Holy Ship! – Epilogue

Sooooo, we thought we would have the car by Friday, February 14. Here it was Valentine’s Day and Portuguese Customs was showing us no love. I had received an email from Gustavo at Galamos, the import services company, letting me know that Customs was rejecting three of the documents that had been submitted. The reason? My signature didn’t match my passport and there was “a scratch on one of the documents.”

I thought, how was that even possible? My signature is very unique, unlike my husband’s whose signature could be copied by a two year old. They asked me to reprint the documents, resign, and email them back (forwarding the originals later). Unfortunately, we don’t have a printer so that was a non-starter. Won suggested we just drive there and sign them in person.

This was the situation: the car is under my name. Therefore, all the documents have to be signed by me. No problem. Back on January 31, Gustavo asked me to sign three documents: 1) a declaration stating that we are bringing the car from Newark, NJ, 2) a declaration of the value of the car, and 3) a declaration of the value of the goods inside the car. He instructed me to print my name as opposed to signing it, telling me that is what Customs prefers. I thought it was weird, but duly followed his direction.

When I asked why I needed to resign the documents now, he told me he’s never sure what Customs wants and now they want a signature. In retrospect, if that were the case, why didn’t he just ask me to both print and sign my name??

When I asked Gustavo about the issue with the “scratched” document, he said he had struck through the word “motorcycle” on one of them since it didn’t apply to our situation and Customs rejected it because it had been “altered from its original state.” Please keep in mind, these are regular old pieces of white paper with a few declaration statements on them that Galamos had whipped up. These were not specially printed documents with government seals or anything.

With the documents resigned, I asked when we would have the car. Because it was Friday, Gustavo wouldn’t be able to get the documents to Customs until Monday. Once Customs received them they would schedule an inspection of the car. Galamos wouldn’t know until 5PM the day prior to the scheduled inspection so it might be Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday of that week. Gustavo couldn’t predict. He said if the inspection goes off without any issues they would pick up the car the day after and bring it to their warehouse. So, I asked, once it is at the Galamos warehouse, we can come pick it up, right? Gustavo said that we should wait until Customs issues a Certificate of Clearance which would allow us to begin the legalization process. How long will that take, I asked?? Maybe another week. Criminies!! I asked if we had to wait. Couldn’t we come and get it anyway? He seemed reluctant, but I reminded him that we had secured insurance from our US provider that covered the car in Portugal. In that case, he said, it would be OK.

I passed all of this along to Won who was waiting with Sweet Pea in the car. He agreed with me; as soon as that car is out of Customs and at Galamos, we were going to get it!

We scoot back home and press on with daily life. On Tuesday, February 18 in the afternoon, I receive another email from Gustavo. The car is ready for pick up! It’s at their warehouse. Won and I practically stumble over each other as we grab the dog and all the stuff for the BMW (extra key, Via Verde pass similar to E-ZPass or FasTrak, requisite emergency kit, and the insurance sticker) and head out the door.

As we pulled into the Galamos lot, there it was!! Yay!! Everything looked good. I signed one more piece of paper and drove for the first time since arriving in Portugal. All that is left to do now is get the car legalized and update the navigation system to reflect Portugal. We have learned it will cost about €700 to complete the legalization (we think…).

Now, we are up to our eyeballs trying to figure out how to fit all the stuff we packed into the car into our apartment! We’ve been in Portugal a little over five weeks and we are pretty settled. We find ourselves laughing at the clothes and shoes and handbags and other stuff we thought we would need. In the short amount of time we have been here, we have begun to adjust to a simpler way of life and are getting along just fine with what we brought with us, the items we have purchased here, plus the $1300 gum we shipped to ourselves. When we were in the states it felt wasteful not to bring these things. Now that they are here it seems totally excessive.

Over dinner that night, Won and I were reflecting on everything we have gone through and all we have accomplished so far and he said that he didn’t think shipping the car was that difficult. I nearly did a spit take with my wine!!

From Portugal with love,


Published by Beth Thomas-Kim

After working in corporate America for companies like Mattel, Nestlé, and Johnson & Johnson, I retired and moved to Portugal in January of 2020 with my husband Won and our 12-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea. We now live in Monte Estoril, a lovely seaside town just outside Lisbon. We spend our days happily exploring this beautiful country and learning about its fascinating history, engaging culture, warm and welcoming people, delicious food and wine, and stunning architecture. This blog was started primarily as a way to keep family and friends updated on our transition from the US to Portugal. Now, my subscribers include people from all over the world. Enjoy!

12 thoughts on “Holy Ship! – Epilogue

  1. Your writing makes us feel as though we were there with you – partaking in every conversation and email and phone call. Needless to say your adventure is delivering a staggering lesson in the virtue of patience… oh, and the joys of mille feuille European red tape! Glad you finally have your wheels!


  2. Love reading about the process, and happy that you’re enjoying it. Bonus? Picture proof that you’re not in hemp clothing and “gone granola” on us! Miss you guys!


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