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Buying ferry tickets Buenos Aires to Colonia

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Cobbled streets of Colonia By Josiah Mackenzie
The cobbled streets of Colonia Photo: Josiah Mackenzie

Colonia is a great entry point into Uruguay. It is just a one-hour boat ride across the River Plate from Buenos Aires and is small enough that you explore, have lunch and explore some more before catching a bus on to Montevideo. Or plan to stay a few days in this stunning little UNESCO heritage town.

Lighthouse in Colonia by María Cecilia Castaño Rodríguez
Lighthouse and colonial era walls in Colonia. Photo: María Cecilia Castaño Rodríguez

Alternatively Colonia is a great exit point if you have been exploring Montevideo and your next destination is Buenos Aires. You can catch a bus from Montevideo and be in Colonia in just two hours. The buses are comfortable and have free wifi.

Leave your luggage in the bus station, buy your ferry tickets to Buenos Aires (or bus tickets to Montevideo) for the end of the day and head off into soak up the colonial atmosphere of Colonia’s Old Town.

The big three

Getting from Buenos Aires to Colonia, there are three ferry companies to choose from: Buquebus, Seacat and Colonia Express.

The table provides the basic differences between each of the service. Basically my conclusion is that the best company is Seacat but you need to buy tickets from an office, unless your Spanish is good enough to handle the website.

Colonia Ferries Information

Ferry times

All three companies run three fast ferry trips per day. They take one hour. You should check the company websites but to give you a ballpark idea, boat times are:

  • Leaving for Colonia at: 8am, noon and 6pm
  • Returning to Buenos Aires at: 10am, 4pm and 9pm

Keep a cool head when trying to book online – it’s NOT YOU

Trying to book a ferry ticket online with any of these three companies would try a zen master.

All of the websites are awful – none of them are in English and they are very poorly designed. If you can’t buy your ticket online it is NOT YOUR FAULT!

Ferry ticket prices

Company

Cost of cheapest one-way ticket*

Most expensive standard one-way ticket*

Buquebus

42

55

Seacat

24

41

Colonia Express

14

21

Note: I used a one-way rate because buying a return (two-way) ticket does not give you a discount. You will simply pay the equivalent of two one-ways.* The prices were in Uruguayan pesos on August 8 2015. I converted them into US dollars and rounded them up using an exchange rate of 28 pesos to the dollar.

[UPDATE: This information is currently out of date. For instance it is now cheaper to buy a day trip ticket than two one ways. This page will be updated very soon.  — August 9 2016. ]

 Do not panic. It is not essential to buy your ferry tickets in advance

  • You will not need to buy a ticket in advance* unless you are travelling on over a holiday weekend or between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
  • There is virtually no price difference between buying a ticket one week advance versus four months in advance. There may be a 3-4 USD difference, that is all. Indeed the biggest company Buquebus is not even selling tickets six months in advance. As I write you cannot buy tickets for 2016. Ahhhhh… South America… gotta love it, gotta remain laid back.
  • Buy your ticket to Uruguay once you are in Buenos Aires and can go into an office and buy it in person.

* And by “in advance”, in this part of the world I mean just 24-72 hours ahead.

MORE READING

Ferry ticket prices Montevideo-Buenos Aires Updated August 9 2016

Where to buy ferry tickets to Colonia in Buenos Aires The Parrilla Tours website has a great little break-down including where to buy tickets once you are in Buenos Aires

An epic day trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia Del Sacramento in Uruguay Lovely, lovely pictures and some interesting advice regarding ferry ticket purchases and replenishing your dollar supplies in Uruguay. Whereas exchanging money is a real complication in Argentina, in Uruguay you can withdraw dollars from ATMs (really!) and exchange money without even showing ID. I always say that this is just one very practical illustration of what very different societies Argentina and Uruguay are

Hey! I want to find out more about those differences! Find out more about Uruguay

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please visit the travel company websites for the exact prices of tickets. Guru’guay offers this information as a guide and accepts no responsibility for prices or changes.

39 Comments

  1. […] Noch mehr Hinweise bei der Wahl deiner Fähre findest du bei guruguay. […]

    Reply
  2. Gary Hägermann

    March 8, 2017

    Hi, I’ve enjoyed your site, and especially the thread on purchasing tickets for a ferry. I have a problem and don’t know what to do. On 27 February I purchased two tickets on the seacatcolonia website for the date of 7 April to Colonia, returning the next day. I received the following message: Su operación ha sido procesada con éxito. Recibirá un email con los pasajes en un lapso no mayor de 30 minutos.
    30 minutes have long passed; today is 8 March. My account with seacatcolonia gives a “listado de tickets activos” but I am at a loss as to what to do to actually receive the tickets via email and print them. Any ideas? Thanks.

