If you are an urbanite at heart, then you are likely familiar with that sense of relief you get upon arriving to a city after an extended trip to rural locations.
We spent six weeks traveling down from Valparaiso, Chile south through Patagonia to the southernmost tip of the Americas, and it took us just under four hours to fly back up and into Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo. Wildlife was suddenly replaced by city life and we couldn’t wait to soak up the hustle, and its partner bustle. What we really needed, however, was a good rest after weeks of overpriced, grungy youth hostels, the only accommodation available – for the most part – for under $50 a night in the region.
We were desperate for a grown-up place to stay with all the amenities and comforts of home at a fair price.
The area itself is not the best, as much of Montevideo has gotten a bit rougher in recent years. The street the posada is located on is particularly dark at night and look out in a couple of weeks for a She Said, She Said post on our attempted robbery experience in Montevideo (don’t worry, they got nothing and we made a huge scene!).
Set inside two neighboring renovated colonial buildings, the high ceilings make the property feel particularly spacious, and we loved the original high wooden doors and window frames, plus Spanish tile work. We checked in first at reception, set in one building along with a new dormitory room with several beds. Most of the action takes place, however, in the other building next door. There is an entirely separate entrance opening onto a flight of marble stairs. The second floor has five rooms, four private (one en suite) and one spacious dorm room with six beds. The rooms, along with a common room and kitchen, all open to the center of the classic colonial building, where an iron spiral staircase leads up to a rooftop area and separate apartment, fit for a family of four.
Our room was spacious, with one queen mattress as well as a single bed, plus a desk and a large open set of shelves – with three warm blankets for the chilly autumn weather that had just started to settle in during our stay in March. Because the room opens into the building, it stays dark in the mornings with no window for natural light, but because sound tends to carry (as in all colonial-style houses) we could always hear when folks started stirring in the kitchen around breakfast time.
Breakfast at Posada al Sur is easily one of the best we came across in Argentina/Chile/Uruguay thanks to fresh bread, organic honey, delicious fresh jams (and the ubiquitous dulce de leche spread), plus fresh fruit, an actual coffee maker with freshly brewed filter coffee, all laid out on the family-sized wooden table where up to 8 guests at a time can eat together – until the comfortably late time of 11am.
The kitchen itself is really well-equipped, including plenty of dishes, pots, pans and utensils, and a large, clean fridge to store groceries. We cooked several meals here during our stay, and being able to relax in the early afternoon with wine and cheese or coffee and sweets felt like having a home away from home. Even if you are like us and prefer to prepare your own meals while traveling, make sure to stop in at Jacinto, a cozy upscale restaurant just a couple of blocks north of the hotel with sophisticated yet simple meals.
With the exception of the en-suite corner room, guests share the three toilet and shower rooms tucked on the side of the 2nd floor, which were clean and bright and it felt more like using a friend’s washroom than a shared hotel bathroom and plenty of hot water no matter when we showered.
The common room is large with two heavy wooden doors that open out onto small balconies overlooking the street and Ciudad Vieja. This was great for people-watching from above, and certainly here in the afternoons could have felt very romantic – unfortunately this room is not as comfortable as it could be. There are two computers with internet in the corner and a bookshelf along the wall, but the main places to sit are either around a large table or in two antique chairs made for show, not comfort. We felt like the owners have missed a major opportunity here because if this room had a couple of big, lazy chairs and/or a comfortable couch, Posada al Sur would feel so cozy we may not have wanted to leave.
But we respect their intentions as well as all their efforts to offer, in general, such great value for money in the heart of a capital city. None of the owners were particularly talkative (though they may not have warmed to us much after our screaming robbery drama of the first night), but they were all incredibly helpful whenever we had questions.
When we arrived we were given a big map of the whole city and the woman marked down so many points of interest and tips for getting around the city. Dani had a dental issue during our stay, and another one of the four made calls around town to find the best option for foreigners not on the national insurance program of Uruguay. The hotel also rents bikes at competitive prices ($5 half day, $10 full day), and yet another of the owners took the time to map out a good ride along the coast. Montevideo is perfect for cycling with a promenade all the way from the old city to Pocitos, home to the glitzy high rise condos along several sandy beaches.
Best of all, for digital nomads at least, was the fast, reliable Wi-Fi that allowed us to get plenty of work done and refresh our podcasts which hadn’t been updated more than a few at a time during the journey to the end of the world.
Stand Out Feature: The ambience
No matter whether it was from a rain storm that hit one afternoon, an adrenaline rush from our attempted robbery and Dani’s trip to the dentist, or a wind-whipped ride along the coast, once we escaped inside into Posada al Sur, we always felt immediately at home. Again, it has the feel of staying with friends, the natural light keeps the house bright during the day, our cavernous room and comfortable bed were great to escape to at night and we felt welcome to spend time working, cooking, snacking and conversating in the kitchen together with other guests or each other. There was art on the walls and bookshelves stuffed with quirky books, dolls and other knick-knacks that added to the homely feel.
Room for Improvement: Locks and Keys
Uruguayans love their big, gold skeleton keys and old-fashioned locks, but we can’t stand them. Here at Posada al Sur we found them particularly problematic because, especially at night, we just wanted to slip inside off the street, and were often fumbling with the door, trying to get it lined up right and it took several attempts until we got the hang of it. There was also an issue locking our room one night, and while we did manage to get it sorted, we would just really appreciate new locks and modern keys on this already renovated house.
Room for Improvement: Missed opportunities
The hotel is a co-op, owned by four (or so) local 30-somethings who seem to have a bit of trouble translating their very good intentions into reality. For example, we chose the hotel for its promise of organic breakfast and while we were still obviously impressed compared to what we were used to, the breakfast, outside of the honey, was not organic, and serving sugary junk food cornflakes instead of a homemade (or locally bought) organic granola, for example, was a bit of a slap in the face. Also, in addition to the common room missing a cozy factor, there were also large (think conference-sized) posters promoting social responsibility and other posters, brochures and pamphlets in support of specific women’s and indigenous groups. However, while these messages were quite in your face, it was entirely unclear how the co-op owners were involved with any of this and how much, if any, of what we paid actually went to help anyone at all. The intentions are noble, relevant and important, which is why we would like to see more evidence that these aren’t just superficial marketing techniques to sell rooms to a niche of mature, socially conscious clientele.
Our stay at Posada al Sur was what we were looking for – it is as functional as it is comfortable with quality mattresses in big rooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, plenty of hot water, clean bathrooms, great Wi-Fi, a big breakfast, strong coffee and access to the machine to make more later. For their sake we hope that the Ciudad Vieja area starts to live up to its potential because as soon as it does, Posada al Sur is perfectly placed between the port, the coast, a great market and the Plaza Independencia.
Location: Perez Castellano, Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay
Price: Starting at US$16 for a dorm bed, US$50 for a double room (shared bathroom), US$60 for a double room (private bathroom)
LGBT Friendly: Yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi, library, rooftop terrace, hammocks, bicycle rental