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Trip Report Punta Tips- trip report

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We spent 4 nights in Punta with 2 young kids and I thought I would post on a few things I couldn't find online.

We flew Pluna and it really was horrible. You are charged for any checked bag $20 per bag- it says on the site if you web check in it will onlly be $10 but it doesn't work. Pack light as I think they charge more for bags over 25 kg. Everyone had carryons and tiny bags. They won't fit in the overhead if they have stuff in the front compartments.

We chose to fly directly into PDP because we thought it would be easier and worth the extra money. If we realized there would be such delays- we wouldn't have bothered- and either flown into Montevideo or ferry and drove down. Our flight on the way out was an hour or so delayed- on the way home it was 3 hours. Check online before going b//c I'm told it's ALWAYS late. We went to BA for one night and flew out the next morning b/c we thought the transfer of airport would be too much- but if I wasn't traveling w/kids- I would just go through EZE to Montevideo right away. If you book through to there- they did hold the flight when our AA flight was delayed. Make sure you fill out the customs forms for Argentina & Uruguay- leave a little time extra at the airport to do this. I would say get there 1 1/2 hours early to give yourself time. Also- of note- I saw a sign showing that one of the airlines flies direct to Iguaza from Montevideo- great to avoid going back to BA if you plan to go there.

Pack

Airport is teeny- there is an ATM that didn't work with any of our cards and the only place to change money - the computers were down. US dollars are taken everywhere- though exchange rate isn't always as it should be in the taxis- You don't have to bother changing if you don't want to. Taxis are right outside. Casapueblo is less than 10 minutes away, Punta del Este may be about 20 mins.

We stayed at Casapueblo and really enjoyed it. Even if you want to be in town- I highly recommend going for at least a night. Otherwise, make sure you check out the museum at sunset. You can eat at the restaurant at the hotel even if you aren't a guest and the food is very good. Sunset is gorgeous there. Hotel Conrad otherwise seems to be the hotel to stay at. It has a casino- however note that all of the shops & restaurants were probably about a mile down the road- you will need a taxi to get anywhere.

We went to dinner one night at Lo de Tere. The food was ok- nothing special. I would try elsewhere. The seafood risotto wasn't great and wasn't real risotto- just rice. Mi amigo el vasco (squid) was better, but again, nothing wonderful. The sangria was good as well. We had a chocolate brownie type dessert that was dry. It was a bit of a tourist trap- with a photographer coming around.

The Punta airport is small so you don't have to be there 2 hours in advance even though it's international- a little over an hour should be fine. There was an expensive airport tax- I believe it was $31 US per person. You pay that before going through security.

Enjoy!

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    I found very useful your report for other travelers. I agree with you in several points no.1
    I would stress the point that comes out indirectly from it, that a car is very useful in Punta if not a must.
    LIving in the US and having been born in URuguay I have to tell you the third world is tough, yes¡¡ there are often ATM machines not working and things like that. The airport tax which is charged separatly is also annoying and unfair. However I believe that here in Miami Int Airport is even more at least for international flights. The thing is that it is included and thus does not hurt as much. The tax is not so high flying Bue-Montevideo and vise versa.
    Last month I flew Pluna between Buenos Aires Aeroparque and Montevideo and although they charged for luggage it was in time both ways to the minute and I thought it was good.
    In Pluna ( the Uruguayan airliner) they charge $10 instead of $20 for suitcases if you check on line and if you PRINT your boarding pass. If you do not print no discount but if you print it is ok. May be this is what happened to you. The hotel in Montevideo printed it for us and it did work.
    With all my heart I wish you have had a good time in spite of all. Did you? How was the weather?
    The beauty of Punta however is to enjoy the beaches and for that it has to be Summer or close. I agree that the last time we had dinner( last year at En lo de Tere it was not good,
    way way down from a couple of years earlier).
    I also agree that I would have flown to Montevideo, rent a car there and drive, it is a short drive. Un hour and a half, may be less and then I would have kept the car.
    For those coming from the US, the ticket from the US to Montevideo is almost the same
    money flying American for instance, and no entrance fee in Uruguay.
    I also saw the add that Pluna is flying (when???) between Montevideo and the Iguazu Falls and thought that it would be a very good thing.
    Again thank you for your report and also thank you for going down there.

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    Graziella5B- we did really enjoy our trip! The weather was good for a few days- though breezy and the last day was a bit chilly. It was worth it for us because we were happy it wasn't crowded.

