Monthly Archives: July 2012

The (Impossible) Search for Change

The ferry to Uruguay was a quite enjoyable ride. You may ask if I knew I wanted to start my journey in Uruguay, why didn’t I fly into Montevideo?

Here’s why. I can sleep well on flights, and there are no direct flights to Montevideo from New York. I chose to fly into Buenos Aires on a direct flight and start in Colonia. I highly suggest this option as the ferry was quite nice as was the (nearly) uninterrupted sleep.

I also suggest getting small change prior to boarding so you can get something to eat or drink on the ride over because…

Once aboard the boat to Colonia, all I wanted was an apple juice. Remember, I had basically just taken an overnight flight, raced to the ferry and finally collapsed in my seat.

Back at the airport I had been so focused on getting Argentine Pesos for the taxi that I never thought to break them into smaller bills.

I also knew I was going to Uruguay so there would be no need for Argentine Pesos until I returned sometime the following week. So I had taken out only what I knew that I needed for the taxi fare. I was left with only 100 Argentine pesos, which is about $25USD.

On board, while the concession stand took both Argentine and Uruguayan Pesos, I couldn’t get change of 100 Argentine Pesos for such a small purchase. I even offered to add a bag of chips and a banana (my standard travel fare), still no luck.

The man at the register told me to check in with the duty-free shop on board to see if they could change my bill.

I walked into the shop, which had two floors, and it was like Black Friday in there.

How much chocolate, perfume and alcohol do people need?

As soon as the announcement had come on that duty-free was open, people rushed to the doors and I didn’t think much of it. Until I had to go in and try to change money.

I could hardly get to the register because of the number of people jammed between myself and the register, I was nauseated by the overdose of perfume in the air and I was overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to shop. I wish I took photos because I had to laugh. It was crazy in there!

I quickly gave up on mission: apple juice and went back to my seat to enjoy the view of my river crossing from Argentina into Uruguay.

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Would I miss the boat?

I had my heart set on making the earlier ferry which in turn made me feel like I was in an episode of The Amazing Race when teams realize they have a bad taxi. I certainly didn’t have a million dollars on the line but I felt like I had enough time to realistically get to the Port.

So what if I missed the boat, literally. The alternative wasn’t all that bad. I could park myself at a cafe, have lunch and people watch for the better part of the afternoon. Though I was keen to get to Uruguay in the afternoon, especially since I still didn’t know where I was going to sleep that night.

After driving in circles and asking some construction workers, the taxi driver went to the front of the terminal and told me to get out.

When we finally made it to the port, even I knew where I was! I had eaten lunch there with the boyfriend, A and C last year. But what made me nervous was that the signage at the Port said BuqueBus. Everywhere.

I trusted the taxi driver. We said goodbye and I had thirty minutes to figure everything out, which was great. The ticket asks you to arrive ninety minutes ahead of the departure time to allow for customs and immigration at the terminal. Plus, I still had to see about changing my ticket.

I entered the BuqueBus terminal looking for the SeaCat ticket counter. No signage anywhere for SeaCat. Finally, I asked someone who had heard of SeaCat and then he told me to get into the BuqueBus line. Now I was utterly confused.

So into the line I went. When I made it to the front, I was informed to go to a different counter to change my ticket. Then I had to go back to the original line to check in. None of these lines are labeled for their particular purpose, nor does any signage say SeaCat, further confusing me, but I went along with it.

After a successful check in, I was directed to customs and immigration, where I was stamped out of Argentina by one man, who handed my passport to the lady sitting next to him, who stamped me into Uruguay. Very quick and very efficient. Before embarking, I was asked for my passport and ticket one last time. That’s right. I made it! I was on the 12.30pm BuqueBus to Colonia! I would arrive into Uruguay in one hour!

Note: It was explained to me later, in Spanish, and this is what I think I understand.

There are several operators selling tickets for the ride across the Rio de la Plata. Each company, including SeaCat, operates their own website and each has their own logo. And their own prices too. Yet they are selling the same exact service on a BuqueBus route.