Written by Kieran Proctor

Renewing Argentina Tourist Visa – A Weekend In Colonia

For the average tourist to Argentina, the 90 days granted on arrival is long enough. Yet, as a ‘digital nomad’, ...

For the average tourist to Argentina, the 90 days granted on arrival is long enough. Yet, as a ‘digital nomad’, I’ve been living in Argentina on a tourist visa for the better part of 3 years.

I work online while living in Airbnb accommodations. Every 90 days, I renew my tourist visa either in person at the migration office, or with a trip to neighboring Uruguay.

Tourist visas in Argentina can only be extended once in any 6 month period (180 days). And so, at least once every 180 days, I travel to Uruguay and then return to Argentina. When I return, I’m granted a fresh visa for Argentina.

Uruguay is a beautiful country in its own right. So it’s not like it’s a difficult trip to make. And as this post will hopefully demonstrate, it’s not like I’m roughing it in Uruguay.

In this article, I’ll be going over the process for renewing an Argentine tourist visa via the unofficial method, a trip to Uruguay on the Buquebus. I’ve previously covered the official process for extending an Argentine tourist visa in Buenos Aires via the migration office. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll be looking at the unofficial process called a ‘visa run’, which from Buenos Aires entails a return trip to Colonia.

Yet, before I dive into the nitty gritty of organizing a return trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia Del Sacramento on the Buquebus, I should clear up some of the visa details. And answer the main questions that everyone seems to ask about Argentina and its tourist visas.

Argentina Tourist Visa FAQ

Do I need a tourist visa for Argentina?

The 90 day tourist visa is the default visa category for Argentina. Those who aren’t required to apply for a visa prior to arrival will be automatically granted a tourist visa on arrival.

If you’re required to apply for a visa prior to arrival or have applied for another visa class, your circumstances may differ. And you should check whether or not you’re required to apply for a visa by searching your country on this list.

How long can you stay in Argentina on a tourist visa?

Most tourists to Argentina are granted 90 days on arrival. And most passport holders do not require a visa in advance of arriving into Argentina. You can check whether your specific passport requires a visa by viewing this list on the Ministerio del Interior website.

Can I extend my tourist visa in Argentina?

If you hold a passport that does not require a visa application and you are granted a 90 day tourist visa on arrival, you can extend that tourist visa. You can only extend each tourist visa once, for a further 90 days. And this is why people travel to Uruguay to renew a visa.

Going to Uruguay and coming back results in a new tourist visa being issued. It restarts the clock, giving the traveler a new 90 day visa that is extendable for a further 90 days.

How many times can you extend your tourist visa in Argentina?

Argentina only grants one extension of 90 days per tourist visa issued. You can stay in Argentina on a tourist visa, with extension, for a total of 180 days before you require a new visa.

What are the requirements for visa extension in Argentina?

To extend your tourist visa in Argentina, you must present in person to an office of the Direcci贸n Nacional de Migraciones. You will need to take your passport and $4000 peso in cash.

I’ve previously gone through the visa extension process in Buenos Aires and I’ve written about it here.

Does Argentina have a digital nomad visa?

Yes, Argentina has a digital nomad visa. Argentina introduced their Digital Nomad Visa on May 21st, 2022. Because the dedicated ‘digital nomad visa’ costs US$300 and requires an application process and paperwork, I’ve never applied for it and I’m yet to hear of anybody else actually applying for it.

Traveling To Colonia – Renewing Argentina Tourist Visa

Colonia Del Sacramento via the Buquebus or ‘Colonia Express’ is the quickest transit route in and out of Argentina. The Buquebus are a ferry service running between Argentina and Uruguay across the R铆o de la Plata that separates Argentina from Uruguay.

To leave Argentina and return from Colonia, takes approximately 1 hour each way. And you can go and have lunch in Colonia Del Sacramento and return to Buenos Aires in time for dinner. With a fresh visa and another 90 days in Argentina extendable to up to 180 days.

You might think that constantly getting new visas with a trip to Colonia, would look suspicious. And you might assume that the border control officers would have a problem with tourists using this method to extend their tourists visas. But the truth is, they don’t even look at how many times you’ve been to Colonia.

The migration officers won’t check how many times you’ve been to Colonia. Because the locals go to Colonia for sightseeing, holidays, special events, relaxing and some tax free shopping.

Colonia is a lovely old style town with a relaxing village style vibe. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s the complete opposite of Buenos Aires big city feel. Which is why Argentines go to Colonia in droves, to escape Buenos Aires and relax.

Renewing Your Argentina Tourist Visa – Buquebus Paquetes

As opposed to taking a return trip in a single day, I personally use visa runs to Colonia as an excuse for a weekend getaway. Buquebus has what’s know as ‘paquetes’ (packages in english). These paquetes include the return ferry, hotel accommodation (with breakfasts), hotel transfers and travel insurance.

Paid for in Argentina Pesos acquired at the D贸lar Blue rate, they’re incredibly cheap. These packages are so cheap it doesn’t make sense to do a return trip to Colonia in a single day. And to give you an idea of the prices, below is a breakdown of what I spent on my last weekend in Colonia.

