You can travel from Argentina to Uruguay and vice versa by plane, ferry, bus and road. Here we help you decide the best way for you to get between the two South American capitals.
Coming to Montevideo on the cheaper ferry/bus combo
The ferry-bus option from Buenos Aires to Montevideo takes four to four and a half hours. The primary reason to take the combo is to save money.
There are three ferry companies, Buquebus, Colonia Express and Seacat. All take you by ferry to Colonia and then onto Montevideo by bus. The transfer is usually very quick embarking for Montevideo, however expect a one-hour wait in the terminal at Colonia when returning to Buenos Aires.
We prefer Seacat. Why?
- Seacat is usually the cheapest of all three options.
- Seacat is actually run by Buquebus – so you will typically end up travelling on the same Buquebus ferry as everyone who paid full BB prices for half the price!
- Seacat allows you to change your tickets, or even leave your return ticket open, for no extra charge.
Colonia Express has much smaller boats than Buquebus/Seacat. Take this into account if you are prone to sea-sickness at all, especially during the winter when crossings can be “rolling”.
Buenos Aires-Montevideo with a stop-off in Colonia
If time is not an issue, the best way to come to Montevideo is stopping off for the afternoon or longer in the UNESCO Heritage Site-awarded city of Colonia.
All three companies sell tickets to Colonia. The trip takes one hour on the ferry.
TIP!! Do not buy a ticket to Montevideo if you intend to stop off in Colonia (yes, we know, the ticket says “via Colonia” but they won’t let you make a stop-over). Buy to Colonia and then buy a ticket to Montevideo in the bus station which is right next to the port. You can find a bus time table online here. Recommended bus company is TURIL.
Montevideo direct by ferry – just two hours from Buenos Aires
If you want to get straight to Montevideo in as short a time and with as little hassle as possible, I recommend coming by ferry.
Buquebus has direct ferries to Montevideo several times a day. A new boat launched in November 2013 named “Francisco” after the Pope takes just 2hrs 12 minutes. The direct ferry is quite a bit more expensive than the ferry-boat combo.
Don’t check your baggage unless you have to. You’ll get out of the terminal and on with your holiday more quickly if you don’t.
Going against the grain of abundant free wifi in Uruguay, Buquebus is now charging apx 5 USD for use of their wifi. Come on, Buquebus!
Why take the ferry when you can fly?
Environmental reasons aside, there are several reasons to take the boat to Montevideo rather than fly:
- Plane tickets are usually more expensive (but not always).
- The airport is 30-40 minutes from the centre of Montevideo. The port is right in the city centre.
- Transfers from the airport to the city centre cost around 40 USD, adding to your costs significantly.
- There is an airport tax, whereas there is no port tax (or if there is it is a couple of USD).
- In the Southern winter time, the airport in Montevideo is frequently fog-bound in the mornings, leading to delayed or cancelled flights.
- Coming into Montevideo by boat, and leaving Buenos Aires by boat, gives you unique views of each city.
If you do decide to fly, make sure you check out which airlines flying to Montevideo that you should avoid.
So… what’s the best way to travel from Buenos Aires to Montevideo?
If you have time to spare, buy ferry tickets to Colonia. Go and have lunch in the Old Town. Walk around Colonia’s cobbled streets for a few hours and then hop on a bus to Montevideo around 6pm.
In the Southern summer time you will get into Montevideo just after dark. In the wintertime the sun goes down about 6pm so you will be leaving Colonia at nightfall.
If you need to save money, choose Colonia Express buying their “super economica” ticket. Check out my article on Buenos Aires-Montevideo ferry prices.
Looking for charming, award-winning accommodation in Montevideo?
PS. Travelling by bus from Argentina to Uruguay
You can also travel by bus from Buenos Aires to Montevideo however we do not recommend it. The bus needs to go several hours north along the River Uruguay before it can finally head east into Uruguay. We do however recommend coming by bus if you are coming from more cities to the north of Buenos Aires such as Cordoba or Rosario. It will save you money and time, as you travel overnight in comfortable coche-cama (international long distance buses have reclining seats similar to those in first-class of airlines).
Find out more about
- A lot that you wanted to know about Uruguay but didn’t expect to find online
- Airlines you HAVE to avoid when flying to South America
- Recommended off-the-radar guidebook to Uruguay
[Lots of people read this article, so I try to keep it up to date. This article was last updated on August 9 2016]
Photo courtesy of the US Embassy in Montevideo (public domain)