Uruguay Trip Report

Old Mar 9th, 2008, 04:24 PM
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Uruguay Trip Report

Uruguay Trip Report Driving the Coast:

March í08. I am an American. My husband and I traveled the coast of Uruguay in a rental car. We both like luxury or at least very clean accommodations but were once backpackers. Unfortunately we didnít have good weather (rain and clouds) but we ended up having a great time!

Misc Info:
-Beaches, beaches and more wonderful beaches!
-Most people especially in the hotels speak English
-Expect a ďcoverĒ or charge for the privilege of sitting at your table in most restaurants they run from a couple of dollars to $9 was our largest.
-ATM: we couldnít find one in the country that would take our bank card. Credit cards should be fine.
-Driving the country is a pleasure. Well marked signs, good paved roads and not many cars. (a few tolls about 36 pesos)
-If you plan to drive, no need to buy a map. The free one you can get from the tourist office named ďRutas de la CostaĒ was excellent for the costal areas.
-Parking on the street where a person/kid parks you, tip should be at least 10 Pesos. (u$s .50) when you leave.
-Punta Del Este has a great number system on the street lights. A local map matches the numbers, which makes it easier to find places and streets.
-Across the street from the Punta bus station is an Avis. The bus station is also walking distance to the Playa Brava Beach , with the hand, if you are going for the day.
-Gifts, buy them before you leave. Do Not expect to buy any local gifts or anything that says Uruguay from the airport. The only store is an exclusive Duty Free (the same one you walk thru upon arriving in the airport)
-20 pesos = $1 for this report and pp = Per person
-All the hotels we stayed in included breakfast and a computer with free internet in the lobby.
-We went at the end of the summer season so rates were lower then peak season which I am told is Jan and Feb.

Montevideo Ė Colonia
Arrived and exchanged USD for Pesos in the airport. For personal reasons we decided to go directly to Colonia. We walked outside and caught the local bus for 20 pesos a piece. The bus to Montevideo stops at the Tres Cruzes Bus station. It took about 45 minutes. (hindsight a taxi would have been about $12 and taken about 15 minutes) Direct Bus tickets to Colonia were $8pp. There are many companies and busses seem to leave every few hours. Trip took about 3 hours. We checked into the Kempinski Hotel and as soon as we arrived I was disappointed. The clerks checking us in were indifferent, the hotel didnít feel clean too many flies on the front desk and once we saw the room for a whooping $150 a night I wished I went with my gut. Not to mention it is a half hour walk to the old city. We went with my gut the next morning, ah the Hotel Plaza Mayor in the center of the old city. The guy at reception when we inquired about a room was wonderful and when we checked in, Anna at the front desk could not have been nicer! The location is perfect and the hotel is so quaint. No pool but a beautiful garden with a fountain where you can sit read and relax. Prices of rooms were from $85-$150.

Colonia: You can see all the sites of the old city in a day but the museums had alternative days that they were opened. I think it was one museum price that permitted entry into two others. You donít need a guide unless you want more in-depth information on the sights. Itís a wonderful place to just relax and walk around. The cost to the bus station was $3. For $8pp we head to,

Montevideo: I love this city. The architecture is amazing yet there are many dilapidating buildings. I checked into a hotel I stayed at 10 years ago. Hotel Plaza Fuerte. This hotel is in the old city a block from the old city gate. I was expecting it to be noisy, especially on the weekend when the street is full of people, but it was fine. This is an old building with an old elevator where you have to shut the gate then the doors, no lights on the buttons. We upgraded our room to one for $115. This was perfect especially on rainy days. It had a nice living-room with a TV downstairs and upstairs was the bedroom and bathroom. On the same street is a restaurant I believe it was called Baracay, itís directly across the street from the theater. Nothing fancy, a local hang out and they have great steak sandwiches. Make sure you ask where the 2 local art markets are. You can walk there from the hotel and this would be the best place to buy gifts. Everything is made by local artists, from magnets to beautiful handmade art. Pick up a map with a local walking tour at the information office. You can get lost in this city for days. Thereís museums, the port food market, discos and great restaurants.

