In order to renew our tourist visas, we need to leave and re-enter Argentina every 3 months. Since Uruguay is only a short ferry ride away, and any other country is much much farther, we decided to go there for our first vacation from Buenos Aires. The first thing you should know about Uruguay is that it exists, even if most people don’t realize it does. The second thing you should know is it’s very similar to Argentina culturally and geographically, just smaller and less important, which gives them an inferiority complex you can sense whenever Uruguayans talk about Argentina.
After the ferry ride across the border, we took a two-hour bus ride to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. We only spent a day there and didn’t see much of the city, but it was pleasant enough. The best part was being able to buy clothes at reasonable prices because Uruguay doesn’t have the high import taxes that Argentina has.
We then took another two-hour bus ride along the coast to Punta Del Este. If you say that name to anyone in South America, 99% of the time their reaction will be “it’s very expensive!” Punta Del Este is the fanciest, most expensive beach town in South America. It’s like Miami and the Hamptons combined. It’s where celebrities and rich people own beach condos and yachts, and where people from all over come to vacation. It’s not more expensive than any nice beach town in the U.S., but by South American standards, “it’s very expensive!” The city is nice, but the ocean is the coldest I’ve ever stepped foot in. And that’s as much of my body I was willing to put in the water.
Our first night there, our AirBnb the host cooked an “asado” (South American barbecue) and told us Uruguayans don’t like Argentinians because they’re full of themselves and have a bloated sense of importance. He also told us that he spends most of his days lying in his hammock and dealing weed out of his home. Marijuana is fully legalized in Uruguay, so he doesn’t break the law even though his garage is 100% filled to the brim with cannabis plants. During our stay, customers were constantly coming in and out of the house to buy his product.
He invited us to a big NYE party he was organizing. They had booked one of the DJs who wrote that “I like to move it move it” song, so you know I was game. He said he’d get us in at a discount: 250 Uruguyan pesos each, or around 9 dollars each. After selling us on the party, I told him I had to go to the ATM to get more pesos. The night before the party, I handed him 500 pesos for me and Aeriel. He was confused and asked if it was a joke. Then he told me it was 500 dollars…American dollars. He hadn’t specified the currency so I had assumed he wanted 500 pesos.
I was in disbelief while we had an awkward exchange wherein I told him we couldn’t spend that kind of money. (After investigating it later, what he was charging was a typical price for a big Punta Del Este NYE party. I’m just so accustomed to low prices down here, 9 dollars seemed much more likely than 250). Long story short, we ended up taking a $1 bus to the main part of the beach and watching the fireworks while drinking $3 boxed wine. Money well spent.
The next day, we made the day long journey back to Buenos Aires. We were happy to be back in familiar territory.