Interested in our experience at the Varna KAT? Then, read on…..
Well, we didn’t get up early on Monday so it was after 10 a.m. before we got to the KAT and it is only a 20 minute drive for us.
It was easy enough to find because it is at our end of town and on a relatively major junction (plus it says KAT in great big letters that you can see a mile away) but getting into the place was more difficult, especially when you don’t know exactly which part of the complex you are supposed to be going to.
After two trips up the opposite side of the road (a dual-carriageway), u-turn at the top and back down again, we pulled in and parked. Then a nice security guard pointed out that we couldn’t park in front of the building and directed us to apartment block parking across the other side of the dual carriageway. We found a spot and walked back across to the building that we had originally parked in front of and went into a hall full of people with about 10 windows with clerks behind them. Not knowing where we were supposed to go, we stood in line at one of them. After about ten minutes my partner decided to go and ask someone and she was led through a restaurant, out the back door and directed across a large courtyard to some other nebulous building somewhere in the distance. She came back and told me the story, we laughed, and at that moment the window became free, so I asked where we should go. A kind lady took us through the restaurant, out the back door and directed us across a large courtyard to some other nebulous building somewhere in the distance. Hmmm, we thought, perhaps that is where we are supposed to go, so we did.
This can’t be the place, we thought, there is no one waiting. We went in, explained to the first window what we wanted and the window asked for the documents. “Oh dear”, said my partner, “I have left them in the car”. Good start.
So, we went and got the documents and, as we are walking up the driveway to the building, we thought “why couldn’t we have driven in here and parked?” and we could have done.
This time we got “window number two” who, after looking at the documents, screamed something at us. My command of Bulgarian isn’t that great but, when it is screamed at me, my brain shuts down. A customer at the next window said “insurance”. In my best Bulgarish I said “I thought you got that after registering the car” but he insisted “insurance” and directed us across to another building.
Fortunately, insurance woman spoke good English and 126 bgn later we had insurance for an unknown, to be filled in when we received it, registration (now that is why I thought you would get insurance after registering the car).
“Window number 3” this time took the documents, sent my partner to pay 12 bgn at the cash desk and started to process them, stopped and muttered something. I expressed a lack of comprehension and then “window number 2” said “sign a contract” and repeated it a couple of times. A eureka moment, she meant that as the car was in my partner’s name we should have her sign it over to the company but, as I was trying to absorb the implications of that, they introduced “friendly technician” with as much command of English as we have Bulgarian and he said “come” so we went.
“Friendly technician” led us into the workshop and spent a considerable amount of time visiting offices and returning to us on a regular basis until he finally said that we had to go to Burgas. “Oh ****!” (another eureka moment) I thought, “the company is still registered in Burgas so the car has to be registered there”. But wait, I have started the process of re-registering the company, in parallel with an address change to Dobrina and had all the documents with me, which I gave to him. Excited, he went off to visit more offices, eventually returning with hand-written changes to the application form giving Dobrina as the company address. However, it was now 10 minutes past the start of his lunch break so he asked us to come back at 13:00.
We mulled over this while we ate at the food stand but, unless “friendly technician’s” ploy worked, resigned ourselves to having to go to Burgas, especially as a quick check with the lawyer gave us the news that the company re-registration people were snowed under and it would probably be three months before our address change was effective.
We moved our car from the apartment block car park to a strategic spot in front of the registration offices and returned to see “friendly technician” who led us back to “window number 3”. They had an argument, she insisted Burgas, he tried to reason with her and she insisted “Burgas”, so that was that. We left.
As we had visited immigration last week and needed to pick up our ID cards we decided to get them before we left town. Trying to find anywhere to park near immigration is impossible. However, twenty minutes later, after picking up our cards we were sitting having another lunch, eating an omelette, when I suddenly thought (another eureka moment) “why are we registering this in the company name (as per forum suggestion, as it is “easier”), why aren’t we registering in partner’s name as we now have ID cards and car is in her name anyway?”
