Darien Gap – Colombia – Drive to South America

CUSTOMS PROCEDURES IN COLOMBIA FOR TOURISTS (Prepared by Seaboard Marine for automobile shipments to Colombia.

1. Retrieve original Bill of Lading from Seaboard Colombia office located in: ‘Barrio Bosque Avenida Pedro Velez #48-14′
2. With the original Bill of Lading in hand, please head over to customs office located in ‘Barrio Manda’. Inside the office you must go over to Exterior Commerce Division and fill out Temporary Vehicle Import Form (Formulario de importacion temporal de Vehiculos). Here customs will also assign the inspector in Muelles el Bosque for the physical inspection (dock where the vehicle is located in)
3. Now go back to Muelles el Bosque. Go to the Document Center (Centro de Documentos), request the Customs Inspection and the Port Fee Invoice (Instalations Use, Inspection Service), which range between $200.00 and $400.00)
4. Now head over to Operations Center (Centro de Operaciones) to verify the exact location of your vehicle.
5. Then go to the ‘DIAN’ (Customs) Office in Muelles el Bosque to find the inspector that was previously assigned to inspect your vehicle (remember step #2)
6. Go with the inspector to where your vehicle is located at for the physical inspection.
7. Once the inspection is finalized, have the form signed by the inspector then go back to the DIAN in Manga to obtain the release (Levante in Spanish, which is the Permit to Nationalize the Vehicle).
8. Head back to Muelles el Bosque, directly to the Document Center. Head over to the Bank Cashier (Ventanilla de Banco) and pay the Invoice in Colombian Pesos.
9. With the Invoice paid, the Original B/L and the Customs Permit, go to the Document Cashier to receive the vehicle exit form (Planilla de Salida Del Vehiculo).
10. With the Vehicle Exit Form go to the Operations Center (Centro de Operaciones) and claim the vehicle keys.
11. Finally pickup the vehicle.

This is a step by step list of the procedures in Colombia. You may handle this by yourself or you may hire a Customs Broker to handle all this for you (extra money). Below brokers we may recommend in Colombia:
Aduanera Mundial – TEL 6608932 – 6608627 Contacto Antonio Romero
Aladuana SA SIA – TEL 6609409 – 6609397 Contacto N

My own personal notes:

1. Seaboard Marine emails you an electronic Bill of Lading as soon as the ship leaves the port. You can skip step 1 if you can get a print out of it at a local Internet Cafe and save yourself a taxi ride and time.
2. DIAN office in Manga opens at 8:00 AM and closes at 5PM. Just tell the taxi driver to go to ‘La DIAN’ in Manga, and they can easily take you there. The Exterior Commerce Division is in room 109. Go through the double doors and it’s to your left.
You will need:
3 – Copies of Passport, the page with your picture.
3 – Copies of Passport, the page with the Colombian entrance stamp.
3 – Copies of Bill of Lading (Electronic Bill of Lading worked fine for me)
3 – Copies of your Car Title
This is the main DIAN office. You’re assigned an inspector (who is lingering around) and he will be given the 3 Temporary Importation of Tourist Vehicle forms that they fill out as well as all the copies mentioned above.
3. Tell the taxi driver Muelles el Bosque and he should take you there. Otherwise, tell him it’s on Transversal 49 in Bosque. My 20 footer container with my 1980 Mercedes Benz 300 SD Sedan cost me $235. $160 for Vaciado de Cont. Teus, and $75 for Uso Instalaciones Cont. Llenos Teus. The invoice will have the amount (or a variation of it) in dollars and will quote you the exchange rate and will demand payment in Colombian Pesos, in cash.
4. You drive your car out of the container at the end of this step. Here’s where my experience deviated a bit from the instructions. I went to the Operations Center but they told me that I can’t get my car out of the container unless I pay first (as stated in step #8). Even though this sounds like a bitch, it wasn’t that bad: while I went to the ATM, they found the car’s container and brought it 50 feet away from the Operations Center. They’re really good at what they do. So pay the bank right after step 3 to save yourself some time. After you drive it out, they should lead you to where you can park: in front of the Seaboard Marine Colombia office.
5. If you mention ‘La Dian’ in the Bosque port, they’ll point you to where the inspector that they assigned should be waiting for you.
6. Inspection? My Inspector, Cedric, says to me in Spanish that he knows I’m a tourist and he doesn’t need to inspect. This was in sharp contrast to the Costa Rica to Panama border, where Panama Aduana (Customs) officials wanted me to unload every little thing in my car upstairs for inspection. Later, Cedric asked me if I have a picture of my car…
7. I did this and got the final signature by the Jefe, which is the Levante they’re talking about. Also, there is an additional form that the inspector needs to fill out.
8. Done in step #4.
9. You get fingerprinted here in this step. With your right index finger, push it down firmly on the bottom three boxes. Do that for all 4 copies (total of 12 times!)
10-11. This is the moment of truth. Congratulations! Now get on with your journey!
Additional note 1: If you know what you’re doing, this entire process can be done in 3/4 of a day. I, however, knew that I didn’t have a place to park in the ‘Old City’ or the Historical Center District of Cartagena, so I left after step 7. I took a motorcycle taxi back to Cartagena, knowing that my car is safe and secure in the port. When I came back the next day, they had some masking tape on my car with matching masking tape on my keys.
Additional note 2: I was very upset about the fact that the serial number on my container was different than the one listed on the Bill of Lading. However, a visit to Seaboard Marine revealed to me that the Panamanian cops sometimes do random searches of containers boarding a ship. But everything there is done on paper, so the paper trail sometimes doesn’t catch up to the vessel.

