Driving in Anguilla

The joys of importing a vehicle

In hindsight, I suppose we could have/should have just purchased a car in Anguilla, but Scott got a stellar deal on a Ford F-250 that we thought would be perfect on the island. Here’s the story of why importing a vehicle to Anguilla is an absolutely ridiculous and frustrating feat.

The truck was purchased in Northern California and then shipped to Miami. From Miami, the truck made it onto a boat for shipping to Anguilla. Needless to say, shipping a car is an expensive prospect and a bit of a lengthy process but from what we could tell, things were going relatively smoothly. We were notified when the truck boarded the boat and notified when it was slated to arrive on the island the following week.

We made our way to an office in the Valley to pay freight on the vehicle on Monday. We knew the truck was on island; in fact, we could see the physical truck in the shipping field. The proper documents hadn’t yet completed since the truck had just arrived, so there was little we could do to make progress on getting it released. We paid a nominal paperwork fee at the office, got a draft of the shipping document and were sent to embark on a few tasks that needed to be completed prior to getting the truck.

Now, these tasks — there are about 3,000 of them — must be completed in a precise order to have any level of success; it’s like unlocking a secret code. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this process was created so that any person that enjoys being efficient (even in the slightest) will drive themselves to the verge of insanity.

At this point (about 10:30AM on Monday), we’ve paid a $5 document fee and have a bit of paperwork in hand. Next, we make our way to the police station, where we were told we should schedule some type of inspection/paperwork for moving the truck. Mind you, we had no idea what this process really entailed so we had to listen very closely to each person doling out information on the process (many pieces of information which were competing).

Fast forward to the police station. We’re waiting patiently at the Traffic Department. We explain the situation to the lady at the front desk and she assures us we’re in the right place. Thank goodness — there’s half the battle. We are then given a slip of paper which allows us to move the vehicle any time between 12PM and 4PM that day. Perfect.

Back to the shipping yard we go to move the car. Closed for lunch from noon to 1PM — darn it. We leave (to have some lunch of our own) and then head back around 1:15PM to hand over our paperwork and get the car.

Lady to us: “Is the task force coming?”

Us: “Task force? They gave us this paperwork to move the car.”

Lady: “Well, the task force has to inspect the car before you’re allowed to drive it to the pound for further inspection.”

Well. Awesome. Is the Task Force not the same as the police? I need to get it inspected before we can drive it over for further inspection?? We were then told that the Task Force was going to be on-site the following day at 1:30PM. We had accepted the fact that we weren’t going to get the car until Tuesday anyway at this point, but the lapses in information and the process was getting to us. Of course, the paperwork we had received from the police noted that we could move the car within a specific four hour window on Monday. Seeing as how we weren’t going to move the car AT ALL on Monday, we had to go back to the police station to get the dates changed.

The guy at the station: “Well, you should really come back tomorrow to get a new slip.”

Us: “Can’t you just give us the slip for tomorrow afternoon? Just change it from the 25th to the 26th.”

Him: “Well, who’s to say that this same thing won’t happen tomorrow?”

ARRGGGH. I somewhat gently explained that we had an appointment with the Task Force at 1:30P the following day and that we had this confirmed. He probably assumed we weren’t leaving without a slip of paper in hand, so he finally acquiesced.

At this point, it’s approximately 3PM and we’ve accomplished the following: We’ve paid a $5 paperwork fee, got a slip of paper from the police and ‘scheduled’ a 5 minute appointment with the Task Force. Sweet. Nothing tangible.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon where we head to the shipping yard to pick up the car. We’ll be meeting with the Task Force at 1:30PM and are excited to get this car moved from the shipping yard to the ‘pound’ (a holding cell near the police station).

Lady to us: “Do you have the blue slip of paper?”

Well, shoot. No. When we went to get that slip of paper the day before, none of the paperwork on their end had yet been finalized. I notice a stack of blank blue papers sitting on her printer.

Us: “Can you print us one of those out? Maybe call the main office to confirm?”

She calls, only to find out that freight hasn’t been paid for the car. Notes say that it’s to be paid by the shipper, but that it hasn’t been processed yet.


Us: “Can we just handle the freight payment here then?”

Lady: “Well, it says the shipper is going to pay for this, so we’re not supposed to accept your payment.”

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. I’m trying to give you money to cover this bill and you don’t want it? Off I jet to the main office with a check in hand to clear up this confusion and pick up a blue slip of paper.

I get to the main office where I explain the situation. They know who we are (thank goodness) and help us clear up the rather hefty payment. I’m given a blue piece of paper and an email is sent to the shipping yard (where Scott is waiting for the car to be inspected by the Task Force) to verify that shipping has been paid.

I jet back to the shipping yard to play show-and-tell with my blue slip of paper then am told to go back to where I came from to do the entry.

The next step of this process is to do the entry. Now, I don’t 100% know what the entry entails, but I know that we pay someone to do the entries and that they involve an itemized list of what’s being imported, along with their relevant duty charges.

I rush off to Arian Freight where I drop off a slew of shipping documents to get an entry processed. I can’t pay duty until the entry is finalized and shows what we actually owe. I explain to the lady that we’re kind of in a hurry. Whilst driving to Arian 5 minutes earlier, I found out that the Task Force had cleared the truck and Scott was now driving it to the pound. Once the entry is done, we can pay duty, get it registered and get on our way.

It’s about 2:15PM at this point. She explains to me that she can’t get the entry done by the end of the day. Even if she can, customs closes at 2:30PM so we’d never make it in time to pay duty anyhow. My initial though: who closes at 2:30?! Really. How does anyone get anything done?

Fine. I meet Scott at the pound where I have to explain that we’ll get the car the next day when the entry is done. We drive the car to a little pen where it gets locked up with other lonely foreign cars until owners can free them.

Fast forward to Wednesday. We rush over to Arian Freight where our entry is supposed to be done. It’s 9AM, the lady is in and the entry is done. YES. This bodes well for us. We take the paperwork down to customs to pay duty. We got a great deal on the truck so we made sure that the duty we were paying was based on our sale price. Naturally, you have to pay duty on freight, too, so this got tacked on as well (to me, this is straight robbery). When duty is 31% this seriously hurts.

The guy at customs scans our document for about a minute.

Him: “This is a vehicle.”

Us: “…Yes…. yes, it’s a vehicle.”

Him: “Where is the vehicle? Did you drive it here?”

Us: “Well, sir, it’s been outside since yesterday at about 2:30PM.”

Him: “This is a vehicle. It’ll take a bit longer than normal. Please sit.”

We take a seat and look at each other. Wasn’t this supposed to be quick and easy? Don’t we just pay the ridiculous amount of duty that they’re requiring and drive the car off into the sunset? No. That’d be entirely too easy, of course.

Ten minutes pass. Twenty minutes pass. I get us coffee from a nearby cafe and come back. Scott is still waiting. The man approaches a window and calls us up.

Him: “The duty that you’ve been charged was on your purchase price. That’s not how we do things. We charge it based on the universal Blue Book value.”

Wellll… that’s not gonna work; not the game we really want to play here. We bought this because we got a great deal on it. Blue book value is about 4 – 5x what was paid. 31% of that is a heck of a lot more than what we’ve counted on. We explain this to him.

The result? We are scheduled to go back to meet with the director of the department to plead our case. So, here we are, three days later with no truck and a whole lot of money already paid.

Moral of the story: don’t import vehicles.

xoxo from Anguilla,

Shannon Falzon

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.