Transportation in Uruguay: Travelling around by bus

It's easy to travel around Uruguay by bus, even if you don't speak Spanish. A centralised website collects timetables, travel durations and ticket prices.
By Karen A Higgs
Getting around Uruguay by public transport
Last updated on November 28, 2017

You should choose bus as your transportation in Uruguay

Uruguay has comfortable, frequent, reasonably-priced long-distance bus services and a centralised website collecting all the buses in and out of Montevideo makes it easy to consult timetables, find out how long journeys take and check ticket prices even if you don’t speak Spanish with a little help from this Guru’guay guide. Let’s learn about this transportation in Uruguay.

1. Where to find the times of buses in and out of Montevideo

Visit the Tres Cruces website for all buses into and out of Montevideo. You’ll see this site where you choose your departure point and your destination:

After you’ve selected your starting point and destination a timetable will automatically open below containing all the information you need to be able to find out departure times, bus company, ticket price, journey duration, etc. You’ll need some basic Spanish listed below.

To find out bus ticket prices click on any column.

Essential vocabulary for deciphering your transportation timetable:

Horario = Timetable
Hora = Time or hour
Destino = Destination
Empresa = Company
Duración = Duration of journey
Frecuencia = Frequency
Diario = Daily (as in daily services)
Distancia = Distance
Precio  = ticket price

The days of the week are, from Monday, lunes, martes, miercoles, jueves, viernes, sabado and domingo.

For bus company contact info including websites click the “boleteria” link.

2. Picking the shortest routes

Uruguay is a large country by European standards and bus journeys typically last several hours.

If you are short of time, do yourself a favour and pay attention to the “duración” column where you can choose the shortest journey time.

Unless you love long bus rides which stop at every god-forsaken village on your route – these are known locally as the “lecheros”. This means your journey is being likened to the route a milk truck takes.

For instance almost all the buses from Colonia to Montevideo take almost three hours however if you check the timetable carefully you’ll see that there is one bus that leaves Colonia at 4.30pm that takes just two hours ten minutes to get to Montevideo. That’s your bus!

Note: Going to Punta del Este? The fastest route takes two hours. On the website, the destination you are looking for is “Pta del Este”, not “P. Del Este R-8” or “P. Del Este R-8”. These are lecheros.

3. How to book your seat in advance

Some companies have websites allowing you to book seats online. Be prepared that they are in Spanish. The good news is that buses to most destinations are frequent and so you don’t usually need to book in advance.

But why waste precious holiday time at the bus station, right? So how can you book without rolling up to the station?

If you speak Spanish or have someone who can help you, save yourself time and book seats by phone.

Be ready to give your name and sometimes a passport number when you book. If you are in a group make a group reservation in the name of the person who has the shortest, most easy-to-spell last name. You’ll be grateful you did when they actually find your reservation in their database with the correct spelling.

On the website you can find bus company phone numbers by clicking on name of the bus company in the “empresa” column.

Most companies will reserve your tickets for you until 30 minutes before departure – and without taking a deposit.

This does not apply over Christmas and New Year when you will definitely need to buy your ticket at least 24 hours before travel.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

  • Long distance buses accept standing passengers. Avoid this nightmare form of travel during high season by buying your ticket in advance, rather than just turning up at the station.
  • Buses to most destinations are fairly frequent, so booking in advance is convenient but not essential other than on public holidays particularly Christmas and New Year, the week of Carnival and Easter (known in Uruguay as Tourism Week, but that’s another story).

More transportation in Uruguay reading: the comforts of bus travel in Uruguay and getting from Colonia to Montevideo.

Photo: Rodrigo Soldon on Flickr

[This article was originally published on Jan 18, 2014 and was last updated on the date above]

Latest

Popular

Subscribe

37 Responses

  1. Hey! Thank you so much for the information. When I go onto the tres cruces website I can’t put in my specific dates to book my journey on that page or on the bus company pages? My boyfriend and I are travelling to Uruguay from Buenos Aires at the end of January and we’re trying to book buses from colonia to Montevideo, Montevideo to Punta del diablo and from there back to Colonia if possible. Is there a bus that goes from Punta del Diablo to Colonia? I thought about getting the ferry from Montevideo instead but that’s not coming up as an option? Thanks!

