Whether you're doing an Argentinian visa run, planning a weekend getaway from Buenos Aires or moving onto your next South American backpacking destination here's everything you need to know about getting a boat from Buenos Aires to Uruguay.
You can of course go by air or road but getting a ferry to Uruguay from Buenos Aires is what we would recommend because it's quick and cheap.
If you are considering flying it's worth noting that the airports are 30 minutes drive out of the town centres whereas they are built around the ports.
By road the journeys are long and generally overnight as buses need to go up and around the Rio del a Plata to cross the border.
From Argentina to Montevideo or Colonia
The first thing you need to decide when you visit Uruguay is whether you want to head to the smaller picturesque historical port town of Colonia or the larger bustling trendy port city of Montevideo.
There are options to get a ferry direct to ports at both, however because Colonia is closer it is usually the cheaper route. If you are wanting to head straight to Montevideo you can can also take a ferry to Colonia and then a connecting bus direct to Montevideo.
If you are just popping over on a visa run or for a weekend getaway, Colonia is your best option to cut down on travel time. It's a lovely chilled out place and there's plenty to do for a weekend.
If you have a few more days to play with or are leaving Buenos Aires to travel in Uruguay, our advice would be stop off in Colonia before heading to Montevideo. Even if just for the day.It is a UNESCO world heritage site after all.
Buses run to Montevideo every hour and it's a 2 hour journey, so if you get an early boat from Buenos Aires to Uruguay you will have time to explore and have lunch before getting an evening bus to Montevideo - or better still stay overnight.
Just don't book a boat-bus combo ticket because your bus will leave too soon after you dock into the port for you to do anything in Colonia. Instead book your bus ticket when you get to Colonia. From the port turn left and it's a 10 minute walk into the town or turn right and it's a few minutes walk to the bus station.
We used the company COT and the buses were really comfortable - they even had wifi! We paid £7.50 each. You can also leave your luggage in lockers at the bus station so you're not carting them round all day.
Which Company to Choose for your Trip to Uruguay
The catamarans run the express service and take 1 hour, whilst the larger ferryboats take 3 hours.
Buquebus and SeaCat are the more popular services and tend to have the newest boats. We used Buquebus and found the crossing to be comfortable with plenty of seats and shops selling refreshments. Colonia Express tends to have smaller boats, something worth bearing in mind when you visit Uruguay if you suffer from travel sickness.
Tickets can appear cheaper with Colonia Express on the face of it as they don't include additional charges and taxes upfront as the others do. Basically you should just check all three to get the best price.
Buying Tickets & Costs for a Ferry to Uruguay from Buenos Aires
My most valuable piece of advice when booking tickets for a ferry from Buenos Aires to Uruguay is don't do it online. The websites for each company are either extremely poorly designed and/or all in Spanish.
My sister in law is Argentinian and it still took us ages - after a couple of frustrating hours trying to compare prices she ended up calling and booking over the phone.
I have heard some travellers get lucky with someone who can speak English but seriously don't waste your time, your best bet is just go buy them at one of the offices.
For a one-way crossing with Buquebus we paid £25 each and it cost us £5 in a taxi from where we were staying in the centre of Buenos Aires to the port.
Getting to the Ferry Port on your way to Uruguay
When you visit Uruguay you need to remember that Buquebus and SeaCat run from a separate port to Colonia Express.
- Buquebus & SeaCat: Puerto Madero
- Colonia Express: Terminal Internacional de Crucero
Either mark it on Maps Me or if you are getting a taxi just tell your driver the ferry company name and they'll take you to the right one.
We heard that the area around Terminal Internacional de Crucero can be a little dodgy so if you visit Uruguay from here do take a taxi.
Checking in on your Trip to Uruguay
Puerto Madero can be a little overwhelming upon first arrival, mainly because it's so busy and it's difficult to see where you need to go.
There are different desks for collecting tickets, checking in and purchasing tickets - this is another option. But a weekend trip to Uruguay especially in summer is very popular with Argentinians and so they do get quickly booked up.
There are monitors above each section but signs are in Spanish. If you are in any doubt just ask. We also got confused because, running from the same port, Buquebus and SeaCat frequently interchange their services so even if you have a ticket booked with one company can you be put on the other ones boat which is what happened to us.
You will also need to check in your luggage and go through immigration and customs as you are entering a different country when you take the boat from Buenos Aires to Uruguay.
Conveniently though, you will get your exit stamp from Argentina and your entry stamp to Uruguay at the same time so you get just get straight on your way when the ferry docks. But because you have to be fingerprinted and photographed as part of the immigration process it's not quick. Arrive at least an hour early to allow for everything.
Other Useful Things to Know Before you Visit Uruguay
There is a time difference between Uruguay and Argentina with Uruguay usually being an hour ahead. Something you particularly need to keep track of if you are coming back the same way when you visit Uruguay.
The ferries don't have wifi and only limited plug sockets so be sure to charge equipment to use during the journey and download everything you need for arrival before you leave on your trip to Uruguay.
Argentinian pesos are widely accepted by shops and restaurants in Colonia, and so if you are just going for the day or weekend there's no need to worry about changing money to Uruguayan Pesos.
We used Hostel World to book a couple of nights accommodation in Colonia then moved onto Montevideo. You can expect to pay around £8-10 per person per night for a dorm room in a decent hostel.
And there you have it - everything you need to know to get a boat from Buenos Aires to Uruguay. Go on, pop over and visit - what are you waiting for?
Found this post helpful? Why not follow us on Facebook or Twitter for more regular updates on our adventures & helpful tips, Instagram for our awesome photos & Pinterest for our inspirational travel boards!