+507-6807-2764 reservaciones@sanblasfrontera.com

Getting ready for your Panama-Colombia border-crossing trip through the San Blas Islands

4-Day trip from Panama to Colombia/ from Colombia to Panama

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(or thank you in English) for making your reservation with us! We will soon be welcoming you for a few days to a border-crossing Island Hopping Trip through the San Blas Islands and we want to make sure you are best prepared. In the following you will find info about:

  1. How to prepare and what to pack
  2. Getting to the starting point
  3. What to expect 

This guide is intended for both trip directions: 

  1. 4-Day San Blas Island Hopping from Panama to Colombia
  2. 4-Day San Blas Island Hopping from Colombia to Panama

Of course, you can also always reach out to us with any questions!

We are looking very much forward to your visit!

Your San Blas Frontera team

4-Day Island Hopping from Panama to Colombia

Trip booked: Boat from Panama to Colombia – 4-day San Blas Island hopping

Start*: Cartí, San Blas, Panamá

End: Sapzurro, Colombia

*We organize the transport from Panama City to Cartí for you with independent, licensed drivers – Shared Pickup or 4×4 for 2-6 people, pick-up from your hotel/hostel in Panama City

4-Day Island Hopping from Colombia to Panama

Trip booked: Boat from Colombia to Panama – 4-day San Blas Island hopping

Start: Sapzurro, Colombia 

End*: Cartí, San Blas, Panamáa

*We organize the transport from Cartí to Panama City for you with independent, licensed drivers – Shared Pickup or 4×4 for 2-6 people, drop-off at your hotel/hostel in Panama City

How to prepare for the trip

1. To-Do: send information latest 5 Days before the trip

In order to prepare your trip, we need the following information from you (via email): 

  • Full name of all guests, passport numbers and birth dates: to register all guests with the local government. Please do not send photos of your ID. Thank you for your understanding.
  • Local phone number or WhatsApp Number with country code (+XX…) 
  • Any dietary restrictions or allergies
  • [FOR PANAMA-COLOMBIA ROUTE] Name and address of your hostel/hotel in Panama City for the pickup
  • [FOR COLOMBIA-PANAMA ROUTE] Name of your hostel/hotel in Sapzurro 
2. Payment

We currently offer three payment methods: 

  1. Payment in cash (US dollars) on the day of the tour to the driver
  2. Payment via PayPal, for a 6% charge. Please reach out if you prefer paying via PayPal, we have a limited contingent. 
  3. Online transfer via local, Panamanian payment options such as Yappy or Nequi. 

Payment via credit card is currently not accepted. 

For larger groups or certain bookings we might require a deposit payment. 

3. What to Pack

For a few days out on the water and in nature, please dress accordingly and bring the following:

Mandatory:

  • Passport: checked by police when crossing the border between Panama & Colombia and upon entering/leaving the Comarca of Kuna Yala (San Blas), copies are not accepted
  • 4 copies of your passport (main pages only): you will need all 4 copies for stamping in Puerto Obaldía (one for each office there) – alternatively get copies for 1 USD in Puerto Obaldía (no change, please set 1 USD aside for this); on one copy please write your occupation in Spanish (also required)
  • Sufficient cash: in US Dollars to pay for the trip & governmental entrance fee in cash, to buy drinks, snacks, souvenirs on the island (small bills of 1 USD and 5 USD recommended) – no credit cards, no ATM in San Blas, nor Sapzurro or Capurgana

Recommended:

  • Sun protection: for the islands and the boat ride (sun blocker, hat, T-shirt with sleeves etc)
  • Drinking water: please bring sufficient or purchase on the islands, drinking water is not included
  • Snacks
  • Wetbag or plastic bag for your valuables in case of a wet boat ride or rain (passport, camera, phone, laptop, …)
  • Flash light
  • Towels (not provided)
  • Soap, Shampoo(not provided)
  • Swimming gear
  • Sandals, flip flops 
  • Snorkeling equipment
  • Sweater/long pants at night or for the boat ride (in can get cold in case of wind/rain, especially if you are wet)
  • Power bank (islands have very limited power supply, only in the evenings)

Keep your passport and cash closely with you during the car ride (between Panama City & Cartí) and when getting to Puerto Obaldiá for the passport check and entrance fee payment*. Wrap sensitive items and put them in a waterproof bag during the boat ride (passport, cash, camera, phone, swimming gear/towels, maybe clothes to change, rain/sun protection, water, other valuables, laptop,..  …) because your main luggage will be stored away during the day(at night, you have of course access to your luggage.) Also, wrap sensitive items that can easily break and protect them from getting wet in your main and carry-on luggage. The boat can take very hard hits from the waves! WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE THAT MIGHT OCCUR.

*Entrance fee is paid once when entering the Comarca of Kuna Yala: either on the way from Panama City to Cartí or in Puerto Obaldía when entering from Colombia. US$20 per person.  

 

4. Important - Please read

§    Even though we stay close to the coast and do avoid open waters, the boat ride can get very bumpy and you will most likely get wet from the waves – please dress accordingly (waterproof and warm clothes, it can get very cold if you are wet and there is wind)

§    In the case of storms or strong winds resulting in high waves, we might have to delay the boat ride and postpone to another day. This can happen either before the start of the trip or during the trip. This is quite rare and more likely during summer time (December to March). In such cases we ask you to cover the extra costs occurring for waiting times in Panama City, Sapzurro or on the islands/villages. We recommend booking making flexible arrangements for hotels afterwards and not having to catch a flight immediately afterwards. We are not responsible for any delays that might occur in such cases. 

