Vanlife Mexico: Taking the ferry from Baja California
to Mainland Mexico (La Paz – Mazatlán)

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Article updated on 11.03.22

During our trip on the Pan-American Highway, we made a detour to Baja California. This peninsula has only one main road from North to South. To go to Mexico Mainland, there are two solutions: drive the road in the opposite direction to return to the north of the country, or take the ferry to cross to the mainland. We didn’t want to drive back and chose the second option: to put the Camper on a boat. In this article, we explain the steps to take the TMC ferry from La Paz to Mazatlán with a car.

TMC or Baja Ferries ?

There are two companies that offer trips from La Paz to Mazatlán: TMC and Baja Ferries. They both offer different services.

TMC specializes in commercial transport. It mainly transports commercial trucks. It is still possible to take the boat with a van / camper. The advantage is that the ticket is cheaper and it is possible to sleep in your vehicle.

Baja Ferries is more tourist oriented. It offers cabins and has a real cafeteria. On the other hand, the ticket is more expensive for a car and it is forbidden to sleep in your vehicle.

A table to summarize the different ferry services:



Baja Ferries

Which sailing days?

Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

For whom?

Commercial vehicles

Tourist transport

Where to sleep?

In his vehicle

In a cabin with air conditioning or in the corridors

A meal included?

Yes, dinner and breakfast in a small room and not possible to choose the dish

Yes, dinner and breakfast in a large cafeteria with the choice of 3 dishes

What price?

About 350 dollars for our camper truck

About 800 dollars for our camper truck

We chose to travel with TMC because of the price difference. There is a big difference because our Truck Camper is about 6.30m long and with Baja Ferries the prices double as soon as a vehicle is longer than 6 meters.

If your van is smaller than 6m, we advise you to look at the rates with Baja Ferries. If the price difference is minimal, we recommend Baja Ferries where you can sleep better. Indeed with TMC, the crossing was very long because the truckers leave their engine on all the way in order to have access to their air conditioning (thank you for the noise and the smell of gasoline…).

Ticket for the TMC ferry

To book the ticket for the ferry, we went directly to the counter at the port of Pichilingue around 12 p.m. It is also possible to book by phone but you have to speak Spanish, which is not our case.

When you arrive at the port, a gentleman will direct you to the right place. If you need to do the TIP, tell him “permisio” and he will tell you to park at the entrance. If you do not have a ticket, you must park in the same place to reserve a ticket at the TMC counter.
The TMC office is located here: Google Maps


After booking your ticket on the ferry, you have to do the TIP (if you haven’t already). If you already have it, you have to go through customs control and then pay for the ticket at the TMC office. This is on the other side of customs. Only the driver can stay in the car to pass this control, the other passengers walk to the terminal which is on the left.

Vehicle Temporary Import Permit (TIP)

In order to import the vehicle temporarily into Mexico, it is necessary to make the TIP. To do this, you must go to the counter Banjercito here.
Attention to office hours:

  • Monday to Wednesday from 7am to 3pm
  • Thursday to Friday from 7am to 5pm
  • Saturday from 7am to 3pm
  • Sunday from 8am to 4:30pm

The person at the counter speaks English, that’s a big plus! He will explain all the steps to you in detail.
First, he will ask for these documents:

  • Mexican car insurance documents
  • Color copy of the car owner’s passport
  • Color copy of the FMM visa
  • Color copy of the title (gray card) of the car
  • If you have a Truck Camper, color copy of the Title (grey card) of the Camper

Then, he will provide you with a document to be stamped by the customs officers because it is a vehicle that weighs more than 3.5 tonnes. It is therefore necessary to take the van and drive it to the customs officers so that they can inspect it (only the driver can be present in the car). After receiving the stamp, you have to drive the car back to the parking lot at the start and return to the Banjercito ticket office.

The person at the counter will charge you the TIP for 6 months (about 60 dollars) and provide you with the official document.

Cross the customs

You have to go back through customs and then go get measured and weighed. Only the driver can stay in the car to pass this control, the other passengers walk to the terminal on the left.

Get weighed, measured and buy the ferry ticket

After the customs, you have to go get weighed and measured. Again, only the driver can stay in the car.

You will have to pay about 186 pesos to the person who will do the measurements. You will receive a ticket with the weight and length.

Once this step is complete, you can finally go and buy your ferry ticket at the TMC office on the right. We paid around $340.

Boarding into the ferry

You have to ask around where to go to board the ferry to Mazatlan because the port is quite large. When you arrive in front of the boat, we advise you to find a worker asking with a big smile if it is possible to be on the upper deck. Usually they know and will place you in the best spot.

We arrived around 3pm and waited until 7pm to board the ferry. We were almost the last ones. Our ferry left the port around 9pm and we arrived in Mazatlán around 12am. It was a long trip, not pleasant at all, but we were happy to have finally arrived on the Mexican mainland!

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