GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
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Uruguay's principal airport, Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco (MVD), is 24 km (15 mi) east of Montevideo. A gleaming new terminal is under construction at this writing and scheduled to open in 2009. It will replace the present crowded and, quite fankly, dreary facility, A taxi to downtown costs about 550 pesos; plan on 620 pesos to reach the Ciudad Vieja. A city bus (marked "Ciudadela") is cheap—about 26 pesos—but the drawback is that it takes an hour to reach downtown.
Buquebus operates hydrofoil service between Buenos Aires and the ports at Montevideo and Colonia. The trip takes less than three hours to Montevideo and less than four hours to Colonia. A round-trip ticket between Buenos Aires and Montevideo costs about 3,000 pesos. A package that includes a round-trip ticket between Buenos Aires and Colonia and a shuttle bus to or from Montevideo costs about 2,000 pesos.
Montevideo's public buses are a great alternative to taxis, which can be difficult to find during peak hours. Buses crisscross the entire city 24 hours a day. You don't need exact change, and the price for any trip within Montevideo is only 13 pesos.
Colonia is serviced by several regional bus lines, including Cot and TURIL. The three-hour ride costs less than 400 pesos.
Because La Rambla, Montevideo's riverside thoroughfare, extends for dozens of miles, driving is a good way to see the city. Roads are well maintained and drivers obey the traffic laws—a rarity in South America. It's easy to rent a car, both downtown and at the airport. In Montevideo you can rent from several major international companies, including Avis, Budget, and Dollar, and from smaller companies such as Inter Car and Multicar.
All cabs have meters that count fichas, or pulses, each 1/10 km (1/20 mi). When you arrive at your destination, the driver will take out an official chart that calculates the fare from the number of pulses elapsed. You can hail taxis on the street with ease, or call one to pick you up at your hotel. A ride to the airport from the Old City costs about 500 pesos.
Stories abound about the origin of Montevideo's unusual name. The generally accepted account holds that Magellan, traveling along the coast from Brazil in 1520, counted off six hills from the Brazilian border and thus named the city Monte (mountain) vi (roman numeral six) de (from) eo (este a oeste, or east to west).