Buying a Siambretta – Paperwork and More Paperwork

Today has been the third consecutive day of paperwork for both Sergio and I. Things were looking really good today, and I was sure that we would get very close to finishing everything. As we paced our way down the narrow sidewalks, avoiding other rushing people and searching for the shadows in this blistering hot day, I cheerfully chirped to Sergio that we have almost finished it all now. Without batting an eyelid nor even offering a glance my way, he shot back, “well we have less to do now than when we started.”


Sergio heading to the windows where we paid our licence plate fees.

After that we walked along in silence for a while, as I chewed over his words. Having been through many purchases in his life, Sergio was no stranger to all of the different forms and processes involved in the deal. Perhaps there was something that I was missing? I shot another glance at our list of paperwork to complete before we could finalize the transfer of the bike into Sergio’s name. It all seemed so simple and clear. We had done the tough parts and there were only two items left on our list. It was obvious that we were almost done.

It did not take long before we reached our destination, the Transport Office, where we would then complete the next item on our list. We had just been to the provincial government office and paid our fees on the number plates that were outstanding. A stamped paper in our hands proving our payment gave us access to this next step, and with the two offices being only five blocks apart it seemed like a good idea to walk here.

On entering the Transport Office we were greeted by a cool refreshing blast of air-conditioning, reminding us of just how hot it was outside. A brief enquiry at the main desk and we found our way through to the back of the building into an area of open planned office spaces. A group of people hovered around the one desk with people behind it coming and going and chatting quietly between themselves. This was our destination also.


The Transport Office and our destination desk at the very end.

Leaning over the desk and presenting our paper when it was our turn, we were not expecting what we heard next. The lady looked over the paper and exclaimed, “You have paid too much.” She checked the paper once again and told us that because the bike was built in 1962, we only had to pay the fees on the plates for the year 2000 and everything after that was free. Even though there were outstanding amounts listed, these would be wiped out when we finished the process.

But we could not finish the process just yet. The lady would not let us. Instead we were instructed to return to the government office and ask for them to refund us the difference. That was another five block walk back to where we had started, and time was starting to run short. The best part of this overpayment was that the fee dropped from around $136 pesos to only $34 pesos. A significant difference for anyone.


Finding our way through the mazes of government offices.

Normally we used Sergio’s car in our travels because it was generally easier and faster. It was also the only transport that we had. Now that we had the motorbike too, it had become an option, although today it was a necessity. Sergio’s car had broken down late yesterday and there was no other form of transport. So this time when we left the government office we climbed aboard my bike and rode over to the Transport Office.

We were now ready to strike off the next item on our list. The “Baja.” This removes all records of old bikes that do not have a complete paper-trail from the computers so it can be added again from the beginning. As Sergio handed over our amended receipt proving our payment of the licence plate fees, I expected that we would receive our “Baja” and be on our way. Instead, the lady reached into her folder and pulled out for us yet another list of items to complete.

The first item was yet another possible debt that had somehow managed to cling to the bike rather than the person. This was the unpaid traffic infractions associated with the bike. Now it is my prayer, desire, hope and wish that this old bike has no such a thing as an unpaid infraction upon it, but to find out we have to wait. It takes three working days to complete.


Waiting to be attended at the Office of Infractions and Fines.

Doing anything in Argentina takes longer than most other places that I know. So when we had to apply for a list of possible outstanding infractions, it did not surprise me that it used up the rest of our available time. On entering the building, through a small doorway in a huge steel grilled wall we were presented with two different branches of the pathway. From where we stood at the junction there were even more choices further along, so the only sure way of working out our destination was asking a guard. He cheerfully pointed us into the branch on the right.

When our turn arrived, we asked for the application and presented the necessary papers which had taken much of the week to get. Once they were satisfied with our status as the new owners of the motorbike we received a bill and told to come back when it was paid. So we headed back down the branch and out through the steel grated wall. Next door was the place that we paid this bill, and after waiting in line and receiving our stamp of payment on the bill, we were able to return once again into the depths of the neighboring building.

On presenting our proof of payment after yet another wait, we were registered for the application. It was done. Now we had to wait three days to receive the results. Monday it will be ready, but this is only the first of five items to complete for our “Baja.” The other items involve bouncing around the city from one place to the next to pick up a form in one place, have it filled out in another, and get it verified in yet another. Now I sympathize with Sergio and understand how he can say that we do not know if we are near the end or not, we can only say that we now have less to do than before.


Buying the official forms needed during our paperwork efforts.

It is obvious that I am very new to the paperwork requirements in Argentina. Until now it has been an amazing learning experience. Never did I expect that there would be so much time, money, and doors to move through before I could buy a simple motorbike. This much paperwork is not always required I am told. It is just that the motorbike I wanted to buy is so old that it has never been entered into the records database properly.

In working through all of these paperwork dilemmas and processes with Sergio, I have learned about yet another face of Argentina. My experience has taken me deeper into the workings and life of this country where I live. It has been a fascinating experience, fraught with mishaps and unexpected turns at every side, and still it continues.

Before this mammoth effort, I could not understand why so many bikes, cars and also houses here in Corrientes are sold without any paperwork. Now, even in the middle of the process, I can see why. Even the official government forms have to be purchased so you can continue the process.

Paperwork, paperwork, and even more paperwork. But we have less to do now than we did before.