Saturday, June 9, 2012

Clearing into and out of Mexico on a Boat

Before we actually say, "Adios, Mexico," I wanted to explain the clearance procedures, at least as we experienced them. The best advice I can give is to make a ton of copies and stay relaxed. You know, take a lunch break. Try some deep breathing exercises. Practice your smiling, nodding and confused look techniques. The officials we dealt with were extremely nice. It's just a long process with a language barrier, and that can be a recipe for frustration. 

Check-in process: Of course it depends on where you check in, but in Isla Mujeres we made six copies (it's really just five, but I wanted to be on the safe side) each of our crew list, boat documentation and passports. If you have a zarpe, which is basically a departure document, you'll want six copies of that too. First we went to the port captain, who sent us to the Health and Sanitation Department. They stamped all of our paperwork and gave us another piece of paper. Then we went to Immigration, who stamped our passports and gave us a tourist card, which we purchased from the bank down the street. After that, we returned to the port captain's office, and Customs came out to our boat where they took more paper and gave us another piece of paper. Stamped, naturally.

We then went back to the port captain. He took our paperwork and gave us another piece of paper that listed the fees we needed to pay at the bank, which we promptly did. We still had to import our boat in Cancun, where they wanted copies of our boat documentation, my passport and tourist card, the crew list and a zarpe if you have one. And we had to pay either $50 American cash or with a credit card that is under the boat owner's name. No debit cards allowed. Also, they want the serial numbers on your engine and outboard. Then, you give a copy of your boat importation papers to the port captain. I believe that ends the check-in procedure. Whew.

Or, if you want to be a cheater about it, you could just go to El Milagro marina where they do all that junk for you. Plus it's adorable, and evidently quite cheap - about $100 for a week with water and electricity included and a little bar next door with a nice happy hour, if you're into that kind of thing. Come to think of it, maybe we should have cheated.

Check-out process: I know we just did this, but I'm still baffled as to how it actually works. And I'm pretty sure everyone else is too. Part of the problem might be that even though Puerto Morelos is listed as a port of entry checking out cruisers is a rare event. The folks in the port captain's office were pretty sure that Immigration was supposed to check us out first, and Immigration was insistent that the port captain was supposed to give us a zarpe first so they can stamp the zarpe and our passports at the same time. After much confusion on everyone's part (and two trips to Cancun), the port captain issued us a zarpe. Immigration stamped it and our passports, and we made copies of everything for both Immigration and the port captain. Immigration also wanted copies of the receipts we'd gotten at the bank in Isla, proving that we'd paid for our tourist cards. Thankfully, we held onto every piece of paper handed to us because I think they might have charged us again for our immigration cards. 

In all, we spent about $25 apiece for our immigration cards, $50 for our boat importation sticker and about another $25 for the zarpe, leading to a grand total of $125. And, by the way, Mexico is totally worth every penny.


  1. So did you clear in with a zarpe? I'm hearing conflicting info on that.

    Sounds like an adventure in bureaucracy and hey, didn't you go sailing in search of adventure? Here's hoping you have a comfortable and easy passage.

  2. Sheesh! Consider me a cheater, then. I like 'easy'. But still, you've had an awesome time and that's worth something.

  3. Thank you so much for writting all this down. It's valuable to learn from your Mista...Adventures.

    1. I'm glad we can be of service! Copies. Lots of copies.