One would assume that trying to book a ferry trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia or Montevideo should be a fairly simple process. You look online, find your ticket, purchase and then show up at the Ferry terminal and take your ferry. This is a “Western” assumption on how processes should work. This assumption is highly erroneous in the Latin American context!
Trying to book the right fare online from the Buquebus website is an exercise in utter futility, since the website currently times out, invokes errors and cannot properly process any credit card transactions. In North America, we assume that we can now buy anything online and that the websites will just work magically with out errors. Of course, this requires proper application testing. I assume that Buquebus got a pack of wild monkeys from Indonesia to test their application, because the site performance is terrible. So the lesson here is don’t even try the website for booking, but there are some good packages that are offered on the site.
Of course, since you are going between countries, to take the ferry, you will need your passport and the tourist card you received when you originally entered Argentina. When you leave Uruguay you will have to pay a departure tax. The departure tax was $17 USD as of Nov 2009. Very conveniently, the Uruguayan and Argentinean immigration are placed in the Buquebus departing hall; thus you get both stamps on the same spot.
- The trip between Buenos Aires and Colonia takes 3 hours on the regular ferry or just 1 hour on the fast ferry. I highly recommend the faster ferry if you are traveling on a day trip. Colonia is very small and can easily be seen in its entirety in one full day; some would even say less.
- The trip to Montevideo takes 3 hours on the fast ferry.
So a couple tips for using the Buquebus
- Do not buy your ticket the same day you want to leave Buenos Aires, this can result in frustration and disappointment, unless you show up at the terminal about 4 hours earlier.
- Tickets for day trips do actually sell out – buy in advance
- Have your passport ready and ensure that you can actually get to Uruguay legally. The assumption is that the same rules, your country had for Argentina, will apply for Uruguay
- The first class option is a nicer option as you are guaranteed a better seat on the higher level, complimentary bubbly and a private snack bar. It’s not that much more than “Turista fare”, if you book in advance.
- Expect tons of traffic into the terminal, if you are taking a taxi. It’s better to get off two streets prior and walk.
Another option would be to use Colonia Express. If you book far enough ahead of time you can get some of the cheapest ferry rates. Which is nothing to scoff at, when during high season you might pay as much as AR$400 for a ticket to Montevideo or Punta del Este. 20 days in advance qualifies you for the lower price. I have heard good things about the service, so there is an alternative to the Buquebus madness.