Growing up, I never took advantage of the fact that Uruguay is only a one hour ferry ride away from Buenos Aires. This time around I made it a point to take a quick 3-day trip to the cities of Colonia and Montevideo. Uruguay therefore became the first country visited during this trip to which I had not previously been.
I took the Colonia Express ferry from Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires to the sleepy town of Colonia. The ride lasted a little bit over an hour. Entry and exit stamps were both done on the Argentina prior to boarding. Colonia felt almost deserted in the winter low-season. A lot of stores were closed in the early afternoon when I got there. I’ve been told that a lot of backpacker travelers in Buenos Aires go there as a day trip to withdraw US dollars to take back to Argentina and take advantage of the black market exchange rate (around 70% more than the official rate).
Colonia has nice colonial architecture but it is really small and can be visited in just a few hours.
After an overnight stay in a hostel in Colonia, I made my way to Montevideo on a 3-hour bus the following morning. Arriving in a new city always presents the problem of not knowing how the local city buses work. Aside from figuring it out which one to take, you also need to know how much it costs, how to pay for it, where to get off, etc. I decided instead to make the 40-minute walk from the bus station to the hostel instead of riding the bus. I figured that I’d get to know the city better that way too. One thing that really surprised me was how much mate people drink over there. Mate is a herbal tea drunk from a wooden cup and with a metal straw. It is very common in Argentina (and parts of Paraguay and Brazil), but the Uruguayans take it to a whole new level. People carry their mate and hot water container on the streets and even on buses.
Once at the hostel, I met Daniel from Germany and we took the bus to the area of Ciudad Vieja (Old Town). We found some wonderful old buildings there. You feel like you just went back 50 years in a time machine.
After a couple hours of walking, we stopped at an old bar/cafe and enjoyed a couple of beers.
The hostel had a good vibe and I met several other cool people. The following day I, along with Daniel and Violeta and Veronica (both from Paraguay), made the way back to Buenos Aires. We took the cheapest option which is to first take a bus to Colonia, and then the ferry to Buenos Aires. The whole trip lasted about 4 hours. This was my third entry into Argentina in a little over two months. By the look of my passport, it looks like I’m a mule smuggling drugs.
All in all, I thought Uruguay was a worthwhile trip to make from Buenos Aires, especially considering the short distance and cheap ferries.