We arrived in Montevideo on a Sunday (again?! We thought we’d never make that mistake again!), innocently making our way through the early morning light, under the pleasant warmth of the Uruguayan sun, not knowing that we would run into some crazy South American adventure. Yet again.

Arriving in Montevideo

We got off the night bus early in the morning. We had circles under our eyes and 2 chicken empanadas that they gave us during the journey. “Services included” sounds all nice and good until you’re vegetarian.

Fun fact: in the bus station in Montevideo, it’s forbidden to wear a hat or a hoodie. If you do, there’s a guard standing there, whose only duty is to come to you to tell you off.

Anyway, after a short hoodie-less rest, we set off to offer them (the empanadas – it’s important you start following right now because I won’t repeat) to any homeless person we’d find on the 1-hour walk to our ‘home’. Of course, we were couchsurfing again, and our place was in the historic centre of Montevideo.

Argentine empanadas in various shapes
These are empanadas and they’re yummy!

In Brazil, where we were coming from, it would have taken approximately 37 seconds to find a beggar. Probably less than that around an average bus station. 

Around the one in Montevideo: not a single homeless person in sight. In the park next to it: several travellers waiting but no tramp. In the next park 2 blocks away: some early birds drinking mate and still no vagrant. Until the city centre: a few peculiar-looking fellows but resolutely not a single homeless person. We had heard that Uruguay was the most developed country in South America, but we sure didn’t expect that!

It’s eventually a couple of blocks before ‘Ciudad Vieja‘, the historic and touristy part of town where we would stay, that we saw the unmistakable cardboard shelter which received our gift. We were still rejoicing about our good deed when we saw 2 more people sleeping on the pavement. Then more cardboard and a whole group of tramps.

We had to realise: the closer we came to the area we would stay at, the seedier it got. 

South American adventure pt. 1: Couchsurfing in a theatre

We got a contact through Couchsurfing who invited us to spend a few nights in his theatre. The guy warned us that it would be “rústico“; but there would be a mattress on the floor, a kitchen, a shower and a key to come and go.

What else do we need? It’d be a cool experience to sleep in a theatre (that might remind me of the time I slept in a museum). And we could probably write a blog post about it. (We did. It’s this one. The one you’re reading).

Now, I don’t know what image you guys have of a theatre. But just let me tell you this: not all have the standing and elegance of the Royal Albert Hall. Ours didn’t even have a name on its rusty metal door. Everything was relatively tidy, but either dirty, broken, or both. In fact, it looked more like a hangar with a few rows of seats and a curtain. Like this:

Sleeping bags in the theater
That’s our “bed” in the middle. Can you see it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a softy. I’ve stayed in squats before, and on countless couches. I even slept outside in schoolyards and on church lawns. By gosh, I even went clubbing in Berlin!

But that was too much. Of course, it was great to have a place to stay, many aren’t so lucky. But we wanted to stay one full week in Montevideo so we decided to end our theatre experience after 2 nights and no representation. 

South American adventure pt. 2: Couchsurfing in a shared flat

Luckily, a Couchsurfer had already accepted to host us so we contacted him. It was not ‘him’ but ‘them’, and they all had exotic names.

Needless to say, we were looking forward to a proper home, with a proper bathroom, toilet paper, herbs to cook with, people to talk to! We were in desperate need of decent sponges and non-greasy pans and a room with more oxygen particles than dust. Ah, the simple pleasure of sleeping somewhere without running the risk of catching an STD!

But I can see you’re getting restless so I’ll keep it short. Our hosts were great, fun and very helpful and we had a good time. They taught us about Uruguay, why their football team is better than the Argentine, and how to prepare the perfect mate. The flat was central and the sponge was decent.

But, with all due respect, their bedrooms did look like this: 



Have you ever had a surprise accommodation during your travels? Share your anecdote with us in the comments!

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Who am I?

Anthony fell in love with the world, and more particularly with South America. He wants to offer inspirational guides to the curious backpacker, travel stories to the online generation, and incentives for a more responsible and greener way-of-travel for everyone.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your squatting in Montevideo adventures. We find its these type of adventures that stay in your memories for years.
    Looking forward to getting on a South America road trip one of these days. Bookmarked your website as a resource.
    Beautiful site too! Cheers!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I definitely agree with you about the type of adventures we remember the most. Even those memories that are annoying at the time, will become a good laugh with time.

      Have a great time in South America! Are you going to Montevideo too? Hope to see many pics from you guys!!

  2. Wow…I can’t say that I’m ever that adventurous when it comes to lodging. The closest (and not as relatable) surprising accommodation was when I got iced in at Memphis and ended up spending the night and sharing two (normal) hotel rooms (with beds and bathrooms) with 6 other stranded strangers I met at the airport.

    1. To me, it sounds like you found quite a good solution for accommodation! Being stranded isn’t always funny (even at a later time), hope you made the best out of it.

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment, Lannie! It was quite an experience for sure. We’ve written a post about wild camping in Patagonia, have you read it? It’s a different kind of experience, but also unusual.
      We are planning to write more experience type of posts in the future, we have plenty to tell 🙂

      Thanks again for dropping by and see you around!

  3. But what happened at the new place?? I need to know more. I was a bit surprised both times I rented an AirBNB. The first the location didn’t seem at all like it did on the map. The second was a lot more rustic than I expected. Should have taken photos, lol

    1. Haha I see your excitement, so I won’t keep it for long! At the new place, the people were super friendly and with true couchsurfing spirit. But their bedrooms were mouldy, completely messy and dirty. (Sorry for the small pictures in the post, we’ve taken them with Anthony’s phone that broke down since then.) We made a little island for our sleeping bags that we kept clean and tidy. We didn’t catch any disease and learnt so much about Uruguay and South America from our hosts!

  4. Obviously I’m soft but there’s no way I could stay in that theatre. Surely there were rats? I’ve had bad but never like that. Then again I’ve never couch-surfed. I would have turned and ran. Actually I did in a few places. Those empanadas looked so good though. Fun read.

    1. We haven’t seen any rats and didn’t even think about it at the time. Eventually, we did turn and ran 😀 But reading this story again and remembering about it, I can’t stop laughing!

      Thanks for dropping by, John, it’s always a pleasure 🙂

  5. What a fun and interesting travel experience! I give you guys so much credit for staying at that theatre! I don’t think I could do that especially solo. I’ve never couch surfed but can see getting to know locals as a big appeal! It would be a great way to learn about a location from a locals perspective.

    1. That’s exactly what attracts us to couchsurfing, getting to know locals’ opinion about the place. It just gives so much to us, and we both can say that couchsurfing in the world has changed our life by forming our attitude and values. Oh gosh, we should write a post about it, really!
      I admit it’s definitely easier to take on these adventures when traveling with someone else, but we both did couchsurfing alone too.

      Thanks, Vanessa, for your comment and hope to see you soon!

    1. Haha I love it that you stand up for being a princess! Everyone should find their cup of tea when it comes to adventures, and we are all lucky when we do during traveling.

      Thanks for your comment, Wendy, and see you around!

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