Let me relate the saga of getting my local Vanuatu driver licence.
I had been told I only needed my Australian Driver Licence and no tests, practical or theory, would be needed. So armed with my piece of plastic, I went hunting.
As it turned out this was partially true...
We live out of town. I drove the half hour in and started at the main police station. It's a fairly big place, but by asking questions I finally found the proper office.
A pleasant lady behind the desk sized me up and handed me a form in English. Uh oh! I needed 2 color photocopies but their copier was broken. And copies of some other identification as well.
Ok, no licence today! Back home to scan and print all the bits and pieces.
Returning the the office on my next foray to town, this time with all the required paperwork, she cheerfully checked it all and handed me another form.
This one said I was approved to get a driver licence, but it wasn't the actual licence.
She explained that I had to go to Customs and Excise for the next step, and also gave me directions on how to get there.
But, she said, it was just on midday so they'd be closed for lunch now. (Most government offices close for an hour and a half for lunch from 12 to 1:30)
I had nothing else to do in town so I left it for another day.
On the third trip to town I went to the Customs office at 2pm.
There were a lot of people because it was the end of the month and all the business people were there paying their VAT. There were a lot of queues, and I discovered they had different purposes. I found the right queue.
It took almost an hour to get to the front of the line. I have subsequently visited this same office but with insight I now know the time to go when there are no long lines.
This first line only checks your forms and gives you another one with a stamp that says you are cleared to pay. To pay the fee however - you guessed it - there's a different line to queue in.
This smallish room is air conditioned, but as there were nearly 100 people in there in lines, it was not as cool as you would have expected.
So I joined the line with (hopefully) the teller at the end of it who would take the fee and give me the licence.
Well, half my hopes were realized. He took my money (less than I would have paid in Australia by the way) and gave me a stamped form to present to the guy who would issue the piece of plastic.
Then he explained that as it was now past 3:30 the issuing office was closed and I needed to return tomorrow.
On my fourth trip to town i went straight to the enquiries counter at Customs clutching the magic piece of paper the teller had given, but carrying a folder with all the others just in case. Only 2 people ahead of me today, and the whole place was almost deserted because by now it was a new month and all the VAT-payers had disappeared.
The lady looked at my paper and asked me to sit on a bench and wait. About half an hour later a smiling young man came out and walked straight over to me. He asked me to follow him through the staff door, and almost immediately we turned into a tiny office that appeared to be built under a stairway.
I mean "tiny"... I had to enter first because once he sat at his desk I could not get to the other chair.
He apologized for the cramped conditions, and also for the coldness, because the aircon in here could not be moderated or the printer would not work.
He took my picture using a web cam attached to a computer. It was so close to my face that the resulting picture on the screen was quite distorted and didn't actually look like me.
Unconcerned, he cropped the image, typed my information, and sent it to the licence printing machine, which was taking up the rest of the space in the cramped room.
Now he leaned back to chat for a while as we waited about ten minutes for the machine. He explained that it was likely the licence would have white patches because the machine needed to be serviced and they had been waiting weeks for someone to fly in from Australia to do it. Apparently this is the only one in the country, so I don't know how they handle licencees on the other islands. Probably they email the applicant's image to Port Vila and mail back the plastic.
He was right: the finished licence was unevenly printed and looked to me like a very poor counterfeit.
But the young man - still smiling - said it was fine, the police were used to it.
And do that is the story of how i finally emerged with a blotchy, but legal piece of plastic that was my first Vanuatu driver licence.
Interestingly they accepted a Post Office box for an address. I liked this for privacy reasons. Some other time I will tell you why I got them to put a street address on the next one.
Nowadays I know exactly what papers are needed and the times to turn up to (usually) get through this process in a few hours in one day. It's one of the services I offer via my Concierge Stand-In service.
Book yours here: https∶//in.vu/concierge
Lance (waiting) in Vanuatu