    As to the airport tax- I just wanted to point it out & so people know to go to the booth before going through security. I'm sure the US charges ridiculously higher taxes to non-residents. I know Argentina's is worked into the ticket now.

    I tried to check in online for Pluna several times- but it never worked. When I left Punta- the airport said the site hadn't been working so they were only charging people $10 per bag which was nice.

    Having a car would be nice and give greater flexibility (though someone told me it was very expensive $1600 US for a week). We weren't looking to leave the hotel much so it wasn't worth it for me. Just would have been nice for food, etc.

    I think December is a nice time to be there- knowing that the weather may or may not be be perfect- if you are looking for it to be quiet. I highly recommend it!

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    Thanks for posting. We are heading to Punta and thereabouts and have also booked on Pluna. Hopefully that will work out. Their website was very user friendly and, actually, when I called their reservations call center in BAires with some questions about a one way versus round trip ticket (with a calling card you can get about 8 hours of talk time to BAires for US $5), the agent was very helpful.

    For rental cars I found that prices are all over the map. Indeed, when I called a large US rental agency their first quote was about $1400 per week for an automatic car. My on line checking had found a rate much less. After a few mins of back and forth, and me telling the agent what I was looking at, she found my rate, less than half the first one she quoted, and did better.

    We will be in Jose Ignacio and we are looking forward to quiet, some beach time and, hopefully, good food.

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    Tengohambre- We spoke to someone in BA to book our ticket b/c we tried using 5 different credit cards and none would go through. We were told they were having problems that day. (Obviously we don't have luck with that). There also is a number in Miami that you can leave a msg. I did get a call back a day later if you aren't in a rush. Everyone I spoke to at the airport on the way back to BA said their flight was delayed. DEFINITELY, check before you leave so you aren't stuck at the airport. Our flight was mainly BA businessmen and they all came several hours later. They said the flights are almost never on time. With delays in the hours- I'm sure your hotel can keep track for you.

    That's great about the rental car. It pays to do your research. If you have a car- one place you may want to check out a sculpture museum garden I heard was beautiful- "El Jardin de las Esculturas", of Pablo Atchugarry, a world wide well known uruguaian and famous artist (sculptor) he has the same space at Lecco, close to Milan, Italy, but he comes to Uruguay, every summer from december to april to work with great peaces of marble of Carrara, brought of course from Italy, and chosen by himself. www.pabloatchugarry.com Ruta 104, kms. 4,5 (half an hour from Punta del Este, by car)

    As to restaurants- here's a list I compiled from a NY Times article and experts on this board and tripadvisor. I did a bit of research but didn't make it to any of them. Hopefully they can give you a good starting point. The comments on them aren't mine- sorry if they are a bit of a jumble. I really do really recommend Casapueblo as well for dinner/drinks.

    Breakfast- La Barra's most popular bakery, Medialunas Calentitas, before it closed for lunch, famous sticky-sweet croissants and a cortado (espresso with a little milk) for 95 pesos

    Lunch
    * La Huella in Jose Ignacio. This is the one "absolute must" of any trip. They take reservations for 1:30 and 3:30, or you can just go and wait. It's right on the beach. It's world famous.
    * Chiviteria Marcelo- in the peninsula's port, a restaurant with plastic tables that specializes in chivitos,To call a chivito a cheese steak may be accurate, but it misses the point. Chivitos may be grilled slices of juicy beef tenderloin on a roll, but really they're delivery devices for toppings: mozzarella, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, hot peppers, sweet peppers, olives, pickles and several different blends of mayonnaise, Fresh ingredients are key, but just as important are the architectural talents of its chef. And at the Chivitería Marcos, we found an exceptional chef-engineer, who assembled our chivitos with effortless skill. Not a drop of juice dripped down my arm as I gorged myself with a delight enhanced by frugality — with French fries and a large Budweiser, $13.60

    DINNER- MAKE RESERVATIONS:

