A map of Mexico, showing Mazatlan, which is just even with the tip of the Baja peninsula but on the mainland.Mazatlan is 200 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, and only 1000 miles south of Los Angeles. It is basically the same latitude as Kauai, just south of the Tropic of Cancer. One of the big differences between it and Hawaii is that it is probably about five times cheaper. Mazatlán is at 23 degrees 15 minutes 31 seconds North (23.258611) by 106 degrees 26 minutes 43 seconds West (-106.445278) , just one degree north of the latitude of Kauai. At least those are the co-ordinates of my swimming pool according to my new GPS toy. It is almost exactly even with the tip of the Baja Peninsula, which is the easy way to find it when you are looking at the Weather Channel.
Fly to Mazatlán unless you really enjoy driving. It is a full, long day's worth of driving to get here from the border. While the roads are generally good, its a long hard day, believe me. We usually fly Alaska Air out of either San Francisco or Los Angeles.
By Air [top]
The entrance to Mazatlán International Airport. One of the few airports where the plane waits for you. To get to Mazatlán from the USA your choice of originating cities is quite limited. There are charters during the winter with direct flights from Mineapolis and Denver, as well as Salt Lake City and Oakland. In terms of regularly scheduled flights on American carriers, you can fly Alaska Air from Los Angeles, Continental out of Houston, America West from Phoenix, or Frontier Airlines from Denver. There is a new daily one stop flight out of Dallas with American Airlines that stops in Guadaljara. The only other airlines with regularly scheduled flights into Mazatlán are Mexicana, Aeromexico, and AeroCalifornia. The airport is about 40 minutes from the city. You can hire an individual taxi by buying a ticket at the booth to your right as you exit from baggage claim. The cost is about $20US for the cab, which holds 3 or 4 people. You can also ride in a shuttle bus for about $7US per person. Both the taxi and the bus should have plenty of room for your luggage, unless you like to travel like Nadine, who tends to take things along, just in case! There is no regular city bus that serves the airport, so the shuttle bus is the best you can do, price wise. Also, don't worry about carrying your bags. Just after customs there are lots of strong young men eager to help you schlep your stuff to the bus or taxi. A one dollar tip will make them happy and save your back. Warning: as you exit baggage claim you will be approached by numerous people offering you a free ride from the airport. No Virginia, there is no such thing as a free ride, not even in Mexico. These nice people are all timeshare salesmen, and you will be required to sit through a sales presentation to collect your free ride. Trust me.

Airport Transfers

Some enterprising tour agencies now offer round trip transfers. Here is a breakdown of the destinations and fees:

ZONE 1 $22.00 Round Trip

Freeman, Belmar, La Siesta, Vidalmar, Plaza Marina, Hacienda, De Cima, Agua Marina, Vista Dorada, Cabinas, Suites Venecia, Del Sol, Acuario, Olas Altas Inn, Amigo Plaza, Howard Jonson Don Pelayo, Las Jacarandas, Damys, San Diego.

ZONE 2 $25.00 Round Trip

Riviera Mazatlán, Los Sábalos, Los Venados, Playa Bonita, Plaza Gaviotas, Playa Mazatlán, Azteca Inn, Coral Ref., Las Flores, Los Arcos, Lindamar, Marley, Los Girasoles, Club Balboa, Las Casitas, Balboa Tower, Royal Villas,Costa de Oro, Suites Tecali, Inn at Mazatlán, Granada El Cid, El Cid Castilla, El Moro Tower, Islas del Sol, Holiday Inn, Quijote Inn, Solamar Inn, Paraiso del Mar, Caravelle, Oceano Palace, Luna Palace, La Mision, Pueblo Bonito, El Faro Mazatlán, Marina El Cid.

ZONE 3 $ 27.00 Round Trip

Marina Mazatlán, Marina Tennis, Playa Escondida, Ammaczatlan, Pato Blanco, Playa Maria, Marina del Sol, Marina del Rey, El Rancho, Torres Mazatlán, Mayan Palace, Vidafel Sea Garden.

