 2 kilos of Soup starter vegetables for just over $1 US.

Feria vegetables for 25 pesos, or just over $1 US

It included:

"Preferimos Visa"

While there are many places that accept credit cards here in Montevideo, you will often see signs like this one: 

perferimos-visa

Visa  pretty much has the market  cornered.  All of the locations that take credit cards accept Visa.  Probably about half of those also accept Mastercard.  I was at the hardware store yesterday buying a few things and as I pulled out my Mastercard, I got the response of  "No.  Solo Visa, por favor" (Only Visa, please).  So I paid cash.  

Before you just grab any Visa from your wallet, make sure you know what your bank charges for foreign transaction fees. Some banks are as high as 3%, others are 1% or even 0%.  Make your money stretch a bit further.