Pretty riveting title, isn’t it? I’m sure that more than a few readers have opted to skip over this article altogether. If you’re still reading these lines, I applaud your confidence that I will somehow make the story of picking up our license plates interesting – I’ll try not to disappoint you.
Tags for the Masses
Every three years, they change the design of the license plates and require everyone with a vehicle to get brand new tags. Yep, you read that correctly – everyone gets new tags in the same year.
Mexico has 31 states and each state is responsable for designing and issuing it’s own license plates. I live in the State of Quintana Roo and there are over 450,000 registered vehicles here. That’s a lot of license plates.
Issuing hundreds of thousands of license plates in one year creates several logistical problems and long lines are inevitable. The process this year was further complicated for two reasons: 1) the new license plates were late and didn’t arrive until March; and 2) the government offered discounts for paying prior to March 31.
The fact that the tags hadn’t arrived yet didn’t stop thousands of people from going to their local tag agencies to pay early. Many wanted to take advantage of the discount, knowing that they would have to come back on a future date to pick them up. People are very patient here in Mexico.
The newspaper published some pictures of the lines at some of the offices and they reminded me of a crowd waiting for Walmart to open on Black Friday. Needless to say, I have been dreading the day that I would have to pick mine up.
A Lucky Break
Over a week ago, the newspaper reported that the new tags were finally in and were being delivered to the various government offices around the state. I still hadn’t seen a single new plate during my travels, so I didn’t even bother to stop by our local office in Tulum.
Last Saturday, a childhood friend of mine flew in to visit me from Florida. He had never been to Mexico before so I was showing him around Akumal. After visiting some beach spots, I decided to show him the pueblo side and we headed to one of my favorite restaurants, Tequilaville.
When we pulled in, I noticed that there was a tent set up a few businesses down. I asked the owner of the restaurant what the tent was for and he replied that the government was issuing the new license plates. He told me that it was a one day event and that they were about to close.
I ran down to investigate and I saw several of the staff members that I recognized from the tag agency in Tulum. There was no one in line and I went right up to the counter. I told her that I didn’t have any paperwork with me and asked what I needed to get my tags.
Since I had just purchased my car a few months before, she said that all I had to do was give her the temporary permit from the window along with a copy of my identification.
As she was talking to me, she was making copies on a printer/scanner on the desk. I asked if she could make a copy of my identification and she said no. By the way, that’s not an unusual response. It’s always your responsibility to bring copies of all of your documents, including your own identification.
I looked at my watch and I was down to 15 minutes until they closed. I asked if there was a place to make copies nearby and she just shrugged her shoulders.
There wasn’t enough time to go home so I started asking people walking by if there was a business that made copies. One man said that I could get copies at a store around the corner. I was still in this thing!
I quickly removed the temporary tag from my car and with the theme to Mission Impossible playing in my head, I ran – yes, I literally ran – down to the store with my identification in hand. After getting my copy, I ran back and arrived with only a few minutes to spare.
The woman I had spoken to earlier smiled at me and then took my documents. She entered the information into the computer and a few minutes later, I walked out victorious with my new tags and registration.
Time required to get new tags: 12 minutes
Let’s Wrap This Up
Most of my experiences at government offices in Mexico don’t require this level of cardiovascular fitness; however, it was still preferable to having to wait for hours at the main location. I hope I’m this lucky in three years.