For those looking for information about how to get motorcycles across the Darien, here’s what we did.
Our original plan was to use the Stahlratte to get us and our bikes over the Darien Gap , a cost of approx. $1050 USD pp. We’d heard nothing but good things and were really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the sailboat was not running during the time of year we were looking to travel (Feb. 2016). They also warned us of bad seas during this season and advised against sailboats claiming to be running the route and carrying motorcycles, stating that some boats had even sunk recently.
Our next option was to use a shipping container with someone looking to share one with other vehicles. For shipping the bikes, we would need to arrive a week prior to the ship leaving for all the arrangements, leave the bikes there and then wait for them to travel across water—about another week. This was definitely going to save us a bunch of money—about $1200 USD—but in the end we decided two weeks without our camping gear and bikes for transportation was going to eat up much of those savings in cab fares and hotels, plus it would put us two weeks later into the upcoming snow season in Argentina, jeopardizing our hopes of getting to Ushuaia, the southern-most settlement in the world.
We decided to fly in the end and used Air Cargo Pack, which we would definitely recommend. They were professional, efficient and had great customer service. Some findings:
– Speedy: you could get your bikes to the Tocumen airport in Panama City in the a.m., get all the documentation done and be on the next flight out with Viva Columbia (leaves from the Pacifico airport) that afternoon, reuniting with your bikes the same evening in Bogota.
– Someone working on your behalf: at the Bogota end, someone employed by Air Cargo Pack, who received our bikes, worked on our behalf for all the documentation process through DIAN (Direccion de Impuestos y Aduanas Nationals) and afterward, as far as releasing the bikes from customs. We literally sat on our asses in an air-conditioned office playing computer games happy to have this burden off our shoulders.
– Free candies! There could possibly be free candies and coffee, both of which we were offered more than once.
– No Credit Cards: at least not at the Panama City side. Either you carry $2000 USD guarding it wth your life to the airport or maybe they’ll let you pay half at the exit from Panama and the other half in Bogota, which they did let us do. We took out the max we could each withdraw from our accounts, and then did that again the next day before our flight. We ended up flying with the cash remainder and used it in Bogota at the airport there before we could get the process going for releasing our bikes. It’s possible you could use a credit card at the Bogota end as the office was much more advanced and modern.
– Expensive: at $1000 USD a pop, it’s tough to stomach. Keep in mind you also have to fly your self (we used Viva Columbia and for two of us to fly it was only $217 USD) but there are no extra costs involved with the cargo end of things. We did have to pay $60 pp to enter into the country at customs when landed. It’s reciprocity as Canada charges Colombian’s ☹ We also had to pay $15 USD cash only pp to leave Panama at the airport.
– Still a lot of paperwork and time at the Bogota end: It still took almost two hours at the DIAN to get all the paperwork done but it was still faster than shipping by far and much more comfortable than any of our border crossings.