First Steps

Okay, so you want to leave your current home and are considering a potential move to Uruguay. Where do you even get started? How do you do it? The following is a list of steps informed by our journey that can help you get an idea of how to plan and execute a move to Uruguay.

  1. The very first step is to dig deep. Know thyself. Visit our why uruguay page and see if it resonates with you.  It’s a big waste of everyone’s time if you don’t know some basic things about your own wants. So, I’d suggest digging deep and putting together a list of basic wants. Of course these wants can be fluid, but take what you know about yourself and exactly what you don’t want now, and think about what would be an adequate replacement. Do you want to be urban, rural, or near/in a small town? Do you want to be near water? Do you want to grow food? What kind of climate do you like? How much money do you have to be able to immigrate to more expensive places? What kinds of social services would you like? What kind of culture? Political system? What kinds of stability? If after you make this list our ‘why uruguay’ list makes sense to you, then start thinking about first steps for moving. Here is an excellent example of someone comparing USA, Costa Rica, Panama, Cayman Islands and Uruguay (
  2. Learn Spanish. There are plenty of expat communities in the world where you don’t need to know the language. This isn’t one of them. And we have made this decision on purpose. We are not an expat community. We are privileged immigrants. We want to be a part of this culture, not to be apart from it in our own little enclave. Now, you don’t have to be an expert, but you do need an intermediate knowledge of Spanish as we will not be able to serve as interpreters for your daily interactions. If you don’t know Spanish now, that’s fine! But either start learning or take advantage of an immersion learning experience on your first visit here. The route Ashley took was to take Spanish levels 1, 2 and 3 in a community college after our first visit when we decided to move here and then to sharpen her Spanish skills on her 2 trips to Uruguay prior to moving. That was enough for her to get by.
  3. Save money. We saved for about 6 years to be able to finally move. You will need start up money for land/home, car/transport, living expenses, setting yourself up (furniture, materials, etc.). We didn’t have very high paying jobs (Ashley was mostly getting paid as a graduate student teaching assistant and Patrick was a high school Spanish teacher) so it took us that many years to get to a comfortable number to feel ready to move. How much? I think it’s safe to have at least tens of thousands saved for a family.
  4. Start working on getting paid online work. Once you start looking into it, you will find a plethora of opportunities for paid online work. The income opportunities in Uruguay are small and very poorly paying. The minimum wage here is less than $5/hour. There are some teaching jobs here (English), but again not well paying. One job that continues to pop up for American English speakers is VIP Kid based in China (you can make abut $20/hour). You could be an online personal assistant. Start searching for remote/online jobs. Ashley has her MA in Sociology so she teaches sociology online and Patrick has his MA in Spanish so he could teach Spanish online (and has applied to a few jobs).
  5. Come for a visit! After you have saved enough money and know enough Spanish, come visit! I am a frequent visitor to the Uruguay Expat Community on Facebook and when people visit the group and say they’d like to move to Uruguay, everyone always advises (if possible) to come for a long visit (at least a couple weeks) to see if you can navigate it here. There is so much to be learned by being in a place.It is worth noting that the only way to get to know if you can make it work here is by navigating it yourself. We can of course point you to resources (transport, food, banking, real estate), but if you are making a candid effort to move here you have to see if you can keep yourself afloat here. We can’t drive you everywhere and interpret your daily interactions, as we have our own existence with two small kids to manage. When we came the first time we did a work/stay program and only had time to explore on weekends. We spent weekends looking at real estate across the department of Colonia. One day, we walked in the hot, humid sun to find our farm. We walked every night in the dark to get ourselves food. On that trip, we bought our land. See if you have the ability to navigate here yourself. If you can do that on your first trip, then you likely have the wherewithal to immigrate, as it’s not easily done.Find our for yourself: Can you get from the airport to the bus station? Can you navigate travel? Can you understand people? Can you figure out the food, the banking, the culture, the customs? Do you like the climate, the feel of the place? I have a friend Magnus over at Off Grid Living Uruguay who said when he first visited Uruguay fresh off the boat from Buenos Aires, he felt a sudden looseness in his shoulders. According to him, it was the quiet. How do you feel being here? What do you want to accomplish here? Can you imagine a life here and what would it look like?
  6. Once you’ve decided to move, start researching. Figure out what you need to do to immigrate. Get better at Spanish. Continually diversify streams of income (can you buy and rent a property? Can you get multiple online jobs? Can you start an online business?). Then, take the plunge.