In Spanish:

De acuerdo a lo conversado en su pasada visita a Colombia, adjunto enviamos una guia ocn los pasos a seguir por los turistas para nacionalizar los vehiculos en Colombia y alguna recomendaciones especiales.


1. Retiar el B/L en las oficinas de SEABOARD DE COLOMBIA, ubicadas en el barrio Bosque Avenida Pedro Velez #48-14.
2. Con el B/L original, ir a las Oficinas de la Aduana ubicadas en el barrio Manga, acercarse a la division de Comercio exterior y diligenciar formulario para importacion temporal de vehiculos, alli le asignaran el inspector que esta en las instalaciones de Muelles el Bosque.
3. Regresar a Muelles el Bosque, Ir al centro de documentos, solitar la inspeccion aduanera y la factura de gastos portuarios (Uso de instalaciones, servicio de inspeccion) que puede estar entre US $200 y US $400.
4. Ir al Centro de Operaciones para consultar el lugar donde esta ubicado el vehiculo.
5. Ir a la oficina de la DIAN en Muelles el bosque para contactar al Inspector asignado.
6. Ir con el Inspector hasta el lugar donde esta el vehiculo para que le realice la inspeccion.
7. Cuando finalice la inspeccion, con el formulario firmado deben ir nuevamente a la DIAN en Manga para obtener el Levante (permiso para nacionalizarel vehiculo).
8. Regresan nuevamente a Muelles el Bosque, se dirigen al Centro de Documentos, a ventanilla del Banco y pagan la factura en pesos colombianos.
9. Con la factura pagada, el B/L original y el permiso de la Aduana, van a la ventanilla de documentacion para que les realicen la planilla de salida del vehiculo.
10. Con la planilla de salida del vehiculo, van al centro de operaciones a reclama las llaves del vehiculo.
11. Retiar el Vehiculo.


Dado los ultimos inconvenientes presentados con algunos viajeros debido a que no comprenden las demoras propias del proceso, es indispensable que ellos contraten en Colombia un agente de aduana para que les haga todas las diligencias pertinentes, nosotros podemos recomendarle dos.

Aduanera Mundial – TEL 6608932 – 6608627 Contacto Antonio Romero – Costo US $200.
Aladuana SA SIA – TEL 6609409 – 6609397 Contacto Norberto Guardo – Costo pendiente de por confirmar.

Igualmente para mayor agilidad en la entrega del B/L original en Cartagena, el flete tiene que ser Prepaid.

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