When evaluating options for going to Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay, it quickly became obvious that the most ideal one would be a ferry. The ferry leaves and arrives in central locations in both cities. Beyond that, the price for a one way ferry is about $75 US, while the price of a one way flight is astronomical unless you have miles. For some reason, Aerolineas Argentina gives outrageous prices for one-way flights but round trip are reasonable. There are three new low cost airlines that are starting in the future in Argentina, but none of them have commenced service as of yet.
When the decision was made on the ferry, the question was which one to take. On the website of the company that runs the ferry, Buquebus, there were two different options.
Option 1: A combination of bus and ferry, 4.5 hours in total, price $46 US. This runs four times per day.
Option 2: Two hour ferry for $75 US, this runs twice per day, at 11 AM and 7:30 PM.
The 11 AM timing in addition to speed made the fast ferry an easy decision. The name of this ferry is called Francisco, in honor of the current Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina.
The check-in process to the ferry was seamless. I was told that I only needed to arrive half an hour before departure. This is much better than a flight, where one needs to arrive about 2 hours before departure. Perhaps due to the fact that it was a weekday, there was not much of a crowd, so the check-in only took a minute at most. Also, baggage was checked in free of charge.
After this, there was a metal detector, which took about another minute to go through.
The moment after this was the one that changed my trip, for the worst. There was an immigration officer from Uruguay, who quickly stamped an exit stamp in my passport. The agent mentioned to go to gate 8 to meet the Argentine immigration agent who would give an entry stamp. However, there were only two gates that I could see, gates A and B (several days later I was told that gate 8 was actually the agent standing right across from the Uruguayan agent). I asked some customers if they had Argentina entry stamps, and they all said no. I didn’t think much of it and went on my way. I realized later that this was terrible advice because Argentines and Uruguayans don’t need to get a stamp to cross each other’s respective border. 99% of the customers were in one of these two categories so it made sense as to why they didn’t have the stamps.
One interesting thing is that everyone is required to wear a bag (which is provided) around each shoe, similar to the Taj Mahal. This is presumably to keep the ferry as clean as possible and to make the job of the cleaning crew easy.
The ferry is quite nice, there are plenty of seats and each is comfortable with plenty of leg room. The ride itself is pretty smooth, and there are plenty of windows to take pictures. There is also a store, very similar to a duty free store in an airport, as well as a currency exchange counter. I exchanged some currency so I would have some upon my arrival in Buenos Aires.
Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, my baggage came on a carousel, just like in an airport. After that, I was free to go. I used Uber to go to my hotel, which was about six uphill blocks away, but that would probably be difficult with a heavy suitcase.
Upon checking in the hotel, I realized what a mistake that not searching out the Argentine immigration agent was. The hotel agent was stunned that I didn’t have an entry stamp, and stated I better get one before I depart or I would have major issues in the airport. The reason for the check is because foreigners don’t have to pay tax at hotels in Argentina, which is 21%, a significant amount. She directed me to the national Immigration office, which was about a 20 minute walk away. I went, but it was closed since it was in the evening.
The next day I went, and it was a total zoo. There were people and it was total chaos and confusion. After standing in one line for about ten minutes, an agent asked me what I was doing there, and told me to go to another building. After arriving in that building, I was told to go to one line, and then another. Here, I was asked to take a number and wait my turn, which arrived after about half an hour. The man called me up and took my passport and then told me to wait. After 1.5 hours, which included plenty of coffee breaks and a lunch break, he said I could wait 2 more hours or come back the next day. Apparently he sent an e-mail to Uruguay immigration to confirm that I entered and exited properly. I was rather confused as my passport stamps should have been perfect evidence of that. I figured I should wait 2 more hours and get it over with.
After two hours, the agent told me terrible news, to come back the next day, because no response had arrived as of yet. I felt like an idiot, because at this point it was 3 PM and the day would become night in 3 more hours. In only 3.5 days in Buenos Aires, I had lost most of one for this asinine purpose.
The next day, I returned again. This time, the agent quickly put the stamp retroactively to show the date when I arrived and let me on my way. I was pleasantly surprised to not be charged for this, I fully expected a fee of some sort. When I left Argentina, there was no issue at the airport as a result.
The moral of the story is, when entering and exiting countries, make sure that you receive the proper stamps. This may seem trivial because in airports this is mandatory and one is forced into a line where a stamp is given. However, over land and sea crossings, it is not so simple. Sometimes, procedures are confusing and getting a stamp is the responsibility of the traveler, without much help from the authorities. However, making the effort to do things correctly in the beginning can save a huge hassle later.