We hear and read in the various Facebook groups of Wereldreizigers.nl regularly about people who have rented a car (especially in Mexico), and are subsequently apprehended by corrupt police. In many cases, this is simply a cop who wants to make some extra money, in other words a corrupt cop. How do you deal with this as a tourist? In this article we explain why you are stopped so often as a tourist, and what to do if you have to deal with a corrupt cop. There are many tricks to get away with it, or at least to limit the 'damage'.
Table of contents
A rental car in Mexico is easy to recognize
First of all, you should know that if you rent a car, it can be easily recognized by corrupt police as rental cars because of the license plate. If there are also (to put it very generalized) white and blond people driving in, some cops quickly get dollar signs in their eyes. It is an easy way to earn some extra money quickly, as they can barely support a family on their wages.
So the average police officer in Mexico earns about $5 to $10 per day, which is 100 to 200 pesos per day. For that reason, it is not surprising that there is a great temptation to earn some extra money, especially when there is a holiday period or public holidays just around the corner.
What to do if you are stopped by corrupt police
If you are stopped by the police in Mexico, there are of course 2 options: either you were really wrong, or (and this is more common) they say that you have done something wrong. In both cases: First of all, stay calm and friendly† They ask for your driver's license (driver's license) On Circulation card (is a pass with all information about the car and owner, etc). Sometimes they walk away to do something important and make you nervous.
Which police arrested you?
Now is the time to see which police are arresting you. If it's the Federal police then there is a good chance that you really did something wrong and that the fine is real. If it's the Municipal police then it will often be a “bullshit fine”, and thus a corrupt police officer. Municipal are officially not allowed to stop anyone on federal roads (i.e. on the highway). Federal are better educated and are paid better and are therefore less likely to be corrupt. Sometimes the Municipales even take you to another location where they are less likely to be seen. If that happens, all alarm bells should really go off. Try to avoid that!
How do you recognize an official fine?
If you have really done something wrong, you will receive an official fine. A paper that they fill in with your details and with that you have to go to a police station to pay. If you pay the fine within a week, you will receive a 50% discount! As a "guarantee" they sometimes take your driver's license, which you get back when you have paid (this can usually only be done the next day), but sometimes you can also keep your driver's license. My (Mexican) friend and I were stopped once (by a Federal) when my friend had really done something wrong (overtaking on a solid line) and was able to keep his driver's license and we were able to pay the fine at home in Playa del Carmen while we were stopped somewhere near Palenque.
How do you recognize a corrupt fine?
Good and then about the corrupt police and the corrupt “bullshit fines”. It therefore regularly happens that (mainly tourists) are arrested with the sole purpose of extorting money. They are intimidated by the angry cop (with or without a gun) and the fact that the driver's license is "confiscated". Do not panic! Then follows a story about what you did wrong and that it is 5000 pesos or more Costs† Bullshit, the fines are not that high here because the average Mexican can never afford that. And that they take your driver's license to the station and that you can only get it back in a few days because it is a lot of paperwork and can only be 400 km away in the next police station. Also bullshit of course, but just keep smiling kindly.
And then comes the "solution", you can also pay off the fine on the spot, then you immediately have your driver's license back. These are still exorbitant amounts that I occasionally read and hear: don't fall for it! To you it seems like a good deal: from 5000 pesos to 2000 pesos but that agent laughs and doesn't have to work for the rest of the month?. Please don't cooperate with this, by paying bribes you are perpetuating the corruption and only making it worse. Those amounts are getting more and more ridiculous because they succeed so easily. Just like in The Netherlands can you in Mexico do not pay the fine on the spot with the (corrupt) police officer in an official manner. So if cash is asked for it is corruption. Easy.
How do you deal with a corrupt police officer?
What should you do then? Again: stay calm, don't panic. Know that their goal is to scare you. Maybe a little "bluffing". Say: I don't have that much money ('no tengo tanto dinero') and I'll pay the fine at the desk ('puedo pagar la multa en la estación de policia† Always ask for the fine. †Me da la multa por favor' or 'me da el ticket por favor† In most cases, because they can't give you a real fine because you 1: didn't do anything wrong and 2: because they don't make any money from it themselves, they will let you drive on and you get rid of it with a “warning”. Below again what you can say for clarification, and to learn by heart 😉
- I do not have much money - 'no tengo tanto dinero'
- I'll pay the fine at the desk –'puedo pagar la multa en la estación de policia'
- Ask for the fine –'Me da la multa por favor' or 'me da el ticket por favor'
Other tips and tricks
Also useful to know: if they confiscate your driver's license, it does not mean that you are not allowed to drive further. You should then receive a paper/fine and you can continue driving until you have the opportunity to pay the fine. So don't shout: “but I have to catch my flight and can't do without a driver's license” or something. Then they know that you have every interest in getting your driver's license back. Make sure you always have copies of your driver's license and passport and any other important papers. An international driving license from the ANWB, which is actually just a glorified piece of paper with a passport photo, can also be very useful in these kinds of situations. Then you hand it in instead of your original driver's license!
If you already want/need to "buy" something and you feel you really can't get out of it: give a maximum of 200/300 pesos to the corrupt police officer. But make sure it looks like that's all you're carrying. So always carry a separate wallet with you with smaller amounts and your ANWB driver's license. Again this only if there really is no other option, but usually if you really haven't done anything wrong they really can't do anything to you.
I hope this info helps you! Safe travels, use your common sense and above all enjoy this beautiful country with lovely people.
About this post:
This article was written in part by Rolin Mex and by Wereldreizigers.nl further clarified and formulated. The original was previously posted in the Facebook group Central and South America backpackers† In this group you can find a lot of useful tips and also ask questions about your trip through Central and South America, so make sure you're a member! In addition, Wereldreizigers.nl also a number of country-specific travel groups on Facebook of which you can find a list below. These groups are useful if you are looking for more country specific travel tips, travel buddies or simply want to ask a question to fellow travelers. Good trip!
- Peru | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.peru
- Colombia | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.colombia
- mexico | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.mexico
- Chile | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.chili/
- Nicaragua | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.nicaragua
- Costa Rica | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.costa.rica
- Brazil | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.brazilie
- Belize | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.belize
- Guatemala | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.guatemala
- Ecuador | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.ecuador/
- Panama | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.panama
- Bolivia | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.bolivia
- Paraguay | www.facebook.com/groups/travel.paraguay.uruguay
- Argentina | https://www.facebook.com/groups/reizen.argentinie