Thursday, April 29, 2010

Holy Colonia! A How-To, Illegal Tourist Version

I can’t believe I haven’t done a Colonia post! I mean, this little town is the source of my illegal tourist visa extension…I feel like I owe it at least a glancing description.

The coastal town of Colonia is located directly across from Buenos Aires in Uruguay, and is the definition of “quaint.” It has an historic section, a busier main street, and a waterfront. Basically, Colonia can be summed up like this: everyone drinks mate and carries a thermos with them, prices are significantly higher than in BA because it is a tourist destination, chivito is delicious, and mopeds are loud.

Old ladies walking down a tree-lined path = quaint

Stray dog (fleas!) under pretty flowers and ceramic street sign = quaint

 Cobblestones = quaint, always
A trip to Colonia costs anywhere from around 200 pesos to a lot more, depending on how long you want to stay. In my experience(s), a day trip is enough. This time, I paid 184 pesos for a same-day-return weekend ticket on Buquebus. There are two main companies that run ferries to Colonia, Buquebus and Colonia Express. If you’re planning a trip, check their websites for various prices and remember that weekdays are usually cheaper.

To purchase your ticket, just go to the website and choose your date, time, and type of ticket. Pay with your credit card and you will receive a link to the PDF file that is your ticket. Save this to a flash drive and get it printed at a locutorio or printing place near you. Once you have your ticket, you’re all set.

With Buquebus, there is a fast ferry that takes you over in an hour, and a slow one that takes you over in 16 hours. Actually, it’s only three hours, but depending on your proximity to the screaming children and apathetic parents, it can seem a lot longer.

This must be the fast ferry...check out that wake! Pretty sure the one I was on didn't make a ripple...
(photo ripped from

The Buquebus terminal is located on the corner of Antártida Argentina and Cecilia Grierson, which is basically an extension of Avenida Córdoba. The best way to get there is to take one of the many buses that run up and down Ave Leandro N Alem, get off as close to Córdoba as you can, and then walk the two blocks over to the terminal. You’ll cross two big streets and some old train tracks, but the building is pretty big and you should see lots of people entering and exiting. Just follow the other lemmings.

Check-in is just like in an airport. Wait in line, go to the counter, give the guy your pre-printed ticket and passport, he’ll ask you if you have baggage to check, say no, then he'll direct you up the escalator to customs. Fill out the little form that the check-in guy gave you (if you aren’t Argentine), then go through customs.

That is one thing that’s different about the ferry to go through customs before you get on the ferry instead of after arriving on the other side. So in BA you’ll go through Uruguayan customs before getting on the boat, and then you’ll get checked by the Argentine customs people on the Uruguayan side before coming home (this is where the anti-deportation prayers come in handy).

When you get on the boat, follow the signs for tourist seating by going up the stairs and heading to the front of the boat. Pick your seat and get comfy. I recommend arriving earlier rather than later, because the boat can fill up pretty quickly and if you want a seat by the window you don’t want to have to fight some histérica Argentine bitch for it. Also, bring entertainment. Three hours of gray water is boring with a capital B. Alternatively, you could just sleep. If you want food, they have a small counter with ridiculously overpriced sandwiches, alfajores, and beverages. For a bit of fresh air, you can head up to the covered deck and take in the sights (more water) and enjoy the brisk (hurricane-like) winds.

Hairstyle courtesy of the Rio de la Plata

Keep in mind that I have done this particular trip several times…hence the slightly sarcastic tone and somewhat jaded opinion. In truth, Colonia is a lovely town and I would highly recommend a visit for those who are looking to get out of the city for a weekend.

Artesanías = quaint

I won’t go into detail about what to actually DO in Colonia…there are tourist websites for that. Just a few things to keep in mind--> 1) it can get kind of windy/cold on the side closer to the water, so bring a jacket if you’re in doubt… 2) be prepared to pay jacked-up prices for food, as there are only a limited number of restaurants and they all cater to tourists… 3) that being said, get a chivito…it’s a DEELISHUS gut-bomb comprised of a layer of French fries, topped with a slab of tender meat, topped with ham-bacon, topped with cheese, topped with a fried egg. Oh, and for your veggies, you get more potatoes in the form of ensalada rusa. You won’t eat again for three days… 4) at around 4 pm, all the lovely teenagers on their mopeds and four-wheelers come out to play, so if you’re trying to relax in the sun or take a nap on the grass near the waterfront, fugheddaboudit…

So that’s it! Colonia in a nutshell, the illegal-tourist version. OH! And because I forgot TT again (abbreves rock), here's a good video by a band called Molotov. They're from Mexico and have an amazing rap-metal-rock-cumbia sound mixed with politically and culturally relevant lyrics...this one is called "Frijolero" and is appropriately themed around the topic of illegal Mexicans in the US. I've heard their next project is about illegal blondes in Argentina...


  1. Hi,

    I'm thinking about moving to Buenos Aires next year - can you recommend any good expat bars where I might be able to chat to a few people like yourself who have have moved to BA? I'm back in town from Sunday for 3 more days at the end of a 12 day "rekkie" around Argentina.



    PS. Nice blog!

  2. Hi Ren! There are a bunch of expat bars here in BA where you can find international travelers such as ourselves...Casa Bar, the Alamo, Gibraltar, and Sugar are popular places with expats. You can Google them to find out a bit more. I'm not sure if you know of this site, but it's a great resource for expats and every so often someone will arrange an expat meet and greet at a bar or resto...check it out! Suerte!

  3. Hi Amy, I'm an porteño expat living in Miami. I enjoy reading your blog, me gusta mucho ! te felicito ! Sergio

  4. Just stumbled upon this blog. I'm a US native as well and have been living here for almost three years entirely unrelated to studies. For the majority of that time I worked under the table and was able to stay on the Tourist Visa. It's probably more lax out west here in Cordoba but the policy is the same nationally. 90 days (count them, it's NOT three months), renew in Immigration with $300 in hand, 90 more days, leave the country for 24 hours and reenter with another $300 in hand. If you're late, a hefty fee is so elegantly included, $600 if I remember correctly. Just rinse and repeat. You'll be recognized pretty quickly in that office but the excuses are endless: you're looking for work but having trouble, love traveling, etc. Have fun!