Crossing the Darien Gap

Shipping Panama to Colombia


Shipping Across the Darien Gap Panama to Colombia

The biggest challenge for many travellers is their first shipping experience across the Darien Gap, shipping to and from Panama to Colombia. Recently many great groups and forums have opened where people have shared instructions on how to ship from Panama to Colombia, providing detailed information on how and where to carry out the DIJ (police inspection), Customs Clearance, and to pay port fees.

You have several different options for getting your car, 4x4, Motorcycle, truck or motorhome across the Gap

  • RORO Shipping (All Vehicle Types)
  • Container Shipping (Limited to 2.597m door opening for a 40ft HC Container)
  • Flat Rack
  • Private Sail Boat (Motorcycles only)


Shipping Routes Panama to Colombia

The main shipping route is between ports on the Caribbean side of Panama to Cartagena Colombia, some ships also call at Santa Marta & Barranquilla.

There are alternative routes on the Pacific side of Panama that leave from ports near to Panama City and call at Buenaventura in Colombia.

RORO Shipping from Panama to Colombia

RORO is the best and cheapest option for oversized vehicles that cannot fit into a container. The alternative is to go flat rack. For smaller vehicles the cost of RORO and sharing a container is comparable.

RORO shipping is less complicated than Container shipping as there is no requirement to stuff and truck the container to and from the port.

RORO Security

However, RORO does pose a greater security risk, as employees of the shipping line will have access to your vehicle. Most travellers nowadays ensure that their vehicle is secured in such a way that the rear portion is not accessible in any way, many do this by creating an internal barrier and ensuring any doors cannot be opened.

Carriers, Routes and Costs

There are several RORO carriers that go from Panama to Cartagena and Santa Marta in Colombia. The prices between each of these carriers can fluctuate quite significantly in addition to the transit time.

Transit times can be anywhere from a single day to 14 days, depending on the carrier.

As an estimate you should expect to pay the following charges:

Sedan / Car:$   800-$1,000
SUV/ 4x4:$1,000-$1,300
Truck / L Motorhome:$1,500-$2,900

*Units that have any type of gas on board may be charged USD 150.00 for an IMO Certificate – Some carriers will not allow any gas at all. All RORO shippers state that they do not accept responsibility for any loss or damage to personal effects or spare parts.

The cost will vary by route, vehicle and whether you use an agent or not.

Read more about our Roll on Roll off service (RORO) or request a shipping quote

Container Shipping from Panama to Colombia

Container shipping from Panama to Colombia is / was the most secure method, provided you are present during the loading, sealing and unloading of the container.  We (where possible) use loading warehouses where our customers can be present at these critical times.

Recently Manzanillo International Terminal (MIT) has introduced new process to improve the efficiency of the port, one of the changes introduced is to allow containers to be loaded in the port, by the port’s staff.  This means that for many carriers there is no need to load the vehicles outside the port and then to truck them in.

One of the consequences of this is that you may not always be present during loading as the vehicles are dropped off at the “valet parking” to be loaded (note a port fee of around $75 is required on drop off) in to the container later in the day or next day. Unfortunately, this reduces the security benefits of shipping RORO.

You have the option to ship in 20ft containers or 40ft High Cube (HC) containers. In a 20ft container you would normally only be able to fit one vehicle, 40ft HC you can fit 2 vehicles, or one vehicle and a number of motorbikes.

The cost of a single container for one vehicle surpasses the costs of RORO shipping, however if sharing a container, the costs become comparable.

Container Shipping Costs Panama to Colombia

You should expect total costs to be:

20ft – $1,700 – $2,000

40ft HC – $1,900 – $2,400

*The costs above should include all all port fees and taxes, and are based on self clearing in Colombia. A proportion of the fees are payable locally and can range from $200 – $550.

The prices are dependent on whether you use a clearing agent on both ends, the carrier, the number of vehicles, and the port fees charged.

Do i need and clearing agent for Customs?

For both Roll on Roll off shipping and container shipping there is no requirement for an agent to complete the customs paperwork for you. Many people carry out self-clearing in both Panama and Colombia.

If you book your shipping through us we will support you through the process on both sides and provide you with the correct documentation, detailed instructions explaining the process for the Police Inspection, DIJ, Customs, Insurance, where to pick up paperwork and where to go at the port. The instructions include maps and GPS points.

If however you would prefer to use an agent depending on the port and the amount of work you wish to do yourself please expect a fee of $150-$250.

Panama Customs Export Clearing instructions

  1. Attend the Police inspection.
  2. Go to the Dirección de Investigación Judicial to obtain your completed DIJ.
  3. Drive to our local agent for customs clearance and stuffing of the vehicle.
  4. Make your way to Colombia.

Colombia Customs Import Clearing instructions 

Colombia has made it relatively easy for tourists to obtain customs clearance and to unload goods at the port Port Procedures for Tourists

Detailed instructions TBC

To request a shipping quote please complete this form


Other Resources

If you are planning to travel independently in South America this Facebook Group is a valuable resource for information, road conditions, border crossings and much more Overlanding South & Central America

Vehicle Shipping Services

Container Vehicle Shipping

Container Vehicle Shipping Services from port to port. We offer FCL and shared container services. View our example container rates  for cars, 4x4's and motorcycles here.

Roll on Roll Off (RORO)

Roll on Roll off vehicle shipping services normally offer a more economical shipping than container shipping. View example RORO shipping rates for Cars, 4x4's, Motorhomes & Trucks. RORO Shipping ports

Vehicle Customs Clearance

We can provide customs clearing services directly in the UK and work with trusted agents in other regions to clear your vehicle.


Container share

We want to help you save money and the best way to do that is to share a container with another car or several motorbikes. We will help you find a shipping partner.

Motor Vehicle Insurance - For foreign Vehicles

We can help you obtain international motor vehicle insurance for foreign vehicles which are on tour.

Europe (Green Card / Frontier), North America, South America (Mercosur) and other countries

Travel Insurance

We can help you obtain global travel insurance for backpackers, short and long term travellers. Including those who have already left their home country.

Why ship with us?


Competitive Pricing

We offer fair and reasonable pricing for our services and negotiate rates with our partners to provide you the best possible price.

If you already have a quotation, we will do our best to match or beat any valid quotation.


Unrivaled Expertise

We have the knowledge, information and the contacts to ensure your vehicle safely reaches its destination. We can advise on permanent & temporary Import requirements, Carnet Requirements, Local laws and customs, Insurance providers and Local agents & partners.


Personal Service

We specialise in shipping vehicles, whether for touring purposes, expeditions or for business.

Every shipment is treated equally no matter the size.


Trusted Agents

We only use known / trusted agents to clear your vehicle. This helps avoid unexpected costs and complications.



We believe communication is of the utmost importance. During the shipping process we will keep you informed every step of the way.


We understand your needs

We have shipped our own vehicle to many places around the world, and fully understand your needs and requirements as a customer.

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