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Reasonable Bribe Amounts and US License Plates

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djaysmak's picture
Joined: Dec 15 2009

My girlfriend and I plan to drive down from Los Angeles to Panama in February.

One question I have is what's a reasonable bribe amount. I've heard various stories of people negotiating the amount, but what's a reasonable price to eventually settle on? I understand that it's really based on the situation, but for example I don't want to insult the police by only offering $5 when they ask for $50.

Also, I understand that by having US license plates on our van, we'll stick out as tourists. Is it ok to drive without any license plates throughout Central America? If not, are there any other ideas that would help "disguise" our US license plate?

Thanks for your help,
Steve

admin's picture
Joined: Feb 11 2009

I certainly wouldn't take

I certainly wouldn't take them off -- all the more reason that you'll be targeted for bribes.

A fair bribe is whatever you can decide on. We've started at 200 and ended at 20. We've been pulled over to get a ticket for taking a wrong left turn and talked our way out of it. We've also paid 100 for no good reason : http://www.southboundtravels.com/cr-13-sanjose.htm

Start low, say you're poor, offer a Playboy magazine or something as 'un regalito' (little gift). Never think you'll offend them. They're offending you asking for a bribe in the first place.

atg200's picture
Joined: Feb 20 2008

Yup, definitely don't take

Yup, definitely don't take off the license plates.

I was pulled over twice - once in Panama and once in Nicaragua. The guy in Nicaragua was pretty friendly and easy going about the bribe. It ended up being about $10 for an illegal u turn. After i paid him off we chatted for awhile, and he gave me a lot of good advice about things to see in Nicaragua.

The cop in Panama was an asshole. I wasn't doing anything wrong at all, and none of the tricks of giving a laminated color copy of a drivers license or an international drivers license worked. I spent nearly an hour arguing with the guy, and got the fine reduced from a trip to see a judge to $300 and finally down to $100. I was starting to feel pretty sketched out by the end of the argument.

I was pretty fed up with "fees" by the end of the trip, and I just refused to pay at the last border checkpoint in Guatemala and stormed out. It worked - I wonder how much I could have saved if I was more aggressive about not paying "fees" at the beginning, but those first few times crossing a border are pretty intimidating.

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, and triangles or flares. I got pulled over in Honduras and certainly would have gotten a ticket or had to pay a bribe if I didn't have those things easily accessible.

robertdjung's picture
Joined: Oct 31 2006

# Make sure you have a fire

# Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, and triangles or flares

huh, now that's something i didn't know, or at least don't remember.

# I was pretty fed up with "fees" by the end of the trip, and I just refused to pay at the last border checkpoint in Guatemala and stormed out

yeah, the intimidation does get to you when you're bad at the language. kudos for sticking it to the man.