Two Days in Montevideo (Lesson: Always Do Your Research)

Uruguay must be pretty darn special because A. Before this trip I had never met a Uruguayan (which means they must never leave the country) and B. they don’t let you into the country if you don’t have a flight or ticket that shows that you’re leaving. Which I did not know about when I tried checking in at the San Francisco Airport. I hadn’t even left the country and I was already running into trouble.

Defeated, I bought my bus ticket to Buenos Aires for the 21st on my phone, and got on my flight. There went my I’m not going to plan anything, I’ll just go with the flow plan that could’ve led me to spend my three months in Uruguay. I could’ve partied it up in Punta del Este or had candlelight dinners on the beach in Cabo de Polonia, but I guess not. Just Montevideo for me.

Skip to: Montevideo Essentials

So, I’m in South America now. Wowzers.

I must admit: I’m tired. It’s been almost week and I have still not had a good night’s sleep. It feels like I’m carrying a sack of flour in my eyelids. My bag feels like it weighs a hundred pounds (it weighs about 20), my under eye bags are making a strong fashion statement, and my skin is dry and cracking. Sexy.

I arrived at the Montevideo airport at 7am on Thursday morning. I had made plans to stay with a girl via Couchsurfing, but she was at work and wouldn’t be home until 7pm in the evening–meaning I was going to walk around the city for 12 hours by myself. Not that I had a problem with that–hello, I’m traveling solo–but I simply didn’t want to carry my bag the whole time. I wanted to try “blending in” and “being one of the locals”, I told myself as I waited in customs line, adjusting the laces of my hiking boots. I took a homeless shower in the bus station bathroom (changed my clothes, cleaned the essential areas with hand soap and baby wipes, brushed my teeth and put on deodorant) and walked for an hour towards the city center, la Plaza de Independencia.

It’s cool, I guess. Spanish colonial buildings and a Simon Bolivar statue. Some nasty Soviet-style blocks thrown in the mix.

A view of Montevideo’s Plaza de Independencia. Not shown: the mood-ruining Soviet buildings

Montevideo also has a cool Ciudad Vieja — cobblestone streets, colonial buildings, plenty of people walking about.

Right past the gate, there’s a bookstore called Librería Puro Verso in a beautiful Art Nouveau building. It’s kind of like walking into the library in Beauty in the Beast.

Okay maybe not the one from the film. But beautiful nonetheless!

Murals, graffiti and street art are very popular in Montevideo.


Walking away from la Plaza on Bulevar España, I found an even cooler bookstore, filled to the brim with books. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to write down the name.

I walked a lot — the buses were simple and cheap enough (you pay on board), but I didn’t want to deal with figuring it out. Some beautiful views though (though, unfortunately, the water of the Rio Plata is brown)

I had always associated mate, a grassy infusion of sorts, with Argentina, but now I know Uruguayans dig it too.
La Rambla runs along the entire coastline/river bank

There are some other things to do in Montevideo that I didn’t get to: the Football (Soccer) Museum, a show at Teatro Solis, some other museums. You can’t do everything. I did, however, manage to eat this monster chivito sandwich over the course of two days, which I am quite proud of:

The national dish of Uruguay. Montevideo is supposed to be expensive, but this $10 sandwich lasted me for about three meals, so it’s a steal in my book.

All in all, Montevideo was a bit of a dud for me, and I’m a bit glad I decided to only stay for two days. It’s a small, chill city, but it could’ve been more interesting if I had done more research, I think. Or maybe it was because I was so tired.  My Couchsurfing host was lovely though, and gave me a lot of cool Uruguayan music recs. Thanks N!

Condesa was also a lovely Couchsurfing host/pet.

Montevideo Essentials:

Airport: Carrasco International Airport (MVD)
Currency: Uruguayan Peso (UYU). Fluctuates, but is a little under 30 pesos to the dollar. There’s an ATM in the airport.
How to get out of the airport:  Take a taxi, or, if you’re on a budget, go outside the terminal and take a local bus heading towards Montevideo for 51 pesos.
Bus Station: Tres Cruces. Head here if you want luggage storage or are taking a bus to another part of the country.
Must try: Chivito, mate, alfajores
Recommended author: Mario Benedetti (poet & novelist)
Recommended listen: “Telefonía”, by Montevideo-native Jorge Drexler.

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