So back to KAT, prime parking position out front. We went to insurance person and put proposal to her. “Oh, big problem, you have wrong insurance, will have to charge you to change”. “How much is big problem?” I said. “5 lev” she said. “OK” I said “but first we check with technician guy to see if this will work”.
“Friendly technician” was under the hood of a car when we interrupted him but he took time out to discuss our proposal. We showed him ID card. He had to mull it over and visit some more offices before coming back, unsure. He collared a colleague who said “Burgas”. I said “why? She has ID, she lives in Dobrina, the car is in her name?” Colleague says “Burgas”. We argue, they argue. “Friendly policeman” drinking coffee nearby is intrigued and steps in. “Of course it is ok” he says (in English and, I think, repeats in Bulgarian). “Friendly technician” and colleague look stunned. He tells them “she is resident, the car belongs to her, of course she can register it in her name” (in Bulgarian). Well, I think that is what he said. The two still look stunned as we headed off to insurance woman.
Insurance changed for 5 bgn and back to “window number 3” who says “Burgas!” or it might have been “Burgas?” expressing surprise that we had been there and back so quickly. I smile, show her partner’s ID card, show her name on registration, she looks even more sullen and beats the keyboard to death, while secretly smiling to herself that we have to pay another 12 bgn for a new application (and, actually, that extra 17 bgn might have got us to Burgas and back).
“What now?” we ask insurance woman. “We get plates?” “Oh no, you have to go to position number 2 and they won’t take you today, the gates are closed” and she was right. So that is more petrol to Varna and back tomorrow, which makes Burgas look even better.
We got up a bit earlier and arrived at KAT at about 9:30 a.m. We waved our application at the gate guard and he let us in. A five minute wait and suddenly the cars in front of us started to move forward. We followed suit.
A technician and a gate policeman looked at the car, inspected the headlight stickers (it is a Nissan Micra with headlight covers that have a patch on them in order to comply with regulations driving in Europe) and asked what they were for. They didn’t seem interested in our explanation. The four vehicles in front had gone into lane #1 and we were asked to park next to the last of them for “fire safety inspection” which turned out to be a quick look at the fire extinguisher in the boot.
Meanwhile, lanes 2 and 3 filled up with four or five vehicles in each. Then lane #2 was let in to the building closely followed by lane #3. We waited. Ten minutes later they let us in.
As we had spent some time in the building the day before we had a fair idea of what went on in there. What hadn’t registered on us was how fortunate we had been to be, purely coincidentally, in lane #1 as that seemed to entail a document check, a vehicle number check and then on your way, whereas lanes 2 and 3 seemed to get the full MOT test (equivalent) process.
The wringing of hands in glee quickly diminished though. Well, I say quickly but it was a good ten minutes before they got to our car. They started to look for numbers and suddenly the accompanying police officer grabbed the application form, circled “63” KW and “1346” cc, muttered something about tests and walked off. I still don’t know what made him ring those numbers unless he was an expert on Nissan Micras but I suddenly realised that they were wrong. Having already checked what the KW for the car should have been, I knew it was 48 because the engine size was 1240 cc. “Window number 3” had had the last laugh, she had entered the engine size incorrectly and, of course, we hadn’t read the forms.
They checked the car, they agreed it should be 1240 cc, they didn’t know what the KW was, “48” I said, but yes it was 1240 cc and they changed the form, even changing the KW to 48. “Good”, I think, but too soon. “Friendly technician” from yesterday was commandeered to handle it. He led us out of the building and into a smaller building close by. We didn’t know why we were there. Two men behind the counter were, presumably, looking at terminals. They could have been reading newspapers for all we could tell but they were probably looking at terminals. “Friendly technician” gave one of them the UK registration papers. A few minutes later we were handed a printout. “10 lev” technician says. I look at piece of paper. Among other things I see “1240 cc” and “48 KW”. “Yes, that is correct I say. Why 10 lev?” “You have to pay” he says. “Why? It was your error not mine”, I say. “Not my error”, he says. “I know”, I say, “it was administration error but why should I pay?” “You don’t have to pay”, he says and gives piece of paper back to “terminal man” and says “come”.
