Day Trippin’ to Colonia, Uruguay (AKA “The Expat Shuffle”)

Like many expats, we’re here on tourist visas which are only valid for 90 days. Now, there’s a few ways to extend that time:

  1. Head to prorrogas de permanencia at the office of migraciones and pay for a 90 day extension. The cost is $100 pesos and you can only do this once per 90 day original visa. Since our Spanish is pretty poor, we thought this would be too much of a headache.
  2. Overstay your visa and pay the $50 peso penalty (UPDATE, 4/21: This fee has increased to $300 pesos.) when you leave. A lot of people report no problem with doing this, but we wanted to be completely legal in case we ever apply for a full visa. We just didn’t want this to ever be an issue.
  3. Head out of the country and get a new 90 day stamp when you come back.  We opted for this approach and took off with our friend Scott to Uruguay last weekend.

Getting from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay is a pretty easy process.  The Buquebus ferry leaves several times a day from their terminal near Puerto Madero.  They have both high-speed ($250 peso round-trip, takes 1 hour) and regular ($181 peso round-trip, takes 3 hours) service, but I’d strongly recommend the high-speed option if you’re only going for the day.  I’d also recommend buying tickets in advance from their web site, and not showing up at 11:15am to try and get tickets for the 11:30am ferry. (Yes, we missed it and had to wait for the 2:30pm ferry.)  The trip itself is pretty comfortable and you end up in Colonia in just under an hour.

Colonia is a small city (pop. 21,714) with 7 kilometers of beach front along the Rio de la Plata and a renowned historic quarter. It’s a great place for a day trip, but I couldn’t see spending much more time than that there.  We decided to rent transportation so that we could take in all of Colonia in the few hours that we had there, but since we missed the early ferry, the car rental places at the end of the ferry dock were mostly sold out for the day.  Luckily, Thrifty had one golf cart left – for only U$12 per hour. So, we hopped in our new wheels and took off exploring.

We cruised down the beachfront taking in the coastline and stopping at a couple of parks before heading up to check out the Sheraton Colonia Golf Club.  Then, we headed over to check out the old bull fighting ring before driving back to the historic quarter. The old town part of Colonia is a designated World Heritage Site, and provides a lot of photo opportunities. There’s also a lot of bars, restaurants and shops to explore. Make sure you try a chivito from one of the silver roadside food vendors – it’s a high-calorie sandwich made up of churrasco beef, ham, mayonnaise, olives, mozzarella, tomatoes, and egg served on a roll with a side of fries. Yum!

After that, we dropped off the golf cart and it was back to the ferry for our trip back to Buenos Aires. There’s a duty-free store on the ferry that is extremely popular. Just remember to bring cash if you want to buy anything as they only take credit cards at the end of the trip and then it often doesn’t work.

Here’s our gallery of the day!