The small town of Colonia del Sacramento was only a short 50km ferry ride from Buenos Aires and encouraged by the prospect of being able to tick another country off the list, we decided to head to Uruguay for the day. Departing from BA, we lined at the immigration counter to be “stamped out” of Argentina. We were then ushered to a counter right next door where we were “stamped in” as arriving in Uruguay – all within the one building which seemed a little strange!
Colonia is located almost exactly opposite Buenos Aires on the other side of the Rio de la Plata. It was founded by a Portuguese governor (before alternating rule with the Spanish) and is now a Unesco World Heritage site and popular day trip from Buenos Aires. With our friend Oytun from Turkey, we arrived in Colonia in the morning and hired a golf cart to drive around Barrio Historico – the historic neighbourhood containing some of Uruguay’s oldest buildings.
We drove along the river, feeling quite at home with gum trees lining the riverbank before passing an old bull ring – Plaza de toros Real de San Carlos, where we stopped our golf cart and snuck under the fence to have a look inside. It would have been amazing in its day however unfortunately it is crumbling away and I’m not sure if there are any plans to restore it.It was a beautiful day and we parked our golf buggy to walk the Portuguese built cobble stone streets. We walked along the waterfront, past the old wharf and up the stairs of the 17th century lighthouse, located within the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco.In addition to exploring the streets, we paid a visit to multiple ATMs to withdraw some US dollars, which we could exchange on the streets of Buenos Aires at a rate of 8 Argentinian pesos to 1 US dollar (as opposed to the official rate of 5 Argentinian pesos). It is so crazy how accessible it is to exchange money on the “black market”, everyone is doing it (including Argentines) and for us it meant getting an extra 60% for our dollar. Inflation rates are so high in Argentina that there is no value in saving Argentinian pesos and Argentines would prefer to exchange their pesos for US dollars. With Uruguay so close for many Argentines, it makes sense to travel across the river to withdraw US dollars and the lines at the ATMs were incredible.