We left Bocas del Toro on the last water taxi back to Almirante. A bittersweet goodbye to the Jinja Island and to the jinja himself.
The last 15 minutes before reaching our dock were quite wet, as it started raining heavily. Our boat driver didn’t seem to care much, he simply closed his front hatch and kept driving at the same speed. It was a decent size boat a 200hp engine that just seemed to glide over the water.
The ride from Almirante to Panama City was a very uncomfortable 11 hour stretch as we were the last ones to purchase the tickets and got the two seats closest to the front door without (almost) any foot space.

We reached Panama City sometime close to 4am without any place to go. We got in a cab with Luna’s Castle as our destination hoping for a hammock or a couch to lay for a while, until the other hostels opened up and we could check in somewhere. After walking around with our guides in our hand, we settled in at Casco Viejo Hotel for $27.50. A private room with 3 beds, a shared bathroom and breakfast included. We used this old hotel as our base camp to visit/walk most of the Casco Viejo. It was very unfortunate that during our stay in Casco Viejo, the Summit of the Americas was in full swing and a lot of the colonial government buildings were closed.

Three days later, we moved into Siriri Hostel in the financial district where we spent our last days in Panama City with a pool, full kitchen and a/c’ed rooms. From here, we arranged our visit to the Panama Canal using a taxi for $15USD (call/whatsapp Philip: +507 6554-5439, awesome guy!) roundtrip for two, instead of the popular shuttle service with limited time. At the Canal we were lucky to have one of the biggest ships the locks can accommodate come across as we were there. I was quite excited to see the canal in action, but I also understood why the Israeli girls we met at the hostel were so unimpressed with it, they did not see any ship coming through.

From Siriri, we also visited the Ferry Xpress office to book our Panama-Colombia crossing. The 1986 Dutch built, 164.61 m (540.1 ft) ship departs from Colon, Panama and docks in Cartagena, Colombia 19 hours later for $99USD. In our case, our ride took a little more than 20 hours due to delays in Colon. The ride itself was pleasant, the ship is nice but there are some serious issues with scheduling and logistics. The loading bay was almost empty, yet the loading of cars and motorcycles took over 3 hours. We were supposed to depart at 7, we didn’t leave until close to 10.

Our arrival was also quite messy, with elevators being held for who-knows-why until people literally run over the walkie-talkie holding woman who was only allowing specific members of the guest list to disembark. The food onboard was mediocre at best, a few google searches prior to departing had already told us so but we experienced it first hand with our $10USD breakfast. A few hours before departure we stocked up with chili cans, just in case the food was outrageously expensive, which it was, so dinner on board was a cold can of chili with a beer. Our ticket bought us two Pullman chairs and we were sitting on a theater-like arrangement where people used the floor to sleep, we used our sleeping bags for the first time on a bus/transport, as the temperature inside the cabins was, like we read somewhere else, set to artic. This didn’t take from the greatness of the view when we reached Cartagena, where a nice shower and good food awaited us. We met some very cool people on the ship, who have awesome stories to tell some of which we are looking forward to meeting up again in the Colonial city.
This also marked the end of our central American leg and the end of short distance travel, we now enter the third largest continent in the world with completely different climate and geography.

Lodging: Casco Viejo Hotel
Kitchen: No
Cost: $27.50/2 people, breakfast included
Date: April 2015
Rating: 3/5
Review: Old hotel that has been renovated partially. Cleanliness could be better and the beds could use new mattresses. The hotel is located just outside the “nicer” part of Casco Viejo where going out at night felt a little dodgy.

Lodging: Siriri Hostel
Kitchen: Yes
Cost: $14USD/bed
Date: April 2015
Rating: 4/5
Review: Clean hostel with a super friendly staff. People don’t come here to learn or speak spanish as 95% of the guests are north american or israeli. The pool is a great feature for the hot weather in Panama City.