    * The best restaurants in Punta itself are Bungalow Suizo (may be too heavy food for summer), Andre Operated by a father and son, both of whom answer to Andrés, this small restaurant on the Rambla Artigas, the oceanside promenade, offers fine dining at moderate prices. Most of the tables are outdoors under a canopy, so you can appreciate the excellent service while also enjoying the sea breeze. The fish Andrés (served in a white wine and tomato sauce), spinach or cheese soufflés, and grilled meats are exquisite., Virazon (good view- seafood), and Beefsteak (the latter two extra casual),
    * If price is not an issue, consider La Bourgogne. This is one of the most expensive restaurants not just in Punta del Este, but anywhere short of Michelin-starred places in France. It is also, usually, excellent, an evening to remember always. It is located in a converted home in a residential part of Punta del Este, a couple of miles inland from the peninsula. Many tables are outside, under the abundant flowers and flowering trees, and the setting is heavenly on a nice evening. It is authentically French down to the last detail. The owner/chef is a French fellow who also owns restaurants by the same name in the Alvear Palace Hotel in BA and in Mendoza. Dinner, wine, dessert and coffee here can run close to U$S 200 per person- shaded terra-cotta terrace gives way to a breezeway with arched windows. This opens onto a large split-level dining room with antique sideboards. The food, served by impeccably clad waiters who go about their business with cordial authority, is prepared with only the finest and freshest of ingredients; the breads are baked on the premises (an adjoining bakery sells them by the loaf), and the herbs and berries are grown in the backyard garden. The desserts are sublime—the sampler to try them all.
    * Finally, if you want really good fish or other seafood at very reasonable prices, and want to eat where the Argentineans who come every year eat, there are two options. First, Virazon, the most popular restaurant in Punta year after year, always full, always satisfying, just plain good food at good prices. And the other is El Pobre Marinero, two blocks into the peninsula from the port. This restaurant is classic seaside, very basic, maritime decoration. It is local in every respect. Excellent seafood, very inexpensive. Do not confuse it with El Viejo Marinero, which is nearby, much more expensive, and not as good.

    * In La Barra: O'Farrell's, Hernan Taiana, and Le Club (great for lunch also, with the best clerico in the area).
    * In Jose Ignacio, other than La Huella (which is also wonderful for dinner), Marismo for dinner only -- it's all outside, under the trees and stars, tables in the sand, etc., and the food is excellent.

    * Close to La Ballena, the restaurant in Art Hotel & Spa Las Cumbres is excellent, and the setting is spectacular (top of the highest hill in the area, 360 degree views for 30 miles. You need a reservation to get past the gate half-way up the hill
    * Cactus y Pescados in Manantiales beach has very nice, ocean views and very good sea food.
    * La Grappa- Uraguatian Tannat wine- gnocci great, good chivito, excellent mixed seafood plate (fried but super light and delicate - and FRESH), eat across the street on patio

    * el Patxi in Maldonado the best Basque restaurant in Punta
    * budget: close to La barra bridge , El pulpito, nice view, terrace , homemade style cook , ideal for lunch time


    Have a great trip!

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    I hope you will have a great time. Great choice Jose Ignacio, it is a charming little place, not cheap though because it is totally IN. Life , you will see is very relaxed and you can spend hours at the beach and have lunch right there. There are several options.
    I am totally at lost with the incredible expensive rates for renting cars. I have the impression that it might be cheaper renting in Montevideo. Have no clue on this subject but I understand that there are some local renters that offer better deals. Most cars are not authomatic like in Europe and this is a luxury that if you could live without would make a big difference in the price.
    I think that with some minutes of practice it should not be very difficult to master a non authomatic car.= But it depends on each person of course.
    They even have a little drawings on the stick to remind you , should you forget.
    Julie , I am glad you had a good time. i also love December and March, less people and providing the weather helps it is much better that Jan and Feb.
    In PUnta there are many sports available to tourist like fishing( easy to rent boats etc), tennis, golf, horse riding etc
    Also all kind of activities like night clubs, etc etc. Have fun.

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    I have seen really cheap car rental rates for small standard transmission cars (no A/C) at Budget - pickup either in Montevideo or Punta del Este. Not sure why it's so cheap, but it's probably just standards that are cheap - automatics will probably be much more expensive.

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    Julie,
    Thank you for posting that information. It is outstanding. Thanks.

    Graziella,
    Yes, I hear that Jose Ignacio is the "in" place but, no doubt if we are there the "in" crowd will not be. We are indeed renting the car in MVD. Yes, it was more expensive than a manual transmission but, if we want to get anywhere easily we will need an automatic.

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    I just checked the Budget website and there is a huge difference between going in January or February as opposed to March. We'll be there in early March, and I found rates of $16 / day (for the cheapest car). In January, it's more like $109 / day. Some dates in February, it seems that there are no cars available. We wouldn't be renting a car if we had to pay that kind of money.

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