FAQ – Sailboats to Panama and Colombia

Find an answer to all these questions in this section:
1. What is included in the price?
2. What is NOT included in the price?
3. We are a couple – will we get a double bed?
4. Can we get a private cabin?
5. How long is the trip? At what time will we arrive?
6. How much time do we get in San Blas Islands?
7. The rainy season – When is it and is it raining all the time?
8. The windy season – When is it?
9. Will I get seasick?
10. How can I prevent seasickness?
11. Do I have to deliver my passport for immigration?
12. We are meeting in Pizzeria Aguanile. Where is it?
13. Can we drink alcohol on board?
14. Are we insured?
15. Can I get a discount if I work on the boat during the crossing?
16. How is the captain? Is he nice?
17. Do you own these boats?
18. I have been warned against one of the boats on this web page?
19. Can you recommend a sailboat that is not on your web page?
20. Drug policies on board?
21. Can I pay the rest of the fare with credit card?
22. Where can I take out a big withdraw of COP in Cartagena?
23. Are there ATMs in San Blas?
24. We have heard some horror stories. Is it dangerous?
25. Can you recomend a place to stay in Cartagena?

DOWNLOAD FAQ AS PDF (to read offline)

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1. What is included in the price?

5 days & 4-5 nights in board the sailboat – The distribution of time depends from where you depart, but normally includes at least 2,5 days in San Blas and 1,5 days crossing

3 meals per day, fruits, coffee/tea & drinking water are included in the price

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2. What is NOT included in the price?

Alcoholic drinks. The entry fee of US$105.00 p/p into Panama, if there is no proof to leave Panama in the next 3 days after arrival. Contact us for more info about this.

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3. We are a couple – will we get a double bed?

Normally you will be able to get a double bed if it is available on the sailboat you will be traveling with. If there is only singles you will get a single bed each.

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4. Can we get a private cabin?

On Mintaka, the first guests, who ask will get the separate single cabin at no extra cost. Still you may secure the cabin on Mintaka with three berths by booking all three berths – 790 USD per person (if a couple).

On Santana there it depends on how full the boat is. If there is available spaces on board the captain may be helpful in arranging a private cabin for you. Still you may secure the cabin with three berths by booking all three berths – 750 USD per person (if a couple).

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5. How long is the trip? At what time will we arrive?

The trip is normally 5 days, but the ocean crossing takes between 32-52 hours. This means that you may get to your destination in only 4 1/2 days, but that only means you had a smoother ride.

Time of arrival is impossible to predict as every trip is different and arrival all depends on the weather and possible technical setbacks. Even if the captain has pretty good idea on when he will arrive he won’t tell you as this means bad luck. If he told you the time of arrival he would be sure to get a 30 knot squall on the nose delaying you another 2 hours.

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6. How much time do we get in San Blas Islands?

Normally you will get 2-3 days in the San Blas Islands depending how much time the captain has to allocate to the crossing.

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7. The rainy season – When is it and is it raining all the time?

No, it is rarely raining all the time. The rainy season lasts roughly from May to mid-December, but it varies in intensity in this period.

Mild Rainy season

In May to August and November to mid-December we have what we can call mild rainy season. In this period one can expect a shower per day a couple of times a week. A shower normally lasts from 15 minutes to an hour.

Heavy Rainy season

September and October is normally heavier rainy season, but still there is no reason to despair. The worst rainy periods normally mean one or two showers per day. However, one can be unlucky and get a streak of a few rainy days in a row, but one cannot say when this will occur. The rainy season is normally a heavier in Panama than in Colombia.

Reliable online weather prognostic

Your local weather provider from home might be unreliable for the weather in this region as they are not able to distinguish a shower a day from raining the whole day and therefore project only rain when in fact it is sunny 90 % of the time. The most accurate weather service we have found for this region is Accu Weather, Passageweather and Windguru

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8. The windy season – When is it?

The windy season is also called the dry season as here is no rain at all. It lasts from mid-December to end of March and is characterized by a constant strong wind from Northeastern directions. This generates more waves and generally more movement on the sail boat. Mono Hull boats have an advantage in these conditions has they can sail closer up against the wind.

The captains are very experienced and used to this weather, but it may sometimes mean that the trip could be delayed due to necessary course changes. If it is very rough your captain might choose to go to Sapzurro instead of Cartagena to ease the ride. Still, this did not happen in the 2013 season and only once in the 2012 season.

Normally it is less uncomfortable to sail from Cartagena to Panama than the other way in the windy season.

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9. Will I get seasick?