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      March 10, 2017

      Hi Gary, the good news is that Buquebus and Seacat allow you to turn up at the desk and just show your ID. They will then print your boarding passes. Best, Karen

      Reply
      • Gary Hägermann

        March 10, 2017

        Okay, that’s good news. Thanks for your information. I’ll take copies of what I have and show up a bit earlier to have my tickets printed there.

        Reply
        • The Guru of Guru'Guay

          March 10, 2017

          Don’t worry about going earlier. They will be printing out for every traveler. Glad to have put your mind at ease 🙂

          Reply
          • Gary Hägermann

            March 10, 2017

            ok, thanks. You have definitely put my mind at ease; I appreciate your comments. Thanks again. Also, luckily we will be in Montevideo during the time of the Semana Criolla that I saw on your website. We’ll be there!

          • The Guru of Guru'Guay

            March 10, 2017

            Great to hear. And just a gentle reminder for anyone who reads this, when Guru’Guay makes your holiday easier or more fun there are ways you can support us so that I can help you and other travelers into the future! All the best and have a wonderful time — Karen

  3. rick be

    March 2, 2017

    I’ll be in BA next week & will just walk over to the Seacat site & just might get the ticket right.If not I’ll try Buquebus. I’ll send in my report if I get back alive..

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      March 2, 2017

      Hi Rick, Seacat and Buquebus are operated by the same company, often using the same boat when there is insufficient demand to fill two boats. Seacat offers a lower cost service. This means that Seacat will not sell their (cheaper) tickets at the port, only in advance online or from their offices. Best, Karen

      Reply
  4. Anna

    January 7, 2017

    Hi there,
    I’m trying to book a ferry from BA to Colonia on the Seacat website.
    However, I can’t continue since I have no idea what to type into the field saying “ingrese num.” and “ingrese importe”.
    Does anyone know what that is? Before those two fields it sais “crédito anterior”.
    Thanks
    Anna

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      January 10, 2017

      “ingrese num.” means “input number” and “ingrese importe” means “input amount”. “crédito anterior” means prior credit or balance. It seems like you may be in the ‘wrong’ part of the site… 🙁

      Reply
  5. bouse

    December 7, 2016

    Looking to buy BA to Colonia ferry tickets for a day between Christmas and New Years. SeaCat is about USD 65 per person one way. None of the cheaper seats available. Colonia Express is about USD 50 per person one way for the same day. Buquebus is

    I’m fine with the price even though it’s several times higher than what others report paying, and so I proceeded to go through the online booking process. Got all the way to the credit card entry page, but then there is a dropdown where I have to select one of these:DNI/L.E./LC/otro. I Googled and found out the first three are Argentine identity numbers, so as a person from the U.S. I selected “otro”…but what value to put in the entry field next to it? The CVV code was already entered in another field on the page, so it shouldn’t be that. I tried zip code and it didn’t work. Any ideas on what to put in this field?

    Reply
    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      December 8, 2016

      Hi there bouse, that field will be seeking the number of your document, so try putting your passport number there. Best, Karen

      Reply
  6. Alexia

    October 18, 2016

    Hi! My two friends and I want to make our way to Punta del Este for New Year’s (obviously ultimate high season is not ideal, but there’s nothing to be done about it with our schedule unfortunately), and I was wondering how far ahead in advance you think tickets need to be bought by if we are planning to go there from Buenos Aires on December 30th? Returning on January 4th shouldn’t be as much of a problem, but I am slightly concerned about the availability to get there along with the masses….

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      October 18, 2016

      Hi Alexia, tickets for travel around Christmas and New Year should be bought by the beginning of December at the latest I would say. You can probably get tickets up until mid December, but why take the risk, right? Have a wonderful time! — Karen

      Reply
  7. Gary Hägermann

    September 11, 2016

    Re: BA to Colonia return
    Are there immigration controls where passports need to be stamped by both countries both ways? Thanks for your informative site, located by a Google search. Gary Hägermann

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      September 11, 2016

      Hi Gary, Uruguayan and Argentine passport controls are carried out between Buenos Aires and Colonia on the same site. So your passport will be stamped in Colonia by officials from both governments, and the same in Buenos Aires. It’s very practical. Glad you are enjoying the site. Do take a minute to read how you can support us http://guruguay.com/support-us/ — all the best, Karen

      Reply
      • Gary Hägermann

        September 11, 2016

        Thank you very much for your prompt reply.

