You will meet them in many countries. And it’s just a matter of time. Travelers are an easy target for these cowards and they will come to disturb you although you take all the precautions needed. Anyway, don’t get scared, there are some ways to fight their methods and don’t pay the bribes they demand.
Of course you can do what you want. Many people prefer to pay a bribe and make it fast and easy, but it’s not what we are like. If you think more about this problem, you will conclude that if you pay, the policeman will think it’s an easy way to get money and will do the same to the next traveler. On the other hand, if all travelers are firm and don’t pay, the police will soon or later stop this awful practice. So please, remember that if you don’t pay a bribe the next traveler will be thankful.
The likelihood of meeting corrupt officials are depends on various factors, mainly on are you driving or not (exactly, if you are driving, it is two or three times more likely that you will face this problem) and the country you are in.
Although you can have a bad experience anywhere (one friend of us had to bribe a policeman in Sweden, one of the least corrupt countries in the world), most of the popular destinations for tourism are almost hassle-free. In Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and Australia you are unlikely to have any problem of this kind.
However, there are also dark zones, where if you stay some months you’ll probably face them. Central Asia, Russia and Ukraine, some countries in Africa and some in Central and South America can be included in this group. If you are planning a trip there, maybe you would like to read our tips:
- The first and the easiest of them is simply trying to avoid the groups of policemen. Just turn naturally to another street/ way as if it would be your previously decided path.
- If you can’t go right or left, just look to the front and walk firm and decidedly. Never look lost even if you have doubts about the way. A lost traveller for to a corrupted policeman is like a fly to a spider.
- Many times they will call you first from some meters away. Do as you haven´t hear them and approach them as if you previously had planned to ask something. Make some question BEFORE they begin to speak, “Sorry, can I make a photo to this building? Is it a government building?…” Then, ask for some directions, give thanks when they answer and offer your hand for a handshake. This will make many of them confused. If they persist, pretend you don’t understand: “Oh! It is not possible to make a photo?”. Just try impede the conversation from reaching the point where they want to arrive. This may seem a stupid, but it actually works. They are still people, they are not made of stone, and they are ashamed of what they are doing. Making them feel confused is a good decision.
- Never look afraid and never be aggressive in your words. A scared or an angry man is just what they want. Instead, be polite, jovial and firm; make them understand that you feel secure and happy, that you can speak to them as a friend but you wont pay a bribe under any circumstances.
- You can try to speak your own language. Make it difficult for them.
- When they ask your passport, try to hold it with your hand if possible. In most of the cases they you for a bribe to give it back to you. Of course, it’s better if you show only a photocopy; you can always tell them that the real one is in the embassy or in the hotel.
- If they still insist, tell them that you want to see their superior or capitan. This should make most of them let you go. Ask for their police number, name, etc., write it in a paper and tell them you will speak with their superior.
- If you can, try to avoid being taken to some dark or hidden place. You can speak with them in the main street. Think that if a group of policemen take you to a hidden narrow street, your chances of victory are almost zero.
- If you are taken to the police station, insist on calling your embassy. If there isn’t diplomatic representation of your country there, call a friendly country’s embassy.
- Never sign anything without consular assistance. International law allow you to act like this.
- If police want to see your pockets and baggage, try to take everything out by yourself. Put it in the front and be careful about them touching your things. In many cases people discuss with police while keeping their values on the ground, then later on there’s something missing. After they have seen everything, put everything inside. Again: by yourself.
- If the officials want to see your money, try to show it only in front of the highest-ranking officer. If any is taken insist on a written receipt for the sum. If they want you to pay a fine, tell them you will do so at a bank and get a receipt for the full amount.
- If officers show signs of violence, and they are not drunk, don’t be afraid to make a scene.
- Last but not the least, in some places there are laws that seem to apply only to foreigners, who are asked later for big sums of money. Drinking in the street is one of the most extended. Your victory chances in this case are very little, so just try to know what you can do and what not and don’t break the law.
Similar to the last point are the drugs scams. Somebody offer you drugs at very low price, you buy and (surprise!) his friend a policeman is waiting for you on the next corner. Depending on the drug you bought and the country’s laws you can be asked for a very very high bribe. In some places possession of drugs is enough for going directly to the jail, and they know you will pay what they ask willing to avoid wasting your days in a third world prison. For precaution, remember what experienced travelers say: