First things first. This trip was not on my plate before taking this onsite assignment leg. Of course I always wanted to visit Argentina as it is just a river crossing away from Montevideo. It’s just that we almost lost our hope on getting a visa. It took us more than a year (for Daryl, it’s two years) to finally get one.
On our first attempt to get a tourist visa from the Argentine consulate here in Montevideo, roughly half a year ago, they said no. We were asked to get it from the Philippines instead and that could mean as good as no-go because we don’t have enough time during our fly-backs to apply for one. Until one instance that we were asked to apply for another document that could serve as a temporary ID in Uruguay. To get that, I remember getting an NBI clearance and a consulate-authenticated birth certificate. That gave us a little hope as the Argentine consulate accepts it along with other supporting papers.
Using the temporary ID (others call it cedula), we were asked to obtain a police clearance here in Uruguay. Around two weeks or more ago, we woke up early just to avoid the queue (if there’s any) in a police station (looks like a satellite office of their NBI equivalent). One group got the first spot on the line and then we’re next. For 7:30am, it was close to empty. We showed our temporary ID, had a digital fingerprint (left index finger and right thumb), paid UYU 104 (or PHP 232) and got a receipt. Next process was to pick up the clearance in a different building after two days of processing.
The pick-up, we later found out, also means authentication. In the office that we’re asked to get it, we lined up for another queue and paid UYU 120 (PHP 268) more. From there, we proceeded to the Argentine consulate and submitted all the needed documents. We paid another USD 50 (PHP 2,118) for the visa processing and we were asked again to pick it up after three days (usually, it’s just two days but I think we hit a holiday then).
Finally, an Argentine tourist visa! And sadly, it’s valid for only a week. Having that limitation and some were bound to fly back already by middle of September, we ended up panic buying for a Buquebus (www.buquebus.com/) ticket for August 25 to 28 in less than a week prior. We got a return ticket for UYU 2,489 (or PHP 5,547). Needless to say, it could be half cheaper if we book it earlier.
Since we’re already here in Montevideo and Buenos Aires is just across Rio de la Plata, there’s nothing much to prepare on top of the paperwork. Let me just share our experience from the first part of the trip.
(Pictures from our ferry, inside and out)
Buquebus, as the name suggests, is a bus but it’s actually a bus and a ferry not a bus on a ferry. It has a terminal in the same place (Tres Cruces) where you can find all the other domestic buses. What’s probably new thing for us is the concept of checking-in for a bus trip. We were advised to be at the bus station as early as an hour before to get a boarding pass. There was a long queue when we arrived at 11:15pm and took us 15 minutes to get a piece of paper with detachable portions (one for the bus, for the ferry, etc.). From there, we lined up on another queue. This time it’s for the buses. That’s plural because practically, they need to transport all the ferry passengers (I don’t know the capacity of the ferry but it is huge enough) from the bus station to the port (which, by the way, is in Colonia or two hours away from Montevideo). Luggage bags were asked to be checked in right before we jumped into the bus. A staff was taking care of this and each piece was given with a corresponding sticker (just like in the plane). Since the luggage bags will go directly to Buenos Aires, I decided to skip this as I only brought my carry-on bag. It was already past 1am and I just slept during the bus trip.
In Colonia, we passed through the immigration booth. It’s funny to observe that there are two officers sharing the same booth. The first one is from Uruguay who will most likely bid you goodbye and wish you a nice trip and just beside him is from Argentina who is going to check your papers and will welcome you. In short, we got the stamp from the Argentine immigration while we were still in Uruguay (that’s new).
We waited for a couple of minutes more in an area upstairs. There’s one coffee shop there and I got myself a cup of café con leche. Passengers were starting to queue already as they wanted to get a better seat. We didn’t worry about this because the expensive ticket we got without a choice is in a less crowded area and seats are all comfy.
The Buquebus ferry that leaves at 4am-ish from Colonia is a big one. It has four levels and there’s an elevator to reach the topmost floor. Ground floor, I think, is for the most affordable seats and a duty-free shop. There’s another level for passengers then another level for the dock where people can roam around and do a Jack Dawson. The topmost level is where our seats are. It’s divided into two sections, one is the passenger area (lined-up with Lazy Boy-like seats) and the other is for the bar (some tables and chairs). There’s a complimentary snack (basically, a donut and a drink) and at around 5am, they turned off the lights. We woke up at sunrise and we rushed our way back to the dock to take pictures and get a glimpse of Buenos Aires from there. Good air indeed.
The rest of the arrival pictures here and a video here and here.
(A glimpse of our very first morning in Buenos Aires)