Go Back   Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB > Regional Forums > Central America and Mexico

Central America and Mexico Topics specific to Central America and Mexico only.
Contact Overland Solutions for all your custom modifications and setup for overland travel.

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 28 Oct 2007
Registered Users
HUBB regular
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 64
panama to colombia boat-up to date

hey all,

this may or may not be of some help. at least it gives an up to date report on the boats.

I just did the crossing from Portobelo to Cart. The price seems to have gone up from the previous year, with the current rates for rider and bike at between $500 and $550. I had to pay $550, basically $275 for me and the same for the bike. Basically there isnt too much choice and its a sellers market, but worth the money for the trip I think. (5 days, 2 moored up at san blas)

Currently there seems to be about 4 boats that will take bikes. Ludwig, who I think is still the cheapest, Melody with a guy called Mark, who I went with and then an Italian guy and some other bloke who wants $500 just for the bike!!!! (no buisness for him I think!) The deal seems to be you go with who leaves first as for the price difference you may as well foot the extra rather than spending then money waiting in Panama. The hostels can ring the captains for you, but if so go to Voyager as Zulis (spelt wrong i think) takes a $20 commission for making a 1 min call. Or contact them directly yourself. The name of Captain Marks buisness is: fresh air charters. google it.

They all seem to be much the same and to be honest there really should be no concern about getting a boat. You have the money, they want the money and it seems you shouldnt have to wait more than 5 days or so to get a boat (this time of year anyhow)

Final point. There is no need (in my view) to pay a `fixer´when you get to colombia to get your bike imported into the country. Legally you arent allowed to bring it in on a sail boat as its cargo so this should be an issue, however it is not an issue. It took my 3 hours to do it by myself, and the aduana did not care. Just dont show them your bike, as the office is no where near the port, by doing this they assume is is still behind the gates in the cargo area. The main cargo port is called Mercardo (you have the choice of two places I did it at the cargo port main entrance office called Dian, or go to the main Dian building) If they ask just say the bike came in on a bannana boat NOT a sail boat, but to be honest they wont ask. If they ask for the boat name and captain name make it up there are so many boats there they dont know any better.

Hope this helps anybody who is still unsure. I met a coupe who were told to pay a fixer. They waited 3 days for their bike to be cleared rather than 3 hours, maybe they were just unlucky. At least if youre doing it you know the situation. Also dont camp at the fort in portobelo unless you want to be rudely awakend by knife wielding robbers. (well thats what happened to me anyhow, but im sure normally it is fine!)

Cheers guys. In medellin now, bike is being welded up after to many potholes for the frame, and now with a fellow rider. Anyone interested in my travels or more importantly wants a laugh at me getting robbed, my blog is at the address below.


Get The Dirt / Simon Mendus-Edwards (Mendus)

p.s if any of this is not what others found, sorry but it worked for me just fine.
Reply With Quote
Old 28 Oct 2007
Gold Member
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: albury nsw australia
Posts: 324
you are crazy

i mean did you not see the bar full of the shadiest looking guys you have ever seen right next to the fort ,not sure what you were thinking by staying there ,there is a hostel for like $7.50 just up the road , portobello is dodgey , oh well at least they never sliced to to pieces was the guy that wanted $500 for the bike on a boat called frederico and his boat sacanagem ,but the price you paid was pretty good and how about the san blas islands ,wow
Reply With Quote
Old 28 Oct 2007
Registered Users
HUBB regular
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 64
what can i say

well what can I say, im tight. Hostel for $7.50, ended up getting robbed for $7. Result: still $0.50 up on the deal!

san blas was lovely yeh as was the tuna we caught.

Reply With Quote
Old 28 Oct 2007
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Posts: 146
wow, close call. Good info on the boats.

Did you really eat that shark you have a photo of?

Good luck and be sure to ask the locals before camping at night in Colombia. Seems a lot of things happen along highways at night, they may direct you to a more out of the way spot.
The Road To Rio - Locokiwi
Reply With Quote
Old 28 Oct 2007
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Canada
Posts: 138
the captain wanted to keep the shark for himself, something about keeping his mother in law happy!

yeh ill try be more conspicuous when camping now. the irony of the whole thing was that i asked several locals if it was safe and they said yes. Maybe not a gret idea as it seems to act as an advert that you are there.

just bad luck i recon.

me and irish kev are heading south to ecuador in next week so if anyone has any good tips on where to ride some nice dirt then we would appreciate it.

Reply With Quote
Old 28 Oct 2007
SalCar's Avatar
Gold Member, Contributing Vendor
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Managua, Nicaragua
Posts: 180
Originally Posted by dirtydeeds View Post

me and irish kev are heading south to ecuador in next week so if anyone has any good tips on where to ride some nice dirt then we would appreciate it.


