Spanish bureacracy


Today I decided to brave Spain and the long queues in Spanish banks and – to get the forms from the local traffic department to bajar the coche, ie take it off the Spanish system.

Taking it off the system means we won’t keep getting bills for Spanish road tax, and I might even get a refund for what’s left of this year ie six months, 30€ or so.

First I went off to pay the telefonica bill in the bank. My dear and faithful readers who are now familiar with the Spanish banking system, thanks to my incessant moans, will remember that you can only pay bills in a fifteen minute window on the one day of the month which does not have a y in it. OK, I exaggerate slightly. But at the bank I normally use you can only pay on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8.30 and 10am. I think one of the others lets you pay on the days of the month that fall between 10th and 20th. Before 10 am, natch. As this is far too complicated for simple Kate to successfully remember I don’t bother with that bank.

I cruised in at my usual time of just after 9.30pm having walked through Gib and crossed the airfield and the frontier. Normally this allows enough time to get seen by 10am. Sometimes it is 9.59 but I’ve always made that critical 10am deadline.

There must have been 30 people in the queue. Now, on a good day, the Spanish banking system is not so efficient that they process people at the rate of a person per minute. On a bad day I have stood behind four or five people for half an hour. While I can’t remember the complexities of which different banks are open for bills on different days of the week and the month, I can do the sum that says, 30 people in front of me means I will not get to the cash desk before 10am.

I walked out. I tried another couple of banks. No, you need to have an account with us to pay bills. The second one however suggested I used the post office. The only time I have tried to use the post office before was to pay the water bill which naturally they wouldn’t accept. And in our village in Spain the post office (open for an hour a day) is not automated, so I’m guessing you can’t pay bills there and I always use the bank.

Well the post office was a piece of cake. Fast (in Spanish terms) ie a queue of ten meant I was only waiting ten minutes, efficient and friendly. In fact I was so impressed that if I want to open an account I might well use the post office. Inspired by this I skipped off to the Tourist Information Office to ask them where I would find Avenida Principe de Asturias which is where the traffic office is situated.

Of course there are two TIOs in La Linea. One for the town and one for the whole of Andalucía. Naturally I ended up at the one for Andalucía and not for La Linea. But I figured they would know where it was anyway and I didn’t feel like walking to the other one.

Helpful woman beamed, and produced a map of La Linea. The traffic office was very near. I was on a roll. I skipped off yet again.

Traffic office found, no problem. There was the usual crowd of people all milling around and a take-a-ticket system for your place in the queue that wasn’t working. Then I spotted an information desk that was also a dishing-out-of-forms desk. Exactly what I needed.

I waited patiently behind someone who seemed to have to come back later despite having all her paperwork. Then two people got some forms very quickly and it was my turn.

“The husband of mine would like to bajar his coche and I would like the forms for that,” I said in best Spanish.

“Bajar el coche,” said Mr Unhelpful suspiciously to The Stupid Foreigner.


“You can’t do that here. You have to go somewhere else. Where are you?”

I thought that was a very silly question given that I was standing in front of him so I said “Here”.

“Well you need to go to Algeciras.” Then he decided to make a bit more effort and asked his colleagues whereabouts in Algeciras I needed to go.

“Calle something or other,” was the answer.

“Do you think you could write it down?” As five Spanish syllables rattled off in a very fast La Linea accent meant absolutamente nada to me.

Then he pointed to a list on his glass screen and a security guy came round to point out the one I needed.

Scrapyards and places to take your vehicle when it has come to the end of its useful life, it said.

“Oh no,” I said to security man. “This is not what I want at all. I do not want to get rid of the vehicle. I want to take it off the system. I still have it, but it now has a number plate for Gibraltar.”

Security man repeats this to his colleague.

I go back to Mr Unhelpful behind the glass screen.

“So what do you want to do?” he snaps.

Well I thought I had made this clear but I repeated it again.

“I want to bajar the coche.” Then I added for clarification that it now had a Gib number plate and I didn’t want to pay Spanish road tax any more.

Well, why did I not mention the money first? Of course the centimo then dropped. Muy rápido.

“Oh, you want to bajar the coche,” he said. No sweetheart. What on earth did you think I asked you originally?