We rented a car from Europcar. 6 days was $275. For us it was worth it. We paid extra to pick the car up in town on a Sunday when the city office was closed. But no one ever showed up. When I told the airport location about the arrangement they laughed and never heard of such a thing, but it was an option on line. Thankfully the agent at the airport was so kind and helpful my anger faded. The cost to the airport was $15. Of course you can find the counter at arrivals!

Punta Del Diablo: It took us about 3.5 hours to drive straight there form Montevideoís Airport on Route 9. Since we couldnít find much on line we stayed at the Hostel El Diablo Tranquillo. Again the girl at the front desk was a sweetheart. This seemed like the perfect place for backpackers but those days are over for us. We paid $85 for a private room. I think that was very expensive for the area and the amenities, or lack of them. We had a private bath, bring your own soap, a large wonderful shared balcony, a bed and a fireplace, which I am not sure if it works. It was very basic but fine. Unfortunately for us the weather was awful. It was cold and rainy. But what an amazing town!! Dunes, rocky point, surfers to watch, It is so beautiful. A great beach, a great feel, small but with so much character. There were many ocean front cabanas in all different price ranges available for rent. Bring a flashlight! At night it is pretty dark walking the dirt roads in the town. We decided to have dinner at the bar/restaurant with the same owners of the hostel. It was cold and dark out and this was close. Not to mention the restaurant has a great view, it is ocean front on the beach. Service wasnít great but the food made up for that. I had a stuffed baked fish, my husband had the local sandwich a Chivito , steak, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, olives, fried egg, mayonnaise with fries. We had a 1 liter beer and 2 rum and cokes for $30.

We wanted to drive directly to Cabo Polonio but because of the weather we just drove route 10 stopping at most beach towns on our way to Punta del Este. We went to the tourist office to help with finding a hotel. We ended up staying at a place called Hotel Barradas. We liked it so much we kept extending our stay. The rates a regular room at $95 and a suite with a large nice sitting room for $150. The breakfast offered here was worth the room! The croissants were among the best I ever had, they also provided eggs, meat, cereal, yogurt, fruit, pastries and any juice you could want. It is not a very big place yet there is a garden with 2 pools surrounded by large lounge chairs. 1 pool is the Ďthermal poolĒ heated. There is a garage for parking. Barradas is located in a residential area. (P 9 if you have one of those maps I mentioned above) The beach on the river is about 3 blocks away. This is a quiet beach with no chair or sports rentals. You have to drive to the main drag in Punta but parking was never a problem and it is only a few minutes away. The mall is a decent walk away as is one of my favorite restaurants El Plenque (they own the restaurant of the same name in the Montevideo port market too) It is located at Av. Roosevelt Parada 6. It is a typical Uruguay bar-b-que restaurant but they also have seafood and pasta. It is not cheap but we ate there twice the food, service and atmosphere was as good as any upscale restaurant that I have been to in the states. Rack of Lamb, Large Filet, pitcher of Sangria, bottle of gassless water, baked potato was $70.
We left Punta for Piriapolis but when we didnít find a place we wanted to stay there we returned and checked into Hotel Serena. The sun was finally out so that is why we decided on this hotel. It is the only one, I believe, directly on the beach in Punta. We looked at all the rooms before we decided on the lateral. This was one with a sideview of the beach and the city. $190. To me it was just as good as the $230 direct ocean view and the $260 suite which was the only one with a private ocean front balcony. The pool / Beach is the reason to stay here. (It has a spa too.) This hotel is located as you enter Punta from the west. It is a short drive to the downtown area. It reminded me of a chic Miami Beach hotel. Beds on the beach, chairs with thick mats. A helpful pool attendant. A quiet place to soak up the sun. Again the beach goes on as far as the eye can see. Beware the restaurant is very very expensive. 2 individual pizzas, 3 cokes $50. Nine dollars for the table charge, this is just for the privilege to sit down. We found a very good tapas restaurant in town. It is down the street from Pizza El Mundo (on Gorlero) but the side street toward the river. It was called something like BVD, 3 initials. Thereís a wooden deck outside and from the street it looks like a wine store. 8 meat tapas were $15. Larger pitcher of Sangria was $12. Service was wonderful as was the food.

