Baja Ferries: Taking the Ferry from Baja California to Mainland Mexico

Taking the Ferry from Baja to Mexico

By Jennifer Kramer

If you’re on a road trip through Baja California and you’d like to head over to Mainland Mexico with your vehicle, an excellent way to do this is to take the ferry. On a recent trip down the peninsula, we took the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan (along with our car) on Baja Ferries. The 20-hour journey was much shorter and more cost-effective than it would have been to drive all the way back up the peninsula to cross over to mainland in the north. There’s very little information online in English about taking the ferry, so here’s our experience and some tips.

The car and passenger ferry departs from Pichilingue in La Paz to Topolobampo and Mazatlan in Mainland Mexico. Be aware that ferries only depart for particular cities on certain days, so make sure to check the schedule on the Baja Ferries website ahead of time. For other options on the peninsula, there is also another ferry service that takes travelers from Santa Rosalia in Baja California to Guaymas in Mainland Mexico (

Baja Ferry Price La Paz MazatlanBaja Ferry Price La Paz TopolobampoThe first step to take the ferry from La Paz to mainland was to purchase tickets. You should do this a few days in advance. There are various Baja Ferries offices around La Paz where you can purchase tickets. We went out to the ferry terminal in Pichilingue to purchase our tickets at the office there (in part because we wanted to check out the terminal to be more familiar with it before the day of the ferry ride). You can also purchase tickets online on the Baja Ferries website, but they are lacking a lot of information on the website and there are things you may want to talk to a real person about. It’s much more advisable to go to an office in person to make your ticket purchase. You will need to have your passport with you, and if you are also taking a vehicle on board, you should bring the vehicle to be measured and will also need to show your temporary importation permit for your vehicle. If you do not already have your car import permit, you can purchase this at Pichilingue (more info HERE). You may use a credit card to make your purchase for ferry tickets.

If you are taking your vehicle on board the ferry, they will measure it to see how much it will cost you. The ticket for the driver of the vehicle is included in the price of the ticket for the vehicle. Any other passengers will need to pay a separate ticket fee. These tickets will get you the standard passenger fare. This means you will get a seat on the ferry (very similar to a plane seat) in a room where they show movies. (Note that the movies play all night long. Take earplugs if you choose this option and you actually want to sleep at night.) If you are traveling the longer route to Mazatlan, it’s highly advisable that you splurge and spend an extra $50 (more or less) for a private cabin.

Baja Ferries CabinThe cabins sleep up to four people on bunk beds, have a desk and chair, four life vests and have very nice bathrooms, complete with a shower with hot water and great water pressure. This way you get a bed to sleep in and have your own private bathroom to use (the public restrooms on the ship are in bad shape by the end of the journey). There are cabins with windows and without windows. Specify your preference when booking (they will not ask you your preference, but speak up, especially if you tend to be slightly claustrophobic in rooms without windows). If not all of the cabins are booked ahead of time, they will also sell cabins to people once on board the ferry, although the price will be more expensive than if you booked the cabin in advance.

If you do not already have your temporary importation permit for your car, you should take care of this in the days ahead of time before taking the ferry as well (note that car importations are not required in Baja but are required in Mainland Mexico). See our article on temporary car importation for Mainland Mexico for more information about getting a temporary importation permit for your car.

A few days later, prepared with Dramamine, our ferry tickets, car importation permit and all of our belongings, we arrived at the ferry terminal three hours early, as advised when we purchased our tickets. We drove the car to the zona de revision (inspection zone) where they checked the car for contraband and checked our car importation paperwork and our ferry tickets. (Note that you will need to show your ferry tickets multiple times during the boarding process, while on the ferry, and all the way through the debarking process, so it’s best to keep them on you and handy at all times).

Baja Ferries LoadingWe then drove over to a scale where they weighed the vehicle and we had to pay the port fee. They did not warn us about the port fee this when we purchased our tickets, but it’s a mandatory fee the day that you take the ferry that must be paid in cash. It was 153 pesos for vehicles (76 pesos for motorcycles, 211 pesos for large semi-trucks or moving trucks under 49 feet and 254 pesos for large semi-trucks over 49 feet). We then pulled into a parking area to wait. Since we had arrived early, we had a lot of waiting to do. This will give you some time to arrange your bags and things if you haven’t done so before hand. You will not have access to your vehicle during the ferry ride. Therefore, you will need to take the belongings that you want with you for the duration of the ride with you. Also note that there are many flights of narrow stairs that you will need to navigate on the ship, so taking a suitcase with wheels, will not only not be useless, but it will be a hassle. Better to take the few things you need with you in a bag you can carry on your shoulder.

