Three nights in Uruguay
To add a 37th country for me and a 39th country to the tally for Rob a one hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires to the small smugglers town of Colonia, Uruguay was in order.
There are three ferry companies to choose from Seacat Colonia, Buquebus and Colonia Express to get you over to Uruguay. the latter we were advised to not even contemplate using, and a quick Google will only add to the argument that this is not a good company to use, despite being up to half the price of the other two options don’t be tempted. Seacat Colonia and Buquebus are basically one in another, although they have their own websites and booking offices on Avenida Córdoba in the city, the port where they both leave from is all sign posted as Buquebus and so is the actual ferry, the major difference is for some reason Seacat prices are about 30% cheaper – so go for them I would advise. We booked our tickets at the booking office and they too ended up cheaper than on the website, we attempted booking online but we were asked for a bunch of codes etc. and it just got too difficult. Apparently overseas credit cards seldom work on the website too, it is also important to note if you do visit the booking offices you cannot use Argentinean Peso’s to purchase your ticket so we used our credit card no problem, or you can use US$.
The Buquebus terminal is fantastically located in the middle of the city and close by to the main bus station (Retiro) on Avenida Antártida, whilst the Colonia Express port would be a taxi ride for most as it is pretty far out and is located in a not so nice area- another reason to not use this company. The ferry ride as mentioned is only about an hour long and the most entertaining part of the trip is watching the Argentinians/Uruguayans go absolutely gaga for the Duty Free shop on board. I have never seen anything like it, 10 minutes into leaving the port the doors open and the majority of passengers make their way in with baskets at the ready and these basket’s are basically overflowing within minutes. The shop is pretty well stocked and probably better than most store’s of the same floor space you would find in any airport, so there is plenty to choose from, however I have no idea what the attraction is. I am not sure if it is the majority of ‘hard to get’ imported brands that the locals are stocking up on, or whether the exchange rate that is offered is really attractive but thousands of dollars of expensive makeup, perfume, chocolates, Twinnings teabags, alcohol, sweets, pepper and salt grinders all walked off the ferry with their happy new owners that day.
We visited Colonia for one night, whilst a lot of other passengers boarded buses straight after the ferry trip to take them on to Montevideo. You can choose either option, but we opted to spend the night in Colonia and book our own local bus to take us on to Montevideo the following day, however used the full package option to make our way back to Buenos Aires after two nights in Montevideo. The main attraction at Colonia del Sacramento is the UNESCO World Heritage listed historic quarter, it is an old smugglers town and is really lovely with picturesque cobbled streets to explore. There are some beautiful restaurants hidden amongst the winding streets, however they are pricey, so much so Rob and I ended up ordering a carafe or white wine and a bowl of soup each, backpackers hey! We did have an excuse though, we did have a very big lunch ….. see below for proof.
We moved on to Montevideo the following morning and booked in at a mentionable hostel Caballo Loco, it has only been open for about 5 months and is already falling apart a bit with locker doors, taps and hooks all looking as if they won’t last the Winter however it is new and it makes the world of difference if you staying in hostels for an extended time. Mattress’s and linen are all basically brand new, kitchen utensils are well stocked and the dirt other hostels tend to have has not yet been ingrained in every corner just yet. Our trip to Uruguay was a little strange as although the country is far more stable than Brazil or Argentina, Uruguay is notorious for its petty crime meaning we did not take camera’s out with us nor did we go out at night time in Montevideo. We were a little nervous to be honest after reading other tourist’s reviews online, learning of young boys/men attacking people on the streets for their belongings, however we were extra careful and Rob even sported our Kathmandu fanny pack mum bought us for Christmas to carry our passport’s and a large portion of our money around. We also learned of a fellow backpacker that had all her cards, passports and money stolen out of a bolted locker in Foz, so who knows what the safer option is – to carry everything on you or lock it away in a locker sitting in a communal room? We have decided to evaluate the situation at every stop as to how secure the security actually is at our accommodation.
Montevideo was, similar to Buenos Aires a lovely surprise, once again the European style architecture is an indulgence for any Kiwi/South African/Aussie that hasn’t grown up with this assumed grandeur all around them. The whether was not the best but we explored downtown with our one full day in the city, and even did a spot of shopping. The beaches are meant to also be nice but we didn’t make it down there ourselves.
I took off on a 1/2 hour run one of our mornings in Montevideo, much to Rob’s exasperation, as he wasn’t too keen on me hitting the streets on my lonesome, so instead I did a mini bootcamp in the kitchen before the rest of the hostel woke up the 2nd morning. The food (and drink) in Buenos Aires knocked me around a bit and I was determined to get back on track with some proper food and exercise, especially after our lunch in Colonia (as above).