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9 tips to buying Buenos Aires-Uruguay ferry tickets without losing your mind

Ferry in Colonia

We know. Buying online can be stressful. Especially when the site keeps switching languages and uses $ to represent three different currencies.

So are you ready to buy your ferry tickets from Buenos Aires to Montevideo or Colonia? Clear your evening, pour yourself a glass of Uruguayan red and follow the Guru.

Buquebus, Seacat and Colonia Express: three ferry companies, same destinations

There are three ferry companies sailing between Uruguay and Buenos Aires.

Only Buquebus offers a direct ferry to Montevideo. The other two companies, Seacat and Colonia Express, will take you by ferry to Colonia and then connecting bus to Montevideo, what we’ll call the ferry-bus combo. Buquebus also offers a ferry-bus combo.

In the past Colonia Express was the cheapest company, Buquebus the most expensive and Seacat somewhere in-between. The situation has changed. There is a fair diversity of possible combinations, and everything depends on your available time and budget.

Same $ symbol, three different currencies

Yup. Dollars, Uruguayan pesos and Argentinian pesos, all three use the $ symbol to denote their currency.

And their value is completely different: roughly, 1 US dollar is worth 15 Argentinian pesos and 30 Uruguayan pesos.

All three ferry companies have two websites – an Argentinian and a Uruguayan site. To find out which one you are using, look at the top right of the webpage (this is the point where you go research what the Uruguayan and Argentine flags look like).

Cheaper fares on Uruguayan versions of the sites

Researching this article we found that in general prices were lower on the Uruguayan sites.

We did find one exception: the Buquebus ferry-bus combo prices did not follow the rule. To save money, check both Buquebus sites.

Check out our analysis of ferry fares between Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

Finally! A consistently English language ferry website

Buquebus recently significantly improved their Argentina website which is now in English, German and Portuguese as well as Spanish.

Neither Seacat nor Colonia Express have true English language sites. Seacat teases you into thinking they have an English site. You start filling dates and destination and when you hit the “Next” button… WHAM! The site changes into Spanish. Colonia Express is even worse. Sigh.

The Buquebus Uruguayan site is in Spanish only. Remember how we said above that usually the Uruguay sites are cheaper? Sneaky, hey? So if you want to save cash, brush up on your Spanish travel vocabulary.

Smart pricing: Meet your new best friend, the incognito window

Buquebus has started using smart pricing so that when there’s high demand tickets are more expensive. Prices were recently four times higher for a Thursday trip at the start of a long holiday compared to a regular day.

The incognito window is a way to surf the internet without having your cookies tracked. After checking the Buquebus site a few times, you‘ll notice the price quoted starts to rise. Don’t panic. This is because your cookies have been tracked and price response is activated.

By using the incognito window you can beat the smart pricing. If your browser is Google Chrome, click on the top right options to find it or hit Ctrl+ shift+ N.

Buquebus economy fares – a species in danger of extinction

Checking prices on the Buquebus website we noticed that the cheapest fares were already sold out well in advance -except in the case of the direct ferry. To get an economy ticket plan to book in advance.

Book two weeks plus in advance

We’ve observed prices are higher when booking less than two weeks ahead of travel and during Uruguayan and Argentine holidays.

However you can’t really book much ahead. In testing we found tickets were not available later than five months in advance.

How the hell do you pronounce Buquebus?

Boo-kay-BOO-ss

Patience, patience and a good glass of red

The Buenos Aires-Uruguay ferry websites are certainly getting better (finally). However buying ferry tickets between Uruguay and Argentina is still not a seamless process. Expect hiccups along the way. Rejected credit cards or pending credit card payments are not uncommon.

We don’t suggest calling customer service unless you have the patience of a saint and hours to spare. Rather use email. Twitter and Facebook also get quick responses.

Recent purchases on Buquebus stayed in “pending payments” in our credit card system for several days but we received confirmation from the company of our tickets immediately.

