Thursday, January 2, 2014

Entering Mexico 101 - Thanks Malabar!

Arriving and Checking into Ensenada for First Timers

Hello all! The following is as much information as I can give about our experience arriving in and checking into Ensenada. Might not be too thrilling for all of my land lubber readers this week, but for those of you out there that are thinking of cruising or might be heading into Mexico by boat for the first time I hope that this helps! If you find it helpful please share it with other boaters! Thanks!!


There are three marinas to choose from (no anchorages) here in Ensenada. Marina Coral is associated with a resort hotel and has the most amenities. It is located north of the actual Ensenada harbor and north of downtown. Our boat would have cost $70USD/night for berthing. MC offers assistance with the customs check in procedure. They will send an agent with you for not extra charge and will drive you to the centralized check-in office, which is good because it is NOT within walking distance of this marina.

The second option is in Ensenada Cruiseport Village. It will run you about $55.86 USD per night for a 36' boat. They also offer check-in assistance. This marina is located inside of the primary port of Ensenada and is within walking distance to downtown, the customs office and just about anything you need.

Final option is Baja Naval. We got a slip here for $30.88USD per night. It is also a boat yard and can help with just about anything from bottom cleaning to a haul out. Showers, wifi, good security, power at the docks. All good. The only negative about this marina is that there is quite a lot of wave action. It does not have a separate breakwater like the other marinas do, so your boat moves around quite a bit. Hasn't caused us to lose any sleep and otherwise we've been very pleased. GREAT staff and nice, hot showers! Plus, they have a phone to make free phone calls to the states. Rogelio is the dockmaster and he got us all of our copies and made us a packet to take to customs which is a service that he offers for free to anyone. We also really liked the location of this marina. It is on the main boulevard along the waterfront. We walked everywhere we needed to with no problem.

Getting into and out of Ensenada harbor is really a piece of cake. Well marked channel. Might have to dodge a few cruise ships, but visibility is good and we had no problem finding where we were going.

One last note on marinas! Although we're here in the winter and it is not too busy as the moment it is crucial to make a reservation before you come!! If you arrive on a race weekend or during the busy summer months it would be pretty terrible to not have a place to pull in as there is no anchorage and the nearest place to clear customs is another 600 miles down the coast.

BEFORE You Arrive

There are a couple of things you need to get BEFORE leaving the US.

1. Conapesca: Fishing Licenses. You CAN get these in Ensenada, but it is easy to get them in San Diego and I wouldn't want to be caught in Mexican waters without one. Everyone on your boat needs one and they are $46.40USD a piece. When you go to the Conapesca office all you'll need is your passport and some $. They are CASH ONLY.

2. Mexico Boating Insurance: In order to import your boat once you arrive in Mexico (this will allow you to leave your boat in the country for up to 10 years) you must have insurance. It is a basic liability policy. Ours was less than $250.00USD for the whole year. We shop thru Twin Rivers Insurance in NorCal, but it should be pretty simple to find a place that will help you with this.

3. Copies: Before you head to the customs office in Ensenada you will need a few things. The marina office will help you with these, or you can gather them ahead of time.

- Documentation of Vessel - 3 copies

- Passports - 2 copies

- Proof of insurance - 1 copy

- Write down your engine's serial #

CIS and Checking In

The place to get your tourist visas, port clearance, customs and boat importation have all been consolidated into one building known as the CIS ( Centro Integral de Servicio). It looks like this.

The offices are open Monday thru Friday from 9am to 2:30pm. I've heard rumors that sometimes they are open until 4pm, but I wouldn't count on it. It took us almost 3 hours to get everything done, but a friend of ours went later in the day and was done in 15 minutes so I'd say plan 2 hours just to be safe. Communication is EASY. All but one person working here spoke perfect ENGLISH! This office is within walking distance of both Cruiseport Village Marina and Baja Naval Marina. Marina Coral will drive you here.

When you arrive to Ensenada you have 48 hours to check in, so no worries if you arrive on a weekend or on a holiday.

Before you head out to the CIS have the person at your marina check over your paperwork to make sure you have everything you need. This is a service that is free and very useful!

Okay, you are here! Let's get this done!


When you first enter you want to go to the INM. This is where you will be issued your 6 month tourist visa. It looks like this.

You'll present your passports, crew list and vessel documentation. You will be given a tourist card to fill our with basic information. Once this piece of paper is filled out you take that paper, turn around and go to...


...the bank (Banjercito). It looks like this!

Give the teller your tourist visa paperwork and then pay her for the visa. It is $295 pesos or around $24.00USD per visa. Cash or credit card is okay. Take the receipt that shows you've paid and turn back around to...


...the INM, again. Give the helpful gentleman behind the counter your receipt from the bank and your completed tourist visa paperwork. He will stamp your visas and your crew list and return these items to you. Okay, you are now legally allowed to stay in Mexico for 6 months! Woot!


On to the port captain! Capitania de Puerto! First, take a number!!

When they call your number you will present your crew list (stamped at the INM), and your documentation. You have to check into and out of the port, but if you are here for only a few days they will actually do the check in and the check out all at the same time. Once they have these processed they will give you a piece of paper to take to...


...the bank! Show the teller that paper you just received and pay your port taxes.

We had to pay cash here, but I'm pretty sure we were just in the wrong line as you are supposed to be able to pay with credit card too! It was $227 pesos or around $19 USD. Get your receipt and then back to...


....Capitania de Puerto!

No need to get a number this time, just slide your receipt in to someone and they will stamp your crew lists/check in/out papers and give them back to you.


At this point you need to step outside of the building (thru the front door) and look directly right. There is a window that says copies are offered. Get a copy of your stamped tourist card and your stamped arrival crew list. Go back inside to...


...the bank! (You know what it looks like by now!!) This is where you are going to get an import license for your vessel. These are good for 10 years. It allows you to import parts for your boat duty free and it allows you to leave your vessel in the country even if you are not with it!

Let the teller know you need an import for your boat and give her the two copies you just made, a copy and the original of your boat's documentation, a copy of your passport and a copy of the boat insurance. Plus, provide the engine's serial number. You will be given a few papers to fill out asking what sort of things you have on the boat: air conditioners, televisions, dvd players, etc. When this is completed pay the import fee of $559.34 pesos or $45.00USD.

You will be given a packet and then you go to your last window!


Aduana Mexico!

Present the packet you were just given at the bank. Fill out a customs form. At this point they will ask you to hit a button and when you do you will be given either a red light or a green light. If you get the green light then you are DONE! If you get the red light it means that customs is going to come and inspect your vessel. Lucky you! You have to wait for an agent to arrive, then they will go with you to the boat for the inspection. We did not experience this, but we were told that all they do is come down and make sure that the vessel's serial number and the engine's serial number match the paperwork that you provided. Might I recommend that you make sure it does BEFORE getting to this point!

This is the last step! After you clear customs they will stamp and return the packet of papers for your boat's import and you are all done. Ready to go onto...

STOP # 10

Tacos de pescados y cerveza!