Getting to La Paz
Márquez de León International Airport (LAP) (tel. 612/124-6307) is located 12 kilometers south of La Paz; look for the access road at Km. 9. Services include fast food (Burger King, Chili’s), a duty-free shop, at least eight major car rental companies, Ladatel public phones, and a Scotiabank ATM.
Direct service from the United States has been on-again, off-again as the economy rises and falls. At last check, Alaska Airlines was the only airline making the trip; Delta had put its service on hold indefinitely. All other carriers required a connection in mainland Mexico, which adds significant cost and time to the trip.
Transporte Terrestre (tel. 612/125-3274) runs a shuttle service between downtown and the airport in yellow and white vans; prices are about US$12 pp for colectivo (shared ride), US$25 for private service (especial), and US$50 for a larger van. A regular taxi to the airport should cost around US$25. Some hotels offer airport shuttles for US$5–10 per person. Espíritu & Baja Tours (Obregón #774-A, btw Allende/Juárez, tel. 612/122-4427, www.espiritubaja.com) offers airport transfer services in addition to its other tours (airport to hotel US$15 pp, hotel to airport US$10 pp).
La Paz has two bus terminals. The main one is on Calle Jalisco at Avenida Independencia, about 10 blocks inland from Avenida Abasolo. The second one, called the terminal turistica, is on the malecón. Aguila (tel. 612/122-3063 or 612/122-4270, www.autotransportesaguila.com) has daily northbound service from the main terminal with stops at the tourist terminal to Ciudad Constitución, Puerto San Carlos or Puerto López Mateos on Bahía Magdalena, Loreto (US$40, twice daily), Mulegé, Santa Rosalía, San Ignacio, Vizcaíno Junction, Guerrero Negro (US$90, several times daily), San Quintín, Ensenada (US$120, four times daily), Tijuana (US$130, four times daily), Tecate, and Mexicali. You can now check schedules and prices online.
Southbound buses all depart from the Terminal Turistica (tel. 612/122-7898). Only one bus (5 P.M.) runs through the towns of El Triunfo, San Antonio, San Bartolo, Los Barriles (US$9), Santiago, and Miraflores, terminating in La Ribera/Las Cuevas. Most run via Mexico 19 through Todos Santos (nine buses per day, beginning at 7 A.M., US$7), continuing to Cabo San Lucas (US$17) and San José del Cabo (US$19); the 3 P.M. bus continues all the way to La Ribera.
Southbound travelers have another option: Autotransportes La Paz (tel. 612/122-2157) has a more central terminal on Calle Degollado at Guillermo Prieto, which has several departures a day to Los Cabos via Todos Santos. Fares are competitive with the Aguila fares.
The busy ferry port at Pichilingue lies 16 kilometers northeast of downtown La Paz via Mexico 1, also known as the Carreterra a Pichilingue. It offers passenger and vehicle service to Mazatlán and Topolobampo on the mainland through Baja Ferries (Pichilinque Terminal, tel. 612/123-0208, downtown office: Allende 1025 at Rubio, tel. 612/123-6600 or 800/122-1414, www.bajaferries.com, 8 A.M.–5 P.M. daily). You can book tickets in advance online, in downtown La Paz, or at the ferry terminal.
You must obtain a temporary vehicle import permit (Expedición de Permisos de Importación Temporal de Vehículos, IITV, approx. US$30 payable at a Banjercito bank) in order to drive your vehicle in mainland Mexico. The purpose of this document is to make sure that you take the vehicle with you when you leave, instead of selling it illegally and avoiding the import tax. There are several ways to take care of this paperwork:
- • Visit a Mexican consulate in the United States (Albuquerque, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Francisco, or Phoenix).
- • Apply on the Banjercito website (www.banjercito.com, pages and forms are available in English), and then complete the process in person at a Banjercito branch in Mexico.
- • Go to customs (aduana) in Tijuana, Tecate, or Mexicali when you enter Baja.
- • Go to customs at the ferry terminal in La Paz.
To get the permit in La Paz, go to the customs (Aduana Maritima) office (9 A.M.–1 P.M. and 5–7 P.M. Mon.–Sat.) at the ferry terminal. It’s a slow and sometimes frustrating experience, and it’s best to allow an extra day or two to be sure all the paperwork gets done in time for your departure.
Wherever you apply, you will need the following documentation in order to get the permit:
- • Vehicle title or registration, to prove you own the vehicle: original plus three copies.
- • Certificate of canceled import permit for any prior temporary import permits.
- • A letter from the owner authorizing you to take the vehicle into Mexico (if you have leased, rented, or borrowed the vehicle)
- • Major credit card (in the vehicle owner’s name), for securing the temporary import deposit, which guarantees that you’ll bring the vehicle out of Mexico when you leave. If you don’t bring a credit card, you’ll need to leave US$200–400 in cash, depending on the age and value of the vehicle; the deposit is refunded when you cancel the permit at the end of your trip.
- • Valid driver’s license
- • Passport with valid Mexican visa
- • Proof of Mexican auto insurance policy
If you arrive with all the requisite paperwork, the permit can usually be issued on the spot, after long waits in several lines. Once issued, the permit is valid for six months.
For travelers arriving and departing by private boat, La Paz is an official port of entry into Mexico, and foreign vessels must follow the appropriate procedures for checking in and out of the country. The port captain’s office is located near the Marina Palmira. The staff at any of the major marinas in town can process paperwork required for clearing the port. The Marina de La Paz has published a detailed FAQ with information about the official entry and exit requirements at www.marinadelapaz.com.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition