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.
División Turismo de la Intendencia de Riveraphone: +598 4623 1900 (int. 177)address: Agraciada 570 floor -1
Information kioskaddress: Sarandí between Francisco Acuña de Figueroa and Faustino Carámbula streets
By carRivera 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.
By busIntercity buses from nearby cities and from Montevideo arrive at the in central Rivera.
Rivera International AirportThis airport no longer has regular commercial flights.
There are also local bus lines and taxis.
Plaza InternacionalPut one foot in Brazil and one foot in Uruguay. Has some mom-and-pop shops with crafts that make nice souvenirs.
Plaza Artigasaddress: Artigas and SarandíThe city's main plaza, which includes a large fountain for kids to play in and a sculpture of national hero José Gervasio Artigas.
Parque Gran BretañaAttractive park with an artificial lake, walking trails, and a waterfall tucked in the woods. Be aware, the area does have some snakes.
Parroquia de la Inmaculada Concepciónaddress: Monseñor Jacinto Vera between Agraciada and Sarandí
Estadio Atilio Paiva OliveraSoccer (football) stadium that seats over 27,000.
Autódromo Eduardo P. CabreraScenic racetrack with rolling hills. Attend a race or a show—trucks, racecars, and more.
Valle del LunarejoA national park close enough for a day trip.
Cerro MarconiA 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.
Kite flyingIn most of Uruguay kite flying is a September activity, but Riverenses (along with residents of Salto and Tacuarembó) traditionally do it during Holy Week, the week before Easter.
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:
phone: +598 4624 1000address: Sepé 51Mall including duty-free shops and the only movie theater in town.
Melancíaphone: +598 4624 3000Mall including some duty-free shops.
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.
El Rey de las Empanadasphone: +598 462 36149address: Sarandí 799Small 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.
La Tunaphone: +598 4623 9171, +598 9254 5025 (Whatsapp)address: Figueroa 1070Pizza, empanadas, and more in a small, busy restaurant with wood tables and cactus decorations.
Confitería Metropolitanaphone: +598 4622 3390address: Dr. Ugón 726Desserts including postre rivelí.
Bar del Tatophone: +598 4624 4729address: Feliciano Viera 1453
Galápagos Baraddress: Av. Brasil 1110
Punto Baraddress: Francisco Acuña de Figueroa 1035Where the locals go to hang out and drink beer. Great burgers.
Cheaper options can be found in the adjacent Brazilian city of Santana do Livramento.
phone: +598 4622 3068address: Av. Sarandí, 440Rooms with private bathrooms, air conditioning, minibar, cable TV, wifi. Parking and laundry available. On-site restaurant and duty-free shop.
phone: +598 4622 3147address: Ituzaingó 411
phone: +598 4624 1111address: Av. 33 Orientales 97466 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.
phone: +598 4623 4000address: Av. Brasil 87632 rooms with private bath, cable TV, minibar, air conditioning, wifi. Gym, laundry, and parking available.
phone: +598 4622 3376address: Orlando Bonilla 59Rustically decorated rooms with TV, minibar, electric blankets, private bath. Breakfast included.
phone: +598 4622 3221, +598 4622 6421address: Agraciada 479Budget option with breakfast included.
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.
- phone: +598 462 23278, +598 462 24470address: Calle Ceballos 1159
- The city of Santana do Livramento in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, is right across the border.