9 tips to buying Buenos Aires to Uruguay ferry tickets

The Uruguay-Argentina ferry sites are getting better but buying tickets online can still be frustrating. Pour yourself a glass of red and follow the Guru.
By Karen A Higgs
FerryLiam-Quinn
Last updated on October 10, 2018
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We know. Buying the Buquebus ferry tickets (or similar ones) 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 ferry offers a direct trip 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 different: roughly, 1 US dollar is worth around 40 Uruguayan pesos.

All three ferry companies have two websites—an Argentinian and an 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! Buquebus ferry launched a consistently English language 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 ferry 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.

Economy fares – a species in danger of extinction

Checking prices on all ferry website we noticed that the cheapest fares were not being made available in advance. To get an economy ticket plan to book within a few weeks of your day of travel.

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 ferry?

Boo-kay-BOO-s

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. 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.
  • 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.

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.

Useful reading for planning your Uruguay-Argentina trip

This article was researched for Guru’Guay by Laura Fernandez

[This article was first written May 10 2017. For last update see date at top]

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31 Responses

  1. LLegue a esta pagina para poder entender mejor la informacion sobre Buquebus pero, veo que es un desastre la traduccion. Tiene tantos errores que mas confunden que informan!!! por favor para los extranjeros es horrible, uno que da sin entender nada.

    1. Lupe, había un error en el código de la página que estaba generando problemas en la traducción. Ya lo corregimos y ahora la traducción está apropiada. ¡Muchísimas gracias por avisarnos!

  2. Hi Karen!
    On the Colonia Express website, I see there are more sailings now (5) than there are in summer (3). Do you know why that is? Is it because they will release more times closer to the dates?
    Thanks, Duncan

    1. Hi Duncan, I assume you’re referring to Uruguayan summer (Dec-Feb). Yes, it makes sense that there will be more sailings as there will be more travellers. As you’ve probably read, changes to the schedule aren’t released many months in advance. So I’d tend to agree with your assumption. Cheers, Karen

    1. Hi Jorge, you can certainly take luggage with you for no extra cost. I don’t know if there’s a limit before they start charging, but I’m sure your ticket will tell you.

    1. Don’t feel like an idiot! These sites are a nightmare. Actually you know, I visited the site a few days ago and it looked to me like they no longer had an English site. OMGGGGG!!!! Soooo frustrating… so sorry to tell you this 😭 BTW, thank you SO much for the kind words about the books. We really need reviews from 2022 on Amazon, so if you’re the kind of person who is up for that kind of thing, I’d be SO appreciative. All the best — Karen

  3. Help! We booked tickets but are hoping to change the tickets to a couple days earlier. The site says there is a $100 change fee but we can’t tell if this is Argentine pesos or USD. Any idea?

  4. Hi Karen! We are in Buenos Aires for a short time and looking to do a day trip to Colonia. The posted schedule on Buquebus’s website is different from the schedule when I actually go to book a ticket– it’s so strange and I’m hesitant to trust it! When I book online, I can trust that time, right? Also, how early do you recommend showing up for the ferry? Thanks so much!

    1. HiTaryn, you can trust the ferry website, even though, as you are experiencing, they feel a little unreliable. Your ticket will have the right time on it. Feel free to roll up to the port 30-60 minutes beforehand. They tell you earlier, but you’ll be the only people (along with other foreigners 😉 ) there. Enjoy! — Karen

  5. I am losing my mind 🙁 Been trying to book one-way tickets from Montevideo to Buenos Aires on Uruguay site but kept getting error that non-Uruguay must use the Argentine site. Is it correct that as a foreigner, I could only book tickets on Argentine site (.com) and not on the Uruguay site (.com.uy)?

    1. Yes, it’s true! Don’t lose your mind, use the Argentina site. Get yourself a glass of Uruguayan red, put tango on Spotify and take a deep breath. Good luck! — Karen

      1. Thanks, Karen, for confirming that non-Uruguayan could only buy buquebus ferry tickets through the Argentina site. I have spotted 25% discount currently on Uruguayan site (but not on the Argentina site) and also (full priced) tickets on the Uruguayan site are cheaper (FX conversion) than on the Argentina site. Ah well, have to pay up I suppose!

        1. Yes, the discounts are for Uruguayans only. I can’t recall if it’s something that the govt negotiated with Buquebus (a company that has a monopoly on the port of Montevideo). #BiteTheBullet

          1. Thanks, Karen. Yes! #BitetheBullet 🙂 🙂

            PS – Thanks also for a very helpful website. We will only be in Uruguay for 1.5 days but will enjoy the culture.

  6. Follow the advice here! I’ve used Buquebus three years in a row and echo the great advice with a few tips:
    • first look at the prices in incognito mode a few weeks prior to get an overview of all the fares and different boats and departure/arrival times
    • if you want cheap economy fares look for the website’s OUTLET tab … on the fast boat Francisco (1790 Uruguayan pesos at time of my post here) are available a few days in advance off-season … those same fares are normally 2600 on the website and 3000 if bought at the Buquebus offices
    • if you are looking for those cheap economy fares start looking 7 days in advance, then check twice daily — both in late morning and early evening
    • they don’t always update the OUTLET tab daily, and usually not over the weekend
    • you really want to take the Francisco, it’s a much nicer experience

  7. 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?

      1. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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!

  9. 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?

    1. 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

  10. 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.

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