How To Cross Darien Gap With A Motorbike for under $300

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In March 2014, I took my small motorbike from Panama to Colombia. Avoiding the jungle I had to transport it through the sea. Make sure you read first part of the story and then the second. I also made a short movie that can be found in the third part.

Most of the info about crossing Darien Gap I got from an amazing guide posted by Ondrej Jurik. That was more than enough to learn what I could expect. I only needed to reverse the procedure written by Ondrej and hope that the cargo boat will arrive to Carti soon.

Transportation details

Panama coast – Carti island ($25) – hiring a boat, 10 minute ride.

Carti – Puerto Obaldia ($150) – travelling with a motorbike on cargo boat. I was allowed to pitch a tent on the roof , the price included 3 meals a day. Luckily, the boat arrived on the same day I made to Carti. It departed next morning and we arrived to Puerto Obaldia in the morning of 6th day. The boat goes slow, besides unloading goods and idling on various islands, it was moving maybe only 4 hours a day.

Puerto Obaldia – Capurgana ($55) – speedboat, 30 minutes. Splashy, uncomfortable.

Capurgana – San Juan De Uraba ($50) – speedboat, 3.5 hour. Splashy, uncomfortable. Not a regular boat, they were just some Colombians going back to their home and decided to take me because they could make an extra buck.

Other costs (entering Kuna reserve): $13

Total cost: $293.

Steps to take to cross the gap from Panama City to Colombia

  1. Drive out from Panama City. Take Panamerican Highway and head east. At some point you will have to turn north to the port from which you’ll go to Carti island. The road is paved, but it’s not marked on Google Maps.
  2. In the port hire a motorboat to Carti island.
  3. On the island wait for the cargo ship that will take you to Puerto Obaldia.
  4. In Puerto Obaldia get an exit stamp. Somebody there told me I’ll have to bring all of my stuff so they could see it, but since docks don’t work it would be hard. I didn’t say I had a motorbike and eventually nobody didn’t want to see my belongings. Not sure if I should visit duty office in Puerto Obaldia (for the motorbike), but Colombian duty office didn’t ask for the paperwork from Panama.
  5. Hire a speed boat to Capurgana.
  6. In Capurgana get an entrance stamp, you won’t be able to register your bike before Turbo.
  7. Wait for the cargo ship that will take your motorbike to Turbo (8 hours), most probably you’ll not be allowed on the board so you will have to find a scheduled speedboat that will take you to Turbo (3 – 4 hours), where you will have to wait for your motorbike. (I already negotiated the price just for the motorbike – $115, it was supposed to leave on the next day, but eventually I didn’t go because last minute I found a private speedboat).
  8. While in Turbo wait for your motorbike and then get it imported.

Important info

Note 1. Speedboats are splashy. Make sure to protect your belongings (especially documents and electronics) with plastic bags.

Note 2. Docks in Puerto Obaldia still don’t work. It means that you will have use the speedboat to load/unload the bike. It seems that the best solution is to leave your motorbike on a cargo boat, go to the port, find a speedboat to Capurgana and unload your bike directly on it.

Note 3. Keep in mind that the last speedboat I took (Capurgana to San Juan De Uraba) took me to a place without regular port. Basically I landed on a beach with no possibility to register my bike. Monteria, the closest big city had duty office but there was no possibility to import a motorbike, it had to be done in Turbo or Cartagena. Eventually I had to make a 300 kilometre detour to Cartagena. I could go to Turbo, which was much closer, but the road was terrible. It also meant that I had to drive a motorbike without temporary import papers for 360 kilometres, with a risk of police stopping me and towing away the motorbike.

1 Comment

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