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Importing your car to Portugal

The Portuguese culture and bureaucracy keep surprising me. I started to see it as a great way to practice patience and improve my sense of humor. It is also a continuing source of inspiration for stories.

Since I brought my car from Holland, I thought it would be a good idea to hire a local company to help me with the import. They’re located in Setubal; the door is always open; they speak English; and they’re very helpful. It’s perfect if you need some help navigating the treacherous waters of the Portuguese way to import a car.

They take care of the process and tell me what documents I need to collect and where to get them. Basically, they sent me on a scavenger hunt, and every piece I need to collect is a small adventure on its own. Going to the notary and collecting all the papers from Holland—the infamous COC form and proof of residence (both here and from Holland)—are the easy ones. But whenever I need to visit Financas, I feel like I’m entering the Twilight Zone, because logic and time as we know them cease to exist and transform into a mysterious realm of infinite possibilities. I will spare you the long version, but needless to say, this didn’t go very well, as was expected.

Another important item on my list is the engine number of the car. I was told that during the inspection, this would be registered on a yellow document. Unfortunately, my yellow document only contained a part of the engine number, and I was referred to my Peugeot dealer to get the rest. The dealer would retrieve the engine number fairly easily (so I was told), document it, and with that document, I could go back to the inspection office and they would fill out the complete number on the yellow form.

Once I arrived at the Peugeot dealer where I was a few months earlier for my annual maintenance, I was told in Portuguese, because nobody speaks English, that this was not so easy, that it would take anywhere between 2 and 14 hours, and that the costs would be € 110,- per hour. “Chances are we need to remove the entire engine”, said the person behind the counter.

Not only was I surprised by the fact that no one spoke English anymore, which they did a few months ago, but I found it very curious that they didn’t know where to look for the engine number. You would think that an official dealer would know exactly where to look to find the engine number of the cars they sell. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was naive, or maybe they just wanted to make some extra money.

When I expressed my concerns and thoughts, a miracle happened. All of a sudden, the person behind the desk spoke English and explained to me that last week they had a customer, and it took them 14 hours to get the engine out and retrieve the number.

Needless to say, my trust in the Peugeot dealer was out the window. I decided to contact the inspection office and ask for advice. A friendly man on the other end of the phone told me to come back on a quiet day during lunch so he could have a look. I was there last Monday, and it took him exactly 15 minutes to find the engine number. I expressed my gratitude as he handed me the yellow form, and when I asked about the costs, he said it was free.

It’s no secret that there are people who want to take advantage of us foreigners, and there are also people who truly mean well and want to help unconditionally. It’s not always easy to spot the former from the latter, but patience and speaking your mind help to separate the wheat from the chaff.



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