If you’re going from Buenos Aires to Montevideo (or vice versa), crossing the La Plata River is your best option. Although traveling by air or bus are also options, prices and travel time make them less convenient for regular tourists. A flight would take less than an hour, but tickets to either destination average around $200 US dollars. A bus ride, while the cheapest option, takes around 8 hours and requires an overnight far north route. So in this article, we’ll break down the best ferry option that we found on our ride to Buenos Aires. Come join us in our Buquebus experience!
There are actually quite a few ferry options between Buenos Aires and Montevideo with a wide range of prices. The most well-known ferry companies are Buquebus, Seacat Colonia, Colonia Express and Cacciola. The first one is famous for being the most pretigious, while the other ones are cheaper alternatives. However, when you’re crossing La Plata River, the world’s widest river (according to some), you should look beyond the price.
Only Buquebus offers direct ferry rides, while the others include long bus rides to other cities like Colonia del Sacramento. On the Montevideo side, the buses mostly arrive and depart from Tres Cruces Mall, a somewhat sketchy mall/major bus terminal in the center of town. The combined bus and boat rides end up burning most of the day, something inconvenient for those with a schedule. So an already long enough trip becomes a whole-day odyssey, something that most tourists try to avoid. Then there’s the fact that they also don’t have that much capacity, most of them transporting around 100 passengers. However, this is where Buquebus stands out and offers you a more comfortable, pleasant and safe experience.
Buquebus: Montevideo – Buenos Aires
What first distinguishes Buquebus from its competitors is its large fleet of several ships with a much larger capacity. Two of its six ships have a capacity of around 1000 passengers, while the others can carry around 500. Another highlight is that they offer a direct ride between Buenos Aires and Montevideo aboard their flagship vessel, the Francisco. This high-speed ship with two hydrojets and a speed of around 50 knots is the world’s fastest ferry.
There are three classes of tickets: business, tourist and economy. For just over a two hour journey, we found economy more than acceptable. We’d compare economy seats to a very upscale comfort plus on an airline. So unless you want a quieter cabin and a bit more pampering, the extra cost of business/tourist is not necessary.
The Buquebus terminal in Buenos Aires is huge and very easy to find with Google Maps. However, on the Montevideo side it’s a bit confusing, especially if you’re on foot. When you head to the Port of Montevideo, just look for the largest, most iconic building there with a tall tower on top, the National Customs building. Follow the path along the right side of the building to the back and what looks like a shipyard. You’ll pass through a security checkpoint, then follow the signs through the rear gate and to the Buquebus terminal building (on your left, after passing through the gate).
Once in your departing port terminal (in either Montevideo or Buenos Aires), head to the check in counter first to confirm your booking. After checking in, you’ll go through the typical customs process. Customs will most likely ask for proof of the address where you’re staying and after that they’ll quickly stamp your passport. Both countries take care of immigration from your departure port, no matter which way you’re going. So you can leave your arriving terminal with just a quick baggage scan at the security check.
Once you’re in, you can take a seat and relax while you wait for your boat. Boarding starts about 30 minutes prior and there are no assigned seats, only assigned classes. From the Uruguay side, it’s worth mentioning that are two glass doors. One is for priority and another for economy/tourist class. Usually, economy starts lining up when first class boarding starts.
From Argentina, the terminal is very nice and well organized, and everyone will line up down the large center aisle. Unless it’s super crowded, you won’t have to worry about getting a good seat. Both of our trips were pretty light with passengers and an abundance of seatings was available. As you enter the enclosed boat ramp, you’ll be handed a pair of booties to place over your shoes when onboard. It’s kind of strange and funny at first, but it’s nice that Buquebus takes pride maintaining the appearance of their carpets.
The ferry is fully enclosed, so there are no outdoor viewpoints and the windows are covered with seawater and dirt, so don’t plan on great photos of the skylines. It might be a little disappointing, but once you experience the speed you’ll understand why it’s enclosed. The best part is that ccommodations are first rate, no matter what class you’re seated in.
Deck 2 (where you board) is split into two zones, the rear economy seating area with a staffed snack bar and kids space. The front area contains a currency exchange and an absolutely huge duty-free store. Deck 3 (the upper deck) is also split with tourist class in the rear, and business class in the front.
After the ferry gets out of the harbor, get ready for some serious horsepower! This thing goes super fast (around 107 kph/60mph), so if you are prone to motion sickness, you might want to bring some Dramamine. The waters were mildly choppy on our run from Montevideo causing some light up and down motion and there’s generally a lot of mild vibration from the powerful waterjets. It’s loud in the economy cabin, similar to being inside of a commercial airliner… very similar actually, since there are two GE jet engines powering the vessel just below.
Travel Tip: it’s particularly loud in economy towards the rear. But if you have a lot of luggage, the back row is great because there’s a huge space between your seat and the rear wall of windows where you can stow your bags, giving you extra legroom.
Overall, though a little pricier than expected, Buquebus offers a fun and fast way to move between Montevideo and Buenos Aires. It’s very impressive how professional the staff is and the service they provide. We still can’t get over the speed for such a large vessel and recommend at least taking an overnight trip just for the experience of riding on a high-speed ferry.
Have you traveled on other high-speed ferries around the world? Tell us about your experiences and recommendations by commenting below.