“Do you want to export it to Gibraltar?” I’m sure I imagined the surly look on his face that read that irritating place on the end of the Iberian peninsula that should really be Spanish. Or maybe he was just fed up with dealing with The Stupid Foreigner who hadn’t said that she needed to bajar the coche. Much.

“It’s already done. It has a Gib number plate,” I smiled back.

At which point he wandered off and found some forms. He handed over four. Then he repeated everything all over again and asked if I was exporting it and if I wanted to bajar it.


So then he took two forms back and said I only needed the remaining two.

I pointed to yet another notice on his glass screen. It saidif you are presenting forms on behalf of someone else then you need bring their ID and signed authorisation.So I told him the husband worked every day and I wanted that form too.

And then off I went. Step one completed. Now all we have to do is fill out the forms and I go back to the hellhole of bureaucracy and try and well and truly finish this bajar the coche job.

I bumped into Adrian on the way back up Main Street (along with 50 million people who had descended from the latest cruise ship). I foolishly recounted the morning’s achievements (?). I suggested we could take the forms in together. But it seems work is very busy and he won’t be able to take any time off. Hmmm.

Oh I stopped at The Angry Friar for a beer. I figured I had earned it.


A of Steel City said…
oh – not sure if I could go through all that performance without blowing one of my very short fuses.I almost lost the will to live reading this……I felt for you very much, this must have been mega frustrating. I kept on reading because I so wanted you to have a Happy Ending.Even though Happy Endings do not usually please one as bitter and twisted as me.And yes, you certainly deserved a beer.Anastasia – from Steel City.

3 JUNE 2008 14:57

Bajar el coche

*Trigger alert – a little Spanglish is needed for this one* 

When we imported the Santana into Gib the nice customs man reminded us to bajar the coche.

I am struggling to translate this but basically it means to take it off the Spanish system.

Anyway I looked some stuff up on the internet and it seems you have to fill out a form at a Spanish traffic office. Downloadable on the internet. No. I don’t think so. I have tried.

But there was a brief sheet of instructions that I did manage to print off.

When I psyched myself up to dealing with half a day’s Spanish bureaucracy, mostly queueing, I suddenly read the sheet and realised that before I bajared the coche I needed to notify my local council where we pay the car tax. Unlike the UK, where road tax is national.

Just to recap. My Land Rover Santana, 3.5 diesel, known as a camion – a truck – here, attracts a hefty 60 euros a year in road tax to the local ayuntamiento (council). But in Gib, there is no road tax. Even better.

Off to the road tax office. Well, did we time it lucky or what?

We walked in – and there was no queue.

“Si?” says woman on desk, or “Dimi?” or something similar.

“Well, I have a question about my coche.”

“Off you go to the end to my colleague who is free.”

(No it wasn’t in English but I thought I would translate that bit).

It was the same guy we had dealt with a couple of years ago when the bill hadn’t come through because we had only bought the Santana a few months previously and the change of name wasn’t on the system.

He beamed at us. I explained that we had to change the number plate on the Santana because Adrian was working in Gib now and we had to import it.

I’d got the information sheet and it said I needed to get the approval of my local council tax office. I gave it to him. So much easier than me trying to explain in my mediocre Spanish. So what did I need to do? And what did the approval mean?

It didn’t mean approval at all. (Or maybe it did in Spanish terms). It meant I had to be paid up for the rest of the year before I could bajar the coche. It meant I had to pay Spanish road tax for the whole of this year, get a receipt for it, then take the vehicle off the system, and apply for a refund.

Then he grinned.

“That’s Spain for you. You always have to pay.”

He explained it beautifully, and more than once. All in Spanish though. Don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t speak Spanish – but we do – or enough. And we all laughed.

He told us where to go to get the refund. He was patient, helpful, and informative. A good guy.

Nothing achieved? For us yes. We know what we need to do now.

1) Get the bill for this year – which doesn’t come out in our area until the end of this month. We can go directly to the office for it next week though.

2) Go to the bank and pay it – which gives us the receipt.

3) Go to the Traffic Office and bajar the coche – with the all-important receipt that you have paid tax for the rest of the year.

4) Go back to the council (different office) to claim your refund.

Progress report later.