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  #1  
Old 12 Nov 2014
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How to Ferry Xpress - Panama to Colombia

Hi guys, first time posting so hope this is the right section. My buddy and I had a lot of trouble getting on the Ferry Xpress from Panama to Colombia (didn't get on the first time). The ferry is quite pleasant once on board and clearly the cheapest option. So I wrote this guide as it's a business I want to see succeed...regardless of how hard they try to deter passengers.

HOW TO FERRY XPRESS

1) Get a D.I.J.
2) Buy ferry ticket.
3) Get third party Colombian insurance.
4) Arrive 11 hours before departure with copies.
5) $25 departure tax from Colombia port

1. Get a DIJ

Attend the Dirección de Investigación Judicial (DIJ). It’s in Ancon, Panama. There’s three buildings with the same name opposite each other. Go to the Policia Nacional office on the outbound from the city side of the road. It’s en route to Albrook Mall. **Wear long pants and shoes or they won't do it**

You will need
- Original seguro (insurance) + copy
- Original vehicle title + copy
- Original aduana (paper they give you when you enter the country) + copy
- Original passport + copy

Once the police complete the inspection (took us an hour for them to do a 5 minute inspection and we were the only people there), they won’t give you any new paperwork and will point across the road to the other DIJ building to the right on the main road. Don’t go to the bigger building on the left down a side street.

There will likely be a queue going outside to the left when you arrive. I have no idea what that is for. Walk past these people into the building and attend the reception desk. Just say “D.I.J”. They’ll ask for the original paperwork you gave the police across the road (not the copies), give you the usual Panamanian 20 minutes to 2 hours waiting time without explanation and return with the D.I.J for you to sign.

2. Buy ferry ticket

With your D.I.J and passport in hand, go to the Ferry Xpress office in Panama City (Ciudad de Panama). It’s 10 minutes by bike following the signs to Avenida Balboa from the DIJ Policia Nacional stations. At the time of writing the small but clearly marked office doesn’t exist on Google Maps. Easiest things to put into the GPS are “Harley Davidson Panama”, which shares a back wall with Ferry Xpress or “Multicentro Mall”, which is directly across the road.

It cost us $288 per person with a motorbike and they only take cash.

3. Get third party Colombian insurance.

I have no recommendations for who to go with. But once you're on the ferry they won't let you off until you pay them $75 for insurance that lasts 30 days and you don't get any terms and conditions paperwork for it. So if you can find insurance cheaper, buy that and print it out before getting on board.

4. Arrive at 8am for your 7pm trip and prepare for a long frustrating day.

When I went there were two cars and three of us on bikes (would've been four but my buddy wasn't allowed on for a passport stamp issue). On the day of your 7pm departing ferry, arrive at 8am. Bring plenty of snacks and some entertainment as there will be a lot of sitting around.

You will need
- Original seguro (insurance) x 3 copies
- Original vehicle title x 3 copies
- Original aduana (paper they give you when you enter the country) x 3 copies
- Original passport x 3 copies
- Original ticket given by Ferry Xpress x 1 copy

You can get copies there for $0.50 per sheet.


5. $25 departure tax

As we went to ride off after passing customs, we were hit with a $25 fee to get the bikes out of the port. There was a 15 minute argument between the staff whether we should have been charged it or not, but in the end we had to pay.

The ferry left an hour late at 8pm and by the time we passed customs and left the port it was 6pm.

Timetable

Monday

Departs: Colon, Panama 7pm
Arrives: Cartagena, Colombia 1pm

Tuesday
Departs: Cartagena, Colombia 7pm
Arrives: Colon, Panama 1pm

Wednesday
Departs: Colon, Panama 7pm
Arrives: Cartagena, Colombia 1pm

Thursday
Departs: Cartagena, Colombia 7pm
Arrives: Colon, Panama 1pm

*Friday and Saturday Ferry Xpress it goes to and from Colon, Panama to Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

On board advice
• If you’re on a budget bring plenty of food (no fresh fruit and vegetables) as it's about $8 for a small plate of food on board.
• You can get hot water for 2 minute noodles from the staff in the café.
• They have WiFi at $5 for 2 hours.
• They tried to confiscate all the tools from one rider. He stood his ground and managed to keep them, so make sure you do likewise!
• The air conditioning inside is like a movie theatre, so bring your sleeping bag. You can sleep in the aisles.
• The wall inputs are European. If you need an adaptor ask at reception on the 6th floor for a converter. It's only a $2 deposit. Hot tip is to try get a seat next to a socket on the wall, they're just above head height

Any questions happy to answer...and again sorry if this is posted in the wrong spot.
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  #2  
Old 13 Nov 2014
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Thank you for this information! I will be heading to this direction in around 1-2 months.
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  #3  
Old 13 Nov 2014
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Thanks for sharing this informations that detailed!

