Living and Traveling in Uruguay
As we reported last week, living and traveling in Uruguay is a changing experience these days.
This time we took the night bus to Uruguay, leaving the bus terminal at Retiro, in Buenos Aires, at 10:20 p.m. for Montevideo. We arrived in Montevideo about 7 the next morning.
To our surprise, we found a fancied-up, much-enlarged bus station, complete with shopping mall. You could probably pick up a gift for your host or hostess, or buy your entire vacation wardrobe, before you even leave the bus station!
Of course we fully intended to give you a complete photo tour of the station. But the mall police swooped down with the first flash of the camera and this time they sent two security guards–not one–to put a stop to the subversive act of photographing the inside of their bus station! They informed me in very certain terms that I was not allowed to take pictures. As usual, I asked why. As usual, they didn’t know.
But don’t despair, here are the few contraband, top-secret photos I managed to get–just for you.
Upstairs, where I got caught photographing. These are not the best photos but our opportunity was sorely limited. This level is all shops.
We took this photo downstairs in the main part of the bus station where tickets are sold. You can buy bus tickets here, as well as tickets to various ferries that take you directly across the river to Buenos Aires or to El Tigre, Argentina. In the photo above, you can see the escalator and a glimpse of the upper level of shops.
While we were in Montevideo we saw building and remodeling everywhere. We hear the economy has slowed down but walking around town, you would not guess that it has. However, it is logical that Argentina’s problems are spilling over into Uruguay. Argentines are still going on vacation, but movement of currency is limited by the Argentina government. So when Argentines do cross the border, it is with little money unless they have an account outside to tap into. They can use an Argentina credit card but an additional 15% charge will be tacked on. This affects the economy of Uruguay and probably will more so as the crisis in Argentina deepens. Argentines don’t trust banks and so they tend to “bank” in hard assets, like real estate. They like those investments to be in Uruguay. Since their ability to invest outside Argentina is limited, some are predicting that real estate prices in Uruguay will drop as a result. We don’t know, but it is possible. For those with an interest in Uruguay, the future could offer buying opportunities.
Since we were not trying to meet any time constraints upon our return, we decided to go back to Buenos Aires by boat. We took the Seacat this time, which takes about 5 hours from the bus station in Montevideo to arrival in the port of Buenos Aires. Two of those hours are spent on a very comfortable bus ride to Colonia. The cost is $60.00 right now because it is the high season. It would be less in winter (which is summer for you North Americans and Europeans.) Bus fare from Buenos Aires to Montevideo was $51 and takes about eight hours. Obviously not worth saving $9 by taking the bus . . . except we needed to arrive early in Montevideo and we could take the bus at 10:30 p.m. from Buenos Aires, sleep all night, and arrive early in the morning.
For our return, we bought a ticket for the 2 a.m. (yes that’s a.m.) boat trip back to Buenos Aires because every other voyage was booked. We were supposed to arrive in Buenos Aires by 7 a.m. but it was more like 7:30. The boat did not get under way until about 5 a.m from Colonia. But in South America punctuality normally does not count. We had stayed in the hotel room and slept early so the hour was not a problem. The boat trip back was a real pleasure. There is a food bar and the seats are comfortable.
We might as well look around a little while we are here. In addition to the food bar where you can get snacks, sandwiches, coffee and soda, there are several salons on the boat with tables and chairs and other amenities.
Here is an example. If you are traveling with friends or family, you can always take a game, pick up a cup of coffee or a coke at the food counter, find a table and have some fun.
This was our first night crossing. In previous daytime crossings, lots of passengers were out of their seats, gathered in groups, laughing, joking and talking. You’d think they’d known each other all their lives. Many will have a thermos under their arm and a maté in their hand, which they will pass around to everyone in the group. These are a social bunch here, particularly the Argentines. Uruguayans are more reserved. But they’re friendly as well, but in our experience, not like the Argentines.
Buenos Aires From the Seacat
If you come to Uruguay to look around, and you don’t require a lot of luxury and breakfast in the hotel, we know a small hotel run by a now-quite-elderly lady who’s been there for years. She’s sweet but a bit of a fussbudget now and then. But her hotel is immaculate and comfortable.
This lady buys high thread count fabric and makes her own sheets and pillowcases with very pretty matching floral decorative strips on them. We were so impressed by the bedding when we first went there that my son asked her where she gets the sheets. She proudly took him into her back room and showed him where those sheets are made, and gave him the location in the Old City that carries the fabric that she loves. She’s getting up in years now, but you can still see the pride and loving care with which she has managed this small hotel for many years.
I had a very small room this time, the only one vacant, and she was very apologetic. I think a normal room for one person would be $35, but it could be a bit higher. I stayed for $25 a night. The American Hotel around the corner is $184 per night right now–$50 a night in the off season–and serves orange juice, coffee and pastries for breakfast. I liked $25 much better. If you’re interested, let me know before you come and I’ll give you contact information. I’ve been staying in this small hotel when I’m there for several years. This is the reason for taking the bus that arrives early. At this time of year I was afraid that if I didn’t get there early I might not get a room.
I hope this gives you all some ideas about traveling in our part of the world. Although both these trips were night trips, we really like the buses in the daytime. They are comfortable (some companies a bit more so than others) and we like to see the country. However, Aerolineas Argentina has short flights to Buenos Aires and other cities for those who need to cover a lot of territory in a short time.
Until next time . . . loved our visit with you again as we always do. See you soon in Uruguay!