New Tags for the Car

The license plate on one of our cars expires at the end of this month, so my objective yesterday was to get a new one. There is nothing like a new experience, a new sort of business transaction to make you realize how much Spanish you don’t know!

Step one was to get an inspection, or revisado. We headed to Breman’s, a shop that had been recommended by a friend. They needed our title/registration paper and proof of insurance, and then proceeded to do the inspection. One guy had us drive the car to the space in front of the garage, and then checked that all the lights and blinkers worked. A little while later, another came out with a camera on a tripod, battery dangling underneath, and took photos of each side, front, and back of the car.

The camera with the dangling battery

The camera with the dangling battery

Then, we were directed to wait in the waiting room because it was going to take 15 minutes to process the photos. It was more like 3 minutes when someone came in to tell us it was ready. We paid $15 and change to the cashier, and left with our inspection paper.

When we bought our car it was registered in Dolega, but since we were going through the neighborhood of the Municipal Building in David, I figure it wouldn’t hurt to ask if we could get things done there.

We were directed to a cashier, who told me to go see the guy at the window that said something about “placa” if I remember correctly, which means license plate. He sent us out to get a copy of our inspection paper. When we returned with that, he sent us back to the cashier, who then sent us to see other people in a little glass room in the corner.

A man in the glass room spoke a little English, thank goodness because I was out of my element, and the place was so noisy it was hard to hear anything in any language. He said the car was registered in Panama (Panama City) so we had to go there, or else we could get the registration transferred to David for $86. OK, lets get it transferred. We were sent back out to the copy place for another copy of the inspection, 2 copies of Joel’s passport (his name is on the papers), copies of the title/registration, insurance, the paper that the license was paid for last year, and a few other things he picked out of our folder.

We return with our growing pile of papers and the lady in the glass office proceeds to go through them. Then she consults with the man who asks us what we were doing in Dolega. That’s where the transfer of papers was done when we bought the car. He explains that they can’t do anything there, and we have to go to Dolega. No problem, I thought maybe that was the case which was why I asked in the beginning about this.

So, off we go to Dolega. The lady in the office there says the car is registered in Panama (city) so she can’t do anything. I pull out the papers that say Dolega on the top, and she says “oh” and proceeds to type things in her computer. Then, she asks for $31 and hands over our new license plate, inspection sticker, and receipt! Just like that, no requests for copies of anything, and I don’t think she even looked at any of our papers. After all the going from person to person and making copies in David, I couldn’t believe it was that easy!

One car down, one to go. The other car has a tag that expires at the end of August. But, we leave for the US on Saturday so I’d like to get this taken care of before we leave. We won’t be back until the end of August and I know we’ll be tired.

Back to Bremans where I feel like I know the drill now. I hand them the necessary papers and the keys, and head to the waiting room. From there I see them put the car up on the lift, check all the lights, and then drive it off the lift without ever “lifting” it. The camera comes out again and they take their pictures. Shortly afterwards a guy comes looking for me to explain that they can’t do it now. The paper says August so they can only do it in August.

I’m not sure what we would do if we didn’t get back in August. But, I checked our itinerary and we should probably be back on the 22nd, so we’ll have time before the month ends.

You never know how things are going to go in Panama. We went from requests for copies of multiple things and being sent to multiple people, to a most simple transaction. The other car is registered here in David so hopefully that will be easy when the time comes. At least I know how to start – “Necesito un revisado, y aquí estan mis papeles y la llave” (I need an inspection, and here are my papers and the key). Just don’t call the waiting room or the photos by other names, or I’ll be lost.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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14 Responses to New Tags for the Car

  1. tombseekers says:

    My espanol must be mucho mejor antes proxima Marzo. Have a good trip to the States.

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    • Kris says:

      LOL Yo también! Maybe if your car is registered in Boquete there are people there who speak more English. I was thinking though, if I spoke no Spanish I’d have to hire someone to go with me here to get that done.

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  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    Bienvenidos a Panama

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  3. oldsalt1942 says:

    I just went through the process with my motorcycle. I did it in three easy steps, one each day. On a Monday I went into David and bought my insurance for the year. On Tuesday I went over to Bugaba and had my revisado done. That took two hours waiting time. For some reason, even though the bike was purchased in David proper it was registered in Bugaba. I thought about going directly to the Palacio Municipal to finish it off after the revisado, but the storm clouds were building up quite dark so I decided to go on back home. Good thing I did, too. An hour after I got to the house the front tire was flat, flat, flat. (BTW, the term for a flat tire here in Panama is “flat.” How about that?) On Wednesday I took the bus over to Bugaba and got my “placa.” The reason you have to go to the city where the car is registered is because that’s where they send the placa to.

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    • Kris says:

      So, you could have done it in David, and then gone to Bugaba to pick up the placa? But, if you have to go where the placa is anyway, may as well just do it all there, it seems.

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  4. indacampo says:

    LOL! And even when you think you know some pretty good español and are prepared the person at the counter speaks so fast it’s difficult to understand. Your experience is pretty much the same as what we had so no worries, it appears to be the norm! 🙂

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    • Kris says:

      I figured Dolega couldn’t be the norm because it was way too easy. I expected some running around and copies and all that. And yes, when there is background noise and/or the person speaks quickly, and/or uses words I don’t know, forget it! I was happy to stop by the gas station on the way home and have a more ordinary conversation with the attendant where I could understand everything.

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  5. I call it Latin logic! What a circus! On the good side, it employs a lot of people and your Spanish vocabulary is growing. 🙂

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    • Kris says:

      This is true! On days like that, I remind myself of all the words I didn’t know before this. Employing people is another interesting subject. It seems like everywhere you go there are more people than necessary. In the US we would be letting them go and getting by with a minimum of people to keep the profits up. That doesn’t seem to be a priority here. Maybe that’s why unemployment is so low here.

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  6. What a contrast to the States where you can renew online & they mail you your new sticker for your license plate. It would be hard to go through all that if one was working.

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    • Kris says:

      I know! I wonder how the working people manage that. But, I’ve noticed with my friends and neighbors that they take time off to do things and don’t sweat it like we do in the US. One friend took a day off because there had been workmen in the house, and the dirt was driving her nuts so she took the day off to clean!

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  7. roaed says:

    I agree with Deanna, that is the way it’s done in Louisiana, and I think Panama will slowly change it’s procedures. if there is no mail service maybe it could be done on the I-Net with a computer—- some day !

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    • Kris says:

      But, on the good side, when you walk out you are done. When we bought the cars, we did some running around in the offices but walked out with titles in hand. There are a lot of things you can do on line here but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. Who knows, maybe that will change someday but for now we learn new procedures and new vocabulary. As for mail, there are advantages of not getting a pile of junk in your mailbox every day.

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