I got my DIJ-paper from Panama City several days before departure, but you can get this paper also from Colon (I do not have GPS coordinates to Colon). I have attached Panama City office maps here.
DIJ-paper is mandatory, without it you cannot get in to the ferry!
When I bought my ferry ticket I was asked to arrive to ferry terminal in Colon at 8am.
I knew beforehand that it would be whole day of waiting, waiting and more waiting because ferry was scheduled to leave at 7pm.
Remember to bring some snacks and enough water.
On a previous day I tried to find ferry terminal from google maps, but could not locate it. I saw same promising looking structures on a left side of the town, so that was my target.
I left Panama City at 06:30 (to give enough time to find the ferry terminal). Few days earlier I tried to find a motel or hostel from Colon, but the whole town looked like a **** hole, so I decided to ride back to Panama City.
There is a motorway going all the way from Panama City to Colon so this part can be done in an hour (there are three toll booths on this motorway and they might try to sell you some kind of motorway card, but I got through this by saying that I am going to Colombia).
It took me around half an hour to find correct ferry terminal. It is not on left hand side of the town, in stead it is on a right hand side.
GPS coordinates to the ferry terminal are: N9° 21.611′ W79° 53.612′
If you do not have GPS, check the screen captures.
I arrived to the terminal five minutes before eight and I was asked to park my bike outside of the gate until “boss” arrives (pretty rounded woman).
Boss arrived, but it still took some time to get process going.
Finally things started rolling and one of the first things was to make some copies (copies can be done in the same customs (aduana) building. Each copy will cost $0.50). Basically they want to have several copies of your passport, title, driver´s license, customs form (which you got when you arrived to Panama), Insurance (mandatory 3rd party insurance in Panama), DIJ-paper and take also few copies (just in case) of your ferry ticket.
This whole process is extremely slow, so most of the time you will chat with other travellers or watch how fast grass grows…
Finally when all paperwork is done, VIN-number from your bike is checked, few signatures have been signed and shipping paper has been taped to your bike (or car), you are allowed to move your bike to the far end of ferry terminal. Before you move your bike, ask about Colombian 3rd party insurance, because this is done at the customs office by big boss (same lady). It will cost you $25 and you will get receipt (final insurance paperwork you will get in Cartagena).
I was asked to remove my hand luggage from the bike and then move the bike to the backside of ferry terminal. I did not need to remove any other luggage for x-ray.
After bike was moved, I picked my hand luggage and went inside terminal building. Before you go inside the terminal building, ask where you can get immigration (exit) form (it is couple doors away from the entrance to the ferry terminal). There they will mark a number to your ferry ticket (They will call these numbers for the immigration).
At the time, there was no water etc on sale in ferry terminal, but you can find restaurants and one supermarket (supermarket 99) only 5 minutes walk away from the terminal (follow the fence towards south).
Inside ferry terminal I had to wait again several hours, luckily it was air-conditioned.
Immigration was just normal procedure as also security check (your hand luggage).
After these things were done, you can go to your bike.
Passenger loading ramp was quite narrow, so I was asked to remove my panniers. Bike loading will happen after almost all the passengers have entered the ferry. Ramp is good and stable, but there are 2 steps down in the ferry from the ramp. At the time there were 3 people helping me to get through the steps.
Ferry Xpress has strap downs and those straps work well. At the time I was there, personnel tied down my bike.
At this point you can attach your panniers again, because in Cartagena you will use the real ramp at the back of the ferry.
Whole process took around 10 hours in Colon. LOT of waiting, so remember to bring some entertainment with you J.
Remember, you are not allowed to take any fruits of vegetables to the ferry!
Ferry cruise took roughly 18 hours (sea was quite calm). You might want to bring a jacket etc to the ferry, because it is quite cold inside.
Process in Cartagena was really fast and easy. Just park your bike outside of the ferry (they will show you where). Walk to the immigration, get your passport stamped and then there is a person who will take you to the customs area and there you will fill few papers. They will make necessary copies free of charge!
After all paperwork is done, you will walk back to bike together with customs officer, check license plate and Vin- number and get your official 3rd party insurance paper. At this point you are asked to pay $25, only payment in Colombian side.
I try to answer to any questions you might have.