Part 1 - DIJ Vehicle Inspection for Exporting Vehicle | Customs and Immigration



2 months ago
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Song of the Road


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Last updated: Sept 2023

There are two parts. This is the first part. See the other marker on iOverlander for the second part which happens the following day.

Open Monday to Friday. Closed on weekends.


0. Check your TIP and ensure the VIN is identical to what you have on the TIP.
1. Arrive at the inspection site at around 6 a.m. but no later than 7 a.m.
(They only process 25 vehicles per day)
2. Find a parking spot outside the gated area.
3. When they open you will get in line. Have your documents ready. The person at the desk will write your vehicle information in a ledger and will compare the VIN from the TIP with the VIN from your documents.
3. The inspector will come and check your VIN (he will not inspect the engine number or the vehicle).

Copies Needed:

2 x TIP
2 x title (and registration, if separate documents)
2 x Passport (photo page and page with your entry stamp)

Don't forget to bring the originals.


Why? By checking in after you’ve visited a place you let others know this place is still functional. You can also add or correct any information.

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Here is our experience and I hope I can add some additional information that people find helpful - apologies for the long text, but I wanted to be as precise as possible. First of all - if you read this while still in Costa Rica - pay very close attention to the information that gets put into your TIP when crossing the boarder. Besides checking spelling if names and numbers of passport, VIN, licenses, make also sure the Make and Model is entered correctly, it needs to match what is in your vehicle’s papers. If they tell you they can’t enter it a certain way - which happened to us - insist. If that fails, because the guys at the border can be stubborn and one usually doesn’t want to cause too much trouble at that point, or if you only later notice any mistakes in your TIP it would be advisable to go to the aduana office in PC prior to the inspection to get it corrected - they are quite helpful and friendly. Note the new location of the aduana office on the other side of town! There is no office anymore near by the inspection place!
We had to come a second day, because we did not make it back in time from the aduana office to still get our papers processed.

Each day we arrived around 5:30am and were the first in line. Parking is scarce - especially for big rigs, so an early arrival is really advised. We parked on the side street to the left, passing through under the ramp, in front of the basketball court - the inspector will walk there with you to verify VIN numbers. Regular cars and maybe smaller vans/campers can park on their parking lit, which is not huge though. If uncertain, just ask where to park.
After we parked we walked to the gate and a guy gave us our number. After that we waited until the inspector set up his desk and started with the document check which was at 7am. He asked everyone to stay in line in the order of numbers and had a little speech on what he needs everyone to do and why he has to be so strict with everything.
Have ready the originals and 2 sets of copies of the following: TIP, vehicle papers (for US registered cars registration and title), passport of owner (copies of first page and page with immigration entry stamp). We carried copies of the insurance but he gave those back to us. He first asked for the copies and checked the information on the TIP with the other documents, then he asked for the originals and checked that they corresponded with the copies. He asked for a phone number and put that on one of the copies. That was it for this step. If there are any issues, he will tell you - be it a missing or bad copy (you can get those done around the corner) or worst case an issue with the TIP, then he sends you to the aduana office.
Once the papers all checked out, he gave them back to us and asked us to wait. Once he was through with the document check - in our case he stopped after No 13 and at around 8:30, but from what I understand he will continue with the remaining people after the first group is through - he started checking the VIN, and if in your docs, the motor number. Again, we parked outside the lot and he walk with us to your truck. Once he checked our VIN, he kept the copies and told us to go to the other building and take the originals with us. Go to the iO entry “Part 2 - DIJ Vehicle Inspection to ship vehicle” to read about our experience there.

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Arrived before 6am. Received number 12. Bring a water and coffee with you because you’ll be waiting a while but it’s relatively organized. I was done with everything around 9am.

I needed 2 sets of copies of
-passport main page
-passport entry stamp from Panama
-registration AND title (they are separate documents in USA)

I had copies of Panamanian car insurance but he gave them back.

Have originals of everything, too. He asked to see them all. There is a copy shop just outside the gate (Mendoza). You will have more than enough time while waiting to make copies before the document check. $0.25/copy.

Then the same guy walks with you to your car to look at the VIN. He takes both of the sets of copies from you and tells you to leave and pick up the paperwork at 1pm from the other office.

He doesn’t speak much and expects you to know the process beforehand. He apparently doesn’t like when you put your papers or anything else on his tiny desk. That was a tip we received from other overlanders before arriving.

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Little update for 2024
The procedure is still the same.
You need to show up between 6 and 7 AM to get a number. Today it was quite busy. We arrived at 6.20AM and were already number 19. Some people still arrived at 7.15AM and still got a number.
It's noted in the comments on iOverlander that they check a maximum of 25 cars, but I saw someone with number 28, so that seems to have changed. (Edit, I've seen someone with number 32, so they def go higher than 25 now).