ZONE 4 $29.00 Round Trip

Costa Bonita, Cerritos Resort, Emerald Bay, El Delfin.

Take a taxi. It's not that expensive, it's fast, you don't make any additional stops, and the driver's sure could use the money.
By Car [top]
Load up the kids and put some coke in the cooler. Your trusty sedan can get you here. Mazatlán is 746 miles from the border in Nogales Arizona. You should take Mexico route 15. It is a long days drive. You will have to start at daybreak in order to make it. You do not want to drive at night in Mexico. You have been warned. Many people try to break it up and take two days. Here are some typical driving distances from Mazatlán:
Tepic, Nayarit 182 mi
Guadalajara, Jalisco 324 mi
Mexico City 746 mi

Buying Gas

Looking for a Shell, Exxon or Texaco station? Good luck! There is only one brand of gas in Mexico, and it is called PEMEX. It is owned by the Mexican government, and they know a good thing when the see it. One of the advantages of having a monopoly is that you can charge whatever you like an get away with it. You'll find gas prices in Mexico about twice as high as in the US, so be sure to fill up just before crossing the border. Most of these stations take credit cards, but when we drove down several of the stations credit card machines were broken, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring cash, preferably in pesos.

How to bring your car into Mexico

Cars are quite expensive in Mexico; they are heavily taxed, and foreign cars must pay a pretty stiff duty. Because of this, the government is pretty strict about allowing foreigners to bring their cars into Mexico. Basically if you bring a car in, you had better drive it back out. To ensure that this happens, there are a bunch of procedures that you have to go through as you enter Mexico. Here is what to expect.

This year (1997) Nadine and I drove down to Mazatlán from California. We are now in a position to tell you first hand what to expect on your trip down, should you plan to drive. I'll begin by starting in Tucson, Arizona. We broke the drive up into two days, but some of my friends tell me they do it in one day. I must admit we are not macho enough to attempt it, as both of our driving days seemed very long.

Starting in Tucson, take Interstate 19 down to Nogales. If you haven't done so already, you can stop on the US side of Nogales and buy your car insurance. There are several insurance "storefronts" on the way, with "barkers" encouraging you to select their particular agency. We had already arranged our insurance through Internation Gateway Insurance Brokers. Our policy allowed us to select how much of Mexico we wanted to be covered in, and we selected the whole country rather than just the northern states. The cost for the basic coverage is $458US for a year. The daily rate is $11US per day. This is for a Ford Explorer valued at $20-$25K. Their phone number, in case you want to use them, is: (619) 422-3022. Be sure to purchase your insurance before crossing the border, as your standard American insurance is not valid in Mexico. If you are in an accident here, and are not covered by insurance, you will be taken to jail until you can prove that you are able to be financially responsible for any claims that might arise from the accident.

