Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Baja Ferries

February 10th, 2013 | Posted by Brianna in Mexico | The Places We've Been

To get from Baja Sur to mainland Mexico without driving nearly all the way to the states and then through the northern part of the country, one must take a ferry. Though we read that other freight companies will accept passengers, the main option, and the one that we chose, is operated by Baja Ferries. Our experience was pleasant and got the job done.

Routes and Schedules

Two separate routes are available through Baja Ferries, both traveling between Baja California Sur and the state of Sinaloa. One travels between La Paz and Topolobampo and the other between La Paz and Mazatlán. Topolobampo is about 425km further north than Mazatlán by land, making it a shorter voyage by ferry, with the La Paz-Topolobampo trip taking 6-7 hours (some daytime and some overnight) and the La Paz-Mazatlán trip 17-18 hours (only overnight). Ferries leave from each location every couple of days, and schedules are available on the website. We left La Paz on Sunday at 5:00PM and arrived in Mazatlán just before 11:00AM on Monday.

Booking and Tickets

We booked online via bajaferries.com. After selecting your route and date on the main page, the site walks you through a menu of any additional items you might need to declare or purchase, such as a cabin, a vehicle, or pets. It was simple and intuitive and automatically calculated appropriate discounts, which for us included a reduction in Ian’s ticket price as he was driving the vehicle. The normal cost per adult for a one way trip from La Paz to Mazatlán is 1078 pesos ($85.50 USD). On the day of our trip, we drove to the ticket office a couple of hours early and needed only to provide my confirmation number and passport to pick them up. They did a quick review of our vehicle, and we received separate tickets for each human, each dog, and the van (5 total). Customer service was fantastic.

Pets

(Note: See reader BRhoads’ comment at the bottom of this post. Seems there has recently been some difficulty getting the ferry operator to allow dogs to travel to Mazatlan. If anyone else has taken a pooch on the ferry since our crossing in February 2013 and could relay their experience as well that would be helpful.)

Pets can be transported by Baja Ferries and in our opinion, with little difficulty. They must be declared when the ticket is purchased, and as said above, there is a place to do this through the ticket purchasing process on the website. The first pet is free. The second costs 205 pesos ($16.25 USD). We were asked to bring a cage as it appears others who brought dogs were, but there were larger spaces off of the ground available once we arrived, so the kennel we carried on went unused. We imagine the request was to prepare in case they had more pets than spaces, but who really knows. The provided kennels were plastic except for the metal cage door. Other blogs and reviews that we read prior to departing gave us the impression that owners were not allowed to see their dogs for the entirety of the trip, but pet-owners on our voyage were allowed to take water to their dogs once during the crossing. One last notable item is that pets are brought onto and taken off of the ferry by the owner through the crowds and human spaces. I completed the airport-like boarding process just like all of the other passengers with Olmec at my side until I was nearly to my seat, at which point a staff member led me to the kennels.

The Kietzman Kennel

Ignore how sad they look. We swear they were fine.

Deck and Stairs

These stairs lead from the deck to the kennel room where the dogs stayed. We could actually see our pups through the open door.

Vehicles

Most of the autos on the ferry were 18-wheelers or box trucks, transporting cargo of some kind; however, plenty of passenger vehicles made their way on board as well. Prices to transport your vehicle by ferry depend on type and length, but for our CR-Van the cost was 2215 pesos ($175.80 USD). All fees are listed on the website, though it is not entirely clear what the price is for an adult driving a vehicle on. Per the quote we were sent from Baja Ferries ticket support before as well as our email confirmation after buying, we received a 990 peso ($78.60 USD) discount for the combined purchase of Ian’s adult ticket and an auto ticket. This means rather than 1078 for an adult ticket and 2215 for an auto ticket for a total of 3293, we instead paid 2303 for an auto ticket including driver. Again, this price was automatically calculated by the website.

