As it turns out, Peru seems to be one of the easiest countries in South America to suspend a vehicle permit. Well, we had to phone them up lots and lots to hurry them along with the paper work but, at least, it is possible, doesn’t cost anything and can be done in most cities where there is a customs office. Most overlanders choose Cuzco where there is a popular campsite that will look after your vehicle. So many people have done it there, where the campsite owner will help you out and the customs people must be used to the process, that it is reported to be a fairly pain-free procedure – but in the capital it’s a straight-forward too: This is our experience in suspending a vehicle permit in Lima. And remember; the whole thing for us was pretty much free – we didn’t even have to pay for vehicle storage because we had the truck parked outside the place where we were staying in Lima.
Disclaimer! Although they use computers and have a rule book somewhere, your experience may well be different! We were told, for example by one Aduanas officer, that you could suspend a vehicle permit with a letter from a mechanics saying that it had broken down.
Stop Press (Dec 2013)! The Peruvians are changing the visa system for foreigners. Apparently they are going to limit the foreigner’s stay to six months stay per year. This may or may not have an effect on the vehicle rules or your plans…
Getting the Process Started
First park up your vehicle somewhere – the more off-road, such as a parking lot, the better. Then you go to the nearest cop shop and explain that you need a Constacion Policial. This means that a cop has to come and see your truck and make a note that it is parked where you say it’s parked. We didn’t have to bribe anyone for this, maybe because our truck was only a five-minute stroll from the cop shop, but you do have to pay an insubstantial fee for that report once they have typed it up.
You also need some kind of “proof” that you’re going to leave the country which is the reason why you need to suspend your vehicle permit. What we did was book some flights on the internet and then, before we had to confirm and pay for them, we printed out a screenshot of that section of the booking process. It had on it our names, the flights and the dates. I’m sure you all know the procedure. It all seems pretty academic these days of credit cards, refundable flights and the internet to actually transfer proper money to an airline just to come up with a bit of paper that hardly proves anything anyway. But, hey, you can do that too.
You then need to write a letter, in Spanish, to the customs people at the border where you crossed into Peru (in our case Tumbres), explaining that you’d like to suspend your vehicle permit because you intend to leave the country for a short while. You should include reference to the location of the vehicle and that it won’t be used while suspended. We used the old Google Translate for this.
Don’t forget photocopies of your passport, including entrance stamp, your driving licence and the vehicle permit that they gave you when you crossed into Peru. The next day you pick up the police paper and go down to Aduanas who have their main office right at the end of Callao past the big fort. Catch any bus going to La Punta. This place is open from 9.30 until 13.00 and then from 14.00 till 16.30. There’s kind of a strange queuing system going on outside. Theoretically you shouldn’t have to queue at all – you go into the reception, leave your passport and then, in the main office, you take a ticket, take a seat and wait there instead. But, if you want to be first with a ticket, you’ll have to arrive at the Aduanas before 9.30 or 14.00 and queue up outside before the doors open and they’re ready for business.
So, hopefully, by now, you’re sitting in front of an Aduanas officer who has some idea about what you’re after. Ideally, what he’ll do is phone up the border post where you entered Peru and kind of smooth things over with the guys there – confirming that you’re going to send them the documents that you have. (Take a copy of the phone numbers he’s using!) This guy in front of you may well re-write your carefully Google-translated letter that you composed into something more acceptable for Latin American bureaucratic-type people – basically something really formal, prosaic and IN CAPITAL LETTERS WITH NO FORMATTING.
Once you have all that, you go to another window in the Aduanas building where they staple it together and send it off to Tumbres (or whichever border you crossed). This is the internal government postal system. Take two copies of everything. What they do is print a code on one set to give back to you as proof that you’ve sent everything off. They also give you a number and a web address where you can actually check on the progress of the documents and check when it’s arrived at the place where it’s meant to go. Incredible, eh?
Waiting for Permission
For us, there was some kind of public holiday going on that slowed things down a bit and we had to phone Tumbres up a couple of dozen times to see if they had granted us a suspension. In the end we had the phone number of the main man himself and his email address. He had a few concerns; chiefly that our truck was just parked on a street somewhere and not properly off-road. For us this was a gray area – the truck was actually parked in a gated community. For the man himself up in Tumbres, he was more bothered by the police report that said our vehicle was parked outside such-and-such address rather than at such-and-such address. Anyway, we sent him, by email, some completely inconclusive photos of our parked-up vehicle, possibly sweet-talked him a little, and eventually we got our vehicle suspension approved.
The next day, by email, we got back a letter detailing the suspension – it gave no time limit but merely said that I would have 3 weeks to leave the country once I had presented myself to the Aduanas and requested my tuck be allowed onto the road again. At first glance it seemed that this three weeks, added to the six weeks that we had been driving around Peru before the suspension plus the two weeks it took for the suspension to be approved, was almost the 90 days that the original vehicle permit is valid for.
But there was no evidence that this was a formal calculation. In addition, no reference, in that final document, was made to us actually leaving the country or the dates that we’d said we intended to be away.
Getting Back on the Road
Once we knew we were finally leaving Lima, we wrote up another letter requesting an un-suspension of the vehicle permit. Taking this down to the Aduanas in Callao, we sent that off (with photocopies of all the other documents, just in case) via the internal post system to Tumbres. Again you should have two copies of everything; one of them is printed with a code and given back to you.
If you’re in a rush at all, then, you can scan the code that the internal post system printed to prove that you’d sent everything – and then email this scan to the guy dealing with your case at the border. This means he can see what you’ve done and get on your case straight away.
A few days later, we received by email, a final letter that said we were good to go and that we had five weeks to get out of the country. We’re pretty sure that when you add up the time when our truck was officially on the road, it comes to about 104 days, not the usual 90… Print this out and get some more insurance here – $10 for a month. Yeah!!
Exit at the Border
A few days before our un-suspended vehicle permit was about to expire, we were at the border with Bolivia on the road between Puno and La Paz. We presented all the documents we had to the Aduanas officials there who seemed to be eager to find something amiss. One thing they spotted was that on the reverse of the original permit you get, there’s a section that possibly should be stamped if the permit has been suspended (Suspencion de Plazo). We replied that everything had been done according to the instructions from Tumbres – they phoned Tumbres (a much posher office than this one at the Bolivian border) and, well, everything was fine – we were free to leave Peru!