Just follow the signs to the border. The crossing was no big deal for us. As you get to the border, your car triggers a customs light that either flashes green or red. The three cars ahead of us got green, but we got red. The guard ask us where we were headed, and when we said Mazatlán he waved us on our way. The "real" border doesn't happen for another 20 miles or so. When you get there, plan on spending about an hour to go through all the formalities. Park your car and take your papers with you. There are 4 stations, and they are numbered. Station 1 is immigration. You will need to fill out a tourist visa and present your passport or other documentation proving you are a US citizen. The officer inside will stamp this and give you a copy to take with you. Next proceed to station 2, which is inside of the station 3 building. It is a small window with a copy machine. The nice young man will make 2 copies of your visa and your driver's license and your vehicle registration. This will cost you a few pesos for the copies. Next go outside to one of the windows at station 3 and present these copies and pay the fee for the "temporary import permit." The person behind the window will fill out the form, and collect the payment, with can be cash or credit card. It comes to about $11 US. No big deal. They will tell you to go back to your car and get in line for station 4, which is the "real" customs inspection. While you are in line, someone will come around and paste a holographic sticker inside your windshield. Do not leave the area unless someone has done this. Don't be tempted to drive off. This sticker, and the form accompanying it, shows that you are allowed to drive your car in Mexico. If it is missing or out of date, the police have the right to impound your car at once. I repeat, don't drive off without this sticker. This queue will again bring you to a green and red signal, but this time it is always red, so you will have to pull over and a customs official will look inside your car. In our case, we opened the trunk and he poked his hand into a bag of dirty clothes, asked where we were going, and sent us on our way. All in all, the whole experience was no big deal, and nothing to lose any sleep over. In case you are interested in the official version of what can and cannot be brought into Mexico, the consulate has provided that information online. One note however: They are very strict about bringing in firearms. Don't do it! You may let a Mexican drive your car as long as you or your spouse or family members are with him. If you aren't and a Mexican is caught driving your car, it will be impounded, and you will wish you never heard the word Mexico. Finally, you are only allowed to keep your car in Mexico for 6 months. Make sure you and your car exit Mexico before this time period expires, or your car will again be subject to confiscation.

Once you are on the road again, and just about up to 65mph, you will see a sign saying that you are approaching a town, and the speed limit will drop to 40kph. I advise you to slow down at this point, as there will be people crossing the highway in a few minutes, and there was a parked police car on the side of the road. It looked to me like an old fashioned speed trap. You have been warned.

Once on the road again, we decided to take the toll roads all the way down. Look for the signs that say Cuota, which means toll rather than Libre which means free. We decided to break the trip down into two days, and spent the night in San Carlos, about 260 miles from Tucson. It is right next to Guaymas on the map. In the table that follows, I'll list the various tolls that we encountered. The last toll of the first day was Hermosillo. The tolls listed are for a regular car. Trucks and campers are higher. All the amounts are in pesos, and the date of the trip was the end of October 1997. An update! Recently I received an email from Manuel and Adriana Espinosa giving me an update on the prices at the various toll booths. I have included the new rates below. Also they recommended stopping over at Obregon, and staying at the Days Inn. These are current as of May 31, 1999. Thank you Manuel and Adriana.

Name Time Amount
Magdalena 10:41 42
Hermosillo 14:43 42
Empalme 8:44 42
Esperanza 9:58 42
Fundicion 10:43 42
Estacion Don 11:45 42
Puente Sinaloa (de Peaje) 12:42 14
San Miguel (de Puente) 14:11 17
Plaza de Cobro #59 (Las Brisas) 14:31 19
Plaza No 58 15:34 19
Culiacan 15:33 19
Costa Rica 15:41 75
Marmol 17:26 70
Total 485 485

There are plenty of gas stations along the way, and all of them have unleaded gas. Some, but not all, take credit cards. You would be wise to have about $200 US in pesos with you for gas, tolls and snacks along the way. There were plenty of money exchanges in Nogales, but past that the only place to change money is at a bank. Also, even past the border and the second border, we were stopped four times along the way by checkpoints. I am not 100% sure what they were looking for, but I believe that for vehicles heading north they were searching for drugs, and for vehicles heading south they were looking for guns. They never detained us or looked at our stuff. There was also an agricultural checkpoint, which also waved us through. All in all, the trip was uneventful, but long. I hope yours goes as well, should you choose to drive. One last note, we basically drove the speed limit all the way down, and many times we were passed by other cars that made us look like we were parked.

Going thru Durango

If you are starting from Texas, chances are your trip will take you through Durango. Do not let the roads from Texas to Durango fool you. They are new, straight, and fast. On the other hand, the short drive from Durango to Mazatlán will take you 7 hours because of the narrow, poorly maintained, and winding mountain roads. Under no circumstances should you attempt this drive at night. Unless you have at least 7 hours of daylight left, spend the night in Durango and set out the next morning.