Upon entering the Baja Ferries area, we were guided by two employees to have the extra passenger (me!) exit the van and proceed to the walk-on boarding area prior to sending Ian on his way. He went through customs where he was asked if he had anything to declare (no), and he was required to push a button to see if he would be searched (also no). The next stop was a gentleman representing the facilities, which apparently are not owned by Baja Ferries. In order to use them (ie – drive onto the ferry that you just paid $200 to take), you must pay a facilities fee of 146 pesos ($11.60 USD). After parking, hunting me down for cash, running back, paying, and being sent on, Ian drove around until he found the boat. While waiting on a semi to back onto the ferry, a man came by to scan Ian’s ticket, and shortly after he was waved onto the lower deck where passenger vehicles were parked. Not much direction was given after that, but Ian and Maya found their way to the upper decks where a crew member directed them to the kennel room.

Departing Ferry

Driving off of the ferry.

Facilities and Meals

Included in the price of an adult ticket is an assigned seat, dinner, and breakfast, all of which we found to be completely sufficient. The seats are slightly larger and more comfortable than airline seats, but organized similarly in a room we came to refer to as “the Movie Room”, based solely on the fact that all seats faced forward towards flatscreens playing classic films in Spanish like Men In Black II, The Bourne Legacy, Taken, and Madagascar. Cabins were also available for rent for 770 pesos ($61.10 USD) with a private bathroom or 500 pesos ($39.70 USD) without. We had originally discussed paying extra for a cabin to ensure a better night’s sleep as we had more driving to do the next day, but by the time we bought our tickets, they were all booked. In retrospect, whether or not it would have been worthwhile is probably a push, and we were completely satisfied with our arrangement which you can read more about below.

Movie Room

The Movie Room from asiento 10 (seat 10).

Ferry Deck

View from the deck. The upper door at the top of the stairs leads to the cabins. Below leads to the Movie Room.

Aside from these spaces, the deck was open to passengers as well as a cafeteria-type room, with unassigned tables and a small concession bar selling snacks, desserts, alcohol, and non-alcoholic beverages. Most of the tables were claimed by groups early, but a few opened up on a rotating basis, and passengers were friendly about allowing us to use two of their extra seats while we ate. Dinner was served between 5:30 and 7:30, but there were no assigned eating times and knowing when serving had begun required peeking in periodically. The meal included chicken, rice, beans, and tortillas; no beverages were provided, but drinks were available for purchase – for reference, water cost 10 pesos ($.80 USD) and beer cost 25 pesos ($2 USD). After being served through the cafeteria line, guests handed their tickets to the bartender who scanned them to confirm this was indeed their first dinner and also to sell them whatever they wanted to drink with the meal. Breakfast proceeded similarly, served mid-morning-ish and comprised of eggs with hotdogs, an unknown but tasty meat dish, rice, beans, and tortillas.

Our Experience

Aside from the above details, there were also a few items in our own experience that are worth telling. As mentioned, walk-on boarding was similar to a strange airport. It went something like this: wait, get in line, put your things on a conveyor belt to be x-rayed, push a button to see whether or not your stuff was going to be searched (green light, woot woot!), walk past a station where it appears IDs are being checked but no one asks for yours, approach a metal detector where others are removing belts and wallets to walk through and you are told to pass right on by, continue outside where bags are being tagged and checked for passage (backpacks could be carried on), get picked up by a van that drives you to the ferry, try to convince everyone in the van that your dog isn’t going to bite them, give a lady your ticket, follow the yellow paint on the ground to get onto the boat. From what I’ve read, this process in La Paz is far more strenuous than when boarding at Mazatlán or Topolobampo. After taking Olmec to the kennel room and finding Maya already there, I set off  in search of Ian. We spent a lovely evening walking on deck, enjoying a couple of beers, practicing our Spanish with an off duty crew member, eating dinner, and watching movies, and we were even quite comfortable when it came time for sleep. After dozing off for a short bit though, I woke up in a sweat and short of breath. Dang had it gotten warm in that movie room! We grabbed our blankets and hit the deck, where we found a nice spot up top to set up camp. By the middle of the night when I went to the restroom, the deck was covered with people, most without blankets, and the movie room looked like a scene from a movie where a big house party had taken place the night before and bodies were passed out in various, uncomfortable positions on the chairs, the floor, and everywhere in between. Our recommendation is to bring a sleeping bag and enjoy dozing under the stars.

Deck Camping

This is where we slept, and it was wonderful. That's actually me there in the sleeping bag, covered by my pack and Ian's pillow, which I felt made me warmer.

