Although we walked fewer miles in Montevideo, we went further afield than we did in Buenos Aires because we had time to master the bus system.
Montevideo’s bus system is a little tricky for foreigners to figure out because there are many different lines seemingly run by multiple companies. There is a great website called Como Ir that shows the bus connections between your starting point and intended destination, the arrival time of the bus, and the estimated duration of the journey. Como Ir is a must because Google doesn’t know anything about the buses.
All this information made it seem so easy we didn’t look for a further explanation of the system. On our inaugural journey, our intended destination was the hill with the fort on the top. We missed the 17 which would have gotten us closest to our destination, so we got on the 137 instead knowing we would have a 20 minute walk on the other end. If you know the system, it seems you know which kind of ticket to ask for, but since we didn’t, we gave the name of the stop we wanted, paid 38 pesos each for a común ticket, and sat down. About thirty minutes later, the fare collector came over with a slip of paper with three bus numbers listed and told us we needed to get off the bus at the next stop and change to one of these. Unfortunately, our destination was now 40 minutes away by foot rather than our intended 20 minutes, so we had no choice but to get on another bus. The 306 came shortly, so we boarded and dumbly showed our tickets from the previous bus to the bus driver who looked at us like we were crazy. We were hoping for a transfer, but it seems those are not a thing, at least not if you pay in cash without the STM card which we don’t have. On this second bus though, we got a zonal ticket which only cost 21 pesos each. We were only on the 306 for about five minutes, so we think the shorter distances must cost less.
After that experience, we started paying more attention to the number of connections and the types of buses. That evening, Jess did some research to determine that there are different kinds of trips:
- Central trips (27 pesos) are in the city center within a defined boundary.
- One hour trip (38 pesos) – within an hour you can transfer to another bus of one of four companies if you have the STM card
- Two hour trip (56 pesos)- you can use as many buses as you want in a two hour period if you have the STM card
- Metropolitan combination trip (53 pesos)- you can use an urban line and a suburban line for a discount off the total price
- Differential trip (56 pesos)- buses on these specific lines go faster and make fewer stops but cost more and require STM
- Zonal trip (23 pesos)- you can travel at a lower price within designated zones inside the department of Montevideo.
- Common trips (38 pesos) – single ride paid in cash if no other ride types apply or are requested
Knowing that, on Friday we set out for the Humedales de Santa Lucía which are 20 km away. Como Ir told us exactly which connections we needed to get there and back and that a one-way trip would take 75 minutes. We had the option of taking the D3 bus (a differential line), but since we now knew that line came at a 47% premium and Como Ir told us it would only shave two minutes off our journey we opted for a Común ticket. The bus driver didn’t know the name of the stop we asked for, or didn’t understand us, but we weren’t too worried since we could follow our journey on the map and opt to get out at the right time. However, as we got close, the bus driver signaled to us that we should get out at the next stop. We’re pretty sure it was at least one stop too early, but we made it, and the Humedales were awesome. Check out some of our photos in our Montevideo: “Pretty Much a Success” post.