Alternative route from Panama – Colombia: Darien Gap via Turbo

I just received the excellent detailed info from Cloe Bertrand who bravely resisted the expensive and often not so nice boats:

“We did pass from Panama to Colombia by boat through the San Blas and here is our detailed road starting from Ciudad Panama.

We took the bus for chepo at panama main bus terminal (brooks terminal which is also a big mall in the outskirt of the city) this cost us 1,2$ per person. From Chepo we hitchhike until the crossroad called El Llano where the road to the kuna comarca starts. The road is in good condition even if guidebook say the contrary, it had been rebuild recently. The crossroad is 300m before the pueblito entrance.

There, we try hitch-hiking as we knew people who did it. We found that this is a very difficult spot to hitch-hike as there is a lot of taxi passing, but try your luck! The taxi charge 15$ per person. So we walked and hitch-hiked (I estimate that there should not be more than 10km) until we reach the musa kuna where the is an hospedaje (5$ per person) that is very nice and comfortable and the people there where very friendly. At musa kuna you have to pay 6$ per person to enter the kuna territory. From Musa kuna there is 20 km to reach the pier where the lancha leave for Carti Suitupo (also known as Carti Sugdub). We hitch-hike with better luck as a truck with workers took us until we reach a bridge in construction that is 45min from the pier.

At the pier, you can have a lancha to Carti for 5$ per person (I dont know if this is negociable we didn’t try, it’s 2$ impuesto and 3$ for the engine).

In Carti, you will have to wait for a boat to Puerto Obaldia. there is several option: Lancha or Cargo. The lancha could be very nice if you have the luck to find somebody on his way back to a community close to obaldia. In that case, you could negotiate with him a gas participation and go with him. Other lancha could offer you a transport service but this is expensive. We weren’t able to find one a less than 100$ per person. The last option, that we took, is a cargo that would run from el porvenir to delivers merchandise up to puerto obaldia. We bargained one for 35$ per person with the food not included, but the boat had plenty of water and a stove that we could use. It took 6 day from carti to puerto obaldia and we don’t regret to have gone this way. The boat never stopped on a beach paradise island as its purpose it to do delivery on populated island but we had a very interesting time in the kuna’s community.

Waiting for the boat, we spent two night in the Dormitorio close to the pier, The price asked was 8$ per person. Meals in the cafeteria underneath goes from 1,75 for the daily plate to 2,50 for arroz y pollo.

Ok, so now, you are in puerto obaldia where you can stamp your exit from Panama and goes on a lancha to Capurgana. Puerto Obaldia – Capurgana costed us 13$ per person. We have heard that there is a trail that goes from Puerto to Capurgana (passing by La Miel and Sapzuro), but we can’t have any information on it from the people in puerto (almost only military) and as our backpack are too heavy to wander in the jungle trail, we took the lancha. In Capurgana, the only way out is a lancha to turbo (30$ per person). You do have to pass in Capurgana for the entrance stamp to Colombia. Capurgana is a touristy place for Colombian. It’s expensive and the lancha office have a monopoly hence the high price fro a 2 hour panga rides. Furthermore, as you can only have 10kg per person they asked us a supplement… Lastely the lancha for Turbo leave Capurgana at 7h30 in the morning and it’s only one per day. So there is good chance you’ll be stuck at least one night. In that case you could ask for los delfines. The owner is nice and the rooms are very good and costed us 7$ per person. The owner accept US money at a better rate than the other shops and have good advice.

In Turbo, you’ll find road, and bus services. Bargain with the drivers and ayudante for long distance. As an example we payed 20.000 pesos per person for a Turbo – Monteria ride (midway to cartagena) that took 8h. And then 20.000 per person for Monteria – Cartagena.

In the end from Panama to Turbo we spent 275$ total for the both of us in I’d say 11 days. Plane from Panama to Cartagena are I guess cheaper but, you don’t see nothing from planes! There is no ATM or bank on the road so make a cash reserve in Panama.

Good Luck!


From: pedalpanam
Sent: maandag 28 juni 2010 19:10
Subject: [panam-riders] Re: Panama-Columbia BOATS, planes and more

From an email from Nelson

“I’ll admit that I had a bit of luck specially getting a free ride to Puerto Obaldia on a boat caring a team of doctors from operation smile.  Doing it this way is very unpredictable it could take a very long time and it’s frustrating not knowing when the next boat will show up, I spent a lot of time waiting at the dock, but I wouldn’t done it any other way, I got to witness quite a few special things that most people don’t, meeting the Kuna kids is just amazing.”

” Had a great time even thou I got stuck in one of the islands (Caledonia) for 4 days waiting for a boat, But it didn’t matter they had a 3 day feast while I was there, (got to see a pig slaughter by drowning).

I also beat all the budgets spent a total of $108 in transportation:

$5 crossing to Carti

$50 speed boat to Caledonia

$0 Free to Puerto Obaldia

$13 to Capogana

$25 to Turbo for my self + $15 for the bike on a separate cargo boat”

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