Why you should not drive at night

It isn't because of banditos or anything like that, its just that you can't see what is in front of you as well. It is not uncommon for livestock to wander on the roads, especially at night. Encountering a cow at 70mph will be unhealthy for both the cow and yourselves, so don't chance it. In addition, all the potholes that you avoided during the day are still there at night, only they are harder to avoid. Do yourself a favour, pull over and get a good night's sleep and set off as the sun comes up in the morning. You'll be glad you did.

Travelling with a Trailer

Here are some words of advice from other RV'ers who have travelled down to Mazatlán. Never let your gas gauge go below one quarter tank. It is often a pretty long way between gas stations, and it doesn't hurt to keep it full. Be sure to fill up, way up, in the US before crossing the border. Gas is about as expensive in Mexico as the US. Also, be careful when pulling into and out of gas stations and driveways, it is pretty easy to bottom out. One other thing to look out for is speed bumps, or topes as they are called in Spanish. If you see a sign saying topes, slow down immediately. You can't count on them being marked or painted, so use extra caution. There often isn't much warning, and you can do some serious damage to your suspension if you hit one at full throttle. Also, be aware that when going through towns, these topes are frequently not marked, so drive slowly. Finally, if you do decide to take the libres, or the free roads, and find yourself going through the towns, always make sure that you can make it all the way down a street before turning into it. People often park creatively here, and you can find yourself stuck between two parked cars waiting for the owners to return.

There are also several trailer parks in Mazatlán, where you can drive up, hook up, and hang out. I've visited two of them so far, and found the owners friendly and helpful. One is on the beach, and called Mar Rosa Trailer Park. Their GPS co-ordinates are 23 degrees 15 minutes 26 seconds north and 106 degrees 27 minutes 35 seconds West. The cost is 10-16 dollars per day depending on the proximity to the beach. They charge 3 dollars a day extra if there are more than 2 people in the trailer, and require a 100 deposit to reserve space. The nice thing about this park is that it is right on the beach, in the middle of the golden zone. Needless to say, the beachfront spaces have been reserved by the same people for years and years, but no matter which space you wind up in, you are only seconds away from the crashing waves. The second trailer park I've been to is the Las Palmas trailer park. It is just across the street from Guadalajara Grill, right in the heart of the golden zone. Their GPS co-ordinates are 23 degrees 14 minutes 40 seconds north and 106 degrees 27 minutes 04 seconds West. The cost is $270 dollars per month. Particular spaces can be reserved for a minimum of three months, and require a one month deposit. The folks here love to get together and go down to Lario's for dinner and Margaritas. The office is on the third floor of the building overlooking the trailers.

By Bus [top]
No, your bus won't be a refurbished school bus, but a modern, air conditioned, super bus. Sit back and relax. There is direct service through Nogales, Arizona. Believe it or not, the bus service in Mexico is generally very good. The busses are luxurious, and the seats very comfortable. If you are afraid to fly, and don't want to drive, the bus is a very good option. If you are coming from Nogales or Tijuana, the Elite line seems to be the preferred choice. People tell me that their busses are newer, cleaner and more comfortable than other lines they have riddden. If you've seen the movie "The Big Bus", you will be reminded of it when you travel on a Mexican bus. No, there isn't a piano lounge, but there is a bathroom, video entertainment systems, and an on-board movie. If you're willing to plunk down an extra 50 pesos or so, try the Executive class. Here the seats fold down even more than on a first class airline, and each passenger receives a pillow, a snack, and a soft drink during the trip. These busses are usually scheduled to travel overnight, so you can arrive in Mazatlán refreshed and ready for a full day of touristing. Here are some phone numbers you might try:
Elite 981-3811
Transportes del Norte 981-2335
Transportes del Pacifico 982-0577
Estrellas del Pacifico 984-2817
Remember to prefix these numbers with 011-52-669 if you are dialing from the USA or Canada.