        Reply
  8. Jason

    September 1, 2016

    Hi Karen,

    I didn’t know whether to post after my original message on another page, but figured it may be useful here. You may remember I was planning on travelling to Colonia or Montevideo for the day and my Libran indecision was clouding my vision lol

    I decided to travel to Colonia, and went the morning of Sunday 21st August. I only decided this Saturday evening at 5pm! I went to the Buquebus website and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to buy a ticket – maybe they have upgraded their webpage? I was able to choose English as a language on the first page which made it easy, and the only tricky bit was translating some of the words on the following pages which had not been translated e.g. country your are from. Buquebus only lost about 8 countries and I just needed to find the words for ‘other country’. I then had to register with Buquebus to complete the booking and receive the tickets in my email account, once registered they dropped straight in. You’ll need your passport number to buy online, but the whole process took 10 – 15 mins total. I was very surprised. I then emailed these tickets to my hotel reception who printed them off for me.

    The only issue I had was at the port itself 🙂 I believed I had an e-ticket, and waltzed straight through security up to immigration only to find out I had to take my printed ticket to the counter downstairs, and exchange it for another ticket, which was then stamped on my way out of the country.

    As for the queue…hahaha…reception advised to get there 1 hour before, and then out of nowhere, one dude unloading the ferry told one woman to stand in a spot, and then it was like ‘whoosh’ everyone joined this huge queue that snaked round the terminal. However, they did let us all onto the boat 30 mins before sailing, so the wait was not that bad at all.

    I got the earliest boat out of BA which was 9am and got to Colonia by 10am. Duty Free on board and refreshments and the time went really quickly. The only issue was coming back. The boat was meant to leave at 3pm, however, there must have been a delay with a bus getting into Colonia as the boat did not depart until 30-40 minutes after its scheduled time, and people were walking on late as if they were early.

    Colonia itself was lovely. The sun shone all day in clear blue skies, it must have been 17-18c, it was gorgeous. For those wanting to climb the lighthouse, you may want to do this first off the boat as it is very small up top and does get very cramped. I stopped for lunch at El Drugstore and they only accepted cash (Uruguay, Argentina, America), unsure if this is usual for a restaurant in Colonia. There is a lovely looking bar on the coast, with chairs looking out over the bay and the sea located on Paseo De San Gabriel, I couldn’t get in as it was full and would love to know how good the food and drink is!

    Thanks for continuously updating these pages, the information is very very helpful….now to plan my return visit 🙂

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      September 1, 2016

      Dear Jason the Libran, how I LOVE getting updates – this SO COOL to read – so thank you! I am sure other people will find your comments helpful too. You definitely have to come for a longer time next time – more and more people are realising that Uruguay is an amazing primary destination, and definitely not just a side-trip from Argentina or Brazil. — Karen PS. If you’d like to help us exist do check out how you can support our work. Stay in touch!

      Reply
  9. Daniel Boone

    July 23, 2016

    Great website, thank you for posting valuable information. Me and my wife are going to spend a week in BA in September, but want to visit Colonia and Montevideo as well. Is there a way of buying the ferry+ bus ticket in a way that we would spend several hours in Colonia, and THEN take the bus (not immediately after docking in Colonia). Also, during the weekdays (mid September), tickets should be still available a few days prior to the trip)? Thanking you. DB

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      July 29, 2016

      Hi Daniel – you cannot buy a through ticket and expect to get off in Colonia. You have to buy a ticket from Buenos Aires to Colonia and then buy a bus ticket to Montevideo once you are in Colonia. Check out my article on Colonia for all the relevant information. It’s always possible to buy tickets until last minute other than during holiday periods. All the best — Karen

      Reply
      • Daniel Boone

        July 29, 2016

        Thank you for your reply and advice. I will do what you suggested. Thank you again.

        Reply
  10. Jill

    April 7, 2016

    Thanks for the post! I’m not sure if I’m reading something incorrectly, but on the Colonia Express site I’m quoted $560 ars for a one-way trip from BA-Montevideo ($270 tariffa super economica and $290 tasas e impuestos). BA-Colonia is a total of $560.. Is this because I am looking for tomorrow? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      April 12, 2016

      Hi Jill, the closer you buy your ticket to your travel date, the less price options you have to choose from, as the cheaper seats will have been filled up. All the best Karen

      Reply
    • Dick

      April 12, 2016

      I just checked the site to see if we were getting the same information. I got supereconomica fares on the last boat of the day tomorrow for AR$270 to Colonia and AR$298 to MVD, both plus tax; so there is a slight difference in price–less than €2.