At this time, any passengers other than the driver of the vehicle will need to go into the ferry terminal building in order to wait and board with the other passengers. They only allow the driver of the vehicle to drive onto the ship in the vehicle.

Baja Ferries Movie RoomIn the passenger ferry building, passengers will wait in the waiting room until they call boarding for the ferry. You will go through aduanas (customs) where they will x-ray bags. If you have a suitcase and you do not have a cabin, you will need to check your suitcase. Make sure you have everything you will need for the trip with you in a smaller bag or purse. If you have a cabin, show them your cabin ticket and they will let you pass with a suitcase. You will board a shuttle that will take you from the terminal over to the ferry where you will climb up a number of flights of steep and narrow stairs to arrive at the reception area where you will take a seat or get assigned your cabin (they ask for an ID as collateral for the cabin key).

When it’s time for the vehicles to load, the vehicles with drivers will continue over to the ferry where the cars will drive up to the upper decks and park the vehicle. They will strap down the vehicles after the drivers vacate the cars and head onto the passenger areas of the ferry. If you are taking a motorcycle, you will need to bring your own straps to strap down your motorcycle.

Baja Ferries El ParqueOnce on board, settle down and relax for the journey. The cafeteria was nice with tables and a TV. There are snacks and beverages available at all times for purchase and the prices are very reasonable (They say that no outside food or beverage are allowed on board, but they were not checking bags). Two meals, breakfast and dinner, are included with your ferry ticket (this is one of the times that you need to show your ferry ticket so take it with you to the cafeteria when it’s mealtime). Drinks are not included with the meals, so if you want a water, juice, soda or beer, you’ll need to have some pesos with you.

There was an outdoor area on the upper deck, El Parque, where there were benches and a small concession stand with some sodas, beers and snacks. This was the only area on the ferry to get some fresh air. We caught a beautiful sunset as we were sailing out of the La Paz area and headed across to mainland Mexico.

1-800-FERRIES (337-7437) – from Mexico only
612-123-6600 (from U.S. dial 011-52-612-123-6600)



Baja Ferries ScheduleFerry schedule as of January 2016:

La Paz to Topolobampo
Monday to Friday at 2:30 pm
Saturday at 11:00 pm

Topolobampo to La Paz
Monday to Friday 11:59 pm
Sunday at 11:00pm

La Paz to Mazatlán
Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 5:00 pm

Mazatlán to La Paz
Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4:00 pm


Other Things to Note:

  • While a temporary car importation permit is not necessary while in Baja California, it is required in mainland Mexico and you will need to get one before taking the ferry. You can obtain one in Pichilingue in La Paz. See here for more information
  • Discover Baja does offer insurance for Mainland Mexico and in some cases, you may already be covered with the policy that you have. Check your Mexican insurance policy (or give us a call at Discover Baja) to make sure that your insurance policy covers you for full territory and that you have sufficient liability to cover you in Mainland Mexico. We can easily upgrade your policy if you are not currently covered.
  • The ferry we were on was an old British boat and therefore had European outlets, with no U.S. outlets except for the shaver outlet in the bathroom of the cabin. Make sure that you fully charge any phones, tablets, etc before boarding the ferry. If you have a travel converter or a portable phone charger, take them with you.
  • If you are crossing with a pet, they are not allowed to travel with you or remain in your vehicle (because of the fumes and heat). You will need to have a hard-sided crate for the pet, no soft-sided carriers are permitted. Your pet will be put into a separate area with other pets and will be in their carrier for the entire journey. You will be permitted to visit your pet but may or may not be allowed to let them out of the crate to stretch their legs depending on whether or not the security guard deems it safe at the time. Only dogs and cats are allowed as pets. The first pet is free, subsequent pets cost an additional 210 pesos. You must advise them when making your reservation that you will be bringing a pet with you and you will need to have proof of current vaccinations. There is another ferry company, TMC, that will reportedly allow you to keep your pet with you on the journey.




33 thoughts on “Baja Ferries: Taking the Ferry from Baja California to Mainland Mexico

  1. Byron says:

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone offers passage from Ensenada to Mazatlan?

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi there, all of the ferry services to mainland Mexico leave from either Santa Rosalía or La Paz.

  2. jose ayon says:

    I have a 2008 ford f250 extended cab long bed with (2) 2007 Yamaha jet skis and yacht trailer that I need to shipped to Mazatlán, Sinaloa either by container or auto transport. Please provide quote and dates of departure.

    If you have any questions, I can be reached at (702) 237-7546.

    Jose Ayon

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Jose, you’ll need to contact Baja Ferries directly ( in order to get a quote and purchase a ticket. Thanks!

  3. Wayne Campbell says:

    Do I need a vehicle import permit to take my truck from La Paz to Topolobampo ?

