As my readers know, I rarely recommend paying to travel. There’s a reason that the best cards on my top deals list have waived annual fees – I don’t believe the miles are worth it once you start paying for them.
But often there are times when saving your miles is the best option. Today we dive into one such option, as I outline the best ways to travel from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay – an incredibly underrated city and country.
The first of our options is by ferry and my personal recommendation. The easy ferry ride is cheaper than flight alternatives and, when factoring in total travel time, can be quicker as well. There is also something innately easier about ferry travel in relation to airports – the Buenos Aires ferry stations are a cheap taxi ride away from the main areas of the city, or may even be walking distance depending on your hotel’s location.
In terms of options, three ferry companies offer tickets for the journey: Buquebus, Seacat and Colonia Express.
Option #1: Buquebus ($40 plus, one way)
Buquebus (pronounced Boo-Kay-Boos) is the most widely known ferry option and offers the best overall experience, leaving out of the well-located Puerto Madera port. Larger, more luxurious boats mean your seats will likely be more comfortable than competitors, and the direct service from Buenos Aires to Montevideo can last slightly over two hours on the fast boat, costing around $80 one-way.
Be warned, however, that the slow boat takes a full three hours, which is tough considering Buquebus routinely has double the price (or more) as our next two competitors. If cost is a big consideration, consider the cheaper one-hour route of Buenos Aires to Colonia, then a two-hour bus from Colonia to Montevideo (total travel time is around three and a half hours), which ends up being about half the price of the fast boat at around $40 one-way.
I should note that Buquebus does have WiFi, although they charge approximately $5 for the service. You can read more about the different Buquebus service offerings by visiting their website.
Option #2: Seacat ($30 plus, one way)
Seacat is probably the least known option of the three, likely because their product often fits smack in the middle of Buquebus and Colonia Express’ price points. But it is a great option that combines a better price point out of the same, well-located Puerto Madero ferry port as Buquebus.
And the similarities to it’s more famous rival don’t end there – one of the lesser known secrets of Seacat is they often use Buquebus boats. This means that Seacat will sell an allotted amount of tickets on their proprietary site that get you onto the nicer Buquebus boats (at, of course, a lesser price point).
The drawback is you can never be quite certain that it will be the Buquebus boat – a bit of a gamble, considering the Seacat boats are much smaller. Another note to be aware of is Seacat does not offer a direct Buenos Aires to Montevideo connection, only to Colonia and then via bus to Montevideo (like Buquebus, around three and a half hours total). Visit the Seacat website to further research your own booking.
Option #3: Colonia Express ($17 plus, one way)
Colonia Express is what we last used, given the absurdly low price point. Granted $17 fares are hard to come by and should not be expected, but Colonia Express is significantly cheaper than both Seacat and Buquebus most of the time.
This, of course, comes with downsides. For starters, the ferry port for Colonia Express is located in La Boca, about 15 minutes south of the Puerto Madero location and much farther than most of the hotels. The station itself is nice – recently renovated, in fact – but is quite small, with a single check-in counter when you walk in (meaning get there an hour before your ferry departs to ensure you get checked in).
And, like Seacat, they only have tickets that stop in Colonia, meaning the journey lasts around three and a half hours (one by ferry, two by bus). Perhaps the biggest potential risk to Colonia Express is the smaller ships though. While our experience was great – even in slightly windy conditions – there are multiple horror stories out there of Colonia Express ships during a storm. We checked the conditions a few days prior to booking our ticket – if you suffer from seasickness, I’d suggest you do the same. View the Colonia Express website for booking details.
If you must fly – a statement I never thought I’d make – then there are still options out there for you, although miles flights are limited. Aerolineas Argentinas offers an every day non-stop flight costing roughly $150 one-way, which isn’t the worst option. LAN Airlines and Air France also offer itineraries, although they often have stopovers that don’t make mileage redemptions all that worth it.
Regardless, you’d be budgeting anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 American or United miles for a one-way economy flight. When a $17 ferry and bus combo or $150 airfare exists, using miles really doesn’t make sense in this case.
Something else to consider is the proximity of the airport to where you will stay. For example, in Montevideo I highly recommend the Punta Carretas neighborhood, near Playa Pocitos. While the ferry options drop you off within a short taxi ride of that area (meaning $5 to $10 one way), a taxi fare from the airport there would cost at least $30 – a potentially big charge for U.S. residents visiting there (as the dollar goes far). And this doesn’t even take into account the $40 one-way charge to get to Buenos Aires EZE airport - all in all, the $150 airfare is closer to $220 or so.
There is also a bus available from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, however I do not recommend the trip. The reason is the bus is overnight and takes several hours longer than the ferry ride, all while being marginally cheaper – if at all – in comparison.
However, if you are in northern Argentina and plan on visiting Montevideo then the bus option may make sense. Click here to look into itineraries and then work directly with the bus company’s website to book the ticket.
The final word
If you couldn’t tell by now, I highly recommend the ferry options outlined above – first with Buquebus or Seacat, secondly with Colonia Express given the seasickness risks. The ferry itineraries are relatively quick and painless (especially from a budgeting perspective).
And, if you choose the lesser expensive route via Colonia, you get the added bonus of a comfortable bus ride through the Uruguayan countryside. This two-hour ride has seats that recline well past an airliner’s economy seat and also offers free WiFi, a nice package considering the price.
Regardless of your choice, this is a great trip to consider to the beautiful, underrated beaches and landscape of Montevideo, Uruguay.