A sleepy beach town come winter, Uruguay’s capital and home to well over a third of the country’s population, Montevideo, is a place of tranquility and serenity by day and pulsating revelry by night. Just about 12 miles east to west on the eastern bank of the Río de la Plata, the coastal capital boasts a dynamic façade—it’s both a sandy industrial port and neoclassical concrete jungle jostling for space. In its heart is the Plaza Independencia, which separates downtown from Ciudad Vieja (the old city), with art deco buildings, colonial homes and the towering, Italian-gothic Palacio Salvo.
And not a far walk from it all is Compay Hostel—situated in the keenly cultural center of the city. Compay is not difficult to spot, as it’s the most colorful building on the block, painted in orange and blue. It’s an easy walk or cab ride from the bus station.
I entered the city by Colonia Express, which took me on about an hour-long ferry from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Colonia, Uruguay, and from there I transferred to about a three-hour long bus to Montevideo. The ticket cost me about $38 USD and the cab to Compay cost just over $100 pesos. The airport, however, is a bit of a ways away, and will cost about $1,200 pesos, though Compay will work with you, as they did with me, to get you to and from the airport for less.
Compay is the ultimate chill-out pad, ideal for urbanites who also want to kick it at the beach. The hostel is run by bilingual, warm and accommodating young people and likewise attracts younger, international backpackers. The hostel boasts shared dorms, each with their own bathrooms, as well as a colorful, cozy living space, fully equipped communal kitchen and a downstairs bathroom and shower. Outside is a heated smoking area and barbeque patio with a fireplace, as well.
But Compay offers more than the standard Wi-Fi, breakfast and lockers; you can rent bicycles by the day, contribute to the hostel’s book exchange, check out any one of the day’s scheduled tours or, in the evening to early morning hours, check out the recommended nightlife spots. On my first night at the hostel, I explored Montevideo by night with some others in my dorm and stopped by the San Juan festival—or the bonfires of Saint John, which mark the arrival of the summer solstice. On the second night I checked out The Warehouse nightclub with some others who were both visiting and working at the hostel. We hung out in the common spaces for a few hours before heading out around 2 am—breakfast is served until 11:30 am so you can sleep in a bit the next morning.
For solo backpackers looking for a comfortable place to feel like home in Montevideo, but are also keen to socialize with likeminded travelers, Compay Hostel captures the essence of chilled South American vibes. Be sure to check out their other beachfront locations in Punta de Diablo and La Pedrera if you plan on visiting during Uruguay’s summertime, as well. Think: bean bags and bonfires.