It's best to pay with a card since you get an automatic VAT refund for all tourism related stuff as well as smaller refunds for other things like groceries. Hotel rooms are tax free, so you can always pay cash if you want.
Cash machines are plentiful and you can withdraw in UYU or USD. There are two large banking networks, RedBROU and Banred. In my experience, RedBROU is cheaper and easier to use, but that was a couple of years ago.
As far as which cards to use, that all depends on what your bank charges you. You need call them to look at their website to see what fees are associated with foreign withdrawals or cash advances.
"In my experience, RedBROU is cheaper and easier to use, but that was a couple of years ago."
Hopefully, you have a credit card with no foreign exchange fees, but even if you do not, to pay for restaurants or a can rental, you're still better off using a credit card and paying the foreign exchange fee, than withdrawing cash from an ATM (which always carries some sort of withdrawal fee PLUS foreign exchange transaction fee even if you withdraw dollars).
With a credit card in a restaurant, you save 22% VAT. A 3% foreign exchange fee will leave you still with 19% savings give or take.
In fact, in the several trips that I make to Uruguay every year, the foreign exchange rate applied by VISA is almost always better than even exchanging dollar bills at a foreign exchange shop.
Just be aware that some restaurants may not take credit cards, but most do. Check the door for a VISA or MC or Amex sign, or ask before ordering. I was very surprised that a restaurant chain accept CCs in some locations but not in others.
Oh yeah, that's one thing to look out for. Some places will not take cards and others will only take one type. This happened to me in La Paloma where the restaurant we went to only took Visa.Edited: 8:09 pm, April 06, 2017
Just to share that although RedBrou charges a smaller fee (100 peso vs 177), I have been having no luck withdrawing cash from their ATM this week. My US card works in Scotia bank and Itau but have to pay the higher 177 fee. Also, max withdrawal limit seems to be 4k (US$137), not 5k (or USD 300) based on what the screen says. Have checked with my US bank and my withdrawal limit is much higher in dollar terms. It doesn't seem like the max is imposed by my US bank. Question: is getting USD easy from the ATM? Do they give you clean notes? I may consider getting more cash in UY as the BsAs forum has some sharing that bank fees have recently increased to ARS 175 ($10) per withdrawal. Thanks.
The maximum withdrawal amounts, whether in Uruguay or elsewhere in the world, are not the same amounts as when you use an ATM from your own bank. I'm surprised of the low 4k you're given. I'm pretty certain withdrawing 8-10k at a time. (My US daily limit is 800 USD)
Unfortunately, the only workaround is to withdraw your max but making several withdrawals, which means more than one ATM fee.
"Question: is getting USD easy from the ATM? Do they give you clean notes?"
It's as easy as withdrawing pesos. You may actually be able to get more in one transaction in USD than in pesos. However, note that there would still be a foreign exchange transaction fee (if any imposed by your bank) as well as the ATM fee.
As to how clean are the notes, sorry, I don't remember. I've taken USD many times but since I use them either in Uruguay or the US, never had a problems with them being rejected like in Chile or Argentina.
If you decide to take out USD and the notes are not clean, you can always go to a bank or an exchange house and ask them to do you the favor of exchanging them for newer bills.
Why can't you not withdraw from BROU? Is it rejecting your PIN ? I sort of remember that BROU machines have an option at the start, whether you need to choose USD or pesos account, and one works, while the other doesn't for US checking accounts. (Note that this is not related to the currency of withdrawal, but to your selecting your type of checking account--USD or pesos--even though we don't have a peso account anywhere).
Thank you for the advice. I just went to BROU and tried opting both USD and peso account to withdraw, and withdraw USD. I tried from $500, then $400, then $300 and finally $200. At one point it says $5 fee (Not the same 100 peso fee if opting for peso withdrawal). Thought it would go but in the end, it says transaction cannot be processed. I then went to Scotia bank to try USD withdrawal. $300 is the max but I could only withdraw $200. With a $6 fee. But one can withdraw more than once. All these trials and errors only show that the banks may have deliberately lowered the withdrawal limit to earn more fees from visitors. It is no fun to keep trying while seeing many in queue waiting for me to finish.
One good news, the dollars spinned out are crisp and clean, exactly the way the Argentines will be willing to do exchange when we head back.
Fees are indeed outrageous ! I made a mistake in one of my last trips, and instead of asking for 3000 pesos, I asked for 300 pesos, and ended up paying 180 pesos in fees.
In my case, my US credit union reimburses me for the first five ATM monthly fees but not from Uruguay (or other Latin American countries) where banks don't disclose the fees separately but lump it together with cash withdrawn.
Now I take 400-500 USD cash with me, and pay for everything else with my credit card. I ends up being better, since the foreign exchange fee that VISA uses is almost always a higher rate than what I get for exchanging dollar bills in a 'casa de cambio'.
Best to pre- arrange transport from MVD airport into town or show up with UYU pesos in hand. Airport cam bios give a terrible rate. As of today, should be 29-30 and we got 23,75.... but we needed cash for a bus or shuttle as the taxi was $65 US due to 25 km distance. Lesson learned!
as fas as I remember, USD withdrawal limit is $300. You. And withdraw as many times as needed to get to your own banks maximum daily withdrawal, but of course, your get to pay more than one ATM fee.