On my recent trip to Buenos Aires, I decided to spend a few days in the neighbouring city of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.
There were a few options on how to travel the 300 or so kilometres. Of course I checked flights first and the lowest fare was on Air France, who operates a 5th freedom flight between the two cities. While flying took a mere 50 minutes, the travel time to Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport and the 2 hours prior check in times meant I was looking at around 4 hours travel time at least. Adding to that, the fare at $197 AUD one way wasn’t too bad but when I factored in the $50 USD transfer to the airport, I thought the price was starting to get high, remember this was only one way.
The next option was by boat direct from Buenos Aires to Montevideo by large sea going catamaran operated by Burquebus. The journey took just on 3 hours across the Rio de La Plata. While the ship looked great and offered an array of services including a Business Class cabin, it was priced between $200-$300 AUD one way and I knew there were cheaper options.
Another alternative is by taking the ferry to Colonia in Uruguay and the a coach from there onto Montevideo. I could see this option when on the Burquebus website, but with a bit of research I found yet another cheaper deal.
SeaCat Colonia offer tickets on their own services and also to code share on Burquebus. The fare was a very reasonable AU$55 so I went through the booking process online, but the website would not accept my credit card for payment. I mentioned this to the fellow at reception of my hotel who said this is often the case with foreign credit cards on websites in Argentina and I should head to their office to purchase the tickets, which I did just a few blocks from where I was staying.
I booked a midday service and checked in at the large ferry terminal at Buenos Aires port around an hour and a half before. Like checking in for a flight, my bag was tagged through to Montevideo (although I would clear customs in Colonia) and I was given a boarding pass and made my way to immigration. Two immigration officers, one from Argentina and one from Uruguay checked me out of and into their respective countries at the port before boarding (If you are Australian, remember to bring your Argentinian Reciprocal payment receipt!).
The ship, Silvia Ana was a smaller vessel owned by Burqebus, with the blue and yellow stripes, note the smaller vessel in the foreground is a SeaCat Colonia ship.
The Silvia Ana can surprisingly seat up to 1200 people and yet it doesn’t feel cramped while sailing. There is a cafeteria on board serving sandwiches, rolls, pastries and such as well as tea and coffee soft drinks and beer. They don’t take credit cards so remember to bring your cash (Argentinian or Uruguayan Pesos are both accepted) as I didn’t. There is an ATM on board but I didn’t discover this until disembarkation, so I am not sure whether it worked while doing the crossing.
The hour it takes to cross the Rio Del Plata was smooth and its quite a pretty sight when arriving in Colonia. It is a heritage town and a great day trip from Buenos Aires, however I was not stopping here but making my way onto Montevideo.
While it seemed a little disorderly, the disembarkation process was quick and a short walk through the terminal to collect my baggage and clear customs.
There was enough time at the Colonia bus station to get some Uruguayan Peso from the atm and purchase a drink and snack from the small takeaway prior to boarding the coach that would take me the 180 or so kilometres to Montevideo.
The coach was comfortable, nothing flash but step up from a simple bus. It had an on board toilet and T.V screens although nothing was shown. The journey was scheduled for 3 hours but it took just over two and a quarter hours before I arrived at Tres Cruces, the coach terminal in Montevideo.
With a couple of bus loads of people arriving at the same time at the coach terminal, which is located just outside the city centre, there was a bit of a line up to get a taxi to the hotel, so I opted to wait and have a bite to eat and a drink which was as reasonably priced as my trip to Montevideo.