I found this information online, but have not verified it personally. In Tucson, the Elite bus to Mazatlán leaves daily at 10:30AM, 2:30PM, and 8:30PM from their station at 1428 South 6th Ave. (between 24th and 25th). The station has a parking lot (without security service) and also offers transportation from the station to the airport ($3 USD) or downtown ($6 USD). To contact the Tucson station, call (520) 903-2801.

In Phoenix, the bus to Mazatlán leaves daily at 8AM, 12 noon and 6:00PM from their station at 1306 Vanduren (near 13th St.). This station also has a parking lot (without security service) but it closes at 8:00 p.m. To contact the Phoenix station, call (602) 258-5852. You may also contact the TBC station in Nogales, Sonora at 011-(63)13-28-80.

Recently (Feb. 2001) I've obtained the local bus schedule for busses leaving the main bus station here. The bus station is easy to get to, just walk up to any taxi and say you want to go to the central camionera (sentrahl kameeonera) and they'll take you right there. From there you can take a bus to Mexico City, Puerta Vallarta, Durango, Nogales and many points in between.

Some notes on the tables below. I collected this data by writing down what was posted on the walls in the bus station. I was warned that the prices are subject to change, and that the travel times were estimates. I converted the prices into US dollars at a rate of 9.5 to 1, with the hope that the price in dollars will remain more constant over time than the price in pesos. The travel time is the number of hours to reach the named city.

Pacific Bus Company
Phone number 982-0577
Buses leave every hour
Destinations North Price Travel Time
Culican 16 2.5
Guamuchil 19 3.5
Guasave 21 4.5
Los Mochis 28 6
Navajoa 37 8
Guaymas 51 11
Santa Ana 65 14
Caborca 70 16
Sonoyta 77 18
San Luis Rio Colorado 86 20
Mexicali 89 22
Mexicali 89 22
Escuinapa 4 1.5
Acaponeta 8 2.5
Penas 12 3.5
Tepic 17 4.5
Guadalajara 30 7.5
La Piedad 42 10.5
Irapuato 46 10.5
Celaya 50 13.5
Queretaro 54 16
Mexico City 63 17.5
Elite Bus Company
Phone number 982-1949
Buses leave every hour
Destinations North Price
Culiacan 19
Guamuchil 22
Guasave 24
Los Mochis 25
Navajoa 42
Obregon 51
Guaymas 59
Hermosillo 62
Santa Ana 75
Caborca 80
Nogales 78
Sonoyta 88
San Luis Rio Colorado 89
Mexicali 103
Tecate 112
Tijuana 116
Tijuana 116
at 13:45 there is direct service to Tijuana
at 21:45 there is direct service to Nogales
Both of the above buses stop in Hermosillo