    1. Hi Emily, just to set your mind at rest, you are going to be able to buy tickets at the bus station once you arrive here. Some bus company website (eg COT) are working well for buying tickets. Others not so much. Any journey from Pdd to Colonia will inevitably pass through Montevideo as it is in the centre. You’ll have to use one company to travel from the east to Mvd (eg Rutas del Sol), then another (eg COT or Turil) to get to Colonia. Ferries do not travel within Uruguay – only from Argentina to Uruguay. That’s why you’re not getting that as an option. Hope that helps! I’d definitely suggest you buy The Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay for all sort of additional helpful info that is not on this website. I’ve put the UK Amazon address for you. Have an amazing time in Uruguay! — Karen

  2. Hi, I am looking into going to Uruguay in December 2018. How far in advance are ferry and bus schedules posted? I went to the bus schedule website linked in the article above but I don’t know how to find a calendar to look for bus schedules in December. Or is the schedule the same all year long, same days and times?

    I have been reading several of your posts and I think this is what I need to do: I’ll be in Buenos Aires for a few days and then from there, take the ferry to Colonia for the day. That evening, I need to take a bus to Montevideo. I’ll then stay in Montevideo for a couple days before heading back to BA. So will a ferry from BA to Colonia work and then a bus to Montevideo the same day?

    Thank you!

  3. Hi Karen,
    I’m planning to take a day trip from Montevideo to Rivera on March 23 or 24. I understand that this will be the weekend before tourism week. Are those days busy travel days in Uruguay? I’m trying to determine if I need to reserve bus tickets in advance, and if so, how far in advance. Love your site, thanks for your help and great tips.
    -Brian

    1. Hi Brian, yes, a lot of people will be travelling home on that weekend. There are quite a few buses from Montevideo to Rivera and undoubtedly you would be able to get a seat at some point even if you turned up on the day. But all the same if you could I’d recommend you get tickets in advance – a week or so is probably fine. If you love the site you will ADORE the book! Guru’Guay Guide to Uruguay: Beaches, Ranches and Wine Country is full of original content about the interior which you won’t find on this site. All the best — Karen

  4. Thanks for this very helpful website!
    Among the major bus companies (turil, chadre,cop)which would you recommend / not recommend?

  5. Hi Karen, i am trying to google and also trying to use Tres cruces website, but it seems i cannot put any dates in. I was just wondering if it will be easy to get from Punta Del Diablo to Punta del este’s airport. We are planning to fly out end of january, the flight leaves at 11.30pm from PDE. Is there any direct buses to PDE Airport or will i have to do PDE town and then off to airport? I would like to gather info before I buy the flight, because I will be heading to PDD for 2days, 1 night only.. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Dominika. Sorry it took so long to reply. I have been researching and, since you don’t have a lot of time in PDD, I think the best option would be to hire a car. The drive to Pdd from Punta del Este will take you about two hours.
      If you fly to MVD Airport, there is a bus that goes from there to Punta del Diablo (it takes about 4 hours). But as you only have two days, flying to PDE and then driving seems the best way to enjoy your time!
      Florencia( Team Guru’Guay)

  6. Is it possible to do this? Bus from Colonia Del Sacramento to Atlantida? My thought process is to go from Montevideo to Colonia, stay a bit, then go to Atlantida and later Punta Del Diablo and then back to Carrasco Airport. This is over the course of 12 days. I know it’s a lot of bus rides but am trying to scope out the country in a short amount of time. Kindly advise.

    Also, different question – do most hotels in Uruguay allow folks to leave their luggage in the facility later than the checkout time? Because most places have 11 a.m. checkout but my flight doesn’t leave until 8:15 p.m. from Carrasco!

    Thanks!!

  7. Sorry for the repost but I realized that I didn’t check notifications! Thanks!

    Could you please give me a ballpark idea of bus ticket prices? For example, I was thinking of going from Montevideo to Atlantida then Punta Del Diablo. Then all the way back through to Colonia del Sacramento for one day and then to the Carrasco Airport. This is over the course of 12 days. Am I looking at crazy expensive transportation costs?

  8. We are 3 (two adults and a child) – we are planning on taking a bus from Montevideo to Mal Abrigo. From there, we need to get to Colonia to catch the ferry to BA. Do you recommend doing this by bus, car service or taxi? We are trying to be efficient with our time. As we are going to be at an Estancia, it doesn’t make economic sense to rent a car for 3 days as we will not be using it while at the Estancia. We are trying to find our transport options and am having trouble figuring out the trip from ‘small town’ to Colonia. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

    Thank you.
    Margaret

    1. Hi Margaret, I assume you are staying at an estancia. They will be able to help you better than I can. Ask them about the best way to get from the estancia to Colonia. I assume taxi will be very expensive and that it is possible by bus. They will be able to tell you how to do it without having to go back to Montevideo. All the best, Karen.