Surfy
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  #4  
Old 13 Nov 2014
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Thanks for the information. We are trying for the December 1 sailing and this like saved us a couple of days.
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  #5  
Old 21 Nov 2014
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Leaving May 2015 from Ushaia, Argentina to Deadhorse, Alaska

This is awesome! I have read reports of on and off service but this time it's consistent. Before I leave I am printing your report as a guide and buying a euro plug adapter for my laptop! I think we all agree that you did the community a great service for this report!
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  #6  
Old 8 Dec 2014
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Hi All, just to let you know that Ferry Xpress has currently suspended shipping motor vehicles and do not expect to resume services until mid January.

Motorcycles are being shipped as normal.

We have made agreement with the operator so that we are able to offer discounts to overlanders more info here Ferry Xpress Discount
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  #7  
Old 8 Dec 2014
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Quote:
I have read reports of on and off service but this time it's consistent.
I think you jinxed it.

Perhaps demand is so small over christmas that it is not worth offering the service - although a 6-week gap doesn't sound very promising.
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  #8  
Old 8 Dec 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony LEE View Post
Perhaps demand is so small over christmas that it is not worth offering the service - although a 6-week gap doesn't sound very promising.
When we crossed a few days back there were 5 cars and two bikes and just one bike on the return journey from Colombia...

It looked like no commercial goods were being shipped either, so they were probably at running huge a loss on the service....

As you mentioned i don't think they are too worried about losing out on a few cars right now

But it is early days, if they can get commercial goods shipping, trucks and containers they may become profitable...

Foot passengers and Motorcycles are still going....
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Old 11 Dec 2014
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Fantastic!!! I am in Nicaragua heading to South America and have heard lots about Ferry Xpress but you are the first people that I have heard of that have actually been on the boat. Great information!!!!

Thanks for your time and effort with this. Greatly appreciated.

Hank
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  #10  
Old 12 Dec 2014
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They are completely booked for the 17th of dec.. you can't even get a seat it's getting to be busy holiday travel time .....I was told that they are not taking cars cause they got a problem with the ramp ...but bikes still ok ...I'm leaving on Monday .the 15th ... was also told you have to buy insurance for columbia on the boat ....good luck getting the dij form from the cops ..it was a head ache ...oh bikes also need to be entered into the system at least 3 days Iin advance ... I got pics of the building for the dij can't load them duh ...
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Old 29 Dec 2014
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Update: Ferry Xpress are transporting Vehicles on January 5th from Panama to Cartagena and January 6 from Cartagena to Panama, only those two days.

Check our FB group for more info: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OverlandSphere

Note OS Contributors get a full 15% discount, non contributors 5%

***Note Motorcycles are being transported as normal!!***
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Old 30 Dec 2014
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Is this ferry going from Panama to Colombia after Jan 5th or is the service now stopped?
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Old 30 Dec 2014
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@Hemuli

The service will continue to run, during December they temporally suspended shipping Vehicles (not motorcycles)

Currently they say that the vehicle service on the 5th/6th is a one off, and have not confirmed when the regular vehicle service will resume.
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  #14  
Old 6 Jan 2015
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Great post, thanks for all the information made my life a lot easier. Just be aware that the DIJ inspection officers work only from 7am till 11. I arrived at 11 and was told to come back at 7am next day.
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  #15  
Old 8 Jan 2015
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Ferry Crossing Jan 5 2015

Ferry Xpress is up and running. I took it from Colon, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia on Monday 5th January 2015. The trip took 23 hours, five hours more than scheduled due to high winds and choppy seas.

The booking was easy. Go to Ferryxpress.net and get info about the ferry. Their phone number is +507 380 0909 in Panama and +57 5368 0000 in Colombia. You can book and pay over the phone or in person at their Panama office, but not online. I booked by telephone.

Ferry Xpress leaves Panama every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm and Cartagena every Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm. I was told to arrive in Colon at 8am due to aduana (customs) processes. It was not very clear exactly what paperwork I needed when I booked. I expected the usual import and insurance papers, registration, licence and passport. Have lots of copies of all of them. The one I missed was a DIJ police clearance issued by policia nacional who do an Interpol check on your vehicle before you leave Panama.

