Buying ferry tickets from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay

Planning a day-trip to Colonia from Buenos Aires? Guru'Guay looks at the ferry options, price of tickets, schedules. And reasons to stay longer.
By Karen A Higgs
Buying ferry tickets Buenos Aires to Colonia
Last updated on November 16, 2018

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.

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, a ten-minute walk from the port.

The big three

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

Ferry times

All three companies run three or four ferries 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

Ferry from Buenos Aires to Uruguay: ticket prices

Company

Cost of cheapest
one-way ticket (USD)*

Most expensive
one-way ticket (USD)*

Buquebus

56**

84**

Seacat

55

86

Colonia Express

54

71

We 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 Argentine pesos on Nov 16 2018. We converted them into US dollars and rounded them up using an exchange rate of 36 Argentine pesos to the dollar.

Should I buy in advance?

Our research find that there is little price difference between buying a ticket one week advance versus months in advance.  Indeed several companies will not even allow you to buy tickets over a few months in advance. Ahhh South America… gotta love it, gotta remain laid back.

We looked at prices for tickets one week in advance of travel and for tickets in February (high season). Colonia Express and Seacat were charging the same prices. However Buquebus uses dynamic pricing and tickets for February were almost double the price they are now as we tested in November.

We also found that on all ferry websites the cheapest category seats are unavailable for tickets bought a few months in advance.

So, what to do if price is a consideration? Unless you are travelling on over a holiday weekend (both Argentine and Uruguayan) or between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day you can wait to buy your tickets closer to your travel date (say a month). The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay has a list of public holidays.

If you are travelling around public holidays get your tickets in advance. Colonia Express and Seacat will sell out and BuqueBus prices will go through the roof. Readers informed us that they paid 250 dollars a piece for tickets over the recent Easter holidays.

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

Trying to book a ferry from Buenos Aires to Uruguay ticket online with any of these three companies would try a zen master.  Some of the websites are awful and poorly designed. If you can’t buy your ticket online it is NOT YOUR FAULT!

  • If things get really frustrating buy your ticket once you are in Buenos Aires You can go into a travel agent and buy in person. We don’t recommend leaving it till you get to the port to avoid disappointment.
  • You cannot buy Seacat tickets at the port. It appears you will be sold Buquebus tickets at the dynamic tariff rate.
  • If using a third-party to book, make sure your ticket details are correct. I was told a sorry tale by two Canadian readers. Having grown frustrated with trying unsuccessfully to book on the ferry websites, once in Argentina they asked their hotel to buy their ferry tickets for them. Print-outs safely stored, they happily headed off to Patagonia. Several weeks later, in the port about to embark for Colonia they discovered that the hotel had erroneously booked them on a ferry that had sailed weeks earlier.  Buquebus refused to make an exception and as they were travelling over Easter, they had to pay 250 dollars a piece for the one-hour ferry ride to Colonia–five times the price they had originally paid.

More reading

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.

Photo: Milton Jung

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53 Responses

  1. Thanks, i found this extremely helpful! I am buying BA to Colonia ferry tickets for April 2023 but i will be renewing my passport in 6 months (Fall 2022) as i am running out of pages. Do you know if i will be able to edit my passport # after purchasing tickets? thank you!!

    1. Hi Kate, glad you found it helpful! You won’t be able to buy tickets for April 2023 probably until the beginning of 2023 anyway (try to book now and you’ll find the website won’t accept the dates). All the very best, Karen

  2. You mentioned about leaving our luggage in the Colonia bus station, so we can tour for the day between cities. Is there somewhere safe for them to be kept?

  3. You wrote that “Tickets are generally available unless you are travelling on over a holiday weekend or between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.” Is this because there is a high demand during New Year’s Eve/Day or because the ferries don’t run during New Year’s Eve/Day? My family will be visiting Buenos Aires later this year, and we’d really like to visit one of Colonia’s beaches on New Year’s Day. Do the ferries operate on New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve?
    Thanks,
    Scott

    1. Hi Scott, it’s because of high demand. However you should be warned that pretty much all transport (excepting Uber which runs in Montevideo in my experience last year) shuts down between 3-4pm on the Eves and only starts up again about 4am next day. So I would expect ferries to be running on New Year’s Day but to make sure you get your tickets as early as you can. As mentioned in the article, it’s really hard to believe but I wasn’t finding tickets for four months time on two of the websites, let alone end of the year! So try to start seeing if you can get your New Year’s Day tickets from September or October. Hope that helps! — Karen

  4. I’m trying to book a ferry ticket from BA to MV on Dec 29, during the New Year holiday period. The options are very limited and fares are quite expensive in general. However, on Buquebus’ website, I do see an option that is significantly cheaper, but takes over 3 hours just to get to Colonia and a total of over 5 hours to finally get to MV. The picture of the boat used for this option looks different from all the others, and I’m not sure that the information is accurate, or why? Ideally, I’d like to stop over in Colonia for a few hours before taking a bus to MV, and wonder if this option would allow me to do just that? What would you recommend for this time of the year?

    1. Hi York, this would be the extra slow boat, hence the price. I thought it had been taken out of service, but maybe it is back for the high season… It will only ever take 2.5 hours to get from Colonia to Montevideo on the bus, not 5. No ferry service will allow you to do a stop off in Colonia if you have bought a thru ticket to Montevideo. You need to just buy to Colonia and then get a separate ticket on. Read my article on Colonia for specific advice on that. All the best, Karen

  5. Hi Jill, I am trying to book tickets on Seacat in November from Buenos Aires to Montevideo. I see that 1 sailing is sold out coming back to Buenos Aires on Saturday November 18, is this a holiday? Should I be worried about getting tickets? Also, the website is showing a drop down menu to select the bus route, which one do I select Tres Curces?
    Gracias
    Nancy

    1. Hi Nancy, Karen here 🙂 The earlier you can buy ferry tickets for a weekend the better, especially if you want to get a good price. Tres Cruces is the central bus station in Montevideo. All the best, Karen

  6. Arriving BA 23 Dec via cruise ship. Would like to take in Sacramento and the Swiss town on our way to Montevideo. Can this be done? I suspect that we need to catch the 8 AM ferry to Sacramento, leave our luggage at the bus station while we tour Sacramento. Is there bus service to the Swiss town (or is it even worth going)?

    1. Hi Ray, sorry it took a while to get back to you, I had to talk to someone who lives in the area to get some good information. Nueva Helvecia is a very nice town to visit but only by car (to drive around for an hour, check out a cheese producer) or if you intend to spend the night there. There is not a great deal to do in the centre of the town to merit a day trip and no place to leave your luggage. So if you are not planning to have a car, we’d recommend skipping. All the best, Karen (and thanks to Damian at Borravino wine tours for his advice)

  7. 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.

      1. 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.

          1. 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!

  8. 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..

    1. 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

  9. 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

    1. “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… 🙁

  10. 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?

  11. 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….

    1. 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

  12. 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

    1. 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

  13. 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 🙂

    1. 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!

  14. 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

    1. 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

  15. 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!

    1. 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.

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

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

        1. 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.

    2. 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

      1. 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

      2. 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.

        1. 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

  18. 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

    1. 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

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