Since I didn’t find any information on how to take the Buquebus ferry and what to expect I thought others travelers would appreciate a report on our experience. Even my $25 guide book didn’t have much information.
We decided to go to the Buquebus terminal a couple of days ahead of time to buy tickets to Colonia. (I am only familiar with getting tickets in person at the terminal. Perhaps someone else could fill in the information of buying them elsewhere.) We didn’t want to take the chance of buying them the same day and finding out they were sold out. It is a good thing we did because our trip to Colonia was sold out. We went on a Wed. afternoon to buy tickets for Friday. We took a taxi to the terminal in Puerto Madero.
The terminal is very modern. It is like a small airport or cruise ship terminal. There is a baggage check in area, a nice area with tables with smoking and non-smoking, a snack bar, and a couple of shops.
The Process of Getting Your Tickets
When you enter the terminal there is a schedule of trips on the upper right wall. There is also an information booth in the front right hand corner. We chose the trip that left at 11:15 and returned at 18:30. All the times are 24 hour format. Be sure to note that Uruguay is one hour ahead. The departure time in Uruguay is their time. Be sure to pick the one hour Buquebus if you want the faster one. There was also a three hour trip.
Go to the back wall to the line in front of the sign Ventas (sales). Don’t go to the booth to the right. That is where you can change money before you go to Uruguay. We stood in line and found out we were in the wrong line when we reached the window. It isn’t clearly marked.
At the Ventas line you tell them which trip you want. They have to see your passport. You have a choice between first class and tourist class. We asked the difference and were told by the agent there really isn’t that much difference so we opted for the tourist. After you go through that process you go back to the front of the terminal and stand in line to pay at the Caja (cashier) Then you are issued a ticket that looks like an airline ticket. I believe that the round trip price was about $58 pp to Colonia.
As I mentioned before, there is a booth in the right hand back of the terminal next to Ventas. You can change Argentine pesos or US dollars to Uruguay pesos. We changed $250 dollars. The charge for changing was very minimal. I think we calculated about $2.50. We only spent $40 in Uruguay. We changed the money again in the terminal when we came back.
We were told to be there one hour before departure. There is an area to check luggage just like an airport. Many people had carry on luggage like you have on an airplane. There is a check in area like in an airport. It is on the left hand side where the baggage check in is. At the check in you are given a boarding pass. About 45 minutes before departure we got in line to go through immigration. We had to go through the process like any other time you go into another country. That means, of course, you must have your passport. Be sure to have the tourist card you originally were given when entering Argentina. They also will give you a new one for Uruguay you need to fill out before you get to the window. Be sure to have it when you leave to go back.
Once we entered the departure area, we noticed people were lining up to the right. Since there are no assigned seats we found out the reason for lining up was to get the best seats. Since we got into line immediately we were able to get a window seat. However, there were really no bad seats.
There is an enclosed walkway to the ferry like the ones to board ships. On the ferry we were pleased to find a beautiful, wide area like inside a plane but much better. There were three sections of seats. Two sections lined the sides with big windows. The middle section is elevated a few steps up with a wide area of seats. The seats are like airline seats but much bigger and plenty of leg room. They also reclined nicely. There was plenty of room to store your carry on under the seat in front of you. Two people can easily pass each other in the aisles. In the back there was an area with a few tables. There was a snack bar that sold sandwiches, soft drinks, coffee, tea, beer, wine and pastries. I bought a small bottle of champagne and a beer that was $8 on the way back for my husband and me—not a bargain, but nice after a hot day walking all over Colonia.
Duty Free Shop
Once we were underway, a small duty free shop opened. I decided to check it out. It was so small and there were so many people in it that I glanced in quickly and left. They were selling perfume, alcohol, cigarettes, and candy such as Toblerone and Nestle. The cigarettes and alcohol, especially American whiskey, seemed to be hot items. I was amused to see Worcheshire and barbeque sauce for sale. I didn’t get a chance to check prices, as I said, way too many people. It looked like they were giving everything away.
The trip over was very relaxing. It was easy to move around. There was no smoking. Since we were on a river there were virtually no waves, just a gentle rocking. The restrooms are like airline restrooms but about three times bigger. I checked out first class. The seats were the same. They are just in an area by themselves with fewer seats. There was no going out on deck for passengers as far as I saw. When Colonia came into sight, it was like sailing into port on a cruise ship. It is very picturesque.
Once we arrived in Colonia, we did pass by inspectors who seemed to be looking us over but we were able to get through there easily. Just outside the terminal is a Colonia tourist information booth. Since there were so many people lined up there we proceeded to walk straight up the street a few blocks to the main tourist information booth in town. (I read about it in my guide book.) As we left the Buquebus parking lot, we were handed a map of Colonia which we used all afternoon. (I have a more detailed review of Colonia in the Uruguay forum.) We went back to the terminal about an hour before departure. (Remember the departure is Uruguay time.) We again had to go through the immigrations procedure. There was a departure tax of about $10. I don’t remember exactly. We had to turn over the tourist card we had been given that morning.
I was very impressed by the efficiency and comfort of the Buquebus. The trip was a pleasure. Knowing what I do now, I wish we had gone to Colonia and spent the night.