Norte de Sonora Bus Company
Phone 981-3111 and 981-2335 x 120
Departure time Destinations Price Travel time
10:00 Huatabampo 24 6.5
11:00 Tijuana 102 25
12:00 Culiacan 16 3
13:00 Mochis 24 5.5
14:00 Tijuana 24 25
15:30 Nogales 57 16
18:30 Tijuana 24 25
10:00 Mexico City 67 18
I had a very hard time with this bus line. I have copied their schedule faithfully, but the guy at the counter told me that a bus from Guadaljara arrives every hour and then departs to Tijuana. I could never reconcile this with the schedule above. Also as an addendum to the schedule, there is a bus to Agua Prieta, which is, apparently, the same as Puerta Vallarta, that departs at 09:30, 18:30, and 22:00. This is the best I could do, sorry. I welcome any further clarification from anyone who can figure this out.
Autotransportes El Rosario
No phone number
Buses depart every 15 minutes
Destinations Price Travel time
Rosario 3 1
Escuinapa 4 1.5
Acaponeta 7 2.5
Penas 10 4
Santiago 13 5
Tepic 15 5.5
This is a very local bus line, that only runs as far as Tepic. The guy at the counter said the buses run from 5am until 7pm, and depart every 15 minutes. Judging from the lack of people in the station, I would guess that each bus has many seats available.
Estrella Blanca Bus Company
Phone 981-2335 and 981-3680
Departure time Destinations Price Travel time
03:00 Durango 25 7
06:00 Durango 25 7
08:00 Durango 25 7
11:00 Durango 25 7
16:00 Torreon 37 11
I have to admit that I'm not sure about the departure times for Durango. The sign said 3, 6, 8, and 11 but I'm not sure if it was AM or PM. Since the sign also said 16:00 for Torreon, I'm assuming they are AM departures, though 3am is a bit early, especially for Mazatlecos. Still, if you absolutely, positively have to be in Durango by 10am, I guess a 3am redeye is the way to go.
Ejecutivo
Phone 982-1949 - same as Elite above
Destinations Price Travel time
Tepic 19 5
Guadalajara 35 8
Mexico City 78 15
Aguascalientes 45 12
Queretaro 66 14
Irapuato 57 12
Morelia 54 12
Puebla 80 18
Puerta Vallarta 30 7
Manzanillo 44 16
Lorenzo Cardenas 66 14
Zihuatanejo 72 20
Acapulco 95 22
You might be wondering about the departure times. Well, here are the ones I know about: To Tepic at 11:00 and 14:00. To Guadalajara at 09:30, 12:30, 20:15, 21:45, and 22:45. To Mexico City at 11:00, 14:00, 16:00 19:45, and 21:100. Finally, to Aguascalientes at 22:45. The other desitinations, I'm not really sure. There were more on the board, but when I inquired about them I was told they were cancelled. Perhaps the buses to Mexico City carry on to some of the other locations, but this was my last stop and I was running out of steam, so I guess I let accuracy slide by the wayside. While the counter agents were friendly enough, I got the feeling with some of them that this information was on a need to know basis, and it wasn't at all clear why a passenger would need to know when and where the bus was going. You figure it out.
Departure time Destinations Price Travel time
22:00 Guadalajara 48 7
23:15 Guadalajara 48 7
18:00 Mexico City 82 14
20:00 Monterey 81 16
21:00 Monterey 81 16
This schedule is for the direct service. These buses don't make any intermediate stops, and generally take about an hour less travel time than their counterparts above.

By Sea [top]
Mazatlán is part of the Mexican Riviera and is serviced by several cruise ship lines. They are always changing their ships and itineraries, so check with your travel agent. Please note, if you take a cruise to Mazatlán, you will only be spending about 8 hours here. Many cruisers take advantage of the much lower drug prices here in Mexico. If you would like to have your order waiting for you when you arrive at the cruise ship docks, just contact our friend Linda and let her know what you need. She has a kiosk at the cruise ship docks and you can pick them up as soon as you get off the boat.

 Take a Cruise ship for a one day quickie, or a ferry to and from La Paz There is also a ferry from Mazatlán to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula. The ferry carries hundreds of people, as well as cars. There are three classes of travel available, Salon, Tourist, and Cabin. Salon class offers reclining seats, Tourist class is a small room with 4 bunks and a washbasin. Rooms are assigned to all males or all females. Cabin class is two bunks and a bath in the room. The travel time is 18 hours, and the ferry leaves Mazatlán at 3:00pm every day except Saturday and arrives in La Paz at 9:00am the next morning. Prices in pesos are as follows:

Salon 174
Tourist 346
Cabin 518
Special 691
With Car 1753

For more information you can contact:
Mazatlán:
Prolongacion Carnaval S/N
Fracc. Playa Sur
Mazatlán, Sinaloa
981-7020 or 981-7021 (Voice)
981-7023 (FAX)
Remember to dial 011-52-669 from the USA or Canada first. The ferry service is now online! Check them out at http://www.ferrysematur.com.mx/ Flattr this
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