Notes From Hairenik
This morning I finally took care of the vehicle inspection for my Niva, which is referred to as “tekh osmotr,” a Russian term. I found out from a fellow employee last Friday that the law has changed for this year regarding when the inspection sticker expires. In Armenia, if you do not get a new inspection sticker within twelve months of the expiration date you can potentially be fined 50,000 dram by the traffic police.

In years past as I described in my last post on this blog about car inspections in Armenia five years ago you had until August 31 to have the car inspected, which resulted in a mad rush to the bank for making the related payments. For 2009 I had my car inspected in May, so I was a bit uneasy about having to pay the fine. And if I was required to pay one, I wouldn’t necessarily know where to go to do so (I was assuming I would need to pay a visit to the department of motor vehicles division in Erebuni where I originally registered the car).

In any case, each year there is a ritual that every motorist (or a proxy) has to perform for the car inspection and payment of all the related fees. My car is registered in the “small” center of Yerevan, which means that I have to go to the district administrative building, or “taghabedaran” in Armenian, at the corner of Deryan and Sayat Nova Streets where I went with my wife for moral support, getting there promptly at 9:00am, when they opened for business. Inside are two hallways that veer off diagonally to the left and the right on either side of a grand staircase in the center of the lobby. I knew from experience that I had to go down the left corridor and enter the second to last office on the right—there must be a dozen or more offices along the way, and nearly all of the doors are closed with the exception of the one I visited.

Through a narrow window that you have to bend down to peek through was an attractive, young woman sitting at a computer, to whom I gave my vehicle registration, which is about the size of a credit card. She typed something on the computer keyboard and then on a small square piece of paper wrote “8000,” then handed me the paper and registration.

Next I had to enter the “post office” in the lobby, which is more of an administrative office to make various utility payments than a place to mail a letter. We got their a couple of minutes too soon, so we waited until the woman who works there opened the door, turn on her computer and wipe the dust off the counter before she was ready to receive our payments. I had to pay the “ecological tax” as well as other miscellaneous taxes or fees that people don’t really understand—they just pay the money and get the process over with. I was not an exception to this practice. I gave her 27,000 dram (including the 19,000 dram she asked from me) and received some receipts, which had vague information printed on them regarding what I exactly paid, although at first glance the items seemed detailed. Actually I think the required 8,000 dram is an excise tax and another amount is related to the actual inspection sticker—however much they cost individually I paid them both. The two receipts were printed in duplicate on a single sheet of paper each, so after placing a ruler down the middle of the sheets she ripped them in half against the edge and gave me my copies.

Then we went back to see the attractive woman and gave her the receipts plus my registration. She entered some additional information, stamped the receipts and we were out the door. It was all relatively painless taking only twenty minutes to accomplish, just as it was the last time I made these payments two years ago (my wife took care of it last year but forgot to pay the fees for the actual tekh osmotr which I then paid at the inspection station).

Two years ago the government decided to privatize the vehicle inspection process, meaning that although you still have to make payments at your local district administration building, you still need to pay additional fees, which could be bribes in disguise. One year I think I paid another 8,000 dram for the sticker although I had already done so, but was clueless after having made so many separate payments. Plus I was getting conflicting information from acquaintances about what to pay and how much. The woman at the post office told me that I had to go to the inspection station on Heratsi Street, located across from the Bellagio restaurant. Yet for the last two years I had gone to a different station located on Arshakuniants Street, found behind the Jermuk Group distribution center. I asked her why I couldn’t go there, and she replied that if I did I would have to go to a bank and make payments there for some odd reason. Since I really didn’t care where I went for the inspection, I told her never mind.

The inspection stations are open daily except Sundays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. So I decided to have the inspection done today before going to work—by the time I arrived there it was 9:50 am. Usually you have to drive your car into the garage and the “technicians” perform various tests, for emissions and I think alignment. They would park each axle of my car on some rollers and step on the gas to make them turn for some reason. Then you would have to pay other fees, like I previously mentioned, before they approved everything and gave you the sticker. This morning they didn’t waste their time with any of that. One of the two men working there, both middle aged, asked me to go inside and take a seat. Then he inquired whether there was anything wrong with the Niva, for instance the clutch, and if I was satisfied. I told him I was very pleased. He said that it was best to get down to it and they asked me to make two payments—one for the emissions and the other for something else I didn’t catch. The woman at the computer (also fairly attractive) asked me for my phone number, and that was it.

Next was the moment of truth—it was time to determine whether I had to pay the 50,000 dram fine. The man asked me if there was a “VI” printed on the sticker (meaning the sixth month), and if there wasn’t one he could “change it,” which I took to mean he already had some for July. Lucky for me, the sticker in my windshield did have a June expiration, so I was all set. Had I arrived on July 1, I would have been out about $130. Then I was off to work via the Monument neighborhood beside Victory Park.

By comparison, in Massachusetts getting a new sticker is a two-step process. First you have to make sure that your registration is valid, and if it isn’t you need to make a payment by mailing a check to the registry of motor vehicles—it expires every two or three years. Then you simply go to a gas station where they do inspections, give them your registration, and wait for them to check everything with your assistance, like all the lights, the emissions and so forth. The entire process takes about 15 minutes assuming there is no wait, and they even scrape off the old sticker to affix the new one (Armenian motorists have to do this). You make essentially one payment for the inspection, which includes all the service fees, emissions tests fees and state taxes. You don’t necessarily know where every cent is going to, but at least there is very little aggravation involved.

The process in Armenia is getting easier I have to admit—when I first did this about five years ago I had to sign several forms in triplicate with each signature needing to be stamped. That effort has thankfully been done away with. Hopefully by 2020, the tekh osmotr process with be streamlined even more. The total cost for the inspection and related taxes/fees was 32,000 dram, or around $83.

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