We arrived in Montevideo mid-morning after a day in Colonia del Sacramento. Honestly we hadn’t done much research into what we could do before we arrived. The reason we came to Montevideo and indeed Uruguay was in fact because we were following the Carnival season and the Llamadas is what brought us to the capital of Uruguay on this particular Friday.
Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay
Montevideo is a curious little town. The city was firstly settled by Spanish Soldiers as a strategic point against the Portuguese further north in Brazil. Did you know it was the first city to ever host a football world cup? Considered to be the city with the highest quality of life in South America it is also the 10th most gay friendly city in the world.
Mercado del Puerto
The city is pretty charming. It has good street art painted on the side of colonial style buildings and churches. We stumbled upon the Mercado del Puerto, once a fruit market which now hosts a series of touristic restaurants cooking up traditional Uruguayan “parrilla” (meat bbq).
After the market, we were back walking through the streets towards the Rambla. The 10 miles long pedestrian track surrounds the city and separates it from the sea. We didn’t feel like walking 10 miles so after about 20 minutes we headed back into town. However, there are many shops in town which rent bikes allowing for an easier commute to the beaches.
One thing we noticed pretty quickly is that there is always a certain smell in the streets of Montevideo… Weed is indeed legal and it seems to be used regularly. Walk down any street in the old town and you will most definitely smell it or see grow shops.
Without our map and with not much time left to get ready we headed back to the hostel and found out we visited pretty much all of the attractions in the city….that was easy. We can easily see why Montevideo isn’t highly rated on the backpackers list of places to see. If you had just landed in the city not knowing where you were, you could easily think that you were in a Spanish city like Madrid. However, like most of Uruguay, the capitale is under developed in terms of tourism and the whole city could easily be seen in 24 hours.
Getting tickets for the Llamadas
We came to Montevideo for the Llamadas, a unique carnival which incorporates the African slave culture that was once part of the country.
Montevideo has a pretty decent public transport system and we easily found a city bus which brought us pretty close to our hostel. We stayed in El Viajero, it was a little pricey but as most hostels in Uruguay are, it seemed like one of the best options. After checking in we wanted to see where we could purchase our tickets to the Llamadas later that night. The receptionist looked at us strangely and told us that the tickets had been sold out for two days. Great!
Tickets are on sale 4 days before the Llamadas and can only be purchased in certain shops in Montevideo. There is no possibilities to buy them online or through and agency.
However we did have options. A) we could stay in the hostel all night and watch the festivities on tv. B) we could purchase tickets to a private balcony party in a locals house. And C) we could try and find a space behind the paid seats and try to watch for free. Seeing as we came here solely for the Llamadas and the balcony tickets being insanely expensive we decided we would take the chance and try see the carnival for free.
If you had to spend more time in Montevideo there are a few more things you could do. As mentioned earlier the city was first ever to host the football World Cup, which they won, and there is a good stadium tour in the Estadio Centenario.
Unfortunately for us we never got the chance to sample the Parrilla (BBQs) as they are insanely expensive. We just had to settle for the great smells in the Mercado del Puerto.
Montevideo also has a good Sunday market. The Tristán Narvaja Street Market is the largest in the country and if we had stayed longer this would have been our Sunday plan sorted.
Cost and Useful information
Exchange rate – as of February 2017: €1 = 6095 Ur
Bus from Colonia del Sacramento to Montevideo: 400 Ur (€13.60)
Bus Montevideo to Punta del Diablo: 1236 Ur (€41) for 2 seats
Hostel Viajero – 1296 Ur for 2 bed is a 6 bed-dorm (€43)
Beer : 1L bottle at the hostel 130 Ur (€4.30)
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