It became apparent shortly after arriving in Panama that we would need a car sooner rather than later. Temporarily living in the Coronado area, we found a suitable vehicle in Anton del Valle, not very far away. The car was registered in Panama City, the significance of which escaped me for a few months, although I was in fact told that I would likely want to re-register the car closer to my final residential locale. The reason I would want to re-register the car is that the plates must be purchased in the area in which the car is registered. No worry, that’s not until December, six months off.
Said final locale turned out to be Boquete, and the six months was upon me before I knew it.
The main requirement, in some places the only requirement, for a new plate is a current inspection certificate, called a Revisado. As in the states, only certain facilities are authorized to conduct these inspections. AFAIK, there is no such facility in Boquete. Although inspection facilities abound in David, those in the know will stop in at Renfrio. Renfrio is basically a tire shop, located on the north side of the Pan American Hwy between the KFC and McDonalds. Very easy to find.
With my current Revisado in hand, I’m ready to get serious about the new license plate.
A round-trip bus fare from David to Panama City is around $35. Then I would need a cab. Not certain that such would be the case, I suspected there might actually be more than one stop in the process. Another cab, or cabs. (I think there were three stops when I bought the car.) There’s no way all of this could be accomplished in one day, so there’s a hotel bill to consider. Doing the math it took only a very short while to realize we would be far better off just hiring someone in PC to handle this for us. We called upon a guy named Luis Arce. He had been recommended by friends of ours and we had used him before when traveling from the bus station to PTY. We were well-satisfied with him. So Jan contacted him to see if he was up to the job. He was, and sent us a list of what he needed.
- A signed paper authorizing him to conduct this business for us.
- A copy of my passport
- The original Registrado Unico (car title)
- The original current year Revisado (proof of inspetion)
- Original of last year’s Revisado
- Last year’s receipt for the license plate renewal
- Proof of insurance
Well, surely thought I, he doesn’t really need the originals of all those papers. What a mess if he lost something! So I sent copies.
The very next day, upon receiving the papers, he called to say that he needed the originals. Somewhat fuming, I called around to confirm the actual need for originals. It turns out that for Panama City at least, originals are in fact required. I fume while my lady quietly smirks.
So the very next day I sent the originals, after carefully making copies of everything. A couple days after that, the license plate (singular,just one plate) along with the Revisado sticker for the windshiled, was delivered by Fletes Chavale to their Boquete office. I had heard only good things about Fletes Chavale and after several shipments back and forth with them, I must concur with the glowing reviews. Reasonably priced as well.
Having successfully procured the plates for our car, I now took on a bit more daunting project. A friend was out of the country and wouldn’t return until after the first of the year. Her plate, like mine, expired in December. The problem was no one knew where her original title was. Also like mine, her car was registered in PC. She thinks that possibly the original title is at the Dolega office, as she remembers coming here with it. The (unsuccessful) purpose of that visit was to get the title transferred from PC to Dolega. She didn’t remember all of the details except that it was “too soon”. This would make sense for me a little later.
I am one of those rare individuals that, through talent or misfortune (not sure which), can actually speak the language better than I can understand it.
I had little trouble explaining that a friend was out of the country and that she wouldn”t return until after the first of the year. Meanwhile, her license plates would expire this month (December). The car was registered in PC which requires, among other things, an original title. She (we) can’t find the original title. She was hoping that she might have somehow left the title here on a prior visit.
At the Dolega municipio I was directed to a young man (maybe 30) named David Ponce. David spoke little to no English. He enlisted the aid of one of the cashiers named Soraida Jimenez, who speaks passable English. It was soon determined that the missing title was not here. It was suggested that I get a replacement title right here, right now. And although I could not in fact get the new plate here since the car was registered in PC, they could issue a one month extension for $5.
Alternatively, I could send the new, soon to be obtained title, along with the other required documents, to a “runner” in PC and get the new plates without further ado. The economics were such that I took him up on the offer to purchase the plates for me after the first of the year. (Interesting to note that I observed at least one individual get his new plate here by presenting nothing more than a current Revisado!)
I was directed to a window just a few yards away where a new “original” title could be obtained. Sure enough, 30minutes later, and $21 lighter, I have a new title. Soraida left for lunch before I got the replacement title but she told me which window to go to in order to get the temporary extension for the license plate. But when I did that, the girl said I could NOT get a temporary extension and could not in fact buy the plates there as the car was registered in Panama City. The latter of which I was already keenly aware.
So I was forced to wait for Soraida to return from lunch, whereupon the temporary extension was issued without further incident.
David would be going to PC after the first week in January and he could then procure the plate for me in the city. I am to return here the week of Jan 5 to remind him.
It was pointed out that had I arrived closer to the first of the month, they here in Dolega could have effected the title transfer to Dolega. As it was, I would have to wait until NEXT year, being sure to show up close to the first of the month. (I would later have this information confirmed on two more occasions. So this is how Suzi was “too early” , or too late, on her prior visit.)
As instructed in mid December, I returned here Jan 5 to see David Ponce. David was not here. No one seemed to know when he would return. I wound up talking to another (very) young man named Arcinio Miranda who said he could help me. Arcinio thinks he can speak English but it’s only slightly better than my Spanish. A fortunate and fortuitous occurrence was that within earshot was a Panamanian who had lived in the states for 25 years. He spoke English almost without accent! Needless to say, all of the information exchanged during my first visit had to be repeated. Still no cigar. I’m to call back at the end of the week after he’s had a chance to talk to David Ponce.
I dutifully called Arcinio at the end of the week. He said HE would be going to PC soon and I was to stop by the office in Dolega to see him before Jan 20. I went there on Jan 16. It seemed to take an inordinate amount of time given the information exchanged on previous visits, but in the end he said the new plate should be here by the end of January and to call the office at that time to confirm. But a few days later Suzi returned to Panama and I left everything in her capable(?) hands. (to be continued)