Overall, we had a very positive experience on our Baja Ferry. The crowd was pleasant, the facilities were satisfactory, and we’ve made it safely to mainland Mexico with another fun adventure under our belts.

Ferry Deck

View of the deck upon leaving the Movie Room.

Ferry Sunrise

Sunrise on the Sea of Cortez

Ferry Landing

Pulling into Mazatlán

 

Tugboat

Tugboat!

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can leave a response, or trackback.

22 Responses

  • david says:

    very comprehensive and enjoyable review!!

  • Alejandro says:

    Loved your review! It actually inspires me to make a similar voyage, even without the car.

  • Stacy says:

    Hi Brianna,

    Thanks for the informative writing on the baja ferry. I’m wondering if you could advise me on the difficulty of booking passage on the ferry via their website? I’m trying to book travel from Mazatlan to La Paz in late Feb and returning to Mazatlan in early March, but any date I pick shows “No Availability.” Am I doing something wrong? I’d appreciate any advice.

    Thanks!
    Stacy

    • Brianna says:

      Hi Stacy! I’m glad to hear that our write up was helpful. I definitely did stumble a bit trying to figure out online booking; however, I did not have any trouble with available dates. My first thought is that potentially you are trying to book too far out for the system? We didn’t confirm tickets until a couple of days before travel. I would recommend sending an email to ask. I communicated with their staff that way (ventas.lapaz@bajaferries.com.mx), and they were very helpful and prompt. If you don’t speak Spanish, try something like Google translate and also including an English version of your question. I’d love to hear what you find out. Good luck!

  • cb says:

    Helpful review. Thanks!

    For new travelers, be aware that these ferries sell out and that you should book as far in advance as you can.

    I ended up having to find another date to travel, as all the dates I wanted were full.

  • R says:

    Thank you so much for your blog. I was doing searches on how to get to La Paz from the mainland. I found other sites with small bits but you provided great detail! I am so much more at ease and I booked my ferry last week. My trip is in two months. Please tell me how your trip to La Paz was. I’ve never been to Mx alone and I’m trying not to read the bad articles. :)

    • Brianna says:

      La Paz was good. From the direction we were traveling, Baja to mainland, it was a lot more lively than elsewhere, but after having driven through mainland Mexico, I think it will seem completely normal, if not somewhat chill coming from that direction. Enjoy your trip!

  • BRhoads says:

    Awesome post, I read it thoroughly before trying to embark on the same journey from La Paz to Mazatlan with a dog. I also read others who said that dogs were welcome on the trip, but that was not my experience. When we got to the ferry terminals to try to purchase tickets with Baja Ferries we were told that dogs were NOT allowed on the ferry to Mazatlan. But they did allow us to bring the dog to Topolobampo, so we just did that instead. No big deal, but kind of weird. They must have changed some things. We made it to Topo at about 7:30 and were in Mazatlan after about an 8hr drive. Anyway, hopefully this will be helpful to anyone who wants to cross with their dogs.

    • Ian says:

      Thanks for the update, BRhoads. Very strange that all of a sudden they wouldn’t canines go to Mazatlan. Glad you were able to figure out an alternate route though.

      • Melanie Santana says:

        Any update on dog travel? My husband and I are moving to Nicaragua with 2 large dogs. One is an 87 lb Labrador and the other is a 60 lb Pittie mix. Hence, why we are leaning towards driving instead of flying (our biggest dog isn’t heavy, but tall and surpasses the crates height allowed in air travel). Any recent info would be quite appreciated (by us and our pups!) :)

        • Ian says:

          The post from BRhoads is the last we have heard. Your best bet might be to try to get in contact with someone at Baja Ferries. In our experience that might be easier said than done. Will you be starting from out West? We loved Baja and the route we took, but with some research I am sure you could find an inland route that was quite safe (http://www.mexicomike.com/ might be of help).

          • Melanie Santana says:

            Ok, thanks. We are coming from the West, Southern California. We really liked the route you took too and the fact that everything was dog friendly. Now I just gotta’ hope most of those places are still in business! Thanks for the link to Mikes. :)

  • evan says:

    Just inspired me to drive from San Diego to Guadalajara. Seems a lot easier making the majority of the southbound trip through Baja. Less populated. I know flying is cheaper but is not a true adventure. This is.

