My husband and I were in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 3 days. We booked our ferry trip over to Colonia del Sacramento while in BA at the Colonia Express office. We could have paid a lot less if we booked on line more than 30 days in advance. We also checked out Buquebus. They were completely booked. They had a lot bigger boats and were a bit more expensive (also had options to bring a car). A car was NOT necessary in Colonia for a day trip (or even an over night if you have a backpack to carry your things). Colonia Express was good to work with. We only really wanted a ferry trip but it turned out to be less expensive if a short walking tour and lunch was included...it was nice of them to tell us. It ended up being 235 pesos each for ferry, tour and lunch. It would have been closer to 100 pesos each booked earlier. Buquebus filled faster and they had a special for 218 pesos round trip.
We took a taxi to the ferry terminal (all we had to say was Colonia Express)...I think it was 40 pesos from Plaza Congreso, The cab driver charged us a fixed rate on the way there. We were on the meter on the way back and it was closer to 30 pesos. It only took 10-15 minutes to get there by cab.
We took the early ferry (about 8:30 AM) and arrived an hour early. Remember your passport while making reservations and for the trip over. Everything went very smoothly. The seats were not assigned. The boat wasn't anything fancy but clean and seaworthy. The trip wasn't rough (a nice day) and took a bit longer than the 50 minutes stated. I think it was closer to 75 minutes, but not a big deal...we napped!
There is an hour difference on the way to Uruguay...so we arrived at about 10:45 their time. We didn't realize how much we would enjoy it and want to explore. We decided to take the 5PM ferry back but wished we booked the 9:30PM. You need to be at the ferry an hour in advance so we really only had about 5 hours there. The walking tour (they two Spanish tour groups and one English) lasted about an hour. It was very nice to get some historical background and a better appreciate what we were seeing in the historical old city area. It is only a few blocks walk from the ferry terminal and there are many restaurants and hotels/inns in the area too.
We decided to eat at the restaurant that came with our ferry and tour. It was okay. We only had three options to choose from rather than the whole menu, but not an issue. Beverages and tip (about 10%) were not included, but it did come with three options for dessert too. We tried a local lunch of Chivito...can be a sandwich or not. Ours wasn't...just served over fries. It is a thin cut of beef (kind of grizzly for my taste but my husband didn't seem to mind it), ham, I think cheese, and a sunny-side-up-fried egg on top. It wasn't my new favorite thing but interesting to eat what the locals would eat. I had chaja for dessert...it was VERY good. Similar to tiramisu, but had some chunks of peaches in the cream layer and not quite as much coffee taste. I could have had that again!
Everywhere took either Argentine pesos (exchanged 5 Uruguayan pesos to 1 Agentine peso) or US Dollars (exchanged 20 Uruguayan pesos to 1 US Dollar). Only the museums required Uruguayan pesos but our tour guide exchanged just enough for exact change ($5 US for $100 Uruguay...enough for both of us to go to ALL the museums).
We rented mountain bikes at Hertz for $3 US/hour. If we had more time, we would have liked to take an easy ride over to where the beaches were...but we weren't able to reschedule our departure. We peaked in a few of the inns in the old historical part and there looked really nice. It would be fun to spend a night there. We had a great time just looking around and taking a lot of neat photos.
I think 9:30 PM would have been a great time to head back. With the time change, it would have been 9:30 in BA and dinner doesn't start until 9PM but really gets going closer to 10/11ish PM.
It felt 10 degrees warmer on the Uruguay side of the estuary than in BA, Argentina. I think it was because of the way the winds blew into BA off the river/estuary.
Colonia seemed very clean and safe. The people we met were all very friendly. Definitely a tourist destination. We welcomed it as a wonderful change of pace from the very busy (and kind of dirty and run down) BA. It was a great day trip and I would highly recommend it.