Crossing the Rio de la Plata
Yes, another day, another border crossing – our task this time was to cross from Uruguay to Argentina. On paper this was a simple crossing – take a boat from Carmelo, Uruguay to Tigre, Argentina.
The ferry company provides a handy map of the route:
We were staying in Carmelo, and were a 15 minute walk from the ferry terminal. At the other end, we had a place booked in Tigre which was a 20 minute walk from the ferry terminal. So all good! All we had to do was catch a boat 🙂
The journey started well – we strolled to the ferry terminal, checked our bags in, went through Uruguayan passport control to exit Uruguay, and boarded the boat. TOO EASY!
The boat was quite nice, but only had a small outside space at the back. This didn’t really matter as everyone on board just stayed in their indoor seats and only came outside to smoke, so we had the deck outside pretty much to ourselves.
The trouble started when we were handed customs forms for Argentina… they were in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, but didn’t make sense in any language. The wording was very ambiguous and contradictory and was asking us to declare everything that costs more than $150 USD, and then also write down our make of mobile phone, and then the usual declarations about food/plants etc. We had crossed into Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay without any customs forms and without even taking our bags off the bus… but we knew Argentina liked to make things difficult… We tried to fill them in as best we could, but then realised that we had filled out some sections we didn’t need to… We had been handed the forms by a staff member from the boat company as we boarded the boat, so CC went to ask her for another couple of forms, as she had a big pile of them in her hand.
As CC approached, she turned around and screamed ‘YOU CAN’T GET OFF THE BOAT. GET BACK ON THE BOAT’. CC was standing right next to the boat in a fenced-off security area, so I don’t think that fears of an illegal re-entry to Uruguay by CC had a very solid basis – but that was the only reason that we could think of for the screaming rudeness. (Actually CC thought of another one – ‘she is mean and hates her job’ – yeah, that could be it). She also refused to give CC two new forms, stating that she could only have one new one… YEAH… whatever… So I just decided to stick with my potentially incorrect form, and CC filled out a new one.
We had some food products with us – including fresh chillies (as we remembered that Argentina hates chillies and they are hard to find), so we ticked the box to declare the food, and it looked like we might lose the fresh chillies, as that seemed to be against the rules 🙁 🙁 Ah well. So with our forms ready filled, we could now relax and enjoy the boat ride (and make sour faces at the lady with the forms) (only when she wasn’t looking..)
So, we were off! Uruguay takes its border control seriously, and so for the first 10 minutes of the journey while we were near Uruguayan land, we had a police boat escort us:
The first part of the journey is across the Rio de la Plata, which is so wide it feels like the sea – even this far up the river, you can’t see the other side very clearly.
The total journey time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, and after about one hour, the boat is across the river and going along the Argentinian side. Tigre is only 28km north of Buenos Aires, and is pretty much an outer suburb of the city.
Tigre is in the Paraná Delta, so the last part of the boat journey is very scenic, as it needs to navigate various channels between the islands of the Delta to end up at Tigre, which is not directly on the main river bank.
After our very relaxing and scenic boat ride, we were ready to face customs and immigration… Immigration was very easy – a quick look at the passport and then we were stamped in. So far so good.
Then came customs… we handed our forms to someone, and CC explained to them what fresh vegetables she had and asked if they were OK. They appeared very disinterested and didn’t look at the form. Their reply was ‘Don’t worry, just go through – if there’s something you are not allowed, they will just take it away.’.
Hmmm – so off we went. They x-rayed all our bags, nothing happened, and our chillies lived to fight another day! 🙂 🙂