I arrived at Jetty 2000 (9.213641N, 79.533474W) at 8am and Aduana arrived at 10am. At 10.15 it was clear I was missing a DIJ form so I was sent to the local Policia Nacional office (9.215203N, 79.541489W) where I waited in line for 1 hour to find they didn’t do motor vehicles at that window. I was taken next door and told that the motor vehicle person was on a day off, so they would send someone up from Panama City. It would take three hours. Two hours later he arrived and my bike was inspected and VIN number checked. I waited another hour and a half for the Interpol check. At 4.30pm I had the form in hand. In the meantime I had other paperwork completed by Aduana.
You can get this form ahead of time, valid for 8 days, from Panama City…recommended.

I was then allowed to ride to the ferry terminal. I was asked to unload my soft luggage for scanning (I don’t have hard cases) and then had to reload. I was sent halfway up the long building to check in which I did. By this time there were lots of passengers lining up. I was told to go to immigration next but I explained I had the bike to load so they let me go and I subsequently forgot about immigration so my passport was not stamped out. My passport was not checked again.

I returned to the bike and was escorted around the side of the building to the berth where I waited for ten minutes. I rode the bike onto the ferry via the passenger ramp because the vehicle ramp at the back of the ferry was not functioning.

I was told the reason no cars are going on the ferry is because they load at the rear of the ship. In Panama the ship can only berth along the side. If there is any wind above 10 knots the ship is unstable in the perpendicular position from the berth and is dangerous to load cars. So they cannot position in the perpendicular position now, hence cars and RVs are not being transported until Panama builds a suitable addition to the berth. There is no such problem in Cartagena.

Costs
Insurance $30
Aduana Inspection $15

The 18 hour trip to Cartagena took 23 hours, arriving at 6.30pm on Tuesday after getting away at 7.30pm Monday. The sea was a bit rough and the wind very strong during the whole trip but the ferry was pleasant and not affected by the weather except for the time.

In Cartagena I loaded the bike and rode of the rear vehicle entrance and was told to park while I went through immigration. They stamped my passport in without a mention of the lack of exit stamp from Panama. Being the only vehicle, I had the undivided attention of aduana who were friendly, helpful, of good humour and they had the paperwork half filled out. They walked with me over to the bike where they checked the numbers then a separate check from the police and the paperwork was signed.
I was out of the port in just over an hour with one of the port officers phoning my contact in Cartagena to come and collect me. I was given 90 days for the bike and myself.

Costs:
Aduana inspection: $25

The Ferry

Ferry Xpress is huge and takes some 1500 passengers and 300 vehicles. I was the only vehicle on the whole ferry, so cost viability for the company has to be questioned. I booked a seat and everyone in that area lay on the floor to sleep. Plenty of room. You can also book various cabins but the seats are reclining and comfortable.

The ferry has a disco, several bars, two restaurants, duty free and various other things. Unfortunately they try to make it a ‘luxury cruise’ and charge accordingly. I noticed a lack of good service and goodwill. You are not supposed to take food aboard but the shops have limited hours and expensive, small meals. Everything is charged. Wifi is $5 per hour, water can’t be refilled, it must be bought, drinks are smaller than standard size and there is not a great choice. Some blankets are provided but only the first 30 people get one. The savings of a cheap crossing can quickly increase due to the costs onboard.

The ship itself is clean and bright and new. There is ample access to outdoors but a lack of comfortable seating available. There were about 30 deck chairs. There is a bar on the top deck which is a good place to hang out but there is little shade and with the white paint is glary and hot. The airconditioning in the disco and inside bar was set at arctic, and was too cold to stay more than a few minutes. The staff are approachable but if you ask something and they don’t know the answer or can’t help, they just say ‘no’ and put in no extra effort to help out. The vibe from them was a bit formal and unfriendly.

Although I have complaints about certain things, it was a comfortable cruise. The Panama end was quite disorganized and a lot of running around from one end of the terminal to the other with no real connection between processes. In contrast, Cartagena was friendly, helpful and efficient. There was no hint of bribes or dodgy dealings and I never felt unsafe. Given I was the only vehicle, it’s hard to say how long the ferry can stay in business without the income from vehicles. If it takes a long time to get the Panama end sorted out then we may lose this cheaper way to cross.

PN
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