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.
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|
|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.
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
- Attend the Police inspection.
- Go to the Dirección de Investigación Judicial to obtain your completed DIJ.
- Drive to our local agent for customs clearance and stuffing of the vehicle.
- 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
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
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.
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
Why ship with us?
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.
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.
We specialise in shipping vehicles, whether for touring purposes, expeditions or for business.
Every shipment is treated equally no matter the size.
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.