Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long can my boat stay in Mexico?
All countries regulate foreign marine traffic within their boundaries, whether for commercial or pleasure purposes. Mexico's law allows an owner/captain to enter Mexico with a pleasure boat and keep it in the country for up to 10 years. The legal document by which allows you to do this is a Temporary Import Permit (TIP).
Someone wishing to keep his boat in the country for longer than the original visa can do so by requesting a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for up to 10 years. The temporary import does not change the registry or nationality of the boat; It is simply a permit to keep a boat in Mexico for up to 10 years. There is a one-time $50.00 US fee.
It is recommended that you get a TIP at your first port of entry. The Temporary Import Permit is not issued in all ports. If you are coming from the USA on the Pacific side we recommend you stop in Ensenada at the one-stop office and do all paperwork (Immigration, Port Captain, and the Temporary Import Permit) there. If you wish to obtain the TIP at another port, go to the Customs (Aduana) office and ask where to do it. In La Paz the permit is issued at the Banjército office in the ferry terminal in Pichilingue, 10 miles from town. You take the original and a copy of the following documents: Passport, tourist card, and vessel documentation or registration, the hull number, and engine identification numbers (VIN). Also, they will ask you to list the major equipment you have on board. If you don´t have a car to go to Pichilingue, take the bus that runs to Pichilingue, from the downtown waterfront bus depot in the morning. You will need $50.00 in US dollars or a credit card. Customs will issue a document and a decal that is to be placed on the vessel (Be sure to take several copies of the document before you paste the decal on the vessel; or some people choose not to stick the decal on the vessel and keep everything in a file).
The TIP is also needed to import vessel equipment, maintenance and repair parts and materials for your boat. That is why it is recommended that you include in, your original application, a detailed list of equipment aboard, including brand names, models, and serial numbers where pertinent.
The permit is valid for multiple entry into the country for the 10 year period, so you do not have to cancel it when you leave Mexico, if you are planning to return.
2. Can I charter or sell my boat while in Mexico? The boat may not be used for commercial purposes without government authorization, nor may the boat be sold while the Temporary Import Permit is in effect. If you intend to leave the country and leave your boat in Marina de La Paz, we will require a copy of your TIP. For information on chartering your boat while in Mexico, we recommend you speak to the Port Captain.
3. Can packages marked "boat or yacht in transit" enter Mexico duty free? Contrary to another old-time belief, there is no law allowing importation of goods for "boats in transit". Importation of repair and maintenance materials for pleasure vessels can be arranged for boats with a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). To have parts shipped to Mexico, you will need to provide customs with a copy of your (TIP), and a copy of the Banjército permit to import the equipmento or parts you wish to bring in. A letter from a marina which verifies that the parts are for the vessel and not for sale, is a good thing to have also.
4. Does a Temporary Import Permit allow me to bring ANYTHING for my boat into Mexico duty free? The items to be imported must be equipment for the boat or for its repair or maintenance. Other items must be declared and duty paid. That is, anything that is obviously not for a boat and are not personal effects (like clothes, lap top, etc) are subject to duties.
Importation must be done at the point the goods enter the country: at the border if you drive over, in La Paz if it comes on a direct flight from Los Angeles, or in Guadalajara, Hermosillo or Mexico City, if that is where the plane first touches down.
Following is a suggested procedure for importing equipment, parts and materials. Bear in mind that each Customs port, even each official, may do things differently.
A.- Arriving with merchandise at the Mexican border (by car):
Have with you a copy of your Temporary Import Permit (TIP), copy of the Banjército permit to import the items you are bringing in, copies of the Invoices of the equipment you are importing, with serial numbers and accurate description of the merchandise, and a letter from a marina vouching that the goods are for a vessel in that marina (not mandatory but helps many times).
B.- Merchandise shipped direct to La Paz by air. These items must be picked up by the owner/skipper of the vessel.
In three days the office will issue you a letter to present to the Customs official at the airport (Vista) instructing him to inspect the merchandise and release it to you if all is in order.
C. Merchandise sent by overnight or express mail like DHL, UPS, FEDEX, or USPS
You must deal directly with these companies, we have found DHL to be the most informed regarding the process, however, YOU MUST PLAN AHEAD!!
Note: Procedures change often (faster than we update this web page) so be sure to ask for latest procedure before you start.
