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La Paz to Mazatlan (Baja to Mainland Mexico)

December 16, 2011

In order to get to the mainland from Southern Baja there is a choice of two different ferry companies. These are Baja Ferries and TMZ. When we went to the ferry terminal the TMZ office was closed so we were stuck with Baja Ferries. The ferry terminal is about 15k South of La Paz at a place called Pichilingue. It’s really easy to get to – you get straight along the Malecon in La Paz and keep going – eventually you arrive !

When going to the ferry terminal to arrange your tickets you should turn left after going through the main gates to the terminal. You will go through a gate – tell the people there that you want to arrange shipping to the mainland and he will let you through into a parking lot only a few yards from the Baja ferries office. The parking costs 20 Pesos.

Temporary Import Permit (TIP)

Before you can buy a ferry ticket you will need a Temporary Import Document (unless you’ve already bought this at your border crossing). To obtain this you go to the Banjercito which is at the far right end of the terminal building – it’s a an office with a window facing out towards you. They spoke good English here. You need to provide them with your vehicle registration document, passport and Tourist Card. They will need copies of all three and there is an office off to the left, just by the stairs where they will make copies for you for a small fee. Once they have the documents they will need a payment of USD 50 (for a motorhome) and a credit card to take a deposit which is based on the age of the vehicle. You do get this back when you leave the country. The last thing you have to do is fill in a customs declaration showing what type of equipment you have in your vehicle (eg. Stereo, Computer etc.). A copy of this is then attached to the document that they give you. They also give you a sticker which you must display on the windscreen of your vehicle.

Baja Ferries

After you have visited the Banjercito you can go and buy a ferry ticket. This is easily done at the Baja Ferries window which is at the left hand end of the building. They don’t really speak English here but it shouldn’t present a problem. The ferry to Mazatlan leaves on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm and takes 16 hours to arrive. There is also a ferry to Topolabambo (near the city of Los Mochis) which is quicker and cheaper.  The vehicle cost depends on size – we managed to get the rate for Motorhomes under 7m even though we are 7.5m. We paid MEX$10k for the truck (USD 770) and for this the driver goes free. In addition you have to buy a separate ticket for any passengers. This was MEX$978 (USD 75 ). You can also opt for a cabin – both with or without a bathroom. If you don’t get a cabin you spend the night in a room with aircraft style chairs and constant 80’s films playing. We got a cabin with a bathroom for Mex$770 (USD 59). So total cost was US$904. This felt pretty expensive.

The Ferry

The Ship that we were booked on is called the Mazatlan Star (formerly the Monte Cinto registered in Marseilles – and clearly formerly French as all of the notices on board are in French).

On the day of departure they ask that you turn up 3 hours before departure. On entering the terminal area you turn right and stop at customs. Here someone will look at your Vehicle import documents and check your passports (or other ID). You then have to press a button – this will trigger a traffic light system and if the light is red they will want to search your vehicle. Green and you are straight through. We were red and the customs guy did a cursory inspection of the inside of the truck and even looked in the back locker. It was over in a couple of minutes though.

From here you drive into the port itself. You will see queues of trucks – don’t stop behind them. Instead drive past and right up to the front. Here you will talk to someone who will show you where to park. This was in a small section for cars, motorhomes and vans. We were the only motorhome though. There weren’t many vehicles here – perhaps 20 in total – compared with the number of trucks – at least 100.

We waited here for an hour while trucks were loaded. Then the cars around us were loaded. A guy came over to us and told us that passengers had to load separately – so Sarah got out and went onboard. I was left waiting with the Beast for another hour. Eventually they asked me to board and I had to reverse into the ferry and up a long dark ramp to the upper deck. Once up here I had to reverse as close as I could up to the side of a lorry. This was a fairly daunting exercise and there was no one helping until you got to the upper deck.

Once in place I managed to slide out of the truck – not easy as I was very close to the adjacent truck.

I made my way to the passenger area and to our cabin – I was very relieved that after knocking on the door Sarah answered. I was very pleasantly surprised that the Cabin that we had booked was very nice with 2 single beds, air-conditioning and a small table. There was even a bottle each of mineral water. The bathroom was small with a marine toilet and shower but also included the hotel standard bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

After settling in for a bit we went down to the common parts of the boat (ship – I never know what to call these things!). This area was pretty small with two rooms. The first was a canteen with a buffet style serving area and a number of tables. The second was a cinema type room with rows of aircraft style seats (a bit less cramped though). Dinner is included with your ticket so we lined up and got some fried fish with rice, refried beans and tortillas. Not too bad.

Both the lounge and the dining room had screens showing inane films – when we were down we saw that National Lampoon’s Chirstmas Vacation and Marvin the Martian were on !

After leaving port at 6pm we started our approach into Mazatlan at 10am in the morning. The docking manoeuvre was quite tricky and involved 2 tug boats pushing on the sides of the ship to guide it into the dock.

We’d been nearly the last on board so we were close to the first off. Driving off was much simpler as this time it was forward. Sarah had to disembark separately and I picked her up from outside the terminal. From here there was a military checkpoint, where they had a quick look inside, and we were finally loose in Mazatlan.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ebs permalink
    December 17, 2011 12:39 am

    “Once in place I managed to slide out of the truck – not easy as I was very close to the adjacent truck.”

    Did you consider the other reason? That mammoth behind?

    I’m sure someone svelte like me would have popped out easily

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