We woke up at 5am to leave Buenos Aires for 2 reasons: 1) so we wouldn’t hit any morning traffic and 2) so we could try to bypass those bribing cops that we had heard so much about. Well after checking out and fixing some loose shield on the bottom of our car, thanks to a very nice parking attendant, we were on our way by 5:45am. Once again, we didn’t encounter any cops along the way, maybe it was too early, maybe we were really lucky, or maybe they don’t exist anymore, who knows why but we were just really happy! While we had luck not getting bribed, we did, however, get our money taken by 4 tolls in between Buenos Aires and Gualeguaychú (the Argentinian city on the border of Uruguay) each about AR$10!
Gualeguaychú (Argentina)/Fray Bentos (Uruguay) is below Paysandú (Uruguay) and we had discovered this border just a few days earlier on our Argentina map that we had bought early on in the trip. Apparently Google maps doesn’t recognize this border crossing, because it’s a bridge, but it’s definitely there! So we took this route because we were headed to Colonia del Sacramento which is on the coast of Uruguay. You can take the Buquebus (a ferry) from B.A. to Colonia but it is very expensive to go with a car so we just drove there (some people choose the ferry because it’s the same price as getting bribed but since we didn’t have that problem it turned out to be cheaper for us). Once you arrive in Gualeguaychú you go through border inspections in just one place and you don’t even need to get out of your car, which is nice, but you do need to pay AR$70 to cross the bridge over the Rio Uruguay. So we crossed and continued to Colonia.
On the way we hit one toll, which was UY$55, or you could pay in Argentinian pesos, which we did because we couldn’t exchange money in Argentina. We also stopped to put gas and we forgot but they give a discount on NAFTA gas for all tourists you just have to ask!! It’s something like 20-25% off so it’s really worth it!
We finally arrived in Colonia around 2pm (also the time jumps ahead by 1 hour) and the first thing we noticed was that the “official” rate of exchange from Argentinian pesos to Uruguaychos and the exchange houses is AR$1 to UY$1.4-1.5. The rate you find online is UY$3.15. There is no black market in Uruguay so we figured that the government caught on about the black market rate in Argentina and lowered the rate for Argentinian pesos (otherwise people would be crossing back and forth between the two countries exchanging money). It’s really annoying because we were stuck with all these Argentinian pesos and we didn’t know what to do. Luckily, we found that all the stores and restaurants accepted dollars, euros, Brazilian reals, and Argentinian pesos, generally at a higher rate than the exchange houses. So we decided to use them there instead of exchanging.
However, we stilled needed pesos so I went to an ATM and cashed out. I cashed out in Uruguaychos but you can also cash out in U.S. dollars too which is awesome if you go to Buenos Aires afterwards or find places in Uruguay that accept them for higher than UY$21 (the official rate).
After all that we finally sat down for lunch to have our first (but not last) chivito, the famous sandwich in Uruguay. We got the plated chivito (because there was a special) which comes with no bread but is incredibly massive! It’s a russian salad and regular salad on the sides, a huge plate of fries in the middle, topped with steak, sausage, bacon, and fried eggs on top, all for UY$500! It was sooo good and definitely covered lunch and dinner!
Afterwards we wandered around the city, which is very small but very cute. We took some pictures and took a tour of the famous lighthouse, which was UY$20 per person (and they don’t exchange money). It was nice but I don’t think it was worth the price but you get a nice panoramic view of the city. It only takes around an hour and a half to walk around the whole touristic part of the city if you walk very slow and don’t stop for attractions. If you go during the day you can pay UY$50 for one ticket and go to all the museums in Colonia, just go to the tourist information office for more exact details, but we arrived too late so we couldn’t take advantage of this offer. We were also told that the old bullring, which was 5km from old town, was a nice place to visit but you can’t go inside or see much so it’s definitely not worth your time to go there.
We then decided to head to our campsite and finally found it, only to turn around and leave. It was very overpriced and the woman was extremely rude to us and it wasn’t that much more expensive to stay in a hostel, so that’s what we did! We stayed at Colonial Hostel in the heart of old town Colonia and it cost UY$300 per person per night and we ended up with our own room so it was a great deal! The hostel itself was ok, a bit old and outdated, but we just wanted a good place to sleep after waking up so early!
Buenos Aires to Gualeguaychú
Fray Bentos to Colonia del Sacramento
- Left Buenos Aires @ 5:45AM
- AR$44 = Tolls
- AR$47 = Market
- AR$70 = Border Bridge Toll
- Crossed to Uruguay in Fray Bentos @ 9AM
- AR$37 = Toll
- UY$846 = Gas [UY$41.6/L]
- Arrived in Colonia del Sacramento @ 2PM
- UY$499 = Lunch
- UY$40 = Lighthouse ticket (UY$20/person)
- UY$46 = Juice
- UY$300 = Hostel
- Total = AR$198 / UY$1731