5. Do I have to check in and out of every port in Mexico? As of April 29th of 2005, Mexico changed its clear-in and clear-out procedure for coastal navigation (Mexican port to Mexican port) for private yachts. (Article 50 of the Navigation Law). Once the vessel formally clears in to the county at its first port of entry, the only requirement is that the vessel notify the Port Captain's office or an authorized marina of its arivals and departures. They will require vessel name, last port of call or port of destination, changes in crew and vessel documentation or registration number. "Despachos" are no longer needed except for international departure. When clearing in or out of the country by sea the services of a ship's agent is optional. The Port Captain in La Paz district (including Cabo San Lucas) requires a health inspection of the vessel before issuing a "Despachos" for international waters, this takes a day or two to obtain.
6.- Do I have to check in and out with immigration when arriving from or departing to another Mexican Port?- With the changes in the Navigation Law described in #5 above, immigration no longer requires crews to check in or out in coastal navigation. You must check in when arriving from a foreign port and check out when departing to a foreign port. Your tourist visa will be taken from you, so it is recommended that you have or make a photocopy to keep in your file.
7. Is there a fee for anchoring my boat in La Paz? In 1997 the administration of most ports in Baja California Sur, including La Paz, were turned over to a State owned company, referred to as "API". The current PORT ENTRY fee (for 2009) for vessels under 39 tons is $76.71 pesos. For vessels 20 tons to 499 tons, the fee is $2.28 pesos per gross ton. For vessels 500 ton and over the rate is $2.98 per ton plus $5,362.50 pesos.
For 2009, the API anchoring fee in La Paz for in its harbor are shown in the following table:
When you clear into La Paz, you are supposed to go to the API BCS office on the Main Pier downtown, they will ask you to estimate the length of your stay in the harbor and will charge you according to the days you estimate you will stay. If you stay longer, go to API to pay the difference before checking out.
Boats in marinas do not pay an anchoring fee; if questioned,show API your receipts from the marina to be exempt for any time you spent in one.
The above fees change about every 6 months, so we recommend you go to API,BCS’ web page for latest fee update www.apibcs.com
API is responsible for maintaining lights and buoys in the harbor.
8. How long does it take for mail to arrive in La Paz from the U.S. or Canada? Mail service between Canada or the USA and Baja California Sur is dependable and moderately fast. Regular letter mail takes between 5-10 days. Small packages, including gifts or parts, can be sent regular air mail; expect them to take two weeks for delivery except at Christmas time. From the U.S. Post Office, International Express Mail service works well and the sender will get an ID number for tracing purposes; delivery time is from 8 to 10 days and there is sometimes a small Custom's charge at this end.
Your Boat Name
Apdo. Postal 366
La Paz, CP 23000, BCS, Mexico
The mail is sorted and placed in the Club Cruceros de La Paz building at MLP; as a courtesy for Club handling of your mail you should join the Club ($10.00 per year). Bring a supply of U.S. stamps, as there is an informal hand delivery system in place, whereby cruiser/guests are willing to carry letter mail when they fly north.
If mail is being sent by a family member via one of the special delivery services, like UPS, tell them not to include a surprise gift, or medicines, as this will sidetrack the shipment in Customs on the mainland of Mexico where the shipments are first checked.
10. What about the non-postal express delivery services? Letter items sent by UPS, Fed Ex, or DHL can take from 1-4 days to arrive. Be sure to give a street address, as delivery companies will not accept a postal address. Our street address is: Topete 3040 y Legaspy, La Paz 23060, BCS, Mexico. See II above for shipment of parts.
11. Can I have faxes or e-mail sent to me at Marina de La Paz? Our office, will deliver faxes for you, and receive and deliver e-mails in case of an emergency. The fax number is: 011-52-612-125-5900. The e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to tell the sending party to put your name and your boat name on all faxes or e-mails, otherwise they might not reach you.
