Sunday, December 13, 2009

Baja Travel - Taking the Ferry

The previous blog post covered bus travel on the Peninsula: Baja Travel - Riding the Bus. This post gives the basic run-down on riding the ferry - either one of them!

From mainland Mexico you can take a ferry across to Baja from Guaymas, Topolobampo and Mazatlan. Guaymas is located on the mainland in the state of Sonora while Topolobampo and Mazatlan are both in Sinaloa. Websites for all routes are listed below.

Approximate Travel Time and Costs:
The private cabins listed below contain two bunk beds, and may or may not have a private bathroom. Children up to age 11 are half-price on all routes. Infants up to one years of age are free.

Guaymas to Santa Rosalia: approximately 7 hours, $65 USD per person, $75 USD for a private cabin.
Topolobampo to La Paz: approximately 9 hours, 710 pesos ($71 USD) per person, 760 pesos ($76 USD) for a private cabin with bathroom for up to four people.

Mazatlan to La Paz: approximately 18 hours, 800 pesos ($80 USD) per person, 250 pesos ($25 USD) for a private cabin for up to four people; bathroom separate. We´ve traveled this route twice, the cabins are simple with two bunk beds and a window. The boat is large and the ride smooth, you will most likely never notice a wave much less get seasick.

All three ferry systems have food and bar service, car and overnight accommodations. Dogs are allowed but must be in a kennel (or kept in the car) and cannot enter the cabins but stay outside on deck. We traveled with our medium sized Rat Terrier this way and he did just fine. No one bothered him, I was allowed to take him out of the kennel to walk on the deck - was just not permitted to enter the cabin area. Staff were helpful and seemed to keep an eye on him as well.

There is a full-bar on deck that has a large T.V. screen and shows videos, children are welcome. Meals are nothing special, very basic Mexican fare but an assortment of snacks are available for purchase.

More Information & Websites:
For more information on Baja Ferries, including the cost to transport a vehicle, click here to view.

The Santa Rosalia to Guaymas route has an additional website: click here to view.

Happy travels, Molly
Author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide

Monday, December 7, 2009

Baja Travel - Riding the Bus

Buy your boleto (ticket) at the taquilla (no, that is not Tequila!) and be on your way. First-class bus service in Baja is comfortable (movies & commodes), efficient (minus unavoidable road construction delays), and low-cost. Just be prepared for varied service and bus stations. No two are alike.

There are two primary bus companies serving the Baja California Peninsula: ABC and Aguila. ABC (Autotransportes de la Baja California) operates in the Peninsula from Tijuana to Los Cabos. Aguila serves travelers in Baja California Sur venturing from Guerrero Negro to the Los Cabos... and back! ABC has a website, currently in Spanish-only:

Baja California Sur

In La Paz, anyone will give you directions to the main bus terminal (estacion del autobus mejor), on the malecon with: Sea of Cortez view, air conditioning and magazine and snack kiosk. If purchasing a premier plus ticket to ride on Peninsula Ejectivo, you also have a private room with computer terminals at your service – top of the line serving a direct route from La Paz to Los Cabos (only).

Wandering the off-streets a mile or so away, you may come across the less-fancy bus station with ATP (Autotransportes La Paz) service. First class busses as well but at less cost. ATP charges around $17 USD to Cabo San Lucas whereas Aguila on the malecon charges around $14 USD. Premier plus service will cost you a bit more.

Routes vary from one company to the other. ATP has no service to the East Cape, only to Todos Santos and other towns in the West Cape. As well, when you pay for a taquilla (ticket) one-way to a town, do not expect the same price heading back in the other direction. On ATP, a one-way fare to Cabo San Lucas from La Paz is around 150 pesos, but returning to La Paz will cost you close to 120 pesos.

Baja California norte

Two terminals for Tijuana – old and new. Old downtown terminal at Calle Comercio and Avenida Madero that serves local bus lines. The Central Bus Terminal (Central de Autobuses), with all the bells and whistles you would expect, is located at the corner of Lazaro Cardenas and Alamar.

ABC covers the entire Peninsula. You can take the red eye from Tijuana and arrive in Cabo San Lucas in approximately 24 hours. Cost is approximately $170 USD. All first-class buses are comfortably air-conditioned, have bathrooms (bring your own TP just in case), multiple ceiling-mounted T.V. screens for videos (often in English, once we had one in French… go figure) and reclinable seating.

From the U.S., tourists or North American escapees can tap into the entire system at the main Greyhound bus terminal in downtown San Diego and ride across the border into Tijuana.

Hot Tip: Planning a bus trip? Buy Dramamine, even if you have never taken an aspirin in your life. This goes triple if traveling with children. Also, even in the heat of summer bring a blanket. It is not uncommon for air-conditioning to be set on high and left there even as icicles form on the windows.

In summary, it is hard to know what to expect from one bus terminal to the next. Some have snacks and drinks available only, others a selection of these plus sandwiches and magazines as well as tourist trinkets. Then you stop through Los Barriles expecting a cold soda, and find a brick shell of a building with no amenities, only a primitive baño outback. Each town is different, plan ahead accordingly.

As well, bus drivers may stop for a few minutes at a snack kiosk when on a long stretch, but often times he or she will cruise straight through to the next scheduled stop. Unpredictability seems to be law in Baja.

Author of Viva La Baja! Relocation & Real Estate Guide