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CA to SA avoiding Darien Gap - what are the options?

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean CA to SA avoiding Darien Gap - what are the options?

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1. Posted by debstheleo (Budding Member 24 posts) 6y

Hi everyone

My husband and have sold up and are planning our round the world trip. Our first obstacle has been the costs.
Initial plan was:

3rd Jan 2001 UK to Orlando to meet up with friends for their wedding
Overland to Los Angelas
7th Mar 2011 Los Angeles to Mexico City
Overland to Costa Rica
4th Jul 2011 Costa Rica (San José) to Ecuador (Quito)
Overland to Chile
4th Nov 2011 Chile (Santiago) to New Zealand (Auckland)

My query is - what is the cheapest way to get from CA to SA whilst avoiding the Darien Gap?

So far the price for flying from Costa Rica (San José) to Ecuador (Quito) is £415 pp (STA) and £340 (RTW Expert).

Is it cheaper to fly from Nicaragua or Panama?

Is it cheaper to fly into Columbia rather than Ecuador?

I’ve heard you can get a boat from Panama to Columbia.

How often do the boats run?

Is it safe?

How much is it?

Any experiences that anyone can share with us to help us firm up our plans would be really appreciated.

Thanks in advance


2. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 894 posts) 6y

I see the question and have insight....but I am on the run....I'll get back to you...Just don't want you to think this question fell off the table.

Flying from Nica is obviously more expensive...but there are factors. It's a long trip from there to Panama but do you want to make that trip?

More later.


3. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 6y

There is now a budget airline with low cost flights Panama to Colombia, make reservations and purchase ticket online BEFORE going overland Costa Rica to Panama, as those traveling into Panama require an onward ticket out of Panama or proof (in Spanish) of having booked a Yacht tour (now over 350 USD per person one way, depending the outfit, as the cruises to cartagena, Colombia via San Blas Islands in Panama are becoming quite popular. 'touristy' in fact. A few years ago travelers could often go to Panama Yacht Clubs and get work as crew members, casual, no more. (unless a very experienced sailor who has friends with a boat). Will send the info on private message.

4. Posted by debstheleo (Budding Member 24 posts) 6y

Hi dbloom

Thanks for the info, that is very useful. I've been researching this weekend and found quite a few details about the yachts but they do seem quite pricey and I would imagine that the quality can vary. It does sound like a really nice way to get to Columbia though with the stops on the islands.

Any other info you can offer would be really appreciated.

Thanks again

5. Posted by debstheleo (Budding Member 24 posts) 6y

Hi Piecar

Thanks for taking the time to're obviously busy.

We just want to go into SA from CA but don't want to spend £830 getting there! We are open to any safe suggestions!

Any advice or insight you can offer us would be really appreciated.

Kind regards

6. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 6y

Check your private messages..not allowed to put up url's and such on this medium.

7. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5597 posts) 6y

Quoting dbloom

Check your private messages..not allowed to put up url's and such on this medium.

No problem to share any helpful info here, including the link to a budget airline.
We do recognize promo most of the time, and as a respected member we trust you on this;)

8. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 6y

Excellent, for everyone there is now a budget airline flying between Panama and Cartagena, Colombia, cheaper than the 3 major carriers, book online in advance. One requires proof of onward airline ticket or proof of reservation, boat/cruise Spanish.. to enter Panama.

The Budget Air Carrier from Panama to Colombia

other carriers, Costa Rica & Panama to Colombia, Ecuador or Peru:
often, on major carriers more expensive to fly 1 way from Central to South American points 1 way than flying RT direct from US Gateway airports!!!

If you have a complicated itinerary with stopovers, multiple cities, see a consolidator or travel agent in your area, if possible, specializing in Latin/RTW travel, ask Mr. Google. One can save a lot of money planning ahead.

It is usually cheaper to fly out of CR or Panama to South America. Keep checking the airlines websites for special fares.

If not planning on visiting Central America cheapest fares to South America are those direct from USA gateway cities such as Miami, Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, Washington, DC, etc.
Spirit Airlines is the new low budget carrier to Carribbean and Latin America, US hub in Ft. Lauderdale, FL Airport .. 40 km. north of Miami.

9. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 894 posts) 6y

Good info, dbloom. I completely disagree about needing proof of an onward ticket, though. I have entered through almost every border. I have flown in and bussed in and walked in. I was there a couple of months ago and my ticket ended in Panama City. No one asked me for anything, or even cared, ever. It's the official line, the onward ticket thing, in practice, it's bull.

Flying from Nicaragua is an expense. It's not a big hub and will cost you more...But if you have no interest in Costa Rica or Panama, it might actually save you money. You have to take the bus, you're going to stay overnight, you're going to eat and drink and see things, just for something to do. Calculate what you would spend on this trip to Panama City and then see whether the price is worth it for you.

10. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 6y

Good to know about Panama, I have not been there overland for a while, and heard horror stories from travelers who went in 1 way on Tica Bus from CR, a terrible overland border crossing. I know, those looking gritty and grubby going in on Bus are sometimes asked for proof of funds such as a credit card. Keep up a nice, clean cut apperance and be polite when traveling Latin America, does wonders!!!

Nicaragua is very cheap and locals very genuinely friendly, as Piecar says you may save hundreds of $$$ by not visiting more expensive CR and Panama, Buses do not generally run overnight in Central America and staying at a cheapie hostel near the bus terminal area not a pleasant experience, in fact in all of Latin America, leave th bus terminals and the areas around them as soon after arrival as possible!

Google the travel portal for a complete virtual tour of Nicaragua in both English and Spanish.