US Dollar up vs Peso – good for expats, uruguayos not so much

21.40 Uruguay pesos to one US dollar today. Excellent news. Best exchange rate in over a year in terms of people in Uruguay geting paid in US dollars – like me and Lisa Marie Mercer.

The linked article from Subrayado TV News (en español) mentions it is in part due to investor worries about the Euro, so the Dollar is strengthening worldwide. It also points out downsides, in that it could feed inflation in Uruguay, which is already is a problem. But for us estadosunidenses (the correct term for “Americans”, literally USA-ians) in Uruguay, this means more pesos to pay the bills for the same amount of dollars income – for now.

There are downsides beyond just inflation. I’ve mentioned before, on my public Google+ and Facebook posts (such as this one) and on my fuzzywanderer.com travel blog, that Uruguay has a weird economy when it comes to currency use. The dollar is not at all an “official currency”, unlike in some Latin American countries where it is either a secondary currency, or even the one official currency like in Ecuador (which case makes zero sense to me).

Yet many items for sale, ranging from household appliances through automobiles to real estate (both rental and sale) are priced in US dollars only. They (we) even have their own way of writing the US Dollar symbol as U$S, distinguishing it it from $ which means peso. Ignoring the common non-US swap of the comma and period for decimal and thousands separator, that means today’s exchange is $21.40=U$S1 which is great. Unless you are paid in UYU (pesos) but need to buy an appliance or pay your rent which is denominated in USD (dollars). For uruguayos, those costs just went up.

We’re lucky in that our lease was marketed in, and is officially denominated in, UYU pesos. 8500 pesos/month, yes, only 3 blocks from the beach. Due the end of this week. Which makes the June rent only U$S 398 for us, not counting exchange rates and ATM fees to make the withdrawal at the BROU or Santander ATMs (usually takes at least 2 due to unposted, variable, but approximately 4000 to 5000 peso withdrawal limits per transaction.) In this case, we make out ahead, and our uruguayo neighbors in the building do not have a loss, because the leases are in pesos. But the other apartments we looked at, and our prior 3-month rental, were all in USD. In that case we would have been even, while our neighbors would have had to pay more.

In my case, I’ll just be happy that Lisamaria, who is already there for good, doesn’t have to take out quite as much from our US ATM card on the joint account. Which is good, because the cat and I are flying in less than a week while the dog goes to “camp” for 2 weeks. I’ve got a lot of expenses upcoming during these next 2 or 3 weeks, including getting back to the States, getting the dog out of hock, and setting up his trip in July or August (and yes, you can ship a pet from North to South America during the North American hot summer contrary to rumors and supposed “accurate” info from pet-expeditor firms; it just requires the correct airlines and extra money. That will be another post.) So an extra $20 or $40 USD rent savings is a nice little help.

— Marcos

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Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at http://about.me/MarkMercer. I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at https://google.com/+MarkMercer