Archive for the ‘Dominican Driving’ Category
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
We presume that all our readers have their own versions of bureaucratic wonderment, but nonetheless we feel compelled to offer you the mother of all bureaucratic horror-stories from the heart of the Dominican Republic. This particular monster is about a man simply trying to comply as best he can with the law of the land regarding the running of his lil’ ol’ car. That man could be any one of us, so for the purposes of the story we shall call him John Doe.
John needed a favor because his Spanish is not quite up to the level of dealing with Dominican bureaucracy. The goal was short and simple: paying the annual vehicle tax! In other words exchanging RD$1200 (US$43) for a small silver sticker about 2 inches by 3 inches to display on the car windshield… but unfortunately the story, and we make no apologies for this, is neither short nor simple.
Bright one sunny morning we visited the Boca Chica tax office to ask what would be necessary in order to pay the upcoming annual car tax sticker, bearing in mind that John, very unfortunately, had had his car documents stolen, along incidentally and even more irritatingly, with his passport and credit cards. “Just get an original title document (known here as a ‘Matricula’) after verifying the car ownership at a police department called Plan Piloto then place an advertisement in a national newspaper to the effect that your matricula has been lost … and then the sticker will be yours”, was what the nice lady told us. But in order to accomplish that seemingly simple goal…well, herein lies the whole incredible time-wasting bizarre story.
First port of call was the ‘Listin Diario’ (the largest circulation national newspaper in the DomRep) where we correctly lodged full details of the stolen vehicle title for placement in an advertisement. We returned a few days later to pick up the certified copy of the official advertisement and then on to ‘Plan Piloto’. First off we lined up with the vehicle for it to have its chassis and registration numbers verified against a copy of the title that John, at least, fortunately still had. This done then a payment of RD$52 had to be made at window number 1… but not until the requested copies of certain documents could be provided! The requested copies, though, couldn’t immediately be provided, because the entire area was subject to one of the Dominican Republic’s infamous power cuts. Quite an extensive hunt ensued to find a place that a. had electricity and b. a functioning photocopier. Here we would like to offer a free plug for the very helpful local savings and loan company – ‘Asociación Popular de Ahorros y Préstamos’ who clearly felt sorry for us and at no cost made the relevant copies. “Back to Plan Piloto”, we mutually recited, completely unaware of how common a catchphrase that would become for us.
Well, back at Plan Piloto window 1 gave us some papers to take to window 2 where they refused to accept the freshly copied ID (cedula) of the previous owner of the vehicle. In retrospect things had been sailing along rather too easily, but this was the first dawning that things were not going to continue quite so smoothly. At this point we learned we had to have a copy of a more “modern” ID of the previous owner, because the original title had never been transferred into John’s name. John confessed that he didn’t know the guy and had never even met him but knew, for a not very helpful fact, that he now lived in Spain. Window 2 advised us to go to the immigration office where they would give us a document proving “something” about this largely unknown Spanish guy – who by the way went by the name of Señor Gordo – that would solve the problem. Off we tripped down to immigration where they took approximately RD$1000 for the service of providing the paper… but not until after the weekend was over of course. Well this, at the very least, would require another trip to Santo Domingo. On the following Monday morning, before leaving the immigration office, we noticed that the newly acquired paper specifically and only stated that our yesteryear car-owning Spaniard Señor Gordo, according to immigration records, had neither entered the country nor left since December 1999. With the “fear-of-wasted-journey” syndrome now well established we feared that there must be some mistake and that this would hardly help prove anything to the man waiting at window 2 in Plan Piloto. The man in charge placated us somewhat, if not entirely, by explaining that because Señor Gordo had not been in and out of the country since 1999 his ownership of the vehicle prior to that was proven to be legitimate and thus the legality of a sale to John acceptable. Strike us down with reverse partial logic, but with the comforting knowledge that this was the very document the police required on we journeyed!
At the now familiar 2nd window they did not even hesitate and accepted the package of documents we handed over including the immigration paper regarding Señor Gordo. However, for them to produce the certification document they would need another few days and at 2 pm on the appointed day it could be picked up if we showed our pink appointment slip. At 1.40 pm on the specified day there were all kinds of people trading their pink slips for the certification document in spite of the wall notice categorically stating that there would be NO exceptions to the 2 pm ruling. There was no sign of our certification. Finally, and conveniently just when the tax office in Boca Chica was closing at about 3 pm, our required document was made available… the good window 2 people had after all needed just a little more time to get the appropriate signature on it in an upstairs office.
