Despite its reputation, our contact with Spanish bureaucracy has been largely positive; from opening a bank account to getting a NIE (identification number). And we’re sometimes partly to blame when things don’t always go quite right – like getting a parking ticket. Our first came like a rainbow in the dark, in nearby Salobreña.
The seaside town is currently heaving with holidaymakers and in the same way ants carry unfeasibly large leaves to their nests, children gain super-strength powers to carry giant, inflatable crocodiles down the Av. Mediterráneo towards the beach – while eating ice-creams.
So, today’s lesson is: watch out for the blue parking restrictions in the summer months. In short, you need to pay for parking.
Away from the tourist bars and restaurants near the beach, Salobreña’s centre is about 0.5 of a kilometre away where people seemingly park how they wish; on top of pedestrian crossings, on corners blocking traffic. If people could park their cars on top of each other, they would. But park in a not-very-busy parade of spaces without a ticket for 90 minutes and you’re done for. In fairness, considering the parking places are run by a private company, the cost of parking is very cheap.
Despite our doziness we are a bit peeved with how it’s all gone.
- We parked not noticing the (very pale) blue markings on the road. Unlike, say, London, there were no obvious signs as you got out the car. We later discovered that there was a ticket machine 20 metres away but someone must have been blocking it as they played Pokemon Go. Or maybe a crocodile got in the way.
- We returned a while later to find a tiny piece of paper (like a till receipt) under the windscreen wiper. It was the payment demand/fine of 80€. No information about how to pay it. Nada.
- The ticket mentioned the ayuntamiento, so we headed towards the town hall to ask them. At 1.40pm it was closed so everyone could eat their boccadillos and have a nap. Lesson 2: we could have paid just 7€ at the ticket machine at the time to cancel the fine.
- Coincidentally, we needed to return to Salobreña to treat our cat, Paloma, whose bottom lip had developed a cyst which burst over the kitchen floor like a dropped cherry and custard flan. We revisited the town hall with Paloma strapped into the front seat, pulling up nearby fretting that we might get another ticket while trying to pay the first one (imagine if this kept happening – we could single-handedly fund an entire new wing for the building). The town hall was vast and almost empty apart from what looked like a doctor’s surgery of people huddled in one corner. Was this where you pay your fine? No. We ventured up one level where a kind woman drew a map of a place in town she thought (but didn’t quite know) we could pay it.
- We returned the next day, found the office which was closed with nothing to say when it might be open.
- We headed to a nearby bank, La Caixa, to ask could we pay it there. No. We began wondering were we the only idiots who had got a parking ticket in 2016.
- We then went to the tourist office and they said: “You’re not the first people to ask this.” They were very helpful and made a few calls. They, too, got frustrated as they were passed around from Madrid to Motril trying to get an answer on whether we could pay a reduced amount. No, as we hadn’t paid our 7€ in the machine on the day. But there was NO information about how to pay it! “They leave information with the ticket.” No they hadn’t. “There’s also information on the ticket machine about how to pay it, in English.” No there wasn’t, just a fag packet notice, fading by the minute like Marty McFly’s photo.
- It’s worth mentioning that the guys in the tourist office said that the absence of information on how to pay would be ‘your word against theirs.‘ Does anyone honestly think we’d return to the town THREE times trying to pay, visiting the town hall with a grumpy cat – if we knew we just needed to pay 7€…?!
- Yes, we are open to charges of us not being able to read such everyday Spanish words as fraccionamiento – but 10,000s of people visit the town each year who won’t understand a word of the language. The people in the tourist office began by saying that we should have done some research on the parking rules, which is a fair point. But the rules only kick in during July and August (so it’s easy to forget) and they admitted that even the locals don’t understand how to use the machines. There is a ‘change language’ notice about the size of one’s thumb nail – even then it just says: ‘Pay with coins’. So how is anyone meant to know about the 7€ thing?
While in the tourist office we wrote to the town hall, hoping they’ll improve the information. Let’s hope the private parking firm will actually begin leaving proper info for people (while raking in the fines, no doubt).
– pay within a few hours at one of the ticket machines – just €7 rather than €80
– if not, the fine will be posted to the registered address of the car
– pay within 30 days and pay only 50%
– leave it longer and the full amount applies and increases over time
You can dispute the fine (using the paperwork you are sent) but risk having to pay the full amount if you lose your case. (Note: this fine is not the same as being stopped by the Guardia Civil.)
There’s information on the town hall website which seems to be aimed more at residents (and of course everyone knows what ‘Blue Zone’ means, right?). The tourist office guys said it was in English too, where?
In short, this is all about providing people with simple, clear information. Even our local supermarket doesn’t put a note on the door when they’re shut for a fiesta – because everybody knows about it, right? While we’re at it, our local vet in Órgiva did send info about closing for their holiday but zilch about what to do in their absence…other vets, maybe? Enough moaning.
Paloma is fine; purring without a care in the world.
© con jamón spain