12. Can I keep my car in Mexico? Cruisers who stay more than 6 months in the La Paz area often end up with cars. Be sure you keep your U. S. or Canadian driver's license as well as your car registration, current. It is illegal to leave your car behind when you leave, or to sell it to a Mexican. However, many do. If you take it to the mainland of Mexico you must obtain a special temporary import permit (you must have title, tourist visa, passport, a major credit card, insurance and $180.00 pesos). This paper work is done at the Pichilingue ferry terminal, north end, at the Banjército CIITEV office. A sticker will be attached to your windshield and the car can remain on the mainland for 6 months, period. Many cars change hands between cruisers, but only another Canadian can buy a Canadian registered vehicle because ownership cannot change hands outside of the country. Don't leave a car without changing ownership; you will be liable for any fines or other legal problems accumulated by others. Be sure you have the required liability insurance on your auto. It may save you an unpleasant stay in jail in the event of an accident.
14. Is there still a problem with "mordida" (bribes) in Mexico? The Mexican government has gone to great lengths to stamp out corruption in recent years. Don't pay mordida or offer to bribe an official or police officer unless you feel there is no possible alternative. If you are stopped by a traffic policeman, take the time to go to the police station and ask for a clarification, or to pay the real fine. Do not be intimidated. If you feel you were unjustly detained, say you want to go to the tourism office "Secretaría de Turismo" for translation or an explanation.
15. Who do I turn to if I have a problem in Mexico? The tourism office "Secretaría de Turismo" can be of help to you. If you feel you have been the victim of a scam or theft, go to them and file a written report and they will assist you. If you feel you need help with translation at some government agency, ask them to help you. If you are broke, don't expect them to give you money to get out of town.
16. How close is the nearest U.S. Consular Representative? The U.S. maintains a consular office in Cabo San Lucas. The consular agent can renew passports and notarize documents. The number in Cabo San Lucas is 01 624 143-3566; office hours are M-F from 10:00 to 1:00 P.M. The rest of the time you can leave a message on an answering machine.
17. What is the best way to get money while in La Paz? ATM machines are one way to have access to funds. Sometimes the ATM system has been subject to problems; when the machine has not made a payout but money has been deducted from the account; it is time-consuming to rectify the error.
Some other suggestions for ways to receive funds: Arrange for bank-to-bank transfers by filling out the proper forms at your financial institution before you leave home; such transfers can then be requested by voice or fax; payment is the same day; pay out can be made in U.S. currency or pesos. Get a telephone number from your bank which will put you in touch with a person, rather than a "communications system".
Money can be sent via Western Union; to Banco Azteca, located in the Elektra stores, in La Paz and most other towns, which receives funds by wire; pay out is in pesos. Personal checks are rarely accepted except by businesses or persons that know you. Foreign coins are useless to anyone, as the banks will not accept them; please don't use them for tips.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Local businesses and banks WILL NOT TAKE BILLS THAT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ON. Inspect the bills you are bringing with you and exchange any that have been marked in any way.
18. Are good medical and dental services available in La Paz? Yes. Medical and dental services in La Paz are excellent and reasonably priced. You can find specialists in most fields, general medical practice is very competent, many doctors and dentists are bilingual, and the hospitals provide adequate service for very moderate prices. However, conditions in the hospitals may be different from those you are accustomed to, especially in the general hospital; at most facilities family or friends are expected to provide needed services, like purchasing medicines or fetching water or bedpans.
19. What is the best way to make telephone calls in Mexico? The least expensive way to telephone is by using the prepaid LADATEL cards at the phones located all over most towns. The cards come in $30, $50, and $100 peso amounts and can be used for calls within and out of Mexico. In-city calls cost about $.50 centavos a minute. Most 800 numbers do not work from México unless you change: 1 800 to 001 880 or 1 888 to 001 881 or 1 887 to 001 882 or 1 886 to 001 883. You will be charged for the portion of the call from La Paz to the border. You can make calls to all 800 numbers using Skype or Gizmo on the Internet. There are two cell phone companies in México.
20. Where can I have access to the internet? Marina de La Paz has free wireless (WI-FI) and Ethernet plug on the dock for internet service if you have wireless capability, the office will give you the current password. Log on to our signal (MLP) or plug into the dock (we require a sealed plug that can be purchaced at our Marine Hardware store SeaMar across the street from the marina). Most towns, including La Paz, have many Internet Cafes where you can rent time on their machines or plug yours in.
21. How important is it to speak Spanish? Many people in La Paz are bilingual, but Spanish is the primary language. Whatever amount you can learn will be useful and just as important to your successful cruising as any of the other skills you are practicing. So PRACTICE YOUR SPANISH ! !