Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan

The first thing that you should be aware of is that the Ferry company Sematur went bankrupt 5 years ago, so it no longer has any ferry's running this route.......... or any route at all for that matter.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it's listed as the place to go in every guide book as well as any information sources on the net.

The process is fairly simple, it just takes a little while to get it done.

First of all you need to get copies of your documentation. One place I read you didn't need it, another place said you need 5 copies of each, but in the end I only needed one copy. To be safe, get a couple, it can't hurt having too much then not enough.

You need a copy of your Passport, Vehicle Registration, Tourist Visa and your Drivers License (I used my International Drivers License). You can plainly see a copier in the office where you get the permit, but they will NOT copy anything for you . You MUST get copies before you go there.

I've read that if your Mexican Tourist Visa has somewhere on Baja listed as your destination then they will not provide you with a ticket to the mainland. One of our crew had La Paz as her destination, and after a barrage of questions at the Immigration Office they assured us that it did not matter. In this case they were right, but why take the risk? Make sure that your tourist visa has somewhere on the mainland listed, Mexico City would be the safest bet.

Once you have the copies of your Passport, Vehicle Registration, Tourist Visa and your Drivers License you need to get a permit to import your vehicle to the mainland.

This can be done at the Ferry Terminal, however it is best to get it done at least the day before you leave incase you run in to any issues. The Ferry Terminal is located approx 20km North of La Paz at a place called Toppenangle.

The license, passport and visa have to be in the same name that the car is registered to. If you have borrowed or hired a car you won't be able to import it to the mainland (as far as I know). I believe this is to reduce the number of stolen cars being shipped over from Baja.

Give the paperwork to the Official in the Office (someone will direct you as you drive into the Ferry Building) and he will ask you to pay the $US 27.00 with a Visa Card. The Visa Card needs to be in the name of the registered vehicle owner as well.

He takes the card and asks you to come back in 20 minutes once everything is verified.

Once verified you get a sticker for the front window, best to put it on right away because we nearly lost ours out the window as we drove back into La Paz. Keep the paper work that the sticker is attached to as well, you will need this when you get your tickets.

Around the corner from the Permit Office is the ticketing office. I'm not sure if this is all the time, but the window on the left does NOT take credit cards, but the window on the right does, so line up as needed. You don't need to pay with a credit card, but the price breakup in peso's are as follows.

$800 per person
$2250 per car under 5.2 Meters in length (chrissy was fine)
$250 for a 4 bed cabin.

Our total was $5700 peso's, hence the use of the credit card.

It's best to get the tickets a couple of days, before just in case the rooms run out, and more importantly so there is room for you car. Also, the Ferry's don't run every day, definitely not on Thursdays and the weekends are usually booked out .

We did it the day before and had to get to the ticket office at 9am the day the ferry left to try and get the car on (there were only a few spaces left), not fun if you went out the night before. Like I said do it a few days before so you've got an easier go of it when it comes to the day you leave.

When you arrive on the day you will be directed around the far right hand side of the the building. I had to pull up and show my ticket for the car and myself, and the paperwork that the car permit sticker was on.

They chatted to me a bit, not that I understood much, lots so Si, si, ahhhhh, si. You have to drive forward and press a button on some lights, then a green light with "Passe" comes up and you drive through........... weird.

Don't go right around the back from here! I did, then someone came up asking me questions, pointing at the car and saying "Scalpo" or something similar. que? I eventually worked out that I had to put the car onto the scales for it to get weighed.

The car in front of me that I followed in didn't have to do that, so I assumed that because I didn't speak Espanol they were going to screw me out of money by saying the car weighed too much and I had to pay extra.

I drove around on to the scales and handed over the ticket, they had a list of names and cars with the weights written next to them and put mine down before waving me on and back to the line of cars. Hooray, no extra costs!!!!

The next 1.5 hours you sit in line waiting to get on to the boat. It's hot. Muy Calor!!! Fortunately I had an esky with some tepid coronas and some limes, a diet coke and the guitar.

After a while they motioned me forwards and I reversed the van into the boat.

After parking in between truck trailers I locked the car and they blocked the tires.

As you walk back out the passage there's a door on the right with a guard that will check your ticket and look at your carry on luggage, if you're carrying a giant bottle of water don't be suprised if he says "Grande Tequila?" "No, Grande Agua".

Take the stairs up to the Information Desk, which will be closed, and wait for another hour before people start boarding the boat. If you've got a cabin you'll need to line up to get the key, but if you just went with the seat just go and seat yourself.

Be warned that when you get the key they'll ask for a deposit, not a cash deposit but your license.

That's about it, hopefully it'll just be a straight forward drive off the boat tomorrow morning and off north to check out the right point break in Mazatlan.

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