This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Gualeguaychu - Fray Bentos Bridge
Closest major cities: Gualeguaychu, Argentina and Fray Bentos, Uruguay
Cost for visas: $0
Cost for vehicle: $0
Total time: 30 minutes
Date crossed: Saturday March 23, 2013
The Ferry: You can cross by vehicle ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia. For three of us, plus the car, the cost was approximately AR$1,200. Prices change based on departure hour and day. There are 3-4 ferries per day, but you must arrive at the terminal 2 hours ahead of schedule to sort the border crossing paperwork. See the ferry's website for full details.
One-Year Permits: By default, you should be given a 1-year vehicle permit when you cross at this border. We were issued one without question. However, it seems that if you need one, they may tell you that the permit is only available in Montevideo and you'll have to drive all of the way to the aduana in the big city to get the permit extended. (At least this is what heppened to our friends at Ruined Adventures.)
We originally intended to take the vehicle ferry over to Colonia. But after researching the price and seeing that the cheap ferry would require us to be at the terminal at 7:45am, we decided driving around would be better for team morale.
We loaded our car and headed out of the big city late in the morning. Thankfully it was Saturday and traffic wasn't terrible. We arrived at the border area around 1pm. A few kilometers before the bridge to Uruguay we noticed a big truck area with aduana signs around it. Several guys loitering told us to carry on to the bridge. This was customs only for trucks, apparently.
We drove over the pretty bridge, stopped at the toll booth to pay the AR$60 fee, and then continued on to find a whole pile of cars in line for the border. Kobus walked up to the front, and explained to an official that we were tourists. He waved us around the other cars to a lane on the far right. When we got there another official waved us to the lane in the middle.
We drove up to the booth and Kobus handed over our passports. One lady stamped us out of Argentina and the other stamped us into Uruguay. The Argentinian lady asked for our Argentinian vehicle permit. She looked at it, entered a few things in the computer and handed it back.
Our passports were returned with a pink slip of paper with a few stamps on it. They told us to continue forward. Another official took our pink slip and said we needed a permit for the vehicle. We pulled over and he walked with us into the building. It's possible that we should have done this step first, and stood in the line with everyone else, but somehow the dumb tourist thing worked for once.
Inside the building Kobus handed the official his passport, driver's license and the vehicle title. He filled out a vehicle permit and the official verified the numbers and stamped the form. He returned the papers with the pink slip. The official asked if we had insurance (which we do), but didn't ask to see the paperwork. Kobus returned to the car.
An inspector came out and asked if we had any fruits or vegetables. We said yes, and opened the food bin, producing some lemons, a potato and a carrot. He confiscated all of them. Then he poked around in a few other places, including the fridge. He took our cheese, eggs and ham, although he didn't search carefully. Probably we could have just said we had nothing and gotten through, but we didn't want to pull a Nacho.
After taking a few things the inspector told us we could go. He handed back the pink slip and waved us on. We drove about a hundred meters and a uniformed guard stopped us at the gate. He took our pink slip, inspected it and then waved us through.
We stopped for the night in Fray Bentos, at a nice camping place on the river.
Best part about this border: I never had to leave the car.
Worst part about this border: No ham and cheese omelets tomorrow.