36 hours to make the drop

Van info

So you want to buy a van in Lima Peru?

After months of searching, we found the one. A 1998 Mitsubishi Delica 4×4 Turbo in good condition. We check her out on a Saturday, she’s perfect and we want her. Badly.

The seller is an older guy, and wants the payment in cash (completely normal in Peru). We agree, not thinking about how we will access our money from our Australian bank accounts. He wants to make the sale on Monday. Great, we think.


When you find the one

On Sunday we realise it’s Easter in Australia and bank transactions are delayed. We call the guy to reschedule our meeting. He freaks, and says he has other buyers. We freak and say ok, ok, Tuesday morning 9am. 100% we will make the payment.

We now have 36 hours to make the drop.
Total balance needed: $5800*

6pm: $0
We call our bank to confirm we can take out the $5,800 we need for the van at a bank in Lima. They said it should’t be a problem if we do a cash advance on our credit card.

Great (but expensive), we think. We will head to the bank first thing in the morning.

We research international money transfer services just in case. One promises same day bank transfers. But we don’t have a Peruvian bank account, and the family’s accounts are with the wrong banks.

9:00am: $0
Bank 1 discusses it for a while. Finally they concede we could take the full amount as a cash advance, but they only accept Visa.  We have Mastercard. We curse Mastercard. The ATM limit is $200 per day. We curse the ATM limit.

9.30am: $0
Bank 2 and 3 both say the maximum we can take out per day is $200. Because our card is foreign. We curse Bank 2 and 3.

10:00am: $0
Banks 4, 5, 6 & 7 all say the same thing. We curse all the banks. Dodgy bank 8 says they can do a cash advance from one of my cards up to $1,000. We have a small amount of hope.

11am: $0
We realise our only option is for Mao to open a bank account with Bank 3 so we can make an international transfer through World Remit**. Mao opens a bank account.
(**Not an endorsement for World Remit, I don’t recommend them).

1pm: $0
We call World Remit several times. Each time we are told it will only take a matter of minutes to transfer the full amount from our Australian bank account to Mao’s local bank account with Bank 3.

3:00pm: $0
We have spent over 2 hours trying to make the transfer. It’s not working. I am forced to make 5 transactions to make up the full balance. It does not take minutes for the funds to arrive.

5:00pm: $0
We call World Remit about 5 times. We are told they don’t actually know when the money will arrive because the local bank needs to review the transactions. We are running out of time.

5.30pm: $1800
At 5.30pm one of the transactions comes through into Mao’s bank account. The bank closes at 6pm. We sprint there. We take out the $1800.

We need another $4,000 to make the drop by 9am. We realise there is no way this is going to happen.

7:00pm: $1800
We call the seller to ask if he can come a bit later than 9am. He is suspicious. We reassure him everything is fine. He says he will come no later than 10am. We agree. We have to find a way to get the rest of the cash.

6.30am: $1800
World Remit can’t tell us when our money will arrive. Our only option is to try and take it out at ATMs. I tell our banks what I am trying to do so they don’t block our cards.

9:00am: $4800
We have tried every ATM we have seen, and used every card we own. Somehow we have managed to get $3000 out over the past 2.5 hours. We have now been blocked by most of the ATMs. I go into a toilet and shove the massive wads of cash down my pants. It’s all in 20s.

In a city where Mao’s been robbed of his shoes, I’m freaking out carrying so much cash. I feel like everyone can see it, and like everyone is following us.

9.15am: $4800
We realise our last chance is dodgy bank 8. Of course they only open at 9.15am. The guy tells us no way we can withdraw the money. The max withdraw they allow from the ATM is $150. We curse dodgy bank 8.

9:30am: $4800
We are exhausted, paranoid, and shaky. We need the last $1000. We have come this far. We return to the ATM where we’ve been blocked. I try every card we own, over, and over again, in every machine. The security guard is starting to look at me funny. By some miracle, I get the remaining $1000.

9.45am: $5800!!!

We sprint home with the cash stashed down my pants. We can’t trust a taxi, we might get mugged. My heart is beating so fast.

The guy calls and is waiting for us at Mao’s house. Again, we assure him we are good for it, and we’re on our way. It crosses our minds that he could potentially mug us. He knows how much cash we are holding.

10.05am: $5800
I run upstairs to quickly count the cash. We drive with the guy to the Notario to do the paperwork.

11.30am: $5800
The paperwork states the vehicle is only $4800. I go to the bathroom and count out $1000 on the toilet floor, and stash it down my pants. 

We get a message from World Remit. Our money has finally arrived in Mao’s account. We curse World Remit for not getting it to us earlier, before we had paid $300 + in transaction fees.

12.00pm: $5800
Mao has to pay a fine before we can make the transaction. We have to go to a bank about 1.5kms away. We are in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. I’m still carrying all the money. I am freaking out.

1:00pm: $5700
The bank won’t accept our card to pay the fine. We don’t have enough Peruvian Soles. I have to pull out $100 from my pants. It’s fine, we think. We’re getting the van for $1000 less.

2.30pm: $5700
We finally finish the paperwork. The guy asks if we can drive around the corner to pay him. We give him the cash. He’s pretty annoyed that it’s in 20s. All of us are looking around to make sure no one can see out.

He counts out the $4700 asks why it’s not $5800. We realise we’re not getting a discount, the price in the paperwork was just for tax. We give him the rest of our money. There’s still the $100 missing.

After trying to work out what to do, I stay with the guy, who now has both the money and the van and keys. Mao jumps out to get the remaining $100. I pray the guy doesn’t just take off.

3:00pm: $0
All’s well that ends well. We get home. We have the van. We have no money. It’s now spread across multiple accounts and across two countries.

But we have the van. We made the drop. We cry with relief.

If you need anymore info on taking money out in Peru, or the process / paperwork for buying a car, please get in touch with us. I’d be happy to share what we learned.

(*Actual price changed because my inner concerned uncle told me not to write about this.)