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

[Article first published: August 6, 2015. Lots of people read it, so we keep it as up to date  as possible]

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