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Do you you the way to Lazaro?

A Gringo's Guide to Renewing Your Annual Vehicle Permit.

"It is best to arrive at the office before noon when they are not terribly busy and are not preoccupied with lunch breaks."

Jerry Messerschmidt

Your annual permit to import your trusted and much used vehicle is about to expire. Provoking further anxiety you discover from the local immigration office that the closest place to renew one's permit is at the Banjercito (Military Bank) Office in downtown Lazaro Cardenas. Now Lazaro ain't the end of the world....but you can clearly see the end from there! To your continued concern you realize there aren't many gringos that know their way around Lazaro either.

Fear not, help is at hand. Especially if this is your first attempt to renew you permit. Having just gone through the process with my own vehicle I have gathered some information that will help those of you with an expired or about to expire permit. To keep your renewal procedure free of hassles and unnecessary second and third trips to Lazaro, check out the following.

I was told by the Banjercito Office, on my first trip to Lazaro, that you cannot renew prior to the expiration date on the permit. You do have a 30 day grace period after the expiration date and may renew anytime during that interval. I went two weeks before the expiration date and they sent me home!

You must bring copies of several documents to leave with the Banjercito Office. There must be two copies, both the front and the back, of each document. Plus, you must have the originals with you to authenticate your copies. They will not keep any of your originals, only the copies. For good clear copies, of both sides, on one sheet of paper, I recommend Lopez Empresora across from Paul's Restaurant in Zihuatanejo.


OK, here's what you need in the way of copies:

1. FM3, Pages 4 and 5. (one side only)
2. Passport, inside cover and page 1. (one side only)
3. Current Drivers License (both sides)
4. Vehicle Title or Registration (both copies)
5. Vehicle Insurance Memorandum (both sides). I'm told this is not a necessary, but they accepted mine without question. Better safe than..... make another trip.
6. Credit Card, the one you intend to pay your fees with. (both sides). The office will not accept cash or checks! You will have to pay the required fees with a Visa or Mastercard. Leave your American Express home. They won't take it!

To expedite the process bring the original of your last vehicle permit. It contains all the information needed to type up your new one. If it's been awhile since you witnessed a typewriter in use, complete with carbon copies, get ready for a nostalgic experience. Finally, bring your vehicle. They want to inspect it to compare plate numbers and VIN numbers with your documents. They also insist on personally removing the old permit and affixing the new one.


Because of recent improvements to the highway, the 96 Km drive to Lazaro will only be about an hour and a half. From Zihuatanejo take Highway 200 north, moments after the smoking flues of Lazaro's power plant come into view, you will cross over a new toll road (this is the new but unfinished road to Zihuatanejo). There is no exit to Lazaro going north. Go figure! But once across the overpass, there is a large turn-around area to your left, use it to reverse your direction back to the overpass. You will quickly see a well marked exit to Lazaro on the right. Take it!

A short distance, a toll booth and 10 pesos less in your pocket will bring you to the end of the toll road. At this point the familiar topes and chuck holes will greet you as you pass through the town of Petacalco and cross the Rio Balsas.

On the outskirts of Lazaro you will encounter your first electric traffic control lights. Turn left!

Ignore the directional signs and turn left. Trust me on this! The street you just turned onto will become Calle de Lazaro Cardenas. It takes you to the Zona Centro. As you pass a huge municipal park on your left, look for a two story shopping complex called Centro Commercial Plaza Zirahuan. It is located on the first corner after the park on your left. This is where the offices of Banjercito are based. Go to the next left turn signal. Make a U-turn and start looking for a place to park. There are some parking spaces in front of the shopping plaza, but they are generally taken. The good news is, you have arrived!


Enter the main entrance to the plaza from the side street. The Banjercito Office is on the second floor in the far right hand corner. It's easy to find. Just look for the two uniformed armed guards acting like doormen at the access to the Bank. It is best to arrive at the office before noon when they are not terribly busy and are not preoccupied with lunch breaks. Once inside go to Caja Numero Tres. There you should find yourself in the presence of Leonor Quinares Jeronimo, a very pleasant and accommodating Mexican Senorita. When the paper work is completed and the fees paid, she will accompany you to your vehicle. This is to inspect your rig, peel off the old permit and stick on the new one. By the way, no one there speaks English and they aren't interested in learning. So if your Spanish is not too great, it would be good to bring along a Spanish speaking friend.

Veamos, Oue mas? Well, since you are in Lazaro you might want to take in the Market Place. It is about 5 or 6 blocks from the Banjercito office. There are a lot of great shops and tons of good buys. Plus, there is no shortage of traditional Mexican restaurants sprinkled throughout the Market. Another option is to drive about 25 Km south on Highway 200 and have lunch at Playa Azul were beach restaurants abound. Most are open year round. On the return trip, about 9 clicks off the main road, the town of La Union offers a quiet diversion and refreshing stop on the way back.


March 2001

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