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American Express -- In Montevideo, American Express Bank is located at Rincón 477, 8th Floor (tel. 02/916-0000). Turisport Limitada, Calle San José 930 (tel. 02/902-0829; fax 02/902-0852), acts as an agent of American Express Travel Services in Uruguay; hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm

Business Hours -- In general, businesses stay open weekdays from 9am to 6:30 or 7pm, with a 2-hour break for lunch around noon. Retail outlets keep similar hours and are usually open a half-day on Saturday as well. Banks are open weekdays from 1 to 5pm.

Electricity -- Electricity in Uruguay runs on 220 volts, so bring a transformer and adapter along with any electrical appliances. Note that most laptops operate on both 110 and 220 volts. Some luxury hotels may supply transformers and adapters.

Embassies & Consulates -- In Montevideo: U.S., Lauro Muller 1776 (tel. 02/418-7777; http://uruguay.usembassy.gov); U.K., Marco Bruto 1073 (tel. 02/623-3630; www.ukinuruguay.fco.gov.uk); Canada, Plaza Independencia 749, Office 102 (tel. 02/902-2030; www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/uruguay); and Australia, Cerro Largo 1000 (tel. 02/901-0743).

Emergencies -- The general emergency number is tel. 911. Outside Montevideo, dial tel. 02-911 to connect with Montevideo Central Emergency Authority. The following numbers also work: police tel. 109; ambulance tel. 105; and fire department tel. 104.

Hospital -- A colonial-style mansion houses the British Hospital, Av. Italia 2420 (tel. 02/487-1020), which has emergency-room services.

Internet Access -- Cybercafes are commonly found around Montevideo and other Uruguayan cities. Many hotel business centers have Internet access, as do the guest rooms in high-end hotels.

Language -- Spanish is the universal tongue here and understood by everybody. Along the Brazilian border you'll find many people who can also speak Portuguese, with a local dialect known as Portuñol that mixes both languages together.

Liquor Laws -- The legal age for drinking is 18.

Newspapers & Magazines -- The three main newspapers in Uruguay are El Pais (www.elpais.com.uy), El Observador (www.observa.com.uy), and La República (www.diariolarepublica.com.uy). Well-known current affairs magazines are Brecha (www.brecha.com.uy) and Comentario Nacional (www.comentarionacional.com).

Post Offices/Mail -- Post offices are generally open Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 8am to 1pm. You can buy stamps there or in mailing centers in shopping malls.

Restrooms -- It's permissible to use the toilets in restaurants and bars without patronizing the establishment; offer a nice smile on the way in. Nobody should bother you unless they're having a bad day.

Safety -- Uruguay is one of the world's safest countries, although petty crime in Montevideo has risen in recent years. Outside the capital, cities and beach resorts such as Punta del Este are considered safe. Travelers visiting Uruguay are nevertheless advised to take common-sense precautions.

Smoking -- Uruguay has one of the most strictly enforced smoking bans in the region, instituted by President Tabaré Vázquez -- a practicing oncologist.

Taxes -- Value-added tax is called IVA in Spanish. IVA is 14% for hotels, 23% in restaurants, and 24% for general sales tax; the tax is almost always included in your bill. The departure tax when leaving the country is $31, paid before boarding your flight.

Time Zone -- Uruguay is 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time, although the country doesn't observe daylight saving time.

Tipping -- A 10% to 15% tip is common in restaurants. For taxis, round up to the nearest peso. Tip bellhops 50¢ per bag.

Water -- Locals swear that the drinking water in Uruguay is perfectly healthy; in fact, Uruguay was the only country in the Americas (along with the nations of the Caribbean) to escape the cholera pandemic of the early 1990s. If you are concerned, stick with bottled water (agua mineral sin gas).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.