The following day at the Boca Chica tax office the “system” was unfortunately inoperative… the entire day that is. Another beautiful mañana beckoned and proudly we presented all the pieces of paper we had assiduously collected to the nice lady, only to be told we didn’t have John’s contract of sale legalized by the relevant government legal office – the Procuradaria. “But it has been legally notarized”, we chirped trying to use persuasive logic. A couple of locals even voiced their approval of this idea… but, “Not good enough.”, the nice lady said “Them’s the rules”. By the way, she NOW added, we would also need a second certification of the vehicle if we wanted to obtain not only an original title document, but have the title document transferred to John’s name. What a good idea that would be we NOW thought.
We were learning, if but slowly, about Dominican bureaucracy though the fear-the-worst syndrome was kicking in, and we somewhat naturally feared that we would have to make a complete re-pass through the now extremely familiar Plan Piloto offices.
Our fears were of course entirely founded: window 2 told us to go back to window 1 and window 2 told us to go back to the man in charge of inspecting the chassis number of the vehicles. We had been up all the ladders and now we were shooting back down the snakes! The man in charge of the chassis numbers wasn’t even there. As we took a patience break the man sauntered back. He gave us a signed card which took us back to window 1 and after another RD$52 (if dear reader you really are following the monster-plot) onto window 2. Now a new little rub which, by the way, we had not at all feared… for this particular extra version of the certification we also needed a copy of the contract of sale legalized, which we were on our way to do anyway, because the nice lady had belatedly told us so, but what we weren’t told, was that we would need it at this point. It would be absolutely imperative in order for us to get our impatient hands on another pink slip! This would be a new adventure, we thought, because we hadn’t yet been to the document legalization office (the Procuradaria). We were right. Before even getting to the entrance way we had people yelling after us telling us we would be refused entry. Why? Because we had sandals on, not short pants as is sometimes frowned upon, not even flip flops… actually perfectly respectable sandals we thought – but they didn’t!
The game of snakes and ladders was turning from the sublime into the ridiculous. We honestly couldn’t face another trip between Boca Chica and Santo Domingo. The only solution was to buy a pair of shoes on the spot. Suffice it to say there are no shoe shops near this particular warren of government offices… but we did of course still have our ever so handy lil’ ol’ car. Buying the shoes, by the way, was ever so relaxing – just handing money over and the job done. Nobody yelled at us, nobody gave us incomplete or misleading information. Comfortingly, the folks in the shop merely accepted the money and said, “Have a nice day!”
With the all important shoes securely tied on feet we went back to the Procuraduria where they also ominously had two windows. Window 1 in this case was a cinch, but window 2 said it would be another 30 minutes wait. We waited actually more than an hour and this gave us time to notice the footwear of some of the women waiting their turn. Quite a number looked remarkably like sandals – quite a lot of bear toes showing all around in fact! One could have felt like making a point on this matter, but we had a mission to complete, even if it was running a couple of weeks behind schedule. So, just as soon as we could make it, we were speeding back to Plan Piloto again and the 2nd window man said “You are too late, we are on another thing right now”. A lot of thoughts went through our minds at that moment – some of them very unpleasant indeed! Perhaps the second window man was able to read a few of them, because with some obvious reluctance he actually finally did accept our new offering and gave us another of those pink slip appointments to come back in four days time.
We were getting very good at all the maneuvers by now, and four days later we sailed in and out again of Plan Piloto with our new second certified document – naturally too late to visit the tax office in Boca Chica, but nonetheless ever so secure that we had done as requested and that the next day all would be resolved…. Now, what about the fear-the-worst syndrome?
Well… the fear-the-worst syndrome, in its own odd way, had turned into the doubting Thomas syndrome! As a build up to the grand finale of this unbelievable saga the tax office system was out of order again for a couple of days… and, as if that wasn’t enough, then the sister of ‘the nice lady’ was out of order. It does make sense, really – she was extremely ill, the sister that is, and the nice lady just had to help by transporting her from one side of the country to the other. Really, we were becoming regular saints of patience. So… several days further on and we smilingly sat down and waited after putting all the collected papers in to the nice lady’s hands. She made a phone call and NOW told us that the rules had changed! We would need an advert placed in a national newspaper for THREE consecutive days – something that the Listin Diario newspaper was not even aware of. In addition she NOW said that all the documentation had to be taken to the collector of taxes office in Santo Domingo where they would issue the new title which would finally give her leave to provide the promised little tax sticker.
Patience, patience, patience! After all we always believed we were within sight of an end, and we did know how to handle the advertisement issue. Or we thought so. It was just that on this second occasion, for some unknown reason, the newspaper misspelt the word “perdida”(lost) in the advert which of course further increased the number of necessary trips to Santo Domingo, but once the newspaper finally accepted their fault, it was all so straight forward. The new title was in John’s name and was rushed back to the nice lady for her propitious handling. Within hours John left the office after a hearty farewell to the nice lady with what he thought was the illusive sticker.
Later that afternoon John was busy in his yard when he surprisingly and suddenly heard the now well known nice lady’s voice sailing over his garden wall. The fear-the-worst syndrome snapped right back in, he told us, his whole body froze and sweat trickled down his forehead. All for no good reason at all… because… the nice lady had actually just come to deliver his sticker personally, as John had walked out of the office with only the receipt for payment leaving the so hard-worked-for and precious sticker behind!
And that is really all there is too it!
All is well that ends well… isn’t it?… or is it?
Monday, June 28, 2004
It is alluded that there are different ways of getting a driving license in this country, but this week we discovered that the “correct” way requires you to make repeated visits and engage in repeated waiting in different lines at the principal driving test center found on Avenida Tiradentes at the offices of Dirección General de Tránsito Terrestre (Ministry of Road Traffic) in Santo Domingo.
We ventured out of Boca Chica and off to the capital on Wednesday to help a good friend of Playa Vista get through the Dominican driving license process. We have to be honest and say that he had already been considerably helped along the way by other friends by the time we got involved, but he had hit a small language barrier in the form of the examination on the Highway Code which is presented solely in Spanish. We arrived at about 10 am with a view to immediately taking the 45 minute test but were told that the system, a system that our friend had used on two previous occasions, had changed, and that we should have been present in line at 8 am in order to get one of the 250 allotted numbers. So… we returned on the Friday morning and took our place near the front of the line, #21 to be precise. We then proceeded to the next line which did not move for at least an hour and a half. Finally #21 was called and we leapt towards the door only to be told that a special permission would be needed for the accompanying translator because… the system had changed! One of our German speaking regulars had previously tried to help our friend out with the translation, but the technicality of the questions, and the fact that he was trying to help an English speaking guy – in other words two languages removed from his own native language – had already resulted in two failed exams. Nevertheless… another 20 minute wait and with the sub-director of the institution’s signature on the newly acquired special permit for the translator we were now really on our way.
The test was taken and, thankfully, passed… and then we waited some more in our final line of the day for the permit to be handed out.
In this three hour sojourn in the driving test center we learned quite a bit about this very evidently out-of-synch official driving license process. Firstly you have to line up to pay the tax – at a branch of the national bank Banco Reservas located inside the building – in a line that at the time looked like the most formidable of all the lines. Our friend had, by the way, already astutely worked out that, as a tempting alternative, one could actually bypass this line by paying the tax at ones own convenience at any Banco Reservas branch before arriving at the driving test centre. Next you line up for the eye test and when that is over you have to line up one more time to give a blood sample to determine your blood type!
After that you can pass to the line we were in that day for the Highway Code test. Our friend was under the impression that all was finished, after this his fifth visit, so he was naturally disappointed to learn that he would have to return after 45 days in order to have his actual driving approved and undergo an hour and a half lecture thrown in for good measure even though he is a fully validated Massachusetts driving license holder… now how about that!.
We were told though, by somebody in the Ministry that you can get a letter from your consulate verifying your own country’s license which helps to shorten or even eliminate the line-waiting torture. Having learned this, our American friend need not have been crestfallen about all this unnecessary effort he might have taken, because we were also told, by the same source, that the USA embassy is the only one in this country who is not prepared to offer such helpful letters of verification.
Meanwhile seven years later:
The situation does not seem to have changed too much and is of course straightforward!
Getting a Driver’s License in the Dominican Republic
Getting your license in the Dominican Republic is a straightforward process. Bring your cedula and a copy of the document with you to La Direccion General de Transito Terreste (DGTT), which is the equivalent of the department of motor vehicles. Make sure you have studied the driver’s manual before you take your driving exam. Next, you must pay taxes in order to receive your license:
Driver’s License: RD$455
Medical Exam RD$40
Classification Fee: RD$75
Cost of Forms and Services: RD$85
At DGTT go to window # 1 and present your cedula and one copy, and pay for the driver’s license. Next, go to window #2 and present your cedula, along with the receipt of payment of taxes, and the receipt of payment for the driver’s license. Thirdly, go to window # 5 and present your cedula with the previous receipts, so that the information can be checked to make sure it’s accurate.
After that, present all previous documents to window # 6, in order to take the written exam.
If you pass the written exam you’ll be asked to take a road test. You have to wait 45 days before you can take a road test. Once you pass the road test, you can then obtain a Dominican drivers license.