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Across Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires is Colonia del Sacramento, a small town in Uruguay. I couldn’t resist the urge to add one more set of stamps to my passport so we planned a day trip there.
There are three ferry operators: Buquebus, Seacat and Colonia Express. While one could purchase the tickets online, a tip on TripAdvisor revealed that it was actually cheaper to purchase the tickets at the offices.
Buquebus is the most established of the three and its ferries depart from the terminal at Puerto Madero. Seacat seems to be affiliated to Buquebus and operates from the same terminal. It put their passengers on Buquebus ferries on less busy days and it’s actually cheaper to purchase Buquebus tickets through Seacat. Colonia Express is the smaller outfit which has its own terminal in La Boca. Most reviews indicated that the terminal is quite out of the way.
Armed with the information, we headed to Seacat on the Saturday morning. The staff informed us that the return trip on Monday would cost us 47 USD (384 ARS) each and being foreigners, we could only pay using USD or credit card. The 6 USD change were given back in ARS at the official rate of 8 ARS to 1 USD. Our ferry would depart Buenos Aires at 8.30am and return from Colonia at 4.30pm.
It meant that it was an early start for us on Monday. We found ourselves at Puerto Madero terminal after a quick taxi (48 ARS) from San Telmo.
The staff at Seacat had told us to check-in at the Buquebus counters and we were quickly processed. Our particulars were already printed on the entry/exit card which came together with the boarding pass.
Immigration was pretty interesting; like the Chilean-Argentina border at Paso Jama, Argentina and Uruguayan officials sat next to each other in the booth. Somehow Ying didn’t get an Uruguayan entry stamp but we managed to spot it before heading to the holding area.
The first thing that greeted us on the ferry was the duty-free shopping.
While first-class passengers got to go upstairs, we had to make do with the seats downstairs. Fortunately it was not crowded and one could spread around.
The experience was similar to the ferry between Hong Kong and Macau. It was a pretty calm journey and I hardly felt the waves. An hour later we arrived in Uruguay, the seventh country of this trip.
As we had passed through immigration in Buenos Aires, we only needed to go through the customs. The lines were pretty long but we passed through with no issues.
We headed out of the ferry terminal and turned left towards Colonia’s old town.
There was a large tourist office right outside.
Colonia’s history was pretty interesting; its owners had alternated between Portugal and Spain and even Brazil over several hundred years. The barrio historico was built by the Portuguese more than 300 years ago.
There wasn’t much to do beside walking around and taking photographs.
After a couple of hours of aimless wandering, it was time for lunch. We arrived at A la Pipetua at around 12.30pm and got some nice seats in front of the TV. Germany would be playing Portugal at 1pm.
Ying ordered chivito and I had the seafood paella. Both were yummy.
It was an exhilarating match with Germany winning 4-0. The chef would come out to catch some action from time to time, whenever the German patron shrieked in delight after each goal.
The bill was presented with the amount given in three currencies: US dollars, Argentine pesos and Uruguayan pesos. We paid the 42 USD bill with dollars and made the walk back to the ferry terminal for our 4.30pm departure.
The procedures were the same as in Buenos Aires and we even had the same ferry.
An hour later we were back in Buenos Aires and strangely there weren’t any cabs outside the ferry terminal. We had to walk a block away before flagging down a taxi for the short ride back to our accommodation.
Although Colonia was only an hour away from Buenos Aires, it felt a world away. It was a sleepy town and none of the sights were truly outstanding. To be honest, if it weren’t for the Uruguayan passport stamp, I doubted that I would be very interested to visit it.