Daytrips From Punta del Este:

Punta Ballena: Just west as you are going out of Punta there is a point with beautiful views of the city and miles of beaches.

Cabo Polonio about 1.5 hour drive East from Punta. You will see the parking right on route 10. El Safari del Cabo is one of a few outfitters that will take you to cabo. They have parking right there off the highway. This town is built on dunes, there are no roads so you canít drive, you have to take a 4 x 4 truck to get to the beach. Roundtrip is about $6pp (120 peso) Keep your return ticket to board on your way back. Itís about a 15 -20 minute drive over the sand dunes and along the beach. This place is spectacular. There are shacks or ďcabanasĒ scattered around the dunes. The beach is endless, isolated and everywhere. It is worth the trip. If the weather was nicer I think it would have been worth the rustic setting to stay and see the stars. I did locate one hotel it was $95 a night for a basic, small oceanfront room. Even at that price do NOT expect luxury of the room but the scenery makes up for what the room may lack. The only restaurant open was the one attached to this hotel. It is the only concrete structure located on the water, you cant miss it. The restaurant we ate in is Don Trigo. Wonderful fresh fish. We had the fish plate, meat plate, 2 cokes, 1 bottle water for $31. Table charge $2. You can always bring a picnic and find a secluded dune or part of the beach to eat lunch. Donít forget to bring a towel, sunscreen and a bathing suit.

Jose Ignacio: The locals say this is Punta before the building boom. I wanted to stay here but we couldnít find a hotel. I was told that there is one but we didnít see it. Here renting houses seems to be the way to go. It is a quaint laid back upscale community. There is a restaurant on the beach and others in the small town. Houses are amazing and there are some stores for shopping.

Pirapolis: 20 minutes west of Punta. Another beach community with an old time feel. My husband said it reminded him of Asbury Park in the winter. There is a nice long path, malecon, where you can walk along the beach. Behind the port thereís a chair lift that will take you up to the top of San Antonio Hill. On top you will find a birdís eye view and a restaurant. If you go north on route 37 you will find an ecological area. Here you can hike Pan De Azucar, visit a zoo or follow the walking paths. (this is the mountain with the cross on top that you may have seen while driving to punta)
We decided not to stay here but we looked at the only 4 star hotel before leaving. Argentino Hotel talk about stepping back into the 1940ís. Here you will feel as if you did some time travel. We saw the most expensive room, I think it was $80 a night or maybe less. But it was drab and depressing. The hallways are enormous. It is worth walking around but staying there is a personal decision. One we decided against. The pool did look nice. There are other 3 star hotels in town.
kjanes is offline  
Old Mar 9th, 2008, 07:05 PM
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Great report. Lots of information, one questiion are all quoted prices in US dollars?
Graziella5b is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:54 AM
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Yes it is in US Dollars
kjanes is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2008, 06:30 PM
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Very enjoyable report. Thank you. Not too much written on Urugay.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 07:43 PM
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Terrific report. As mentioned, there really isn't that much posted on Uruguay. Your report will help fill in that gap. Thanks.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 07:45 PM
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thank u 4 ur interesting report. hope to get to uruguay the next time we r in Bs As
AndrewDavid is offline  
Old Mar 11th, 2008, 07:55 AM
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It is nice to see that others have enjoyed Uruguay as much as we did this past November. We fell in love wiht this country and the people in it.

We spent a total of 5 nights, 2 in Colonia, one in Montevideo and 2 in Punta del Diablo.

We also rented a car and drovethe route that hugs the coast. Be forewarned that gas is VERY expensive! I think we figured it was $6 USD per gallon. The tolls were also expensive at a little over $3 for each toll booth and I think there were 5 or 6 between Colonia and Punta del Diablo. Our cost per day with unlimited miles was $50 USD.