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Wayne, yes you do. You can get the vehicle import permit either at the border when driving into Mexico or at Pichilingue in La Paz. They will require you to have it before you purchase a ferry ticket.

  4. Susan says:

    Do foot passengers, Topolobampo to La Paz, need to book tickets ahead??

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Susan, it’s always a good idea to at least call ahead because sometimes the ferry schedule can change last-minute.

  5. Elena says:

    I already have a Tourist Card after arriving on the mainland of Mexico by air. If I buy my ticket on line, will I need my passport to travel from Mazatlan to La Paz and back to La Paz?

    1. Discover Baja says:

      You should call Baja Ferries directly to find out if they will require you to have it for travel: 011-52-612-123-6397

  6. BK says:

    Great blog entry. Thank you. I’m wondering if you can access/sleep in your car during the trip.

    1. Discover Baja says:

      No, unfortunately they do not let you stay in, or have access to, your car during the trip.

  7. Gonzalo Magaña says:

    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:

  8. Angelo says:

    Is there Wifi on board the ferry ?
    Thank you !

    1. Discover Baja says:

      No wifi unfortunately

  9. Andy says:

    Are the prices us dollar or pesos? Thanks for sharing


    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Andy, prices listed are in pesos.

  10. Rico says:

    This article only mentions tourists. What about people who live in Baja and have a vehicle with frontera plates? I know they need a TIP but I’m a permanent resident and can’t get a TIP at borders, can I get one for the ferry to the mainland? How do they handle citizens/perm residents in this situation?

    1. Discover Baja says:

      You are able to get a TIP there in La Paz at Pichilingue. I would call the Baja Ferries office for more information about your specific situation: 612-123-6397

    2. Ann Hazard says:

      You get it at the Banjercito Office in Pichilingue. I have been calling all day today. It’s best to get your tickets at least three days ahead of time. I’m going next week to do paperwork and buy tickets for a February 1 departure. However, I am going on TMC as we are traveling with four small dogs! I traveled them, before in 2007 to Mazatlan. Not luxurious but WAY better with pets.

  11. Jim Lockington says:

    I am looking at a map showing a ferry route from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta – is this route no longer in operation? Thank you – you are providing a great help to travellers.

    1. Discover Baja says:

      That route from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta is no longer in operation anymore. The closest option would be La Paz to Mazatlan.

  12. michael says:

    Hi, I’m planning to do this in early Mach 2018. I will have my small (5 kilos) dog with me. I read that he will be in his carrier in a separate pet area for the trip duration. Will I be permitted to check on him or do passenger have no access to their pets?

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Michael, they do allow you to visit the dogs in their crates to check on them. Depending on the timing and situation the security guard may let you take them out of their crates for a few minutes to stretch their legs.

  13. sam king says:

    Can I leave my dogs in my truck/camper during the crossing?

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Sam, because of the diesel fumes and the heat in the cargo area, they do not allow pets to remain in vehicles for the crossing. You’ll need to have a hard-sided crate for them and they will need to travel in the designated pet area.

  14. Don A. says:

    I found the US in the drop down, but can’t find Oregon for the vehicle information. Just choose California??

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi there, we’re not affiliated with Baja Ferries and don’t have any connection with the tickets or booking. Please contact Baja Ferries directly with any questions regarding procedures or tickets: 612 123 6600. Thanks!

  15. jay says:

    Hi there travellers-the baje ferry going from La paz to Topo-we went Saturday night lined up at 8pm-left at 11pm- ferry has wheelchair access to an elevator up to some real nice cabins,just get tickets etc days befor so no surprizes-go early as in my case so they can park you by elevator and get your side power ramp down as i’m in quad in a power chair with a van and friends who always drive down an explore,greay, friendly staff smooth ride

  16. Miss Maria says:

    I’m curious what to expect at the Zona de Revision in Pichilingue. As an independent female traveler I’d like to know what the standard is: will they be searching me and my vehicle aggressively or do they only do that if an individual is clearly engaging in suspicious activities?? I am always a safe and law abiding traveler but I’ve never gone this route before and I just know that at some interior border crossings I have needed to be prepared to come across as a little “tougher” and be more educated on my rights as a traveler than at others. Thanks so much!! I love this forum and all of the amazing detailed information that can be found here!! Great work! Gracias!

    1. Discover Baja says:

      It’s usually a very general and fairly quick revision. There are lots of other people and vehicles around and we’ve never heard of anyone having problems.

  17. Doug VanEtten says:

    Is there 2020 pricing and departure information in print anywhere? I have not found it. I’m interested in taking the ferry from Baja (La Paz?) to the mainland (Topo? or is it Mazatlan?) about February 1, 2021.

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Doug, it can all be found at the link below:

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