My friend and I are travelling from Central America to South America. We have to ship our car to South America from Panama and we have two options.
Ship the car to Ecuador and fly there to meet the car and resume the trip
Ship the car to Cartagena in Colombia and board a sailboat which will take us on a cruise accross the San Blas islands to Cartagena in Colombia
We would really like to go for the 2nd option however, this means that we need to drive accross all of colombia, from cartagena to Equador.
Would this be safe? We have travelled from San Francisco to Costa Rica, so far without any troubles, and we dont want to risk it in Columbia.
Anyway, let me know if anyone has any advices.
We are driving from San Francisco to Ushuia (currently in Mendoza, Argentina) - (shameless plug for our blog here - www.thedarienplan.com) and ran in to exactly the same debate. We were scared to drive through Colombia, but when we got to the shipping step at Panama City, they told us that everyone ships through Cartagena, Colombia, and that the shipping process is much easier this way. We had been talking to travelers along the way in Central America and all of them were raving about Colombia, so we decided to 'risk it'. Turns out, we felt like Colombia was one of the SAFEST countries. There is tons of military on the roads, the police are friendly and not-corrupt, the people of Colombia are amazing, and the country in general is beautiful. We have talked with at least 5 other couples who have driven through Colombia, and they all had the same experience - they felt like it was very safe and it was one of their favorite countries, so I don't think we just got lucky.
We have been compiling a website with information on border crossings, documents, paperwork, scams, hotels with parking, camping, etc - all of the information we wished we'd had when we were planning our trip and it's intended for people who are driving. It's called Drive the Americas. We also compiled extensive information on how to ship your car across the Darien Gap, which will probably be useful to you when you get to Panama.
Feel free to contact us through either our blog or the DTA website - we're happy to answer more questions and hear about your plans.
Well....I've never done this, but I have lived in Colombia. Pick main roads. Drive carefully. You should be okay. I think its a great idea to start from Cartagena. Great town, in the short run. and lots to see in Colombia.
Diddo. I've traveled extensively by bus through Colombia (mostly on main roads) and it was fine. You will encounter a few Military blockades here and their, just be prepared to answer their questions and you'll be fine.