Shipping Panama to Cartagena

We started the shipping process in Panama city and the first step was the police inspection. We arrived very early, 6.45 am, at the parking lot behind the offices even though they don’t open until 7.30 am, because they don’t process more than 25 cars a day. We were third in line. Around 8 am they inspected the car which meant they checked the VIN number and that was it. We were told to come back at 1.30 pm, which we did. After some more waiting in the afternoon we received the export certificate, which was valid for 8 days. We would be loading the container 5 days later on Tuesday the 11th of October.

During the weekend in between we mostly relaxed in a mountain village. And then we spend the Monday to prepare the van and pack up all our luggage which would go with us on the plane. This time we shipped the van in a container but there was a good chance we would have to leave the van out of the container in the harbour of Cartagena, because of the paperwork needed after unloading the container. So We took everything of any value and items that are hard to replace with us on the plane. And we hid everything else in the emptied water tanks. Kilian also build a wooden divider again, to make it at least more difficult to get in the back. All in all a lot of work on the last day. On the 11th we arrived at 7am at the Overland embassy in Panama city. This company has a very good reputation for shipping Overland vehicles, the owner, Alejandro, did some overlanding him self. The reputation turned out to be well deserved! Our container buddy (sharing a container is obviously a lot cheaper) loaded her car first while we loaded and secured the bikes in the back. Then Kilian drove our van on a small truck used to transport cars, and the van was driven to the container. By doing it this way, we didn’t have to do any difficult manoeuvres to get the van in the container. Kilian drove the van from the truck in to the container and that was it. I sealed the container using a uniquely numbered seal made of heavy metal that wouldn’t be cut until Kilian and our container buddy would be present in the Cartagena harbour.

On the 12th we flew to Cartagena to wait there for our van. There we received the message that the ship had a 2 day delay. After shipping to Veracruz however, we were rather stoic and relaxed about it. At some point we would get the van back, hopefully in one piece and with not to many things missing. So instead of the 15th, the ship left the harbour of Colon (Panama) on the 17th and arrived on the 19th in Cartagena. Because this was on a Wednesday we weren’t expecting our van back until the following week. Especially since getting the insurance (SOAT) turned out to be a problem. They recently changed the procedure and where it was previously easy to get, it now takes several days and no you can’t do this online. Why? Well I guess because here there is no such thing as too much bureaucracy. On Friday morning the container was unloaded and in the afternoon all the paperwork for importing the vehicle was finished except for the insurance and this office was now closed until Monday. Then unexpectedly Kilian got the message from the shipping agent that he could pick up the van on Saturday morning?! We were doubtful, because the insurance is mandatory. But to our surprise and joy Kilian drove the van out of the harbour on Saturday morning, no questions asked. In one piece and with everything still in it! It wasn’t even searched by customs so nothing (like cat food) was confiscated either. We didn’t get the insurance until Wednesday and we even had to push for it. Not having car insurance doesn’t stress us out any more either, it happens. There are quite a few countries where car insurance isn’t mandatory, I’m sure we will come across a few.

All in all the shipping experience to Cartagena was 100% better than to Veracruz.

3 thoughts on “Shipping Panama to Cartagena”

  1. I hope this will erase the bad Veracruz’s experience. A question : how did Kilian to get out of the van? By the back doors oƕ was there enough space laterally ?
    Wish you a nice trip!

    • Through the regular front door, they could open enough. Your van is wider so you probably have to use the sliding door. But they ship other big vans like yours so I am sure there’s a way to get out. If not you can safe money on a plane ticket,😁


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