Planning a Trip
International flights and those from Buenos Aires land at Carrasco International Airport (tel. 02/604-0386), located 19km (12 miles) from downtown Montevideo. Uruguay's national carrier is Pluna, Colonia and Julio Herrera (tel. 0800/118-811 or 02/604-4080), which operates several flights daily from Aeroparque. Aerolíneas Argentinas (tel. 02/901-9466) connects both Aeroparque and Ezeiza with Montevideo; the flight takes 50 minutes. The fare ranges between $150 and $250 (£83-£140) round-trip, depending on how far in advance you make reservations.
A taxi or remise (private, unmetered taxi) from the airport to downtown costs about $15 (£8.25).
By Boat or Hydrofoil -- The most popular way to get to Montevideo is by ferry. Buquebús, Calle Río Negro 1400 (tel. 02/916-8801), operates three to four hydrofoils per day from Buenos Aires; the trip takes about 2 1/2 hours and costs about $110 (£61) round-trip. Montevideo's port is about 1.5km (1 mile) from downtown.
By Bus -- Terminal Omnibus Tres Cruces, General Artigas 1825 (tel. 02/409-7399 or 02/401-8998), is Montevideo's long-distance bus terminal, connecting the capital with cities in Uruguay and throughout South America. Buses to Buenos Aires take about 8 hours. COT (tel. 02/409-4949) offers the best service to Punta del Este, Maldonado, and Colonia.
Montevideo is surrounded by water on three sides, a testament to its earlier incarnation as an easily defended fortress for the Spanish empire. The Old City begins near the western edge of Montevideo, found on the skinny portion of a peninsula between the Rambla Gran Bretaña and the city's main artery, Avenida 18 de Julio. Look for Plaza Independencia and Plaza Constitución to find the center of the district. Many of the city's museums, theaters, and hotels reside in this historic area, although a trip east on Avenida 18 de Julio reveals the more modern Montevideo with its own share of hotels, markets, and monuments. Along the city's long southern coastline runs the Rambla Gran Bretaña, traveling 21km (13 miles) from the piers of the Old City past Parque Rodó and on to points south and east, passing fish stalls and street performers along the way.
It's easy to navigate around the center of Montevideo on foot or by bus. Safe, convenient buses crisscross Montevideo, making it easy to venture outside the city center, for 15 Uruguayan pesos (about 60¢/35p). Taxis are safe and relatively inexpensive, but it can be difficult to hail one during rush hour. I recommend calling Remises Carrasco (tel. 09/440-5473). To rent a car, try Thrifty (tel. 02/204-3373). For roadside emergencies or general information on driving in Uruguay, contact the Automóvil Club de Uruguay, Av. Libertador 1532 (tel. 02/902-4792), or the Centro Automovilista del Uruguay, E. V. Haedo 2378 (tel. 02/408-2091).
Uruguay's Ministerio de Turismo is at Av. Libertador 1409, corner of Colonia (tel. 02/908-9105). It assists travelers with countrywide information, and it's open daily from 8am to 8pm in winter, from 8am to 2pm in summer. There's also a branch at Carrasco International Airport and Tres Cruces bus station. The municipal tourist office, Explanada Municipal (tel. 1950), offers city maps and brochures of tourist activities. It's open weekdays from 11am to 6pm, and weekends from 10am to 6pm. It also organizes cultural city tours on weekends. In the event of an emergency, the Tourist Police can be reached at (tel. 0800-8226), and their office is at Colonia 1021.
In business for more than 50 years, Buemes Travel Services, Colonia 979 (tel. 02/902-1050), is among the largest full-service tour companies in Uruguay. Much of their business involves planning trips and tours for passengers coming into Montevideo by cruise ship. Contact them for day trips or history tours on various themes or for booking hotels and airline flights. They also arrange trips to other parts of Uruguay, including Colonia, Punta del Este, and the range of estancias near Montevideo that only a few foreigners have discovered. Private docent Tamara Levinson (tel. 02/710-3312 or 099/696-6518; email@example.com) conducts individual custom tours of Montevideo and other parts of Uruguay. She works for Buemes, but visitors can hire her, in her spare time, to lead individualized travel experiences.