      Reply
  11. Alex Corcoran

    February 1, 2016

    You say that the ferry can be sold out on holidays. Would this include the Saturday before Easter Sunday? How about Easter Sunday itself?
    Any thoughts?

    Reply
  12. Dick

    December 22, 2015

    I just bought two round-trip tickets, BA to Colonia, from Seacat online. It was such a simple process. There were no glitches at all. In less than 24 hours I had the confirmations needed to board. And the price!–$US105 total cost, making each passage less than $30 for the “full” fare, i.e., no charge for changes. Interestingly, before making the purchase I looked on the Buquebus website and was quoted $US280 for the same type of tickets. That is an enormous price difference.

    Reply
    • Zhelka Gerinska

      September 15, 2016

      Hello ,
      Can you send the link to this website ,please?
      I’m trying to buy online tickets from Buenos Aires to Colonia .
      Thank you

      Reply
      • Welshwitch in Uruguay

        September 17, 2016

        The links are in the article above!

        Reply
        • Dick

          September 17, 2016

          The seacat site is https://www.seacatcolonia.com.uy/venta/home.php?sitecountry=UY
          You can also check colonia express at https://coloniaexpress.com/ar
          I’ve found that ticket prices can vary a lot depending on the season and which fare level is available at the time of purchase. Also keep in mind that Seacat can sometimes change your departure time and put you on a Buquebus ferry, but the online Seacat ticket is honored.
          I checked the Seacat fares for Monday and the lowest is about US$25 one way. The lowest for Colonia Express on the same day appears to be about US$34.
          Good luck.

          Reply
    • Garry

      January 31, 2017

      Hi Dick. I want to buy tickets on fast ferry that leaves from and returns to Pueto Madero, which is close to city. Any ideas.
      Cheers
      Gaz NZ

      Reply
      • The Guru of Guru'Guay

        February 1, 2017

        Hi Gaz, Puerto Madero is the main ferry terminal in Buenos Aires (ie inside the city, not close to) from which the ferry company, Buquebus, operates. So you need to buy tickets with Buquebus for the direct boat called “Francisco”. Best, Karen

        Reply
      • Richard Palmer

        February 1, 2017

        Here are the links to the two companies that go from Puerto Madero to Colonia del Sacramento:

        https://www.seacatcolonia.com/?i=en

        https://www.buquebus.com/english

        I think they both say it is about an hour, but normal arrival is about 1 1/2 hours after the scheduled departure time.

        If you want a ferry directly to Montevideo then only Buquebus offers that. Otherwise, Puerto Madero to Montevideo can be done with either company; there is a bus waiting right outside the arrival terminal in Colonia that goes to the Tres Cruces bus terminal in Montevideo, and the bus fare is included in the Puerto Madero to Montevideo ticket price. Also, keep in mind that sometimes you will get an email stating that the departure time has changed. That usually happens if you have a Seacat ticket and they decide to combine that ferry with the Buquebus ferry.

        If you are traveling somewhere other than Colonia del Sacramento or Montevideo, keep in mind that the Colonia inter-city bus station is only a short walk outside the port and is reachable even with luggage.

        Keep in mind that both ports are in the city. Puerto Madero is nearer to the Aeroparque airport and the main bus station, whereas Colonia Express leaves from Puerto Madero Sur, which is nearer to the southern end of Barrio San Telmo; so it all depends on where you will be staying in Buenos Aires.

        Reply
        • The Guru of Guru'Guay

          February 3, 2017

          Richard, very nice of you to share this information. Just one additional clarification, the bus station is actually the building *next door* to the port. So as Richard says, an (extremely) short walk to get there. Best, Karen

          Reply
  13. Jodie

    August 12, 2015

    Thank you so much for this info! We want to travel from Montevideo to Buenos Aries in March 2016 by ferry and this has been a big help. However I am a bit confused re the exchange rate for the Argentinian Pesos. The Seacat website told me it would be RG3550. When I put this into xe.com it told me it would be A$531 !!!. Yet the Uruguayan Pesos at 41 = A$2 !! Any light you could shed would be muchly appreciated!

    Cheers
    Jodie – Australia

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      August 12, 2015

      Hi Jodie, you’ve come across another example of how poorly-designed these sites are.

      What you saw in red which said “Valores expresados en pesos argentinos, incluyen percepcion AFIP 35% RG3550” is generic financial advice to Argentinian buyers. It is NOT part of the calculation. So ignore that.

      Prices quoted for March on Seacat (BQB does not have prices available for 2016 yet of course) are 507 argentinian (AR) pesos and 564 AR pesos. So at xe.com rates about 55 USD one way. Best, best, Karen

      Reply

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