Our 2016 Baja Ferries Breakdown
Our trip on Baja Ferries was definitely one of our most memorable experiences in Mexico so far. After reading reviews online, we were basically expecting the worst but hoping for the best as we took the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan.
Baja Ferries: 2016 routes
There are two routes that Baja Ferries operates from the Baja California Sur peninsula to the mainland. One is about 7 hours and it takes you from La Paz to Topolobampo. The other is from La Paz to Mazatlan and it is about 15 hours long but, because this is where we were looking to end up, this is the route that we booked.
Note: The La Paz – Topolobampo routes run daily but the ferry to Mazatlan is only offered three times a week on Monday, Thursday and Sunday.
Booking and Reserving
The easiest way to reserve a spot on Baja Ferries is to head over to their website which is featured in Spanish, English and French.
We would have preferred to book over the phone, especially since we had a lot of questions about our options, but their 1-800 number was only available when calling from Mexico and since we were still in Canada we didn’t have much luck there.
We knew we were traveling during the busy season (December/January) and we wanted to book in advance to secure our spots and continue planning our trip. But we still weren’t sure about what the cabin option was like, if there would be A/C or Wi-Fi, if they had outlets to charge electronics, etc. And so, after booking online, we had a lot of unanswered questions. The two images below show both routes and their prices in Mexican pesos.
Note: If booking a cabin (which was definitely worth it in our case) only one cabin price is paid for up to four people.
Arriving to Port
One thing that caught us off guard is that the ferry terminal is not actually in La Paz but in a town nearby called Pichilingue. From the main bus terminal in La Paz, we took a 30-minute bus ride for about 60 pesos and made it on time. Our booking email said to arrive 3 hours prior, present ID and a confirmation number at check in. There was no line at the check in counter and we were able to pick up our tickets with no problem.
While arriving 3 hours early was a good idea, (it gave us time to ask questions and look around a bit) I don’t think it was completely necessary. Most of the locals showed up around 2 hours prior to departure, which is when boarding began. We had an extra hour to kill but the terminal has a second floor of seating and a food court so the time went by fairly quickly.
Similar to an airport, we were taken through customs and our bags x-rayed. Then we jumped on a minibus and were shuffled across the port to the ferry itself. There was a lot of document checking and waiting in line but, for the most part, it was pretty well organized and since we had arrived early, we were one of the first groups to get on the ferry.
First Impressions: Common Area and Cabins
After making our way on board, we had to climb up a few narrow flights of stairs until we made it to our designated area. Because we had reserved a cabin, we had to check in at the registration desk and Fel gave her driver’s license as a deposit for our keys. We were on the 9th floor deck which was on the same floor as the main movie room and cafeteria. Both of these rooms were constantly playing movies, mostly dubbed in Spanish and it wasn’t long before everyone gathered to their seats. Most of the seats in the movie rooms are reserved but those who didn’t have seats assigned were sitting in the cafeteria chairs or on the upper deck. Because we had a cabin to ourselves, we opted out of sitting in our reserved seats in the movie room but it didn’t take long for someone to take over our spots and secure what would be their bed for the night.
I can’t say for sure but I think that every cabin ticket comes with a reserved seat in the movie room and then seats continue to be sold until all the reserved spots are sold out. Then, it’s every man for himself. The challenge is for those that don’t have a reserved seat and are looking for a place to sleep for the night. Most passengers have been on the ferry before and come prepared with blankets in case they have to sleep outside on the upper deck. We even saw a lady who had brought a blowup mattress, earplugs, and an eye mask and settled down for the night right on the floor in front of everyone. No need to be shy on this ferry.
We had no idea what to expect when we first unlocked the door to our cabin for the night but we were pleasantly surprised to see what appeared to be our own little motel room. There were 4 fold down bunk beds, a desk and even a full bathroom with a shower. This is where we ended up spending most of our time because, hey, it was pretty great. When we weren’t sleeping or getting caught up on Season 2 of True Detective, we’d go up to the deck and get some fresh air or make our way to the cafeteria for some of the Baja Ferries cuisine.
We had all of our meals in the cafeteria and it went something like this:
- Check white board in cafeteria to see what time food was being served at
- Join dozens of people in line about 15 minutes before said time and patiently wait for food to be served
- Choose from 3 options of main dishes (all sides are the same)
- Desserts and drinks are not included in the meal but are available for purchase
- Have your ferry ticket scanned by the snack bar attendant to make sure everyone is getting one meal only
- Try to get seats in the crowded cafeteria or bring your food tray up to the deck
It was a straightforward process and things work pretty well. I’ll give it to Baja Ferries, there wasn’t one meal I wasn’t happy about eating. They did a good job of getting us all fed.
Here are some of the options we got to choose from:
Scrambled eggs, beans and tortillas
Chilaquiles, beans and tortillas
Pancakes, beans and tortillas
Chicken strips, mashed potatoes, beans and tortillas
Ground beef, vegetables, beans and tortillas
Pizza, mashed potatoes, beans and tortillas
Ham, mashed potatoes, beans and tortillas
You’ll notice a reoccurring theme with the beans and tortillas. Even with pizza for those that might want to make pizza tacos.
One of my main concerns before booking the trip was whether there would be a lot of rocking back and forth on the ferry. I’ve been seasick before and I tend to feel dizzy if there’s too much movement.
The ride started off okay but throughout the night, I could feel things getting worse. The rocking motion on the ferry was so bad that I had to sleep with a garbage can nearby just in case. Luckily, the cafeteria sells all types of medicine so I was able to get my hands on some Dramamine and managed to get a couple hours of sleep.
The following day, I felt more accustomed to the swaying of the boat and by the end of the trip, it didn’t even bother me. Fel might say I was being dramatic but I’m not used to being at sea so any movement was nauseating.
When 15 turns into 30
After a long night at sea, we got up to see that our breakfast time had been pushed back two hours. Instead of eating at 8am, breakfast was rescheduled to 10am. We found this a bit strange since we were scheduled to arrive in Mazatlan by 11am but we didn’t think much of it since we were traveling on ‘Mexican time’.
We had our chilaquile breakfast on the deck and headed back to the room to pack up our stuff. When the Spanish announcement first came on, Fel looked at me with a shocked expression. What she had heard was, “Ladies and gentlemen, there has been a technical difficulty on board and we are now scheduled to arrive at 11pm.”
Wait, what?! That’s right, our ferry was delayed. Not by 20 minutes, not even 2 hours but 12 hours!
As it turns out, one of our engines had malfunctioned in the middle of the night and as a result we had been traveling at half speed for most of the trip. What was almost more surprising than the delay was that no one really seemed to be bothered by the announcement. There was no uproar of angry passengers or upset people asking to speak with the managers. It’s as if another 12 hours for them was nothing and everything seemed to carry on as normal. Passengers continued to play with their kids, drink beer, binge watch the movies playing and patiently wait to line up for the next meal.
Would we take Baja Ferries again?
Well, it beats the alternative of driving almost 40 hours to get from the Baja Peninsula to the mainland. And we’re glad that (even with the delays) we chose a ferry that would get us straight to Mazatlan instead of having added travel from Topolobampo. More than anything, it was an experience that we’re glad we tried. The ship had a great atmosphere, music and movies were always playing and the snacks and drinks were all fairly priced. All of which is not normally the case on a ferry elsewhere in North America.
Have you traveled with Baja Ferries before? Share your experience below or let us know if you have any more questions for your upcoming travels!