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Bribery And Extortion Whilst Travelling

Bribery. Corruption. Extortion. They exist everywhere and rear their ugly heads in many different forms. Unfortunately it’s not always a black or white issue, and though unlikely, the consequences can be very serious depending on the situation.

What’s also unfortunate is the effect it can have on your travels. I’m not talking about just the financial losses here. Losing money does suck. Losing faith in “people” and having a cloud cast over your travel experience is a bigger problem… If you let it be, that is.

My first brush with bribery happened while I was in Ghana. Looking back on it, the event was more funny than anything else #hindsight. At the time I was understandably terrified, as I thought my innocence as well as my money, was going to be taken that night.

Read about my story here: It’s not just bribery leaves a bad taste in your mouth…

I’d give myself 4/10 for the way I handled it. To help you Bro’s avoid this issue, here few tips  to handle yourself if extortion comes your way.

Things To Consider

The moral and ethical views on paying bribes are not the point of this article. Whether you decide to pay up or not is UP TO YOU. These are just some pointers to help you deal with the situation in the way you think is right.

Strength In Numbers

Bully’s like to pray on people when there’s a clear advantage and they want things to go as smoothly as possible. Travelling in a group means there are more people for them to manage, more witnesses to the crime and more chance of someone giving them trouble. No respectable Bro is going to see one of their bro’s go down without backing him up. By taking a stand together, outnumbered, bribe-takers are more likely to back down.

“We ride together. We die together. Bad boys for life.”

Mike Lowery – Bad Boys 2

Bad-Boys

— Most of life’s problems can be solved by thinking “What would Mike Lowery do?” —

Location, Location, Location

Like I said previously, people who want bribes want the deed to go down smoothly, away from public eyes. You are less likely to get beef in areas of high human traffic, or at least the chance of things going nasty is greatly reduced. If you’re in the middle of nowhere with no one around, the crazier these bribe-takers can act without repercussion. If this person gets violent who’s going to save your own sorry ass?

Cloudy With A Chance Of Imprisonment

prison

— Bad Times —

If you’ve broken the law and the officers wants an exchange of money for freedom. I’d personally take freedom. You’re between a rock and a hard place here. Also there are very real dangers to spending night in jail in certain countries.

If you haven’t done anything then it might be worth taking a stand and asking questions. Make this person explain themselves. Verbalising the lie will help make them realise they don’t have a leg to stand on. Remember though, innocent people also get taken to jail.

Power Tripping

In a few circumstances the bribes not even about the money. For whatever reason this person’s ego has been hurt and he wants to take it out on you.

It could be the fact that as a traveller you have the wealth and freedom that this person is jealous of. It could be the fact that this person is a dick and he just doesn’t like the way you look. A small minority people are just looking for a fight. Don’t give these people a reason unless is absolutely necessary. Stay calm and polite but make it clear you’re no push over.

Means To An End

Look no one wants to pay a bribe. There is truth to the fact that by paying a bribe you are perpetuating the behaviours that are keeping these acts, and the system that allows/causes them, to keep going.
That being said do you really want to spend 5 hours at a border crossing, going round in conversional circles, with some random guy, for 30 pence. Some battles are worth fighting and some are not. What else can you be doing with your time instead of being a moral justice warrior?

Ways To Avoid Paying Bribes And Turning The Tables

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(Credit: Massappeal.com)

If you Bro’s read any of the above and thought “Nawww son! Fuck that. No one’s taking my shit.” Then these tips are for you.

Kill Them With Kindness

It’s usually not a personal thing. Bribe-takers mostly just want the cash and block out the fact that they are robbing another human-being. By staying positive, light-hearted and joking about can clear the fog and make the perpetrator see you as a fellow person.

  • Smile and laugh
  • Introduce yourself and shake hands
  • Give a compliment about his country and tell him how much you love to be here
  • Tell him how friendly everyone has been to you so far and how much your having a great time

At the same time it’s important to be firm in your boundaries and to make it clear, in not so may words, that you’re not going down without a fight. The fact that you not cowering or losing your shit, gives the impression that you’ve been these in these situations before and know how to handle them. Finally, no one wants to be a dick to someone they like.

Two Can Play That Game

These tips can back fire so be careful with them. The aim of the game is to give this guy such a headache and take up so much of his time he’s better of cutting his loses and going elsewhere. You want this person to regret ever stopping you.

  • Pretend not to understand what he’s saying as your do not speak the language
  • Ask him to explain himself repeatedly and act like you still don’t understand
  • Play along but deal with request in a slow and initially incorrect manner
  • Fumble around and drop stuff accidentally
  • Call his bluff and try to make him waste his time as well as yours. Ask to see proof and oblige his request to go down to the police station to clear thing up
  • Low-ball it – give a very small proportion of what you think he wants and act like you’ve done your bit. Force the briber-taker to verbalise what he exactly wants
  • Draw attention to yourself and the situation in a non-threatening way
  • Change the subject and go off on tangents
  • Say you have no money and you need to go into the nearest bank get some.

Don’t Hand Over Anything Valuable

  • Keep copies of your passport, ID etc and don’t give them up the original unless appropriate e.g. at a border crossing. Explain you will be happy to go back to your accommodation bring the originals to a near-by official building.
  • Try to keep any large amounts of cash away from your wallet so it doesn’t look like you have much to give. Lie and say you were robbed recently.

There you have it crew. Everything I’ve said is just my opinion and advice I’ve come across on the issue. If you end up in a Russian gulag that’s on you. Just remember, its only money…

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