    • Ian says:

      Baja was wonderful. Very relaxed compared to the hustle and bustle of more populated areas. There are some parts of the drive that are in the interior and it is just miles and miles of dirt and cactus, but overall a beautiful trip. When we were there, the highway from Mazatlan to Tepic was supposedly an area with high cartel presence, but we didn’t have any problems. In fact, it was hard to go more than ten minutes without seeing a military presence for some reassurance. Best of luck!

  • Frances says:

    Thought I would pass along my experience with Baja Ferries and our dog. In December 2014 we took the ferry from Topolobampo to La Paz. I, the passenger had to walk on with my standard poodle, carrying her kennel and blanket etc. The kennel is heavy and I had some difficulty carrying it. She was placed on the upper, outside deck of the ferry with the refrigeration trucks, there was no other option. In the morning the truck drivers were allowed on to that deck to start their engines before the passengers were allowed to collect their pets. My dog was absolutely frantic and I had to have help to dismantle her kennel while I held on to her. I then had to carry her cage, blankets etc, down the stairs to disembark. It was a very bad experience. I will also add that when I made the reservation I was told that my dog would be in a room on the ship.

    On our return in March 2015 from La Paz to Topolobampo, we asked to speak to whomever was in charge and thankfully this fellow was most helpful. He arranged for a young man to walk on with me and carry the cage and help me to set it up. This time our dog was placed in the stairwell where the passengers board. It was inside, quiet and air conditioned and I knew she would be ok there. So, it seems that you can sometimes make arrangements. In my opinion the stairwell is acceptable but the outer deck is definitely not.

    Some people opt to leave their animals in their vehicles, it is not allowed and it could be dangerous. Vehicles are in a sealed area, there may not be much oxygen, it could be hot and the crossing could take a lot longer than anticipated.

    I would not take a pet on the Baja Ferries Mazatlan-La Paz route, it is too long to leave an animal caged with no access to even check on them.

    In December 2015 we decided to try the cargo ferry, Ferry TMC, from Topolobampo to La Paz. We all drove on and off together. The dog was allowed on the decks as long as she was leashed and we had access to the car for the entire crossing. This was far less stressful than the Baja Ferry. There is nowhere to sleep but in your vehicle or on the deck but your dog can be with you the whole time.
    We will try the TMC Ferry, La Paz to Mazatlan route in March.

  • Ian says:

    Thanks for sharing an updated experience on the ferries.

    TMC Ferry sounds like a good option. Here is the URL for those interested: https://ferrytmc.com

  • David Breaux says:

    Im wanting to drive towing my 20′ camp trailer to Costa Rica? Am i insane or is there a safe route, ferry or any information please to be shared? I dont need to drive from Mexico to Costa Rica but would like to arrive with my truck and camper.

    • Ian says:

      David, I’m not sure I completely understand your question. Yes, there are safe routes to be found. I am not sure about taking the trailer on the ferry, although I would guess that is definitely feasible. At the current time, federal highways through the interior of the country are pretty safe. In February we crossed at Larede/Nuevo Laredo and drove from there to Monterry>Saltillo>Matehuala>San Luis Potosi in a single day, then on to Mexico City the next day. No issues at all, just be sure to stay on the federal highway and make sure you have solid directions going in. Once you are south of San Luis Potosi, you can pretty much explore wherever you want. In general terms, stick to the major roads or do your research and you will be fine.

      I suppose your trailer might catch a extra few eyes, so might want to make sure it is securely lockable. And be aware that in older cities with narrow streets it might not be that fun to drive with.

      If I missed something or you have further questions, just respond here.

      –Ian

  • Dee Avona says:

    Ok, we are taking the ferry in Nov, with two small dogs and our Tundra 4 door 4×4.
    Has anyone crossed recently? La Paz to Mazatalan. I’m bringing kennels for them? Should I get one large or 2 smaller ones? Both dogs are under 20 lbs? How much is the fee? We are up for an adventure and are not strangers to traveling in Baja or Mainland Mexico.

  • I just travelled with a girl friend and my motorcycle across, I was pleasently surprised with the journey overall, I even made a video documenting the whole experience while I was there:
    https://youtu.be/MHCdpsn7pMM



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>