So, we followed him back into the building and into arms of “friendly policeman”, from yesterday. “What is problem?” he says. “Administration error”, I say. “They have put wrong engine size on form and now they want me to pay 10 lev to correct it”, I say. Suddenly, he is not so friendly. “So, you don’t like it? You go back home”, he says and disappears and the moment is lost when I could have said “what, to Dobrina?” but I don’t think he meant Dobrina.
OK, so it is back to “terminal man” for the piece of paper. “It’ll be 20 lev now” says partner, before we walk in. “It is now 20 lev” he says, in perfect English, as we walk through the door. “20 lev?” I say in disbelief. “You are lucky” he says “they charge more at other places.” I say, “but it is not our fault it is their administration that put the wrong engine size on the form.” “They are police, I am private company” he says as he snatches 20 lev note out of my hand and stuffs it in his shirt pocket “this is for me”. We leave with piece of paper with correct details of car on it thinking Burgas would have probably have been a better bet after all.
Back into the workshops and to “friendly technician”. “What now?” we say. “Come”, he says and leads us to an office where another policeman sits, a miserable sod. “What is problem?” he says. “I don’t think there is a problem now but we have just had to pay 20 lev to correct a mistake that your administration made”, I say. “Why do you come here, if you don’t speak Bulgarian”, he says. “I live here”, I say, “I have to come here to register car. Actually, I don’t have to come here, I could drive around on my UK insurance and tax for a few more months but I am trying to be a good citizen and fit in. Anyway, what has my not speaking Bulgarian got to do with your administration error? It says 1240 cc on the form that I gave to you and your clerk typed in 1346 or didn’t bother to check whatever your system says against my documentation.” And so we were grilled, a lot. He was good enough to provide an interpreter but we had to tell him our life history (or the life history of the car, at least) until he was satisfied and sent us to “window number 8” with our GB plates to trade in.
Getting tired of this story? Not long now.
OK, so window number 8 has seating whereas the rest of the windows don’t. That tells you something about the wait at window number 8. Don’t sit down though because people see no queue and while current customer is off at the cash desk or somewhere else in the building getting more documentation others see an open window and take advantage of it. Fortunately “window number 8” gives them a nasty glare and tells them to wait their turn. And, no problem, eventually name was called, money was paid (58 lev) and it was 12:00 so everyone broke for lunch.
7.40 bgn for lunch, a trip to insurance lady to give her the registration of the vehicle and by then it was 13:00. Ten minutes sitting down in the workshop watching the afternoon queues of cars being processed (when you think about it, Bulgarians don’t do this all that often so it is as strange a process to them as it is to a foreigner) and then suddenly there it was, our plates and documents sitting on the table ready for us to drive through and have them fixed.
Lovely guys who fix the plates, screwed on new plastic frames, installed new plates, great conversation and then suddenly we’re off home, like the policeman suggested we should do.
If you are well organised, you should be able to do this in well under a day, rather than two days. Make sure you have all the documentation, get the insurance on-site before you go in to get the application form, I recommend you get your residence id cards and register the car in your own name rather than the company name (especially if it is a two hour drive to where your company is registered), make sure the details are correct before you leave the registration office with the completed application form, buy a complete description of your model of vehicle at one of the on-site offices and don’t argue with anyone.
So, 126 bgn insurance, 12 bgn for the registration and 58 bgn for the tax and plates (and £180 refund for UK tax and insurance). However, it cost us another 12 bgn for 2nd application (personal as opposed to business), 5 bgn to change the insurance, 20 bgn for the car description and 11 bgn for lunch for two days. Experience, priceless.