I went to Colonia, Uruguay, for the day with another student taking lessons at Vamos Spanish. Because, why not go to another country if you can, right? Especially if it is only an hour ferry ride away.
Other reasons we were told we should go:
- It is a cute, historic town and strolling the streets is fun.
- One can get US dollars, which are important to have here because of the blue market (you can read about it in a detailed explanation or short explanation).
- One gets a new 90-day tourist visa for Argentina.
How this turned out:
1. The town: While Colonia is a cute town, it turns out there isn’t a whole lot to do there. We took a walking tour to learn more about the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Short summary: Founded by the Portuguese in 1680. Because it is strategically located, disputed ownership with Spain for a century until Spain won. Only major city in the area not designed in a grid as required by the town planning section of Spain’s “Laws of the Indies.”)
We did get to eat chivito for lunch, a traditional Uruguayan sandwich. Chivito means “little goat,” which has nothing to do with the sandwich contents: sliced steak, ham, cheese, and mayonnaise topped with a fried egg. Ours also may have had bacon. It was served over french fries instead of on bread, and came with lettuce, tomatoes, hearts of palm and a very mayonnaisey potato salad on the side. I could not finish my half.
After lunch we wanted to go to museums, especially because the day got colder as it went on, but learned that unlike every other business in Colonia, including the street vendors selling jewelry, t-shirts, etc, they only accept local currency. Oh, and it was 2:40 and all of the museums closed at 4:00. Skip that.
Instead we climbed the lighthouse and then went to touch the water of the Rio de la Plata. This is the furthest south I’ve ever touched water. It was cold and wet. Of course. Photos below.
2. The money: We spent about an hour trying to get dollars from various ATMs. At the first, we learned that the maximum withdrawal was only $300. Maybe we could have gotten $300 from multiple machines, but we could not find a machine that would dispense any dollars. The generic “We are unable to process your request” messages left me unclear why we could not get money. My friend had what I thought was a brilliant idea of trying inside the casino, but they just directed us to the bank across the street.
3. The visa: The other reason for me to go is that I needed a new visa at some point. Tourists from the U.S. usually get a 90- day visa for Argentina upon arrival, which I did. But I am going to be here a total of 93 days (because I used points to buy my ticket I had to fly when flights were available). So I knew I needed to leave and reenter the country at some point, or else go to some office here and deal with paperwork to get a new visa. Mission accomplished.
In what turned out to be a cold, windy, grey day, we did have some fun taking photos. So here you go.