As for Colonia, it is a very picturesque town with many great little restaurants with outdoor seating. We found the food to be very good in this town but it wasn't inexpensive. I recommend walking around right before sunset and taking your photos when the light is at its best. At sunset make sure you are near the water. I have some photos of the sunset that looks like the sun is setting on the sun!

We headed out of Colonia and drove toward Montevideo. We found that the road on this stretch was not the best. I would be driving at 65 mph and all of a sudden we would hit MAJOR bumps and cracks in the road! Quite a surprise on a major highway.

We live in Oregon and there are many pastures with cows. We found it interesting to see cows in fields with many palm trees.

Montevideo is a fairly large city. There are about 3 1/2 million people in Uruguay and almost half of them live in Montevideo. We spent the night with non English speaking parents of friends of our in Portland and it was a real treat! They took us on a night driving tour of the city and we got out and walked a bit in the old town but they quickly ushered us into the car as the crime rate is high after dark. They told us that bvery few Uruguayans walk around town after 10 pm.

We drove straight to Punta del Diablo with a couple of stops along the way to look at the views over the ocean.

Ahhhh... Punta del Diablo! What can I say! This little town stole my heart away. I was even inquiring about land prices by the time we left. This town is a little fishing village with little to do but walk on the beach, watch the ocean, eat empanadas from a little stand near the beach and drink cold beer.

We rented a little cabin at the very far north end of town. Rustic but lovely set high on a dune (don't dunes shift?!) with hot running water and a big deck for reading and drinking in the scenery.

We were there during low season so there wasn't much going on. We did, however, meet some of the most wonderful people in this town. It was a great place to chill out after almost a month in Argentina.

From Punta del Diablo we drove straight back to Colonia to spend our last night. Some say that Colonia is only good for an overnight or a day trip at best. For us, two nights was great as we were able to try several restaurants and really get a good feel for the town. There isn't much to do but relax, which we enjoyed.

Here is a link to my Uruguay photos. I haven't labeled them all but it will give you an idea of how beautiful this country is!



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Old Oct 13th, 2008, 08:26 PM
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Looks like we will be following your footsteps in early December for 3 weeks..just prior to high season kicking in. We are just a little hung up selecting a hotel in Montevideo. What can you tell us about neighborhoods? We're looking for upscale, residential,an aparthotel could work as well. In BA we stayed in Ricoleta and loved it. Whatever recommendations you could offer would be appreciated. Had a chuckle on your car rental experience, we will file that bit of info. Many thanks!
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Old Oct 14th, 2008, 11:04 AM
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bookmarking - thank you
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Old Jan 22nd, 2009, 10:02 AM
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Glad you liked Montevideo. It's oddly one of my favourite cities in the world and it tends to either be ignored or get a bad press. Maybe because it's so untouristy it feels friendlier and less discovered than so many other capitals and the architecture is, as you say, superb. I was also surprised to find so many upscale shopping areas in the wealthier suburbs as well as some great restaurants in the centre.
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 06:05 AM
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Great report on Uruguay. It's a wonderful, unknown country. We moved here in May 2009 and haven't looked back. I agree there isn't a lot of information online about Uruguay. If you're interested, you should read our website, blog and forum about Uruguay: http://www.exploringuruguay.com
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 11:05 AM
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Thanks Chrystal9. We're going to spend a few nights in Uruguay in March, and are really looking forward to it. I just looked at your blog. I haven't been able to find a lot of information, so really appreciate it.
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 12:01 PM
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I was pleasantly surprised to find such a detailed report on a place that is off the traveler's radar.
I hope to visit Uruguay and Brazil next year. I'm wondering about the weather in September. I know the seasons are reversed and am hoping it won't be too cool.
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Old Dec 31st, 2011, 02:38 AM
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just back from P unta del Este - dec 2011- you shall be surpri sed Punta Del Este is in the radar of many Europeans now not to mention more and more Brazilians. argentineans are always there.
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