      PS Anyone looking for estancia recommendations should check out the new Guru’Guay section on estancias.

  9. Hi Karen,

    I love your side :)…just found it a little late since I’m heading to Colonia tomorrow ;). I pre booked accommodation on booking.com but haven’t thought about getting there :(. According do your recommend bus-side my rides colonia-montevideo-punta del Diablo are fine, but I wanted to go from punta del diablo to la paloma and than to punta del este and than to a hotel near montevideo airport. Couldn’t figure out timetables for routes not going to and from Montevideo. Can you help me with that?

    Your help would be really appreciated 🙂

    Cheers
    Manu

    1. Hi Manu, unfortunately there is no one timetable that contains buses between smaller towns. What you want to do is perfectly possible, but you will need to buy tickets at the local bus stations when you arrive. So in Punta del Diablo you’ll buy your tickets to La Paloma. In La Paloma to Punta, etc. Buses are very frequent so you won’t have any problem with seats. However don’t leave buying till last minute as January is very busy. When you arrive at a destination, take a few minutes to buy your outgoing ticket at that time. Enjoy! Karen

      1. Could you please give me a ballpark idea of bus ticket prices? For example, I was thinking of going from Montevideo to Atlantida then Punta Del Diablo. Then all the way back through to Colonia del Sacramento for one day and then to the Carrasco Airport. This is over the course of 12 days. Am I looking at crazy expensive transportation costs?

  10. Do you know if it is possible to hail the coach on Ruta 21 that goes to Montevideo in the direction of Carmelo? I’m in Carmelo but about 15 mins from the centre and was told I could hail the coach and pay the driver but I’m slightly worried that the driver may not stop.

    1. Hi Peter, talk about a live message! Yes, in the countryside it is absolutely normal to hail a bus at any spot on the highway! I hope that by now you are in Carmelo safe and sound! Let us know that you made it. All the best, Karen

  11. Hi there,

    Im planning on travelling up to Punta del Diablo from Buenos Aires on January 2nd. Do you think I will be able to get both a ferry and a bus up to Punta del Diablo all in one day? and will there be buses running?

    1. Hi Max, buses will be running but make sure you have ferry and bus tickets bought in advance if you plan to do everything on one day. At this time of the year there is huge demand.

      It will be a long day which you might want to break up by staying in Montevideo, or you might want to power through. You can cut the journey slightly by taking the direct ferry to Montevideo which takes just 2.25 hours but it’s quite a bit more expensive. See two options for travelling from Buenos Aires to Montevideo and then on to the coast (remember you also need to factor in waiting times):
      1. 2.25 hour direct ferry to MVD + 15 min taxi ride from port to bus station + 4-5 hour bus ride to Punta del Diablo versus
      2. 4.5 hour ferry/bus combo to Montevideo (via Colonia) + 4-5 hour bus ride to Punta del Diablo.
      Hope this helps. — Karen

  12. Strange question – but do most of the buses have bathrooms on them? I am looking at going from Montevideo to Colonia this Sept.

    Thanks!

        1. Dear Ted, I’m afraid I don’t recall seeing long distance buses with wheelchair lifts. There are city buses in Montevideo but there are not many of them so they are infrequent. Uruguay is currently working hard to become an accessible country, but I would say even the capital has a long way to go yet to becoming easily manageable to a wheelchair user. All the best, Karen

  13. Hey guys, I´am planning a trip to Uruguay for next mounth, and I was looking for online bus ticket, and I could find this website. http://www.bookbusworld.com they offer tickets for many countries in South America, incluiding Uruguay, so I thought it will nice to share with you.
    Hope this tip can help someone.

    See you guys in SA

    1. Hey Josh, thanks for the tip! It worked for finding a ticket from BA to Montevideo which is very helpful. Cost 61 USD one way. However that’s about the same price as the ferry which is faster… It didn’t for travel inside Uruguay or to coming from Brazil. I guess it will get better as they add more transporation companies… Nice idea though, and thanks for sharing! Karen

  14. Thank you for the very useful information on your site. Unfortunately (for me) the links for “the comforts of bus travel in Uruguay” and “getting from Colonia to Montevideo” did not connect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related articles

Even the buses have free wifi!

It’s really, really easy to get online in Uruguay. In fact, Uruguay is the only country in the world to completely implement One Laptop Per Child.

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap