Uruguay is wedged between Argentina to the west and Brazil to the east. By South American standards, Uruguay is a small country, but remember – distances are BIG in this part of the world.
Coming from Argentina
From Buenos Aires, you can take a direct ferry to Colonia (1 hr) or Montevideo (2.25hrs). You can travel by bus from Colonia to Montevideo in just over 2 hours after enjoying a stop-off in Colonia.
A lesser-known option is the picturesque daily ferry from the Tigre Delta in Buenos Aires to Carmelo in Uruguay. The Tigre ferry company website is in Spanish only.
From Cordoba or Rosario, there is an overnight bus several times a week.
Flying from Buenos Aires to Montevideo takes 40 minutes but I don’t recommend it.
To choose what’s best for you, I recommend you read my article on the different options for getting to Uruguay from Argentina and why I don’t recommend flying. I look at the most leisurely, fastest and cheapest ways.
Having trouble using those ferry sites to find prices? They are impossible! I’ve produced a little matrix on ferry prices.
If you do decide to fly make sure you read my article on airline companies to avoid.
Coming from Brazil
You are likely to want to fly. It takes 2.75 hours to fly from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo .
Porto Alegre, the Brazilian city nearest the Uruguayan border, is a a ten-hour bus journey though to be honest the price difference between flying and the bus is usually negligible, and so I would recommend the one-hour flight.
I do not recommend driving to Uruguay from Porto Alegre. Rental companies will not allow you to cross borders (this is the same for Argentina). In addition, the route from Porto Alegre to Chuy on the Uruguayan border goes through fairly uninspiring countryside and is a two-lane road crowded with enormous produce-filled juggernauts. It makes for extremely stressful driving.
Coming from Europe, North America and the rest of the world
See my article on airlines flying to Montevideo.
Coming from the Iguazú Falls
There is a 24-hour bus from Iguazú to Montevideo.
There are no direct flights to Uruguay. You have to fly via Buenos Aires (Aerolineas Argentinas) or São Paulo (TAM). With a good connection it will take you apx 6 hours.
If you are on holiday and looking to relax, I’d recommend staying overnight in Buenos Aires to break the trip.
Getting from the airport to Montevideo or elsewhere
Montevideo’s Carrasco International Airport is 15 miles (apx 25 km) from the centre of Montevideo, a 30-40 minute cab ride into town, depending on where you are staying. Traffic is very rarely a problem, but calculate a few minutes more around rush-hour or at the start of a long weekend. Check out your options for getting into Montevideo city centre from the airport and vice versa.
If you are travelling the continent you should read about the time zone differences between Uruguay and the rest of South America. Since October 2015, there is no longer a difference in time between Buenos Aires and Uruguay.