A lot of locals are importing cars from the US, because it's way cheaper (they buy 12k cars in the US and sell them here for 20k), that's why it's probably a lot busier.

At around 7.30 AM they started checking the paperwork, following the number you get.

They first checked the first 15 people for the paperwork and then proceeded with checking the cars of those first 15 people. It's currently 8.50 AM and they just started checking the cars for those people, so it can help to be earlier.

You still need the copies as noted earlier, but you can have them made just 15 meters from the entrance if you don't have them or are missing any.

Note: please make sure you have a copy of the immigration entry stamp into Panama (not the customs entry stamp for the vehicle in the passport). Myself and other people made a copy of the customs stamp instead of the immigration stamp. It's not a big deal if you don't have it, the DIJ made the copy for us.

They completed the paperwork check for the next batch (numbers 16-30 something) by approx 10 AM. They check your paperwork carefully, VIN number, make, year, passport, etc. They also check that the copies match the originals.

They finished it all up around 10.30 AM. We need to be at the other building across the road at 1PM to get the document. Don't stay parked up here (once you're there you wouldn't want to anyway).

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Arrived at 7 am and were the last ones. We were done by 7:45 a.m. You need 2x copies for this step.

Do yourself a service and double-check the VIN on the TIP and the VIN on your car.

Save yourself the trouble of trying to park in the yard. They are very rude and unhelpful. Find a spot outside wherever you can. The area is very poor and sketchy.

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Arrived at 6.15 and got number 4 with about 13 vehicles by 7.30. he did all the paperwork first and inspected the cars afterwards, as 4th in line it took just over two hours in total. van was allowed to park inside the yard landcruisers and sprinters (both too big in eyes of inspector...) were sent outside to park on the road. German plated car just checked VIN no motor numbers or else. get your copies right!

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It's not possible anymore, to receive the papers on the same day. You have to pick them up the next day at around 10 am.

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Went there on a Friday. We were told that we can't get the document on the same day. Had to wait for Monday!! Just so you can plan accordingly.

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Arrived at 6:15 and was number 1, no one else showed up. Was told to park across the street and wait for 7:30...
The inspector took copies of the TIP, passport, title and checked the VIN, done in 5 minutes and told to be back at the office by 13:30.

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Much quicker with fewer travellers, we could have arrived at 0700

They checked VIN and engine number

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We arrived 5:20 a.m., the gate was open. Seven cars (!) by locals was there and we got number 12.
Some vehicles/motorcycles/trailers parked outside.
After one hour we had to stay in line at the grey door. In the office we had to filll out our data.
After a couple of minutes we got an information about the process, only in Spanish, and got told, what is the right order of our copies.
Inspections started at 7:25 a.m.
We were ready about 08:33 a.m. - our car was checked in one minute!

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Patience is the word!! Nothing was complicated, but this is what to expect:

1. We showed up at the DJI (Part I) at 5:30am, parked, the official there gave us #8. There were a couple other overlanders too.

2. We waited in line with our papers for the office to open at 7am, registered ourselves.

3. Waited in the lot until about 7:30am when the inspector came out and talked for a loooong time. But all he cares is that you have your papers (passport, passport stamp, Title, TIP) and your engine is clean enough for him to see the motor number (in our case it was our VIN).

4. By 8:20 he'd gone through the other 7 vehicles before us, quickly looked at our number, and we were done. That's all.

5. At 1:45pm we came back to park in the same lot, walked down the road and across the bridge to the second DJI office (labeled Part II on the app), walk straight in, don't wait in the line.

6. Gave the lady our inspection paper. Later gave our 2nd copies of passport, passport stamp, title, TIP. Waited an hour.

7. At 3pm they gave us our approved inspection papers, done!

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If you have something wrong with your Panama TIP ie. Vin number incorrect even after double checking the paperwork at the boarder 🤦🏻‍♀️, do not freak out. There is an aduana office just down the road that the vehicle inspection officer can direct you to. I left the inspection and took a taxi for $3 and was back in 30 minutes with the updated and correct paperwork. there was no one at the office so I didn't wait in any line. I still got my vehicle inspection paperwork the same day. If you have to go to fix your TIP do not forget original copies of the TIP and also the insurance as they will need both to update everything. Luckily I had brought everything. Safe travels!

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it's really important to be here early. we arrived at 5 AM and got the number 10. it really fills up very fast. I also made a photo of the gate.