Albert might be able to give you some cool dirt roads:

ride safe!
Reply With Quote
Old 29 Oct 2007
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Posts: 146
try anything east of Banos, from Puyo north is into the jungle, south skirts the 'edge' of the jungle, you only hit pavement for about 2 hours all the way down to Peru
The Road To Rio - Locokiwi
Reply With Quote
Old 29 Oct 2007
Mr. Ron's Avatar
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC, for now...
Posts: 798
Originally Posted by dirtydeeds View Post
the captain wanted to keep the shark for himself, something about keeping his mother in law happy!

yeh ill try be more conspicuous when camping now. the irony of the whole thing was that i asked several locals if it was safe and they said yes. Maybe not a gret idea as it seems to act as an advert that you are there.

just bad luck i recon.

me and irish kev are heading south to ecuador in next week so if anyone has any good tips on where to ride some nice dirt then we would appreciate it.


Enjoy your trip guys. I´ll be flying into Med in a few days to pick up my bike and return to Mexico. Cheers!
Reply With Quote
Old 8 Sep 2008
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Des Moines
Posts: 333
Bumped for good info in this thread.

4 captains out of Portobello to Cartegena or vice versa.

1. Captain Mark of the Melody

2. Captain Ludwig of the Stahl Ratte (steel rat)
+57 3013503883 or
mail to info.steelrat@les-raisting.de
www.stahlratte.org: Logbuch

3. Captain Leonardo of the ?

4. ?

Does anyone have the info on the other captains?

This guy works at Club Nautico in Cartagena, Colombia and knows when all of the sailboats are arriving/departing and which captains take motorcycles.

Manfred HH Alwardt
Pie de la Popa
Calle 29E #20-141, Oficina 101

Phone: +57 311 400 6394
Email: manfred.al <delete-this-at> gmx.de

If you're heading this way its worth contacting Manfred, he knows where the various boats are, which ones take bikes and sorts out all the paperwork for immigration & customs.

You can usually find Manfred at Club Nautico during happy hour, look for a big ginger German. Club Nautico is at N10 24.730 W75 32.477

If Manfred is not there, there is a Colombian guy named David who also knows good English and can help you out. Here is his contact info also (57) 313-523-0742 or (57) 317 282 0161


Alternative Information:

Not sure if this guy leaves out of Portobello, but I know he lands in Cartagena
captain Ruben - Fujimo Charters
Tel Panama 507 6735 3714
Tel Colombia 57 313 5000 229

Here is another possible way that you could do it by leaving from Costa Rica to Cartagena, but it is more expensive then the Portobello captains.


Why you do not want to cross the Darien on the cheap:

Having researched all the Darien transportation options I decided to follow the advice of a guy in the shipments by travelers section who recommended taking a cargo ship from downtown Colon to Cartagena for $200.

1. Downtown Colon is a very dangerous that looks like Mogadishu. Every second guy there is sizing you up wondering whether or not he should knife you. The whole time I was there I did not take my helmet off until I got to the pier. Tourists are frequently robbed there in broad daylight with the assailants holding a knife to your neck.

2. Ships for Colombia do not leave frequently out of Colon. On the day I arrived at the pier the guy told me to come back a week later for a ship to Cartagena. I went back to Panama City to kill a week and when I came back the same guy told me that the ship left the day before. Instead I took a cargo ship leaving that day for Puerto Obaldia which is the Southern most border town to Colombia. The captain told me it would take 4 days to get to Puerto Obaldia and it ended up taking 11.

3. The ship next to ours in Colon was being investigated for Drug Trafficing. There were agents there with metal workers cutting wholes to look for drugs.

4. The dock height in Colon is built for 60ft ships so with our 40ft ship there was about a 6ft drop to load the bike. With the help of a German tourist translating in perfect Spanish the crew still almost managed to let my F650 fall into the ocean. Fortunately the German guy and I were able to hold the 400 lb bike long enough as it dangled over the water while one of the crew members grabbed the handlebars and pulled the front tire on to the ship. The first guy was supposed to grab the handlebars but instead grabbed my turn signals ripping both of them off and almost making the bike fall into the ocean.

5. The first day on the ocean our bilge pump broke and after taking on a few ft. of water the crew finally fixed it. The second day the engine broke down and took a whole day to fix as we drifted in the ocean. On the third day the first mate got us stuck on a sandbar which was dangerously close to land. The captain told me it would take 4 days and it ended up taking 11.

6. When we arrived to Puerto Obaldia half of the dock had been wiped out by a hurricane so we had to unload my bike over the open ocean with 4-5ft waves into a lancha. The guy in the lancha was trying to convince me to lay my bike down onto wood planks. He was to lazy to go find tires so I ended up having to search for them myself in town.

