If you are in Buenos Aires for Tango or just traveling (especially wanting to stay in Argentina for over 3 months), there are a number of things people always talk about doing or what you should do. One of them is traveling to Uruguay to the little coastal town of Colonia, usually for a day trip, or maybe even giving a visit to the town of Montevideo. Being a solo traveler and running into issues during my trip, I like to be prepared and find guides or tips on how to go about doing some specific things. Getting a Ferry and figuring things out by yourself can be a little stressful for the first time traveler, and I went through that as there wasn’t much info online about something so simple for many, but completely different if you come from the States. So this is my write up about Buquebus and traveling between Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
Extending Your Stay
One of the main reasons people take a Ferry over to Uruguay is to get another 3 months extension to their passport/VISA. Normally you have a 3 month stay, and an extension you can get at an embasy or something, or the easier option is hopping the ferry and coming back over for an additional stamp. Some people can do this again and again to stay in Argentina for years, but your milage may vary. I used this just to extend my trip a little, but I also wanted to check out the Montevideo Tango scene.
The Ferry & Process
Now there are multiple Ferry options, and the Buquebus is just one of them. There is Colonia Express and others, even tour packages you can take for multi day tours if you desire, so don’t take this as the only option, but I did find it the best option being the US and speaking English.
Because Buquebus was the easiest for me to research and purchase tickets from, offering english options (not everything is translated) and plenty of departure times, this was my go to. They do offer first/last Ferry discounts if you aren’t trying to check into an AirBnB at a reasonable hour. So those deals can make things pretty simple for you. Buquebus I read had the best track record for being on time, yet on my trip over to Uruguay, it was delayed.
The Ferry was really nice I must say, very quick, and good views. The main seats are better than airline seats, but really you don’t get much of a view and if you are taking it for the first time, I’d pass on them. In the center of the Ferry is a lounge area, with food service (available for purchase using Argentine and Uruguay Pesos) and nice tables which surprisingly weren’t taken right away. You can also sit in the window bays and the area is quieter than the normal seats in the cabins in front. The cabins behind are for business class, but really there isn’t much difference and no point in paying for the business seats unless you are wanting some private time since they were completely empty both trips. It’s only an hour ride to Colonia, so by the time you get comfy, the trip is over.
Ordering ticket online is super easy, just a matter on filling out all the information and submitting. There looks to be flex tickets for a little more money, but I never figured out the appeal. The ticket to Montevideo also included a bus pass for the bus at the terminal in Colonia, and there were multiple buses waiting for all the people, plus the buses aren’t on any schedule except for the Ferry Schedule.
Customs, Buses & More
Depending on the time of year, it could be more difficult, take longer, delays, lines, and other problems getting to your Ferry. But for the most part, when you get to the Ferry port for Buquebus, it couldn’t really be simpler. A quick taxi and drop off, and you are in a big entrance which seems overly simple. I don’t speak Sanish at all, so I got there early, which wasn’t needed, but I was extra Early. 45 Minutes Early would have been more than enough, but I was about 1:45 early. You can’t even check in that early before departure.
Ended up waiting in the big open terminal for the Ferry to be listed on the monitors for the specific lines to check in as I was earlier than needed. Had the ticket number listed on my phone, and passport in hand. Mentioning my Spanish is very poor, they knew enough English and had my information ready made the process easy and my ticket was printed. There was no need since I paid online to show my card I purchased with, but apparently is something the locals do have to do.
Directed to the stairs/escalator behind me at the other end of the building to go upstairs for customs and things. Didn’t have anything to declare or carrying a bunch of cash, and there was no issues with needing to register my cell phone (which i believe you are suppose to do if you want to use their local service SIM, but my plan had international and worked fine, plus a short trip it wasn’t needed). Go through a little metal detector thing with my ticket in hand, and off to Passport Control in another big waiting area.
There was no one in line when I went through, and took me no time at all, get stamped out, and get stamped in to Uruguay just one counter down. This was super simple and easy, and compared to the airport trip out of Argentina, this was super quick and easy. Different departures for different Ferries might be more crowded, so being early is still suggested.
There is nothing fancy once you’re through, a little food stand or two, a nice open area with plenty of seating, and a bunch of people waiting around. Usually there is a line for boarding, but that’s only if you want the front seats in the front cabin. You can wait for others to board first or wait for boarding before getting in line and you’ll be able to sit in the center area comfortably. Maybe I missed something for not getting those seats in the cabin right away, but I was happy where I was.
Disembarking the Ferry and onto the bus was easy, and like stated before, there were multiple buses waiting, and I had my choice. A quick putting my bag through a scanner which no one was even monitoring (even at the airport it was like this) and i headed to the left to the buses and off I went. Comfortable seating, my bag stowed underneath, and I was asleep with music, and a few views of the countryside.
Arriving at the bus station/mall in Montevideo was pretty standard, but there were options to be dropped off at other stops along the way. A taxi could be taken to your destination ,but I walked and my adventure to Montevideo using the Buquebus was over. Coming back, was a little different…
Back to Argentina
When you get a ticket back to Buenos Aires using Buquebus, you have the option to get on a bus at different places, but I suggest just sticking to boarding at Tres Cruses. Arriving early is my specialty, as I don’t have to worry about translations or people, waits, or anything. Was told which gate and time which I needed to go to, but it was actually changed and what is on the signs outside isn’t very helpful. I was just looking for my departure time, and whatever seemed to look right. Guessing I boarded the incorrect bus, but no clue, it was also late arriving, but not by much. Grabbed a seat assignment (didn’t do it on the way over) and the trip back over the countryside was enjoyable.
Arriving in Colonia, I went straight into Passport Control… and I’m glad I did, there was quite a line going back over, but you could still wait outside for a little bit if you needed to. Bus timing and ferry departure does give you ample time to get through customs. The sandwiches were pretty good waiting in the terminal, and was the best option to use whatever Uruguay Pesos you may still have. I kept some coins, but think I spent all by bills by this time. Otherwise there isn’t much else to tell on the way back. Just enjoy your ride.