SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

4 Apr

How to bribe without bribing.   J

His eyes brighten, he closes his ticket book, which I had noticed he hadn’t written anything in yet, and says in broken English “you want to pay me?”  At that moment I think “oh shit, maybe that was the wrong question” because I know if you say that to a cop in the states he can haul you off for attempting bribery.  But I say “si”, he says “si”.  I know that word so I ask how much.  He does a quick calculation and say’s $26.  My next thought.  I’ve got a stack of $20’s in my pocket (I hadn’t learned yet to convert my $’s to colones immediately upon arrival in the country and they accept $’s at all the stores and just do the exchange on the spot).

I know this guy is not going to have change or make an exchange if I pull out all my $20’s so I fish one 20 out of my pocket and say something about not having any change.

He snags the 20, I don’t think he even heard the rest of my sentence, and says “esta bien, buen dia”, and I think “oh my god, I’ve just bribed a cop!”.  But he’s headed back to his car, which is parked in the shade of a nice big tree, and he’s waving for me to leave.

As a side note here, since this incident occurred I’ve had the opportunity to discover an approximate schedule of charges for a simple speeding ticket.  It appears to be about $0.60 per kph over the limit.  For example a 20 kph over the limit ticket equals about $12.  And you just go to your nearest Banco National or Banco de Costa Rica (government owned and controlled) depending on which police agency wrote the ticket to stand in line and ultimately pay at a teller window.  It’s funny, even the cops don’t know which bank you’re supposed to go to.  I’ve asked and have been given the wrong answer, which I discover of course after standing in a long line only to be told by the teller where a branch of the correct bank is.

The law and the amounts have been changed to much higher amounts since I wrote that but they are being contested in court.  In any event, if you can get a radar detector for your vehicle, you’ll read later how it may save you from bureaucratic hassles or the need to bribe.

So if you do the math on ticket #1 it looks like I paid a $2 premium not to have to deal with the usual hassle if you don’t just give in to the bribe.  It was worth it that time but I have since discovered that if you just keep saying “give me the ticket” they sometimes give up and wave you on without even giving you the ticket.  I guess it’s less frustrating for them to just nab the next stupid gringo.

Anyway, when I got back to Jaco, where Al lived at the time and where the great little B&B on the beach owned by the American couple was, I told them the story thinking I had had some unique experience.  Nope, that’s the way it’s done in C.R.  And they tell me I was lucky there was only one cop because if there are 2 sometimes they’re reluctant to take a bribe because they’re not sure the other cop won’t rat on them.  This leads me to Ticket #2.


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