Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Border Crossing: Panama / Colombia

September 10th, 2013 | Posted by Brianna in Border Crossings | Colombia | Darien Gap | Panama

Colombia Entrance StampWe normally (but not this time!) cross borders by land in a CR-V with US passports and our two dogs. We do not carry drugs or weapons or disallowed fruit (usually). These articles are not a definitive guide to crossing borders nor should they be used as a sole source of information. They are our experiences.

When, Where, and Which Direction:

September 2, 2013 – Tocumen International Airport, Panama City, Panamá > Rafael Núñez International Airport, Cartagena, Colombia

What We Needed:

  1. Boarding Passes and
  2. Passports.
Our Border Crossing posts usually cover the process for the CR-Van and the dogs as well, but this was a special crossing. Each piece was handled separately, and so we’re only writing about the human crossing here. For information on why this was a special crossing, how to get a vehicle across, and how to get dogs across, check out the following posts:
  1. The Darien Gap: An Introduction
  2. The Darien Gap: Preparing
  3. The Darien Gap: Vehicle Shipping, Panama Side
  4. The Darien Gap: Dogs
  5. The Darien Gap: Vehicle Shipping, Colombia Side
  6. The Darien Gap: Expenses

The Process: Tocumen International Airport is about 25 minutes northwest of Panama City center, so most travelers will need to take a taxi or rent a car. We opted to rent a car due to our cargo; we used Dollar rental, picked up the car near Veneto, dropped it off at the airport (at arrivals), and paid $65 total. Without special cargo, a taxi probably makes more sense, but I’m not sure about cost. Note that the route to the airport is via Corredor Sur, a toll road that does not accept cash. When pulling up to the first booth, you’ll have to pay $8 for a rechargable corredor pass if driving (this should be included in the price if taking a cab). It comes loaded with $5 on it, enough to get to the airport.

The airport itself is small and easy to navigate. Go through security and onto your gate. Fly to Colombia and be pleasantly surprised midflight when a flight attendant offers you a sad sandwich and again when you find out that an alcoholic beverage is complimentary. When the plane lands, depart via stairs onto the tarmac and follow signs to migración. Wait in line to go through migración and get passports stamped. Proceed to baggage claim and then through customs. Here, an aduana agent will collect a customs form that was distributed by the flight attendants on the plane. You will either be welcome to pass or stopped for a baggage search. If traveling with pets, this is when you start trying to collect them. If not, you are free to exit and enjoy Colombia!

Costs: Our rental car cost $65 and a corredor pass cost $8. Two one-way flights were $733.10 or $366.55 each.

Dogs: This section is so long that it gets its very own blog post: The Darien Gap: Dogs.

Our Experience: Getting ourselves from Panama to Colombia was easily the most enjoyable part of the border crossing process. The car and dogs, though not inherently difficult or bad, were long, foreign processes, and our flight was short, relaxing, and with no surprises. Well, unless you count the view, which was a very pleasant surprise on both ends of the journey. Especially as we cruised into Cartagena with views of all parts of the port city below - its beaches, its cityscape, its walled historic centro, its bays, and its lush, green surroundings – we were filled with a renewed excitement. This place we had stared at on a map and in pictures for many months was suddenly unfolding below us as if we’d paid for an aerial tour. Not a bad way to start our time in Colombia.

Vangabonds Border Crossing Number: 11

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