Some people are more prone to seasickness than others. The captains report about 10% of the travelers get seasick, but even if you do not throw up you might feel tired and uncomfortable.

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10. How can I prevent seasickness?

You should buy the medicine Mareol (in Colombia) or Viajesan (in Panama) against seasickness. This medicine is most effective if taken 2 hours before you start traveling. If you take it when you start feeling sick it is not very effective. In addition ginger has always been an old remedy for seasickness and actually proven to help in studies. 1-2 gr of ginger per day could also help a lot.

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11. Do I have to deliver my passport for immigration?

You will have to submit your passport for the immigration. The immigration is in Colombia handled by an agent. Normally you will have to submit your passport to your captain 24 hours before departure. You will receive it again 24hours after the boat reached Colombia or on the day of arrival in Panama.

Also, when you arrive in Colombia you must account 24 hours for immigration. So, do not make any travel plans for the first 24 hours after arrival in Cartagena. Normally the captains meet in Pizzeria Aguanile to deliver the passports.

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12. We are meeting in Pizzeria Aguanile. Where is it?

Pizzeria Aguanile is a well hidden gem in Cartagena. Very popular with the locals, but is a bit tricky to find for travelers not known in the area.

The pizzeria is very close to the center of Cartagena. So, there is no need for a taxi if you are staying in Calle Media Luna in Getsemani or in the old center.

Locate the clock tower at the entrance of the old center. You can ask for Torre Reloj (pronounced “reloh”).

Standing in front of the clock tower (do not enter the old city) you take to the left and start walking with the city wall on your right side and the water on your left side. The best thing is to walk on the sea side of the road.

You will pass one or two pirate looking ships on your left. Passing the touristic pier you see a big statue in the middle of a round-about (no locals know who it is, but if you are wondering it is Francisco de Paula Santander, a political & military leader in the revolution J).

Still walking on the seaside of the road you will see the sign of Pizzeria Aguanile and a huge tree and you will have the restaurant on your left side.

Sailboats to Panama and Colombia

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13. Can we drink alcohol on board?

Yes, but alcoholic drinks are not included in the price. You are free to bring your own. We still advice travelers to drink with caution as you will live much closer to other people than you have probably ever done in your life. Although you might want to have a party, there might be others who want to relax.

Mintaka offers cold beer in cans for US$1.00 and Chilean wine for US$9.00.

Easy drinking on anchor

We advice the travelers to stick to easy drinking like beer and wine and leave the hard liquor to the after-party in Cartagena or Panama. This way everyone can enjoy the fantastic experience of sailing and the nature of San Blas.

No drinking on crossing

When you are making the open sea crossing you are forbidden to consume alcohol. It is also forbidden to drink alcohol in the hours before the crossing.

The captain has to be in control of all passengers during the crossing and be sure they will react promptly to his commands if needed. The captains will normally indicate when you cannot drink more alcohol.

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14. Are we insured?

The boats and passengers are insured for life and person, not for personal belongings. You should have your personal belongings covered by your private travel insurance. We suggest Nomad Travel Insurance as they are specialized in backpackers needs.

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15. Can I get a discount if I work on the boat during the crossing?

All the boats on our web page have captain and crew on board. We can therefore not offer any discounts on the fare.

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16. How is the captain? Is he nice?

All of our captains are very skilled and they know their boats very well. Most are happy to let you help out and even teach you a thing or two. Others prefer to work their routine without too much interruption.

Important for all sailboats is that while on the boat the captain is the highest ranking officer of the ship. It might sound a bit dramatic for a leisure boat, but it is necessary for safety reasons as you are many different people on little space. Even if you do not agree with him/her, disagreements should be taken up after the trip or can be reported to us here.

We regularly make customer satisfaction surveys and all our boats score high on these surveys (see below)

Still you should take into account that there will be many different people living on a small space. So be patient, tolerant and try to take others needs into account.

Often the boat you are on is the captain and crew’s private home and you should treat it and them with respect.

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17. Do you own these boats?

No, Colombia Panama Sailing facilitates the contact between captain and the traveler. The sailboats are privately owned and the captain is responsible for the trip.

Still, we are very strict on what boats we do cooperate with. We have worked with many sailboats and some we have let go as we did not feel they met the standard we expect from our partners.

Our philosophy is to work with fewer, but boats that are interested in delivering a good product.

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18. I have been warned against one of the boats on this web page?

We take any discontent raised against any of our boats seriously and complaints may be directed to us here. We take all complaints up to evaluation with the captain or owner.

One should always keep an open ear to other traveler’s personal experiences and you should take your time doing independent research online. Still, be aware of false reviews (made by other captains) and second hand information.

