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Is There a Lot to Do in Montevideo? A Guide to the Perfect Weekend Getaway

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Is there a lot to do in Montevideo? The first time we visited Uruguay, we actually skipped the capital and went straight for the beaches. 

Being based in Buenos Aires, Montevideo is actually a trip that can be easily made for us. With my brother in town, he asked us to visit, so decided this time to actually visit Montevideo, and check out what the capital city has to offer.

After spending a weekend, we've gathered all the info to answer any questions you may have about visiting like "what is Montevideo, Uruguay known for?", "is Montevideo cheaper than Buenos Aires", and most importantly, "is there a lot to do in Montevideo. Let's find out!

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Where is Montevideo Located?

Montevideo is situated along the southern coast of Uruguay, and is centrally located. The country of Uruguay borders Argentina to its west, and Brazil to its north east, on the east coast of South America.

where is Montevideo

Montevideo is located on the southern coast of Uruguay.

How to Get to Montevideo

If you're wondering how to get to Montevideo, there are actually a number of different ways to choose from. You can either fly, take a ferry from Buenos Aires, or take a bus from other locations in Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, or Brazil.

Can You Fly Direct to Uruguay?

Montevideo does have an airport, and as the country is super small, it only has flights from International cities. While it may not serve as many locations as neighboring big cities like Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo, it does in fact have quite a few direct flights.

Cities that fly direct to Montevideo include Asuncion, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Campinas, Gran Canaria, Iguazu (Foz do Iguazu), Lima, Madrid, Miami, Panama City, Porto Alegre, Santiago, and Sao Paulo.

How to Get From Montevideo Airport to the City Center

The city center is just 15 miles from the Montevideo airport, and can be reached by bus, taxi, or Uber. The bus is 65 UYU, and takes around 45-50 minutes, while taxi and Uber rides are 35-40 minutes. Taxis run on a meter, and usually are around 1,800 pesos, while Ubers vary more in price, but we found to be normally around 1,300 pesos.

Ferries from Buenos Aires to Montevideo

If you are coming from Buenos Aires, you can either fly or more simply hop on the ferry. There are two ferries that you can choose from, with the companies Colonia Express, and Buque Bus.

How long is the Ferry ride from Buenos Aires to Montevideo?

How long the ferry ride is from Buenos Aires to Montevideo decides on the ticket you decide to buy. The first option is to take a direct sailing which is 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the other is a ferry to Colonia and then a bus to Montevideo from there.

The ticket stopping in Colonia is the cheaper option, but ends up being 4-5 hours.

Buque Bus has both routes from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, and Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento, while Colonia Express only serves Buenos Aires to Colonia, and from there you can get a bus from the local station.

ferry to Montevideo from Buenos Aires

Montevideo is just a short ferry ride away from Buenos Aires.

Ferries to Colonia with Colonia Express

Colonia Express goes from Avenida Elvira Rawson De Dellipiane 155 in Buenos Aires direct to Colonia. This company only provides this direct route, and has sailings at 8:30, 10:30, 12:50, 6:30 pm, and 8:00 pm most days. The ride is an hour and 15 minutes, and ticket prices range from 8,500- 21,000 Argentinian pesos for economic, 9,200- 22,800 for express, and 10- 24,000 pesos for "classic" tickets.

The only difference between these tickets is the ability to change your ticket, or to get a refund in case you miss the ferry. Prices of tickets depend on time and date that you are traveling, and many run out, so we highly recommend booking in advance for the cheapest rates.

Ferries to Colonia with Buque Bus

The ferries of Buque Bus run from Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires to both Colonia, and Montevideo. The ride to Colonia is an hour and 15 minutes, while the ride to Montevideo is about 2 1/2 hours. 

Direct sailings to Montevideo go daily at 8:15 am, 9:30 am, 12:15 pm, 6:45 pm, and 8:15 pm. (Not every sailing goes out at all time slots each day. Make sure to check online and book your tickets in advance). Tickets range from 11-19,000 pesos, and there is also a first class option. We actually really recommend bumping up to first class, as for only $5 USD we got a private air-conditioned room, champagne, and priority getting off the ferry once we arrived.

first class Montevideo to Buenos Aires

First class is definitely worth the upgrade.