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We arrived today at 5:00am and we were #10. People keep getting here earlier and earlier! So arrive as early as you can. Do not listen to anyone outside the parking lot that tells you they can help you (they try to scam you for money). Nothing in this process will cost you anything. Go inside and find an actual staff member (may have to ask the other people waiting who that is) and they will direct you on where to park. Bring your own copies of documents to make this easier: TIP, title, passport of owner. Be patient as you will be waiting for some time. We were done with our inspection at 8:00am.

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I'd recommend to arrive at Part 1 even at 5:30 AM. We were here 6:05, got number 14. Now it's 8:40 and we are still waiting outside for inspection. If you arrive here early to get one of the first numbers, you can leave a lot earlier, without waiting for so many cars beeing inspected before yours (it sometimes takes the officer very long to find the engine number if cars).

A guy showed up at 6:50 and that was obviously too late so he was turned away, although there were not more than 15 tickets issued this tuesday.

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So I got screwed at the border and my TIP was missing 1 letter from my VIN. Double check your papers prior so You don't annoy the inspector. Had to drive to Aduana (5 minutes ) and new one issued. Plus make more copies.
This is really only a VIN inspection. Nothing needs to be cleared. Just have your docs in order

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Showed up at 1:45. Got checked in and then had to wait 2 hours to get inspection papers. They spelled my name wrong so had to wait another 20 minutes.

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Good experience for us! The policia directed us inside right away so we didn’t have to wait in the line. The whole process of picking up the paperwork took about 25 minutes. Easy.

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DO NOT GET INTO THE LONG LINE OF PEOPLE YOU WILL SEE AT THE ENTRANCE - ask directly for the secretary general - I didn’t reed carefully so I stood in line with all the poor natives that are obviously there for a different kind of business.
Still there is a waiting time - for me it was 1,5 hours today! at least there is a/c inside .

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walk passed line of people and enter. guard said “vehicle?” and instructed me to sit and wait. after 20 minutes a woman came and collected my copies (there’s a copy shop just outside the entrance on the other side of the small road) i waited another 15 min or so for the completed paper.

i was in shorts and no one seemed to care.

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There was a large queue out front but walk in to reception area straight ahead and you'll be told which number you are. Handed over copy of TIP, registration and passport. Waited an hour then asked to check a new doct. If all good that's it.

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We were almost turned around for tank tops, shorts, and flip flops. Both men and women. Finally talked our way in to find others dressed just like us.

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There is a dress code for entering the building to pick up your paperwork. You must wear long pants.

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Beware ladies, long pants (knee level at least) or long skirts only. My girlfriend was not allowed in the building with short pants ...

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A few clarifications:
1) the 2 copies mentioned as needed for the inspection are actually 1 for the inspection and 1 to pick up the form later
2) don't leave it to the last day. System was down the Friday I went. Had to return Monday
3) bring extra copies. When they told me the system was down they took my copies. Despite my asking and them confirming that I wouldn't need to bring anything when I returned, they requested copies again. Fortunately I had brought as I figured there was a good chance they'd be just as dysfunctional an operation as I'm used to encountering.

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Took me an hour to get paperwork. Copy of passport, TIP, insurance.

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Took longer than expected. For us till after 3. Watch out for that

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Again most difficult part is making sure take immediate right hand turn past bus stop if coming from north. Parking is bad. Will probably need to park on south side street. Need copy of owner's passport/TIP/vehicle title. Go to building directly. Do not stand in line and sign in. 45 mins.

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Here's where you get your vehicle inspection paperwork. Bring your passport, vehicle's title and Panamanian vehicle import permit. Have a copy of each one of these copies. You'll need to fill out a registration form and hand over the copies mentioned above. They'll call your name to give you your official vehicle inspection documents. Make sure that all information was entered correctly to avoid complication during the shipping process. Make copies of your new official document take a photo and send it to your shipping agent if you were requested so.

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Opening hours seem to be 9 am (or 10, they couldn't really tell) to 4 pm from Monday to Friday.

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After inspection in the morning, you have to come here at 2 pm for the paperwork. We showed up 1.30 pm and there was already a long line of people. Go to the security booth and tell them why you are here. We both got a visitor pass and were able to pass by the line and enter the building. After a short wait inside a lady came to take down some basic information, while we were standing at the reception desk. Some more waiting and then she re-appeared with the form, looking like a diploma. Check thoroughly and that's it. Easy does it.

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This is the place where you pick up your paper work after having your vehicle inspected. You can do this after 2pm on the day of your inspection. You will need copies of the following: passport, drivers license, insurance, title, import permit. At the end, you receive a stamped document that says your vehicle is clean and not wanted by Interpol. Take a picture of it and send it to your shipping agent.

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