Joe Harrison & Stef Hacking are on an eight-month trip to discover South America, and graciously share their bus travel stories with us along the way.
Florianópolis to Punta del Diablo
Price: R$ 328 each
Duration: 15 hrs
After a rather big night out in Florianópolis we were a little hung over on the day of travel, so very much grateful to try our first full Leito sleeper bus. The lower deck 12-seater cabin had amazing fully reclining seats, hot food served at intervals, regular drinks top-ups and english-speaking movies played on screens. It pretty much felt like business class seats on a plane! After we set off at 2pm, we got speaking to a local lady about where we were heading. Our tickets only took us as far as Chuy, the boarder town between Brazil and Uruguay, and a good hours drive away from our destination. Normally you can’t get a bus directly from Florianópolis to Punta del Diablo, but after speaking with the lady and discussing with the bus hostess (with some diagrams and shaky translation) it seems they had arranged an unofficial drop-off point that they we’re willing to make for us just outside Punta del Diablo. This happened to be at 4.30am, and the drop-off was literally on the side of the road, about an hours walk from the town. So in the early hours of the morning the bus doors opened, we were handed our stamped passports, and we made our way on foot down the 5km dimly lit road towards Punta del Diablo. Joined by a friendly pack of dogs, we passed through the picturesque town dotted with small quirky houses. We watched the sun come up on the empty beach for a few hours in the early morning light and napped on the rocks as we waited to check in to our hostel. We couldn’t have asked for a more magical arrival into a country!
Side note: Getting bus tickets from Florianópolis to Uruguay was a little harder than we thought as buses only ran 3 times a week, meaning we had to stay a few more nights. Previously we’d try to buy tickets online and had a bit of a nightmare, so we decided to go to the station to book them in person (which took 2-3 hour out of our day). Not ideal but after speaking to locals this seemed to be the only way. The only tickets left we’re premium Leito seats, which we were happy to try!
Punta del Diablo to Cabo Polonio
Company: COT & Rutas del Sol
Price: $U76 + $U 53 (view receipt A, View receipt B)
Duration: 1 Hour + 30 mins (with 2 hour wait)
As the peak summer season had just ended, getting along the coast of Uruguay was a little more complicated as the ‘Summer bus’ that stops at all the popular destinations had stopped running. This meant we needed to catch 2 busses to get to Cabo Polonio instead of getting there direct, and seeing as there were only 2 busses a day (and the second meant we would miss our connecting bus) we had to get a move on! The first bus, COT, was very nice inside, with decent wifi and comfortable seats. The scenery was a little barren, but still interesting in places as we made our way to the first stop-off point of Castillos. After a 2 hour wait in the town in Castillos and some quick Empanadas from a local shop, we got another (more basic) Rutas del Sol bus that took us to Puerto del Polonio, a small bus terminal just outside of Cabo Polonio. The town of Cabo Polonio has no roads, so it’s only accessible by dune buggy. After we arrived at the terminal we climbed up the ladder to the top of a massive 4×4 and experienced a breathtaking ride through the bumpy dunes, along the beach and got dropped off right outside our hostel. Although the route was slightly longer than we expected it was still relatively straightforward, and a lot easier than the huge distances we’d been used to in Brazil.
Cabo Polonio to Punta del Este
Company: Rutas del Sol & CODESA (No. 7)
Type: Economy + Local Bus
Price: $U 302 + $U 50 (view receipt)
Duration: 2 hrs + 30 mins
After getting our dune buggy back to the terminal we arrived with plenty of time at the Puerto del Polonio bus terminal. The bus to Punta del Este runs once or twice a day when off season, and as we wanted to get there before it got dark we opted for the 2.15pm Rutas del Sol bus (we got our tickets two days before to be safe). After an uneventful 2 hour journey we arrived in the stop-off town of San Carlos where we got our connecting local bus that took 30 minutes to get to the Terminal de Punta del Este. We got there just before the sun went down, and had the chance to take a quick stroll on the beach past the giant beach hand (Mano de Punta del Este) designed by Mario Irarrázabal. Luckily the bus terminal was very close to our hostel, so we had no difficulty popping by to buy our bus tickets to Montevideo for the following day.
Punta del Este to Montevideo
Price: $U 276 (view receipt)
Duration: 2.5 hrs
As the bus terminal in Punta del Este was a convenient fifteen-minute walk from our hostel, this was a quick and pain free trip. We had decided to buy our tickets the previous day (to avoid previous complications!) so we turned up with 10 minutes to spare and jumped on the Copsa bus and headed for the Capital. The bus had free wifi, so we spent the two hour bus ride catching up with friends back home who were impressed that we were en route and speaking to them on the move. We arrived in Montevideo in the early evening and made the 20 minutes walk through the city centre to our Hostel Buenos Vibras, or ‘good vibes!’.
Montevideo to Colonia
Price: U$ 342 (view receipt)
Duration: 2.5 hrs
As we didn’t want to spend too much time in Montevideo (we’d heard from others that theres not a huge amount to see) we decided to stay just one evening in the city. After a quick breakfast we got on the 9.30am bus from the Tres Cruces bus terminal, about 20 minutes walk from our hostel. In hindsight we should have probably given ourselves more time to explore the city, but we were keen to get to Colonia, our next destination. The journey to Colonia took around 2.5 hours, and we spent the time reading and listening to podcasts, again taking advantage of the coach wifi. On arrival we found the bus station in Colonia located right next to the old town where we were staying, making the overall bus journey very easy and pleasant.