§    Unfortunately, not all our Kuna guides speak much English as to date it is still difficult to hire personnel on the professional level that we require who can also speak English. So far, this has never led to major problems. We ask for your understanding and hope you will consider this as part of your adventure

§    Baggage allowance: please let us know in case you have any extra luggage (bike, surf board,…) or more than two pieces of luggage (a large backpack and a carry-on are fine)

§    Please check the immigration requirements to Panama/ to Colombia which are applicable for your nationality and make sure you get your passport stamped in Capurgana! For trips arriving from Panama to Colombia, you need to get your entry stamp to Colombia latest 24h after having arrived to Colombia. For trips from Colombia to Panama, you need to get your passport stamped the day before the trip to leave Colombia and being able to enter Panama.

5. Other useful info

How much luggage can you bring:

Ideally, you bring as little luggage as necessary on the trip because space in the cars and the boat is limited. For bulky items or excessive luggage, an additional charge applies. Please inform us ahead of time if you have more than one luggage item plus small carry-on and especially in case of bulky items (e.g. surf board, bicycle)

Internet/Phone reception:

The islands don’t have WiFi. If you’d like to stay connected, you can get a local SIM card & a data pass. The following providers have fairly ok network on most islands & in the villages: Tigo, Más Movil.

Drinking Water:

We strongly recommend bringing sufficient drinking water to stay hydrated and buying this beforehand. You can buy water by the gallon in any supermarket. Some guests also prefer using drinking water for brushing their teeth as the water on the island can contain salt water. The drivers usually make a stop at a gas station where a few necessary items can be bought but this stop might have to be skipped if the gas station is too busy or essentials might be sold out.

How much cash to bring:

On the islands you can purchase beverages, snacks and souvenirs. A small bottle of water or a can of soda/beer is usually sold at $2-3 USD. Remember: change is rare so ideally, bring small bills (1, 5, 10 USD). Souvenirs to buy range from a few dollars to upwards of $50-75 USD (for mola artwork), so plan accordingly. 

Keep the things that you’ll need during the day in a small, water-proof carry-on luggage with you. Passport, cash, camera and of course swimwear and sun screen! 

Visit the Mola Museum in Panama City

Interested in learning about our unique Kuna culture? Visit the Museo de la Mola in Panama City, which displays over 200 mola pieces and gives exciting insights into its meaning for our culture, our spiritual world, rituals and cosmo vision.  

Free entrance, open Tuesday to Sunday! (Mondays closed)

Getting to the Starting Point

Trip: Island Hopping from Panama to Colombia

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Trip: Island Hopping from Colombia to Panama

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WORK IN PROGRESS – TO BE REWORKED

 

Transport from Panama City to the San Blas Islands and back is organised by us and included in your package. It is a ca. 2.5h car ride out of Panama City and through the San Blas hills to the dock in Cartí, where you’ll switch into the boat for your tour/stay. 

Pickup in Panama City: 5-5:30am at your hotel. 

Where can you be picked up from? Any hotel in Panama City. Recommended areas: Casco Viejo, Cinta Coaster & Caledonia, Punta Paitilla, Obarrio, San Francisco. Extra charges (+1h earlier pick-up) apply for Playa Bonita/Veracruz as well as Gamboa Rainforest Reserve/Summit Rainforest Resort. 

Important: 

  • The car ride is a shared car ride with up 6 guests, possibly of different tours. If you prefer a private car for your group only, extra charges apply (e.g. private car for 2 people: +$250 USD)
  • The transport between Panama City and Cartí is NOT conducted by our company directly, but by independent drivers licensed by the local Kuna government. These drivers are loosely organised by a drivers’ organisation with which we work closely together but where we have only limited control. Any issues or complaints regarding the transport will be forwarded by us to this organisation and handled by them. 

Other helpful info: 

  • If you easily get motion sick, we recommend taking a pill for the drive through the San Blas hills
  • The port can get a bit busy, expect some Latin Chaos and bring some patience with you. Everyone is doing their best to coordinate the arrival of several different cars and boats to get everyone on time into the boats and to the islands

 

What to expect

Undoubtedly stunningly beautiful and home to a fascinating indigenous culture, the San Blas Islands deserve their place as one of the top places to visit. But, a growing number of tourists and a lack of waste management infrastructure threaten this fragile ecosystem. As a company, we are working on eco-friendly solutions to protect our home and minimize the environmental, cultural and economic impact. As a visitor, there are a few ways how you can also support in these efforts:

Packaging: We kindly ask you to minimize the amount of packaging that you bring to the island and, once you return to Panama City, take it back with you. San Blas does not have a functioning waste or recycling system for packaging and you can help by returning packaging with you and properly disposing of it in the city. If you purchase drinks on the island, we recommend to purchase cans since those are the only things actively collected and recycled.

Respecting nature: Do not touch the starfish or take them out of the water. Starfish are very delicate and touching them can do severe damage. Also, please do not stand on or touch corals – evens slight touches can cause irreversible damage.

Open mind: These beautiful islands are home to a unique indigenous culture with a way of life that is different from most and one whose standards may be different than your own. Bring an open mind and appreciate different lifestyles and you will have a wonderful time in this paradise.

Local Art: On some islands, you can buy Mola handcraft. This is very intrinsic work and prices range between $15-25/35/50+ USD, depending on size and details. Kuna women often work up to 3 months on just one of these pieces. You can use these back home for pillows (especially the ones with animals make lovely gifts for small children), frame it and put up on the wall,… Selling Mola is often times the only source of income for many of the locals who otherwise are fully self-sustaining so your contribution will directly benefit the local community.

Get in touch!

Feel free to contact us at any time in case you should have further questions. We are looking forward to welcoming you in Kuna Yala (San Blas) soon!

About Us

A collection of inspirations, stories and tips about tourism, life and culture on and around the San Blas Islands in Panama.

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