Backtracking slightly, a little information for anyone crossing from La Paz in Baja to Mazatlan or vice versa.
La Paz is a great coastal town near the bottom of Baja, Mexico which we stayed in for a few days whilst trying to sort out the best (and cheapest) way to cross over to the mainland of Mexico.
The Malecon is lively and a place to get a boat out to see and potentially swim with whale sharks. Although we considered doing just that we had had such a great time with the gray whales in Mateus Lopez that we were less focussed on the doing and a little more focussed on the price – which for our budget was just a tad or two, too high. The town itself is cosmopolitan and has good coffee shops, bakeries and great markets with plenty of fresh produce and a good selection of fish.
So we relaxed in to our RV park on the outskirts and started hunting down the prices for our crossing. Hanna is 7.1m long and has a bike rack which overhangs that measurement by another 0.5m so we were hoping to get prices for an under 10m long motorhome or potentially a small truck because of her twin rear wheel axle.
There are 2 companies that operate from La Paz – Baja Ferries, similar in many ways to the European cross-channel ferries and Transportación Marítima de California – TMC – which deals much more with freight than private vehicles. But TMC DO take cars and motorhomes and vans too they just give priority to freight. The journey takes between 14 and 18 hours depending on which timetable you read and who you ask, and it is often an overnight ferry too – sleeping required.
So we went to the downtown Baja Ferries offices for a quote and were informed that we were in the most expensive category with the big North American RVs – no quibbling about length and weigh; just in that category and the price, including a small cabin to sleep in, was 11000 Mexican Pesos (£440). We had been told that there were seats to snooze in but that there was not much rest to be had in them; being a seat not a bed and in a public space – as we wanted leave the day we arrived in Mazatlan and drive 500kms we definitely needed a good nights sleep.
Off to TMC then, we drove out to the port terminal and enquired at the offices there and were told that for a 7 metre vehicle it would be 7200 Mexican Pesos (£288). They suggested that the ferry with the least freight on that week would be Monday but our ticket could only be bought on the day if there was space. We decided to remove the bikes and put them in the van and ‘shrink’ Hanna by 10cms (not sure how we were going to do that but it was the plan) so we could get in on the 7m rule.
So we had a pleasant weekend in La Paz and on the Monday headed to the port in the morning. Only to be told that we needed to come back 3 hours before sailing and just pay and get on board. Okay, seems a little ‘loose’ but we went for lunch in Hanna on the beach nearby and waited until 2pm.
When we came back we had to pass through customs first – a perfunctory check to match VIN number and temporary importation paperwork and then get weighed and measured. It seems that 7m rule is fine with bikes and an extra 10cm – we were easily 7.6m – paid for our ticket and were given 4 meal vouchers – 2 evening meals and 2 breakfasts – for free and told to head for boarding, the ferry would be leaving at 5pm.
A little vid of the whole boarding experience:
The best bit about this ferry is that we got to sleep in our van in our own bed after watching the sun go down and a movie on the laptop. The food was a ‘no choice’ menu but as we don’t eat meat we had rice and beans, a drink (horchata) and dessert. There was an amazing full moon that night as we sailed out of the lee of the peninsula and across open water. Waking the following morning to arrive in Mazatlan around 9am or 8am – we couldnt be sure if we had crossed a time zone!
The sailing was calm and pleasant, sleeping in our own bed was comfortable and all in all the fact that it was 60% of the Baja ferry cost and super chilled and relaxed meant that we had a great experience.
A little vid of leaving the ferry in Mazatlan plus a quick trip along the Malecon:
So to sum up; If you need a ticket and a guaranteed sailing from La Paz you probably need to go with Baja Ferries, but if you can cope with the little uncertainty of whether you can go on a specific date and you have your own bed in your vehicle then I suggest the TMC ferry, save a little money and have a slightly different crossing experience. Have fun … Mark and Sas x