7. The trip ended up costing $350 and they broke 3 of my turn signals and a $30 oil sensor on my bike.

The moral of the story is that you get what you pay for in Darien motorcycle transportation. It is a dangerous place to be price shopping because there are so many drug smugglers and other criminals. If you take a cargo ship the crew is not going to care about your bike because most of them are earning a $1 US per week. Be prepared for the captain telling you to lean your bike against a metal pole for the whole trip, a pig to be kicking the hell out of your spokes and trying to eat your tires because they forgot to feed it, and for your bike to almost be dropped into the ocean multiple times.

The smart thing to do is to schedule one of the 4 Portobello captains a few weeks in advance. They are experienced in transporting motorcycles and all charge close to the same rate of $700.

If you have a beat up 250 cc then maybe this is the trip for you. Just make sure to drive to Carti, Panama then canoe the bike to El Porvenir and catch a cargo ship on El Porvenir instead of going through dangerous downtown Colon. Here is a guy who made the same trip I did this way.
From USA to Venezuela , solo motorcycle trip

Note: Trying to find a private sailboat captain to take you and your motorcycle across the Darien is a lot harder then it sounds. I went to the sailboat marina in Panama City and the one in Colon. Most people who are rich enough to own a sailboat and travel the world do not need the added risk of a motorcycle traveler. I read about one guy who camped at the sailboat marina in Colon for a few nights and negotiated a ride to Cartagena but it still cost him $600. An Australian rider I met in Colombia told me he negotiated a deal (in Spanish) with a guy in El Porvenir who took the Aussie and his bike for $300. I have a feeling that this was a stroke of luck though.
http://www.journeyrider.net Latin America blog (07-8)

Last edited by gatogato; 9 Sep 2008 at 21:20.
Reply With Quote
Old 8 Sep 2008
cruthas's Avatar
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Boulder, co
Posts: 109
I guess I am not following you with the whole sailboat and not showing your bike, banana boat.... So when i arrive in Panama I will most likely have to barder with captains for the best price. Once this is done, I would export my bike and get a stamp saying I am leaving Panama and do the same once I enter Columbia correct? I havent crossed the boarder as of yet but will be in a month and a half so I would like to be informed as much as possible. When you go to the port office where do you leave your bike? Where did you lock it up when you got robbed?
keep your front wheel ahead of your rear wheel
Reply With Quote
Old 9 Sep 2008
Registered Users
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: in the saddle
Posts: 311
new prices 2008 Panama Columbia

I just did the trip last month with Guido - good skipper, moto rider and only a little dodgy. Go to Hostel Wunderbar website to book it - near Portobello east of Colon - the road is good to drive.
ALL prices are up 350 you and 350 bike you might be able to whine your way down to 650 if lucky.
Bring plenty of patience with any boat.................
Forget the "snorkeling" its a ploy
In Cartagena just ride over to PORT aduana and go in the first office on left (at the gates) to pick up your paperwork...takes about 1 hour waiting. Guido or other captains will tell you a "little" how to do it -
dont tell Dian the bike arrived on a sailboat - just a coastal supply boat named "dos Hermanos"
THEN take your paperwork up to the DIan office about 5 blocks back towards town and let the Aduana check your motor numbers, they will have your papers back to you in 1-2 hours - done !
But, you must go to Port first because the Dian has no paperwork there for you - go figure.
We had one of our 3 bikes not start on boat so we pushed it to the hostel and I foto'd the motor/frame numbers and the Dian imported the bike without seeing it, just my digi cam pictures............
Hostel Holiday in Getsemane is bike friendly and cheap, just around corner from Casa Viena call for reservations as its BUSY.
Be careful after 10pm in Getsemane.....really careful otherwise fine to stay.
Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 Registered Users and/or Members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
shipping bikes Panama to Colombia chrisandlori Trip Transport 15 19 Jun 2009 23:46
Panama to Colombia by Boat - my experience The Big J Central America and Mexico 34 26 Sep 2007 13:58
Panama to Colombia Heiko Trip Transport 3 23 Nov 2005 22:14
Colombia to Panama goggstrotters Trip Transport 6 25 May 2005 14:28
Boat from Cartagena to Panama: 9 dec mmaarten Travellers Seeking Travellers 11 19 Dec 2004 06:28


Grant & Susan's Europe Ride 2014.

Renedian Adventures

HU DVD Summer Special!

The weather has finally turned, so Gear Up for your motorcycle travel adventure! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - Gear Up! 2-DVD set until June 30 only. Gear Up! for your motorcycle travel adventure! Get all the info you need to hit the road!

Which bike, how to prepare it, what else to take, how to pack it all in! 6 hours!

"It's another great job, informative and entertaining."

"It's really professional and full of useful information, a must for any traveler."

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'GEARUP' on your order when you checkout.

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 07:00.