UruguayNow - Travel Guide to Uruguay - Getting to Uruguay
Colonia do Sacramento

Getting to Uruguay

By air

Only two airlines based outside Latin America serve Montevideo's brand-new, state-of-the-art Carrasco international airport (www.aic.com.uy). American Airlines flies direct from Miami and Iberia provides a non-stop connection between Madrid and Montevideo in codeshare with PLUNA, the national airline. Another useful connection for North Americans is from Panama to Montevideo on Copa Airlines. Demand is particularly heavy on all routes at Christmas/New Year, Easter and July.

Several European airlines offer ticketing through to Montevideo with a change of planes in Sao Paulo, continuing to Uruguay with either TAM or GOL, both of which are Brazilian airlines. Others – Air France, for example – route travellers through Ezeiza international airport in Buenos Aires. If you travel via Buenos Aires, ensure that you fly into and out of the international airport at Ezeiza. Most flights to Montevideo from Buenos Aires depart from the notionally domestic downtown airport commonly referred to as the "Aeroparque"; crossing the city from one to the other can be a stressful hassle, so avoid it if possible.

Montevideo's new US$134 million airport was designed by celebrated Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly and opened for business at the end of December 2009. Although the main terminal looks rather like a flattened egg, it has the distinct advantage of a sizeable car park – which its predecessor lacked.

Uruguay has two other international airports: a dinky facility at Colonia del Sacramento across the River Plate from Buenos Aires, and the growing, beautifully sited airport at Punta del Este which serves summer holidaymakers from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and casino high rollers from Brazil year-round, plus countless private jets.

Uruguay has four other international airports: a dinky facility at Colonia del Sacramento across the River Plate from Buenos Aires, and the growing, beautifully sited airport at Punta del Este which serves summer holidaymakers from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and casino high rollers from Brazil year-round, plus countless private jets. Meanwhile, you can get to northern Uruguay direct from Brazil and Argentina using BQB (www.flybqb.com), a low-cost airline that is part of the Buquebus transport group (see below). The company offers weekly and apparently seasonal flights from Florianópolis (currently on Saturdays) to Rivera; services to Porto Alegre run three times a week. At the time of writing, Salto is connected to Buenos Aires on Wednesdays and Sundays. The company may soon offer services from Salto to the airport on the Brazilian side of the Iguazú Falls (code: IGU) – the airline's website was showing flights for this route in early January, but these have since been removed.

Your escape from the airport into the city? See the Getting around Montevideo section.

By land

You can get to Montevideo by bus from destinations as far away as Santiago in Chile. The overnight connection from Porto Alegre (the closest big urban centre in Brazil) is practical and usually comfortable. TTL (www.ttl.com.br) serves this route. Getting from Buenos Aires to Montevideo or Punta del Este is faster by direct catamaran or ferry/catamaran to Colonia del Sacramento, with an onward bus connection in Colonia, rather than by bus all the way (see below). You can also catch a bus direct from Rosario in central Argentina. Leaving Montevideo, the adventurous can reach Iguazú Falls by way of a bus to Salto in the north of the country, then crossing the Uruguay River to the Argentine city of Concordia, and taking another bus from there. More info on schedules at: www.trescruces.com.uy.

By sea

Unless you are arriving on a cruise ship or are lucky enough to have your own yacht, you will either cross the River Plate from the port of Buenos Aires or catch a slower boat from the pretty riverside town of Tigre, some 30 km north-west of the Argentine capital. From city centre to city centre, travelling by direct hydrofoil from Buenos Aires to Montevideo takes only a little longer than the plane – and you can take all the drinks and toothpaste you like. Note that fares and promotions change rapidly; please consult the websites of individual operators for precise details. Fares from Argentina are sold in Argentine pesos and the US$ equivalents given here are approximate.

From Buenos Aires:

Buquebus: Offers a direct hydrofoil link between the port of Buenos Aires and Montevideo (the terminal is to the north of Puerto Madero). Journey time: 3hrs15mins. The cheapest one-way fare of approximately US$75 sells out quickly. Buquebus also offers a hydrofoil to Colonia (1hr) with a connecting coach/bus service to Montevideo and Punta del Este. Their car ferries also ply this route and are cheaper, but considerably slower. Fares from Buenos Aires to Montevideo via Colonia on the fast service start at about US$35. The last departure from Buenos Aires to Colonia with onward connections leaves at 11.15 pm. Tickets available on-line: www.buquebus.com

Colonia Express: Fast ferry to Colonia with onward bus connections to Montevideo. Offers a limited number of cheap web fares from Buenos Aires to Montevideo for just under US$25 single. Day returns to Colonia with guided tour available (US$46). www.coloniaexpress.com

SeaCat Colonia: Offers a service to Montevideo and Punta del Este via Colonia. Fares generally comparable to those of Colonia Express. Day returns to Colonia with city tour: US$42. No on-line ticket purchase available at present. Their office in Montevideo is on Calle Río Negro corner Colonia (Centre). Buy tickets in Buenos Aires at the port. www.seacatcolonia.com

From Tigre:

Cacciola Viajes: If you have the time, Cacciola offers a boat connection from Tigre (just outside Buenos Aires) to the Uruguayan port of Carmelo, with onward connections to Montevideo by bus. The first part of the trip takes you through the picturesque channels of the Tigre Delta. Journey time: approx. 6hrs from Tigre. Recommended. Cost: US$30 one-way to Montevideo. A minibus service from downtown Buenos Aires to connect with the boat at Tigre is available. Consult their website for more details: www.cacciolaviajes.com.

Líneas Delta: Offers a service in the summer from Tigre to the small Uruguayan port of Nueva Palmira, which lies beyond Carmelo (US$20 one-way to Nueva Palmira). The journey gives you another good chance to see something of the 14,000 square km of water, forests and islands that makes up the Tigre Delta. The company also offers connections to Carmelo and Colonia. Consult their website for more information as this service terminates for the season on 31 March 2010: www.lineasdelta.com.ar