InclusionsPaqueteNo Paquete (same day return)
Ferry to ColoniaYesA$8,436
Ferry from Colonia to Buenos AiresYesA$8,436 (A$15,579 if bought independently)
Hotel TransfersYesNo
Travel Insurance (Universal Assist)YesNo
Hotel Stay (2 nights)Hotel ItalianoNo
TotalA$45,600.2A$16,872 (cheapest options)
Total in USD at current D贸lar Blue$153 USD$56 USD
Total in USD when using a foreign card*$336 USD*$124 USD
*note that the amount stated for foreign card transactions does not include foreign transaction fees and is calculated at the (ideal) mid market rate.

I changed the money that I used for the above transactions at the d贸lar blue rate on August 22, 2022. And the d贸lar blue was 297:1 on the USD. On the same day, the official rate was 136:1 on the USD.

By paying for the paquete in cash acquired at the d贸lar blue rate I only payed $153USD for the whole weekend holiday package. Looking at a holiday package that only cost $153 USD for 3 days and 2 nights, you’re probably thinking it couldn’t have been all that good. But you’d be wrong.

Buquebus Paquetes

The hotel I stayed at on this last trip was the Hotel Italiano. The Hotel Italiano is right in the centre of Colonia Del Sacramento and is a 5 minute (2-3 block) walk from all of the main tourist attractions. With the included transfer, Buquebus will deliver you from the ferry to your hotel.

The Hotel Italiano is closer to the old town and is, in my opinion, a nicer hotel than the more expensive Radisson that I stayed at on my last trip. Hotel Italiano is set right amongst all of the best restaurants and bars in Colonia.

The rooms at Hotel Italiano are small but modern and have largish bathrooms with spa tubs. The hotel itself has 2 swimming pools that are heated for year round use. There’s also an onsite gym. Free wifi is available throughout the hotel (be sure to use a VPN). And the buffet breakfast has coffee, juice, eggs, bacon, cakes and just about everything else you could want.

Having now stayed in both the Hotel Italiano and the Radisson in Colonia, I would rate the Hotel Italiano higher than the Radisson. It’s cleaner, nicer, closer to the attractions and has friendly multilingual staff. So if you’re going for a weekend in Colonia to renew your Argentine tourist visa, definitely look at Buquebus ‘Paquetes’ that include the Hotel Italiano.

During my weekend in Colonia I spent a little less than $250 USD on food, drinks, museums and I went shopping for shirts and a new hoodie. The majority of my expenses during the weekend were clothing and food.

I changed money at both a private exchange called Redbrou and at the national bank of Uruguay called Banco Rep煤blica. I changed equal amounts from $USD to UYU$ at each location, as part of an experiment and to demonstrate why everyone should avoid private currency exchange shops in Uruguay.

The Breakdown Of My Expenses For A Weekend In Colonia Del Sacramento

TransportU$0 (its a walkable city)
Food & DrinksU$6,500
Coffee (U$125 each)U$625
Museums (U$60 average)U$120
Shopping (clothing)U$2,368
TotalU$9,613 ($244 USD)

While I’m by no means a budget traveler, I wasn’t 鈥Livin‘聽La Vida Loca鈥 in Colonia Del Sacramento. I would buy what I wanted, when I wanted it and I’d buy it from the best places that weren’t tourist traps.

There’s a few places in Colonia where you need to watch out for inflated tourist prices. But they’re very easy to spot.

Avoiding the tourist traps, I was eating ‘chivito’ and drinking either local artisanal beers or fernet and cola all day long. And at night I’d have empanadas, ravioli, steak and desert with a bottle of red wine. All at nice restaurants located off the Main Street.

Once you know how to spot (and avoid) the tourist traps, good food and drink becomes quite cheap in South America. And shopping in Colonia is tax free for tourists. I bought a couple of shirts, a huge pile of socks and a very nice knitted sweater.

All in on everything, including my clothing purchases, I only spent $244 USD plus the $153 USD cost of the Buquebus paquete. With the grand total being $397 USD for my 3 day weekend in Uruguay to reset my Argentine visa.

Final Thoughts

Now that both Argentina and Uruguay have done away with the need for PCR testing to travel between them, you only need to be able to show that you are fully vaccinated (2 shots) to travel.

Part of the travel requirements for Argentina and Uruguay are that you must fill out each countries online travel declaration within 72hrs of departure. And both forms are available online through the Buquebus website. You can find links to the travel declarations for Argentina and Uruguay here.

Both the forms and the Buquebus English language webpages are legible and easy to navigate. And the process for filling out the forms is very straight forward and fast.

You just need to fill out your name and passport details, date and point of entry or exit for each country and declare your vaccination status. The system will then email you a form to keep, so you can show it to the customs officers if asked.

Neither Uruguay or Argentina have particularly arduous travel requirements. As long as you’re vaccinated, then you’re good to travel. Extending your tourist visa for Argentina with a trip to Colonia, couldn’t be easier.

As one final added travel tip for Colonia, be sure to eat a Chivito and wander the old town at night. The day trippers don’t see the Old Town of Colonia at night. And they rarely see the amazing sunsets its known for. You only see those if you spend a night or two.

Where Can I Get More Information About Buenos Aires?

If you鈥檙e planning to visit Buenos Aires on your next vacation, or you鈥檙e simply interested in Argentina in general, you should read my Buenos Aires City Guide.

My Complete Buenos Aires City Guide is updated regularly. And it seeks to answer all of your questions regarding Buenos Aires and Argentina in one place.鈥俁ead my聽Complete Buenos Aires City Guide.