The Different Ferry Rides from Buenos Aires to Uruguay

The ride is pretty smooth, so you won't need to worry about getting sea sick. Colonia Express is a smaller vessel than Buque Bus, but has both indoor and outdoor seating. While Buque Bus is a much larger vessel, and has a cafe, shops, and many different areas (kind of like a tiny cruise ship).

How to Go from Colonia del Sacramento to Montevideo

Colonia and Montevideo are an easy connection by bus, with regular rides going pretty much every half hour. If you sail into Colonia, the bus station is just a short walk from the ferry station. There are two different companies that run this route, and both charge 500 Uruguayan pesos each way (around $12 USD).

Below you can see the two different companies' timetables:

timetables for Colonia and Montevideo
timetables for Colonia and Montevideo

Other Buses to Montevideo

Finally, Montevideo has a large bus terminal, and has plenty of buses both domestic and international that are connected there.

Here are a couple popular routes that you can book:

bus terminal in Montevideo
bus terminal Montevideo

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Entry Requirements for Uruguay

Before taking the ferry over to Montevideo, Uruguay, you'll need to keep in mind the requirements for entering the country.

Visa Entry Requirements for Uruguay

In order to enter Uruguay via ferry, you must bring your passport, as you'll have to go through customs before you get on the ferry. Because of this, they recommend you to arrive at least an hour before the departure time, since lines for customs can vary greatly. 

On our way out of Buenos Aires, it took just a few minutes, while on our way back the lines were super long in Uruguay. This will of course depend on the time and day of the week that you decide to sail. We suggest allowing yourself a bit more time if you are traveling during the weekends.

Citizens from Argentina and Brazil don't need their passport, but can simply bring their national ID card.

Covid Entry Requirements for Uruguay

Uruguay has now dropped all requirements when it comes to Covid-19. You do not need to be vaccinated, or to bring a negative Covid test result with you.

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Local Adjustments

Whenever traveling somewhere new there are certain things that may be different than where you are coming from. These are what we like to call "local adjustments". Here are a few of them to keep in mind while traveling to Montevideo, Uruguay.

Language in Uruguay

The official language spoken in Uruguay is Spanish.

Is Uruguayan Spanish Different?

Just like in Argentina, the accent of Uruguay is quite particular, and can be a little difficult to understand for those that don't speak Spanish as their first language.

One of the most notable characteristics of Spanish in Uruguay is the sound "sh" which is used in place of the y sound. For example, the word beach in Spanish is "playa", but the pronunciation in Uruguay and Argentina would be "pla-sha".

There are a good amount of people in Montevideo that do speak English, but it definitely helps to try and pick up the basics before visiting.

What is the Currency of Uruguay?

The currency used in Uruguay is the Uruguayan peso. Currently (March 2023) the exchange rate is about 40 Uruguayan pesos for every 1 USD or Euro.

Is Uruguay Cheaper Than Buenos Aires?

If you are coming from Buenos Aires, you will notice that things are much more expensive in Montevideo. Meals range around 400-1,000 Uruguayan pesos, taxi rides are around 400-800, and budget hotels range from $40-100 USD/night.

Most things in Uruguay can be paid with credit card, but we definitely suggest taking out some local currency for small souvenirs, transportation, and tipping.

Outlets: What Plug Adapter Do I Need for Uruguay?

Uruguay's outlets are the same as Brazil, and they serve plug types C, F, & L (also what you would find in Europe). Uruguay operates on a 220V supply voltage and 50Hz.

Does Uruguay Have Fresh Water?

The tap water throughout Uruguay is potable, and perfectly safe to drink. We suggest getting an insulated water bottle to refill, as it can hold the temperature in the hot temperatures of Montevideo.

Tipping Culture: How Much Do You Tip in Montevideo?

If you're wondering how much to tip in Montevideo, the standard is about 10%. Many restaurants in Montevideo actually include the service charge, so make sure to check your bill to see if it's been included or not. In addition, many places will have a "cover charge" which is simply an extra fee for sitting at the table which should include something like bread. This is definitely something worth asking beforehand, so you don't get hit with a big fee without knowing.

