Cashless in Cabo Polonio

Uruguay

Quite often you are given recommendations on places you should go when you’re planning to travel to a country and the hardest part is deciding which ones you will have time to visit and which ones you will have to miss out on.

This wasn’t an issue with Cabo Polonio, because as soon as I heard about it, I knew that I had to go there. I was told that it consisted of a handful of shacks, with no electricity or water, scattered amongst the sand dunes – a fairly accurate description (some places have generators and water tanks) and exactly what I needed at the time!

After spending six weeks in Brazil, I took a night bus from Porto Alegre and was dropped off on the side of the highway not long after crossing into Uruguay. The sun had only just come up and there wasn’t much traffic around, so I walked the four kilometres or so into Punta del Diablo – a great little coastal town where I spent a few days.

I changed some money in a convenience store (albeit at a pretty ordinary rate), but I was almost out by the time I left to make my way further south to Cabo Polonio. I wasn’t particularly worried as I had to change buses in Castillos and I’d heard that there was an ATM there.

On arrival, it became obvious that it was only ATM in town as the line stretched around the corner, although I had a bit of time before the bus left, so queueing up wasn’t really an issue. What was an issue however, was the fact that neither of my cards worked when I eventually got to the front! Regardless, I had no other option than to carry on and hope that everything would work out…

After catching the 4WD truck across the sand dunes to reach Cabo Polonio (the alternative is a ninety minute walk), I ended up in a very chilled hostel right on the beach. I soon set off to explore the coastline, checking out the nearby sea lion colony and heading to the top of the lighthouse to gain an awesome view of the settlement, before going for swim. 

I spent the majority of that day by myself, giving me some valuable time to reflect on my first six weeks in South America, however I met a great bunch of people back at the hostel and we ended up hanging out for the next couple of days. Drinking beers while watching the sunset from the sand dunes that overlook the town was a definite highlight of both days and something that I’ll never forget.

Some places you hear about don’t quite live up to expectations, but I can safely say that Cabo Polonio doesn’t fall into that category. Everything, from the 4WD trip, to the cloud formations, is unique – it really is a perfect budget travel destination. I would love to go back one day and I’ll definitely make sure I take enough cash to stay a bit longer next time!

In terms of my money situation, as is so often the case, everything did work out – I was able to swap some Argentine Pesos for some Uruguayan Pesos with Andre from Germany, as he was heading to Buenos Aires afterwards. Ty and Will from Australia also helped out with my lack of funds, including spotting my bus ticket to Montevideo. I don’t actually remember where I came across the Argentine Pesos in the first place, considering I hadn’t even been to Argentina by that stage, but they definitely came in handy… And if any of Andre, Ty or Will are reading this, I still owe you a beer!

People sometimes worry about whether it will be ok to travel by themselves, but this just goes to show that you’re never truly alone – three complete strangers helping me out literally within minutes of meeting them. Funnily enough, now that I think about it, I was able to pay the favour on just two days later when I met a friend of a friend in Montevideo. She had just lost her bankcard, was running low on cash and was making her way to Cabo Polonio – travel karma at its best!

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