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Traffic Police in Mexico

What if the police stop me?

Mexican cops are notorious for wanting bribes. In general, though, most of the police are helpful, polite and honest. Approach them as such, and never offer a bribe or raise your voice, and they will generally behave that way.

There are military check points at all state borders and sometimes just South of the Cancun airport and in Tulum. The soldiers working there are generally very polite. They ask where you are coming from and going and what you did there. Tell the truth. If you are at a state border, they will also ask about agricultural products like fruit or chickens. If you have any contraband items you'll have to turn them in to the soldier (just like in California with the med-flies, the soldiers are trying to prevent the spread of pests and disease).

Around Cancun, however, there are several places where local police wait for rental cars to come speeding by so they can stop them and try for a bribe. Here is your best defense - do not speed in and around Cancun, particularly in the hotel zone and between Cancun and the airport. Go slower than the speed of traffic, watch for speed limit signs, and they will be less liMexican License Platekely to pull you over. On the highway before and after the airport there are several speed limit changes, so be sure to watch the signs.

One thing to know is that if you have broken the law, the police can take your license plates or drivers license with them to hold at the station until you pay the fine. Of course the station is not open on the weekend. One helpful technique to avoid losing your driver's license this way is to carry copies of it (front and back) in the car. Give it to the officer first. If he asks for the real one, say you put it away for safe keeping or something. You can always "find" it if you really need it.

How can I get out of an undeserved ticket or bribe?

Only been stopped 5 times!First, if you know you broke the law, please do us all a favor and just take the ticket and pay it. They are based on the shockingly low Mexican minimum wage, so are generally not very expensive and can be cheaper than a bribe.

If you didn't break the law, your situation is made easier by the fact that the Mexican government is seriously cracking down on cops taking bribes. You can usually get out of an undeserved ticket and bribe because the cop is afraid of getting turned in and losing his job. It takes about 15 minutes of negotiation, but a dishonest officer will generally back down and head off in search of easier prey.

This will only work if you a) leave him a face saving out - like saying you just arrived and beg for a warning and b) don't yell at the guy. Yelling at, cursing out, or insulting a police officer anywhere in any country generally makes them upset and less likely to let you go. Remain calm.

If you speak Spanish: Say you didn't know (the speed limit, that U turns were illegal, etc.) and are very, very sorry and will never do it again. If he says you have to have a ticket, beg for a warning saying again how sorry you are. After a while of this, he might say something along the lines of "we can take care of this right here." Super! He has just asked for a bribe. This gives you a lot of bargaining power. Now start with oh no no no sir, in my country you can go to jail for that. If he assures you that in Mexico you won't go to jail, say that everyone told you not to do it in Mexico either because it IS illegal. If he persists, tell him you want the ticket - it is generally cheaper than a bribe anyway. Ask him to write it out on an official form and get out a pencil to write down his name and badge number. 99% will give up at this point.

beaches worth getting to south of Cancun, MexicoIf your Spanish is bad: Act very confused and sorry. Speak only in English (or even better German, Italian, Japanese...) with only a few words here and there in Spanish. Point to your map and ask directions to Playa del Carmen. Look sad and sorry at all times, and play dumb. If he asks for money say you need it all written down "escríbalo por favor" as in a real ticket. Ask for his name ("nombre") and number ("numero"). Should he persist, ask to follow him to the police station to see his boss ("jefe"). This should work, even if done 100% in another language.

Say you decide you do want to bribe somebody, be sure to let them ask for it. Then only give up less than $5 in pesos (about 50 pesos). Honest police, and especially federal police, can get mad if offered a bribe. Frankly, giving people bribes only encourages this sort of behavior and it is relatively easy to get out of paying one. If you do decide to bribe someone, please get his badge number and name, and exactly where the incident occurred, and report him. It is the least you can do for the rest of us.

The number to report bad cops in Mexico is toll free 91-800-00148 or in Mexico City 604-1240.

Any other tricks?

Local rumor has it that local police officers cannot arrest you on private property. If a police car is following you, even with it's flashing lights on, they can't do anything to you if you pull onto private property. Don't do some high speed run from the police, but if you are being followed in a commercial area and there is a convenient driveway close, pull into it. Calmly go into the store or restaurant and buy something. Delay 10 minutes or so. The worst that can happen is you get a ticket like you would before.

Remember - never insult, yell at or run from the police. That will only put you in more trouble than you were in the first place.


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