This is a profitable business and competition is hard. When some sailboats get very popular it leads to jealousy among others. Unfortunately there has been a lot of spreading of false rumors both online and offline.

Colombia Panama Sailing has a policy of not commenting on sailboats that is not part of our community, as we won’t be part of bad practices toward competitors. We believe experiences should be described and shared by the traveling community alone and not by captains or agents.

We advise to be cautious if you encounter agents or captains that deal in slander, as this might be a sign of a struggling business and it is fair to ask yourself why they would be in such a position.

If you read bad reviews about one of our boats you may consider when it was written or confront us about it. If you do want to get a comment please send us the link to where we can find the poor review. To send us a online review please contact us here

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19. Can you recommend a sailboat that is not on your web page?

Unfortunately, we cannot make comments negative or positive about other sailboats that are not on our web page simply because we do not know them well enough. We advise the following steps to choose your boat:

– You should do research and have an idea of good/bad boats before you get to Panama City or Cartagena to avoid vendors in the streets
– Google boat name and captains name together
– Google boat name and captains name separately
– The best is to follow a recommendation of a fellow traveler, who has a good experience on one of the boats.
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20. Drug policies on board?

We don’t really get this question much, but we know many are thinking it.

Drugs are absolutely 100% forbidden on board! By bringing drugs you put the livelihood of your captain at risk as the boat will be confiscated, the guilty guest and the captain can end up in prison and the holidays of all passengers will be ruined.
Remember that you are in the drug smuggling zone and cost guards are frequently checking vessels. Crossing the Colombian Panama border with drugs in your pocket will not be the best idea you have had on your trip and certainly not one that will make you parents proud.Back to the top
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21. Can I pay the rest of the fare with credit card?

No, to the captain you have to pay in cash and preferably in US-dollar. The captain can accept Colombian Pesos in Colombia at an exchange rate set by the captain. Please contact your captain directly to get his rate. You should have his e-mail in the confirmation of booking received when you made the deposit payment.

Cash payment in EURO is not possible, but some of the captains accept EURO transfer of the final payment to their European Bank account, if they have one. Please contact your captain for more info about this.

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22. Where can I take out a big withdraw of COP in Cartagena?

Most ATMs in Cartagena lets you take out 300.000 – 400.000 COP in one turn. To avoid having to make several withdraws and pay more fees than necessary you can choose Davivienda or Citi Bank.

Citi Bank in the center allows you to withdraw up to 2.000.000 COP (1.000 USD) in one withdraw. You find Citi Bank in the street between Exito Matuna and Centro Uno (see map).

You find the Davivienda bank all over the city and here you can make 740.000 COP (320 USD) withdraws, but you have to use different ATMs to make more than one withdraw.

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23. Are there ATMs in San Blas?

No, there are no ATMs in San Blas. These mean withdrawing money in Panama City or buy USD in Cartagena before you depart. The Kunas might offer some nice hand craft or lobster on the way and they except payment in USD. So, bring some extra money for trading along the way

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24. We have heard some horror stories. Is it dangerous?

Sailing is considered a sport and sports normally includes some form risk, but sailing would not be considered dangerous.

The captains on our boats are very skilled sailors with up to 23 years of active experience and we are not talking “I have taken my boat out 2-3 times a year for 23 years kind-of-experience”. We are talking 23 years of living and sailing the boat continuously.

These people know their boats ins and outs and they take great care of them.

Still it does not mean that things cannot go wrong. The sail may rip, the engine may stop due to clogged filters and many other possible problems may and do arise from time to time. However, rarely something happens that the captains have not already experienced before or can deal with right on the spot.

In the unlikely event of a real emergency the boats all have satellite position signaling systems, as well as life rafts on board.

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25. Can you recomend a place to stay in Cartagena?

In Cartagena we can recommend two hostels, both run by a young friendly Colombian-English couple. They are happy to help you with all your needs for your stay in Cartagena, from local tips on where to eat to local activities.

Mi Casita

Located only 20 meters from where you will depart or arrive. This is a shared house where you can get your own private room. The house is located in walking distance from the old center.

Adress: Callejon de los Besos 24.179, Manga Cartagena, Bolivar

Tel. (+57) 313 834 8955, (+57) 300 832 6089, (+57) 312 828 8316, (+57) 5 645 1751

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Hostal 25-59

The hostel is in the backpacker area of Getsemani in central Cartagena. The hostel is comfortable and dormitory styled family atmosphere.

Adress: Carrera 10C Calle de las Palmas 25-59, 0057 Cartagena, Bolivar

Tel. 300 8326439

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