Colonia, Uruguay is a nice day trip from Buenos Aires. In only an hour you escape the busy and sometimes chaotic city and arrive in a tranquil colonial town on the banks of the Río de la Plata. We constantly get clients on our food tours in Buenos Aires that want to visit Colonia during their trip and ask how to get there. There are 3 ferry companies that operate between Buenos Aires and Colonia: Buquebus, the largest and most known, Seacat, a lesser known but good option, and Colonia Express.
Buquebus – Buquebus (pronounced “bu-kay-boose”) is by far the largest ferry company that travels between the cities and has almost become a generic name for the ferry route. They have several departure times in each direction per day, with the majority being the fast boats taking 1 hour, but they do have a larger slower ship that takes 3 hours. Buquebus ferries depart from the main ferry terminal in Buenos Aires in Puerto Madero and arrive at the Colonia Terminal, a 10 minute walk to the historic center. Buquebus is generally the most expensive of the 3 options, but is fairly well run and has comfortable and dependable ships. Tickets can be purchased online (foreigners sometimes have trouble using their cards), by telephone (they speak English and Spanish), or directly at the ferry terminal. Tickets get more expensive the closer to the departure date, so book ahead if possible.
Seacat – Our favorite option, Seacat is not well publicized but offers nearly identical offerings as Buquebus. Seacat does have a fleet of a couple smaller ships, but in our experience they only operate them during the busiest part of high season. Outside of that time, they end up putting you on the Buquebus. Departure times are exactly the same times. Also slightly strange is that the check in desks etc are the same. Seacat tickets cost less than Buquebus. Purchasing the tickets is the one catch. Their online booking system does not accept foreign credit cards, so you either have to call to reserve (Spanish only), or go to their sales office (Córdoba 772) a few blocks away from the Buenos Aires ferry terminal. They do not sell tickets at the terminal. They almost always offer a day trip promotional price.
*Update for 2018 – Seacat still does not allow foreign credit cards to be used on their website. For a small fee we can book the tickets for you if you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colonia Ferry – Not a ferry line, but a website selling ferry tickets on Buquebus and Seacat with an easy to use (and in English) booking system that accepts international credit cards. Prices are as low as Seacat’s own website and the quick responses to booking requests make this website the best place to buy ferry tickets.
Colonia Express – Offering similarly low prices to Seacat, Colonia Express is an initially attractive option to save money, but not worth it in our opinion. The big downside of Colonia Express is that their terminal in Buenos Aires is not the main terminal like the other 2, but their own in the neighborhood of La Boca, in the far south of the city. Besides just being out of the way and nearly impossible to get to using public transport, the neighborhood is a little dangerous and it can be difficult to find a taxi in the area. It uses the same terminal in Colonia as the others. They sell tickets online, by telephone, or at their sales office in downtown (Córdoba 753).
On our food tours in Buenos Aires we offer a lot more tips like these to make the most of your time and money!