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Is There a Lot to Do in Montevideo? How to Spend Your Time in Uruguay's Capital

Now that you know all the basics for visiting Uruguay, you're probably wondering- is there a lot to do in Montevideo? Well, let's dive in to all of the best things to do in the Uruguayan capital.

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Things to Do in Montevideo #1: Take a Free Walking Tour

One of the first things we like to do when visiting a new city is to take a free walking tour. When we planned to go to Montevideo for the weekend, we were wondering- is there a to do in Montevideo?". Well, after doing this tour we learned about so many things to do in Montevideo that were not originally on our list.

Free walking tours are done with locals, so it's a great way to learn about the history, meet new people, and discover hidden gems that you wouldn't normally know about simply by searching online. 

free walking tour, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
free walking tour, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
free walking tour, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
free walking tour, is there a lot to do in Montevideo

Free Walking Tours allow you to see the best spots in the city, and get advice from locals.

Each day there are free walking tours that start in Plaza de Independencia at 10 am and at 1:30 pm. They are typically two hours, and take you to some of the highlights in the city center to the old town. They work on tips, so make sure to bring some cash to tip your guide at the end.

Visiting on a day trip and don't have tie to do the free walking tour? Or maybe you're looking for your own private tour. Well, here are a few options that we found:

Things to Do in Montevideo #2: Explore the Old Town

The old town is where you will find the majority of the top attractions in Montevideo. The free walking tour will take you to quite a few of them. However, if you want to go on your own, here are the top things to see in Montevideo.

  • Plaza de Independencia: the most important square in the city, this is where the city center and the old town meet.
Plaza de Independencia, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
Plaza de Independencia, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
Plaza de Independencia, is there a lot to do in Montevideo

Plaza de Independencia is the largest square in the city.

  • Palacio Salva: an iconic building located in Plaza de Independencia 
Palacio Salva, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
Palacio Salva, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
  • Gateway of the Citadel: one of the few remaining structures of the old wall surrounding the city
The gateway of Montevideo, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
  • Mausoleo al General José Gervasio Artigas: A monument in Plaza de Independencia dedicated to the national hero José Artigas, with his body buried in a room underneath
mausoleum montevideo, is there a to to do in Montevideo
mausoleum montevideo, is there a to to do in Montevideo
  • Plaza de la Diversidad Sexual: A square dedicated to sexual equality and rights of all different sexual preferences
Plaza de la Diversidad Sexual, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
Plaza de la Diversidad Sexual, is there a lot to do in Montevideo

This square is a celebration of all types of love.

  • Plaza de la Constitution: the oldest city square in Montevideo
Plaza de la Constitucion, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
  • Teatro Solis: the most renowned theater in Uruguay
Teatro Solis, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
Teatro Solis, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
  • Cabildo: what was once a government building, and is used today as a museum
Cabildo, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
  • Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral: the main Roman Catholic Church of Montevideo
Montevideo Cathedral, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
  • Plaza Zabala: a square that was left as a wasteland for 12 years when the old fort was demolished
Zabalo square, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
Zabalo square, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
  • Palacio Taranco: an old palace that is now an art museum
Palacio Taranco, is there a lot to do in Montevideo

Things to Do in Montevideo #3: Take a Tour of Palacio Salva

Palacio Salva is actually where we stayed when we went to Montevideo! The building is stunning, and offers hourly tours to visit the top, where you can also get some of the best views of the city center of Montevideo.

sunset from Palacio Salva, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
sunset from Palacio Salva, is there a lot to do in Montevideo
views from Palacio Salva, is there a lot to do in Montevideo

Palacio Salva has great views at the top.

Things to Do in Montevideo #4: Visit Mercado de Las Pulgas

Looking for some souvenirs or a bite to eat? Mercado de las Pulgas is conveniently located in the old town, and is a great place to have some lunch and do some shopping. It's very typical to get a big asado (barbecue) there, and you can also enjoy the local musicians playing at your table side.