Colonia Express rejected our UK credit cards after we had gone through the entire payment process. Fortunately we got quick responses after emailing customer support.

So, that’s it. Buy your ticket one night when you have nothing else to do but drink a good glass of Uruguayan tannat and hit the play button on the ultimate tangos playlist in Spotify.

Slowing down might not be such a bad idea after all.

More reading

This article was researched for Guru’Guay by Laura Fernandez

9 Comments

  1. forestation

    December 12, 2017

    Thanks for the tips!

    I checked the price of a Buenos Aires to Colonia ticket on Seacat’s Uruguayan site. It was nearly 45% less than the Argentinian price (795 UYU vs 849 ARS)! There is a snag however – when entering the passenger details on the Uruguyan site, the nationality field is pre-filled as Uruguay with other nationalities greyed out; there is a note on the page that directs non-Uruguayans to the more expensive Argentinian site.

    I was able to enter my my non-Uruguayan passport number and proceed to the payment page, but did not try going further. Do you know if the passport info is printed on the ticket? And if so, will it be flagged upon boarding if the nationality doesn’t match my actual passport?

    Reply
    • The Guru of GuruGuay

      December 13, 2017

      Hi Forestation, yes, your ticket and passport details will be together. No way to beat the system I am afraid 🙂 You are aware that UY and AR pesos have different exchange rates, right?

      Reply
      • forestation

        December 13, 2017

        Thanks. Oh well, was worth trying! (Btw: I used current exchange rate to compare the 840 ARS and 795 UYU figures to get the 45% difference between the Argentinian and Uruguayan Seacat prices.)

        I might go with Buquebus (despite less than optimal departure times) because its Uruguayan site offers a similar savings relative to its Argentinian page but does not restrict buyers to Uruguayan nationals.

        The Colonia Express Uruguayan site, meanwhile, only sells tickets for trips that start in Uruguay, so it’s not useful.

        Reply
  2. Sara Essop

    November 20, 2017

    Thank you for the helpful advice. If it is my first time to Colonia, would you recommend taking a guided tour there or is it not necessary. I see Buquebus has a tourist promotion which includes a tour.

    Reply
    • The Guru of GuruGuay

      November 20, 2017

      Hi Sara, it really depends on your preferences. If you are a history buff then it makes sense to do a tour. I’m the type of person who likes to just wander round soaking up the atmosphere of a place. If you are going to be in Colonia for more than a just a daytrip (I totally recommend you stay in Uruguay for longer!) then you will definitely want to check out my new book The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches and Wine Country. Colonia is just one hour away from stunning vineyards and there are lovely places to visit around and about. It is out on Amazon and you can buy it direct from the Guru’Guay store for your tablet or PC. If you’re into wine you’ll totally love it!

      Reply
  3. Eithne

    August 14, 2017

    I’ve read all your blogs about buying ferry tickets to Montevideo and I just want to thank you. They were so helpful and I’ve managed to buy one on the Seacat site despite not knowing Spanish. (All hail Google translate.) I’d never have managed without you. Keep up the good work. I’ll only be in Montevideo for a day before joining a cruise so any recommendations for what I should see while there?

    Reply
    • The Guru of GuruGuay

      September 29, 2017

      Hi Eithne, so glad to hear how useful the site has been for you! Yes, viva Google Translate 🙂 Check out this programme that I put together a few years ago of what to do for four days in Montevideo. A bike tour is also a great way to see the city. If you’d like to show your appreciation, remember you can donate to make sure that Guru’Guay carries on existing to help other travellers into the future. All the best and I hope you have a wonderful time! — Karen

      Reply
  4. Ghislain

    May 11, 2017

    One thing I’ve noticed about Buquebus is that they release their more expensive fares first and cheaper fares only get released later. I reckon they think the more anxious super-early planners will go for the higher-priced tickets without thinking twice.

    Reply

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