Rivera is a city in the northern interior of Uruguay. It's the capital of Rivera Department, located on the border with Brazil, right across from the Brazilian city of Santana do Livramento. Full of large hills and cheap shopping, Rivera's main attraction is its location on the border. Uruguayans come for the inexpensive goods on the Brazilian side, and Brazilians come for the duty-free shops on the Uruguayan side. Travellers from other countries can take advantage of both. Rivera also gives you the chance to stand with a foot in each country—a cool photo opportunity.
To a large extent, Rivera and Santana function as one city: you can easily take a day trip from one to the other without even bringing your passport. You may not even notice you're crossing the border, which is marked by inconspicuous white border markers. If you decide to venture further into the other country, though, make sure to stop at immigration (located next to Siñeriz Shopping) to get your passport stamped out of one country and into the other.
That being said, they are two different cities, with separate bus systems and administration and somewhat different vibes. Being in Uruguay, Rivera tends to be a bit more expensive than Santana, serves more Uruguayan foods like chivitos and milanesas, and has more Spanish than Portuguese. On both sides of the border, though, it's not uncommon to have a conversation where one side is speaking Spanish and the other Portuguese, or where both sides are speaking Portuñol, a mixture of the two languages.
Rivera is on Uruguay Route 5 from Montevideo and Route 27 from Vichadero.
From Brazil, take BR-158 to Santana do Livramento and cross the Uruguayan border to enter Rivera.
Intercity buses from nearby cities and from Montevideo arrive at the 1 bus terminal in central Rivera.
Rivera is small enough to get around by walking. The main street is called Sarandí.
There are also local bus lines and taxis.
- 1 Plaza Internacional (Parque Internacional de la Amistad). Put one foot in Brazil and one foot in Uruguay. Has some mom-and-pop shops with crafts that make nice souvenirs.
- 2 Plaza Artigas, Artigas and Sarandí. The city's main plaza, which includes a large fountain for kids to play in and a sculpture of national hero José Gervasio Artigas.
- 3 Parque Gran Bretaña. Attractive park with an artificial lake, walking trails, and a waterfall tucked in the woods. Be aware, the area does have some snakes.
- 4 Parroquia de la Inmaculada Concepción (Church of the Immaculate Conception), Monseñor Jacinto Vera between Agraciada and Sarandí (in front of Plaza Artigas).
- 5 Estadio Atilio Paiva Olivera. Soccer (football) stadium that seats over 27,000.
- 6 Autódromo Eduardo P. Cabrera. Scenic racetrack with rolling hills. Attend a race or a show—trucks, racecars, and more.
- 7 Valle del Lunarejo. A national park close enough for a day trip.
- 8 Cerro Marconi (Escalinata Marconi). A hill with a staircase, worth climbing to see a nice view of the city. Be careful here at night...the summit happens to be a popular place to smoke marijuana.
Lots of shopping, including duty-free shops chiefly catering to Brazilians, on Sarandí, the main street, especially near the border. Uruguayans aren't allowed to shop at the duty-free shops—you have to show a foreign ID such as a passport to make purchases at them. Santana also has lots of stores on its side of the border, where Uruguayans go to buy cheap goods.
Prices tend to be listed in pesos in Rivera and in reais in Santana, but stores on both sides are happy to accept either currency. Currency exchange places, as well as lots of stands selling contraband, can be found on the border near the Plaza Internacional. The unlicensed currency exchange stands right on the border offer very good rates, better than the official exchange places nearby. They accept US dollars as well as pesos and reais.
Beyond the wide selection of duty-free shops, small stands, and cheap stores near the border, there are a couple of larger malls:
A Riverense specialty is xis, a sort of cheeseburger-like sandwich. You can also find standard Uruguayan fare like milanesas, chivitos, and pizza, as well as Brazilian-style restaurants like pay-by-the-kilo buffets. Naturally, Brazilian restaurants are more plentiful on their side of the border.
Rivera is one of the few places in the world that once had a McDonald's but no longer does—the large McDonald's that was built near the border couldn't attract enough business and finally had to close.
- 1 El Rey de las Empanadas, Sarandí 799 (corner of Sarandí and Lavalleja), ☏ . Small spot that sells lots of kinds of empanadas, including sweet empanadas for dessert—try mulatas and gringas (empanadas filled with chocolate and dulce de leche). Delivery available. U$25 per empanada.
- 2 La Tuna, Figueroa 1070, ☏ , (Whatsapp), ✉ email@example.com. 19:00–midnight or later. Pizza, empanadas, and more in a small, busy restaurant with wood tables and cactus decorations.
- 3 Confitería Metropolitana, Dr. Ugón 726, ☏ . Desserts including postre rivelí.
Cheaper options can be found in the adjacent Brazilian city of Santana do Livramento.
- 1 Hotel Uruguay Brasil, Av. Sarandí, 440, ☏ . Rooms with private bathrooms, air conditioning, minibar, cable TV, wifi. Parking and laundry available. On-site restaurant and duty-free shop. From US$55.
- 2 Nuevo Hotel, Ituzaingó 411, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 Hotel Rivera Casino & Resort, Av. 33 Orientales 974, ☏ . 66 rooms with private bath, air conditioning, heating, minibar, cable television, wifi, safe. Spa services, laundry, and room service. In the same place you'll find Restaurante Gaúcho, Vivo Pub, and a casino. From U$3400.
- 4 Petit Rivera Hotel, Av. Brasil 876, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 32 rooms with private bath, cable TV, minibar, air conditioning, wifi. Gym, laundry, and parking available.
- 5 Posada del Bosque, Orlando Bonilla 59, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Rustically decorated rooms with TV, minibar, electric blankets, private bath. Breakfast included. From U$1000 for one person, U$1800 for a couple.
- 6 Casablanca Hotel, Agraciada 479, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Budget option with breakfast included. Singles from U$1210, doubles from U$1670.
Avoid the border area (including the Plaza Internacional) at night. If you're led across the border, Uruguayan police won't be able to help you.
- Hospital, ☏ .
- Police, ☏ .