Dude, Where's Our Car?

Friday, June 08, 2012

The answer to that thankfully is now safely within the walls of our compound, well sort of, it's actually being de-tinted then re-tinted and detailed.

Last Friday, we put it on the back of a tow truck from the U.A.E to import into Bahrain. The process although cumbersome was pretty straightforward, we were lucky to meet genuinely helpful people throughout the journey. Basically it is comparable to buying a car in Brisbane and bringing it down to Melbourne, except here it has to travel through Saudi Arabia and you need all the correct paperwork and stamps to do it.

Like good educated used car buyers, firstly we went to the dealership to go through the servicing logs and history of the car. Once satisfied that the car was in good condition and after some heavy negotiation (of which I took no part in lol) and a hand shake later, we got a pretty reasonable price for it.

Now I'm being fairly vague about "the car" because I am led to believe Ari is enthused enough about our newly purchased used vehicle to make his first ever blog entry about it, fingers crossed followers! I make no promises though :)

After some thorough research about importing, we went with a mob called MESAR who specialise in car shipping. Now, the rest of this blog post is somewhat dry as I'm going to detail the process for other poor schmucks who decide to go down this same path and have helplessly roamed the Internet (like me) looking for a "how to" guide to import cars into Bahrain, hopefully it's useful for someone. Otherwise I fail to see how this will be beneficial to you so read no further unless you enjoy useless trivia, then of course I will obligingly humour you. So the process goes:
  1. Inspect and purchase the car, make sure there is no existing finance on it otherwise you'll be liable for it. Bahrain allows cars older than 5 years as long as it looks in good knick, Saudi and some other GCC countries don't allow this though.
  2. Take the car to the road traffic authority it's registered with:
  3. Get an inspection slip for export and drive the car into the inspection bays. It'll need it to pass then you'll be issued with the original export certificate which need to have stamps on it.
  4. Surrender the old plates.
  5. Transfer the registration to your name, a drivers license of some description is required.
  6. Get your seller to pay all his parking and traffic infringements.
  7. Get export plates and insurance if you intend to drive it otherwise it's not necessary.
  8. Make all the necessary payments then put it on the back of truck.
  9. You'll need CPR (Central Population Registration), your passport and the original export certificate (with stamp) and payment for transporting costs, transit insurance and UAE/Saudi border transit charges. Then Khalas (with a silent "K")! You're done from the export end.
Once it has arrived in Bahrain you need to clear it from customs:
  1. Go to the Customs on the causeway if it's coming by truck. It's located on the McDonald's side at the back, quite obscure and if you come at night somewhat like "stab alley", lots of stray cats.
  2. You'll need third party insurance for one year before they even release the car, so only come when you have the insurance. Insurance companies don't tend to provide comprehensive cover for vehicles older than 5 years, it took some serious research to find a place that would.
  3. There are some forms that need to be filled by the customs officials, one is the bill of lading the other I'm not sure but they'll direct you to get stamps and signatures from the right people.
  4. The car will be x-rayed on the truck before released for inspection. More stamps required. Inspection is only open from 8am-1pm so if your car arrives outside of these hours you'll have to come back, he will also give you stamps and a squiggle or two.
  5. Bahraini customs decides the value of your vehicle of which you will pay 5% for duty (if it's from the U.S. it's exempt from duty). He'll, of course stamp and sign this then you will proceed to the payment window where they will charge you an extra 1 BD for "stamp fee" lol. We weren't sure whether we were being rolled or not until we saw another guy behind us pay 1 BD as well. Collect your receipt and proceed to the traffic police.
  6. Remove export plates if you have them and surrender them to the traffic police. They will issue you with temporary plates, this costs 30 BD and you need to attach them yourself. This was pretty difficult given we have long, skinny plate inserts on the car and was issued with short, wide plates.
  7. Go and collect your exit slip and you are free to exit.
I would highly recommend paying a customs clearance agent to do all this as "stamp collecting" is quite a tiring process when you don't know what's going on. Although we did seem to get the VIP treatment as we were generally ushered into the air conditioned offices from process to process, whilst others had to wait outside. 

The next step is you need to do proper registration at the Traffic and Licensing Directorate before the temporary registration expires. Take it to inspection bay 3 for imported vehicles with the paper work from customs and your original export certificate. We had trouble with this because the existing car tint was illegal and we needed to get it removed (30% transmissivity is the allowable limit, no less).

Seems like a lot of work to import a car hey? I suppose so, but when it's an Audi RS6 for less than a third of the cost in Australia and you'll be only one of two people in Bahrain driving one... I think it's worth it ;)

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