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. 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, we’ll be looking at the unofficial process, a return trip to Colonia.
Yet before we dive into the nitty gritty of organising a return trip from Buenos Aires to Colonia Del Sacramento on the Buquebus, we should clear up some of the visa details. And answer the main questions everyone seems to ask about Argentina and its tourist visas.
Traveling to Uruguay to get a new tourist visa for Argentina
Argentina Tourist Visa FAQ
Do I need a tourist visa for Argentina?
How long can you stay in Argentina on a tourist visa?
Can I extend my tourist visa in Argentina?
How many times can you extend your tourist visa in Argentina?
What are the requirements for visa extension in Argentina?
Does Argentina have a digital nomad visa?
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 Río 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.
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 Dólar 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.
|Inclusions||Paquete||No Paquete (same day return)|
|Ferry to Colonia||Yes||A$8,436|
|Ferry from Colonia to Buenos Aires||Yes||A$8,436 (A$15,579 if bought independently)|
|Travel Insurance (Universal Assist)||Yes||No|
|Hotel Stay (2 nights)||Hotel Italiano||No|
|Total||A$45,600.2||A$16,872 (cheapest options)|
|Total in USD at current Dólar Blue||$153 USD||$56 USD|
|Total in USD when using a foreign card||*$336 USD||*$124 USD|
I changed the money that I used for the above transactions at the dólar blue rate on August 22, 2022. And the dólar 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 dólar 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.
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 República. I changed equal amounts from $USD to U$ 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
|Transport||U$0 (its a walkable city)|
|Food & Drinks||U$6,500|
|Coffee (U$125 each)||U$625|
|Museums (U$60 average)||U$120|
|Total||U$9,613 ($244 USD)|
While I’m by no means a budget traveler, I wasn’t “Livin‘ La Vida Loca” 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.
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.
I also did a Colonia run to renew my visa for Argentina earlier in 2022. And the PCR testing on both ends of the trip was a pain in the proverbial.
Thankfully, both countries have now scrapped the PCR requirement. And now that there’s half the number of online forms and no PCR testing, my last trip to Colonia to renew my tourist visa couldn’t have been smoother.
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’re interested in Buenos Aires or Argentina in general, you should read my Complete Buenos Aires City Guide.
The 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. You can read the Complete Buenos Aires City Guide for free here.