Planning a Trip
The easiest way to reach Punta del Este from Buenos Aires is by catching a Buquebús ferry to either Montevideo or Colonia, and then continuing by bus. Buquebús's number is tel. 02/916-1910 in Montevideo; its fast-service number is tel. 02/130. Within Argentina, dial tel. 54/11/4316-6500.
(tel. 02/409-4949 in Montevideo; tel. 042/486810 in Punta del Este; www.cot.com.uy) also offers bus service from Montevideo. Copsa (tel. 02/1975 in Montevideo; tel. 042/1975 in Punta del Este; www.copsa.com.uy) is another bus company that offers service between Montevideo and Punta del Este. (These unusual numbers can not be dialed from overseas, but only within Uruguay.)
You can also fly between Buenos Aires' Jorge Newberry Airport and Punta's Laguna del Sauce Airport, about 16km (10 miles) from the city center. Airport information is tel. 042/559777. Aerolineas Argentinas services the airports (tel. 000-4054-86527 in Punta, or 0810/222-86527 in Buenos Aires; www.aerolineas.com.ar). Pluna Airlines is another carrier (tel. 042/492050 in Punta, or 11/4342-4420 in Buenos Aires; www.pluna.aero). Be aware that as of this writing Argentina and Uruguay are in a diplomatic dispute over the construction of a paper mill that might pollute the Río Uruguay, near the Argentine town of Gualeguaychú. Access to Uruguay is at times restricted because of ongoing protests, and extra security is sometimes in place at crossings, airline gates, and the Buquebús terminal.
Punta del Este has several tourist information centers. Within the bus station Terminal Punta Del Este (tel. 042/494042), there is a very small one with a very helpful staff. Overlooking the ocean at Parada 1 near Calle 21, the Liga de Fomento has a Tourist Information Center (tel. 042/446519). Another city office is at Plaza Artigas, on Gorlero between calles 25 and 23 (tel. 042/446519). The city's offices are open from 10am to 10pm 7 days a week. The government of Uruguay also maintains a tourist information office for the whole country at Gorlero 942 between calles 30 and 29 (tel. 042/441218). The national office is open 10am to 7pm every day in the summer, and in winter daily from 10am to 5pm. The city government website (www.maldonado.gub.uy) has a section on tourist information; also visit www.uruguaynatural.com. Pick up Liga News or Qué Hacemos Hoy, two free tourist publications available all over the city with information on events around town.
Note: Citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand need only a passport to enter Uruguay (for tourist stays of up to 90 days). Australian citizens must get a tourist visa before arrival.
If you're staying in Punta del Este itself, most things you need are within walking distance. The hotels generally have great restaurants in them, and the beaches are just a quick walk over either the Rambla Claudio Williman on the Río de la Plata side, or the Rambla Lorenzo Batlle Pacheco on the Atlantic side. Although these two ramblas have different names, they are part of the same coastal highway, Ruta 10. The city's main shopping street is Avenida Gorlero, lined with stores and cafes. Another shopping street is El Remanso, 1 block parallel. Slightly more upscale and with a lot less foot traffic, it's nicknamed "the Little Paris," but you'll be hard-pressed to see any similarities between this thoroughfare and the French capital.
Many people hitchhike; you'll see a lot of young folk out there with their thumbs up. It's not considered dangerous at all here. It's best to rent a car, though, if you want to do some exploring or head to La Barra or Jose Ignacio without the threat of being stranded or sleeping on the beach. Car rental can be expensive, however, starting at $90 (£50) a day in high season. Europcar has an office at Gorlero and Calle 20 (tel. 042/495017 and 042/445018; www.europcar.com.uy). Dollar Rent a Car is at Gorlero 961 (tel. 042/443444; www.dollar.com.uy).
Taxis are hard to come by, especially in high season. Keep the following numbers handy: Shopping (tel. 042/484704); Parada 5 (tel. 042/490302), and Aeropuerto (tel. 042/559100). The bus company COT (tel. 042/486810) runs a service up and down the coastal routes, connecting the various towns in the area. You may have to wait a long time for one to pass by though. The company Taller Rego, Lenzina and Artigas, Parada 2 (tel. 042/486732) rents motorcycles and bicycles.
The official currency is the Uruguayan peso (designated NP$, $U, or simply $); each peso is comprised of 100 centavos. Uruguayan pesos are available in $10, $20, $50, $100, $200, $500, $1,000, and $5,000 notes; coins come in 10, 20, and 50 centavos, and 1 and 2 pesos. The Uruguayan currency devalued by half in July 2002, due to its close kinship with the Argentine peso. The exchange rate as this book went to press was approximately 24 pesos to the dollar. Because the value of the peso fluctuates greatly with inflation, all prices in this chapter are quoted in U.S. dollars (with British pound conversions in parentheses).
Locating Addresses in Punta del Este
Many locations in Punta del Este are not listed with addresses but with parada numbers (a reference to the closest traffic light along the coast to their location). Many shops, hotels, and businesses don't seem to know their addresses, only their paradas. In other cases, many stores and businesses don't list the number of their building in a street address, referring only to the street they are on and the nearby cross streets (you'll actually perplex them if you press them for a numbered street address). Streets in Punta del Este are also labeled two different ways -- as numbers and as names. For instance, Calle 31 is also called Inzaurraga; the main street, Avenida Gorlero, is called Avenida 22. Maps may or may not reflect both names. When in doubt about any address, ask for more information, such as a nearby store or landmark.