On a recent trip to Mexico, for once I didn't lose anything and nothing got stolen. Well, not of my own accord. I did get persuaded, so to speak, to hand over sizable chunks of my cash. You see, we were taking a vacation, my husband, son and I – driving from our home in San Francisco to Merida, on the Yucatan Peninsula. Having had a relatively swift border crossing (only two hours...) barely five minutes in Mexico, we heard a siren and of course we got pulled over. Being a very careful driver, I was surprised to hear of my terrible crime; I had unintentionally and unknowingly driven too close to the car in front. You see in Mexico, according to the ever smiling police officer, there is a law that says that a driver must never be closer than 4 meters to the car in front. Seriously, that is what the police claimed. Of course, he had already asked for my driver's license which I soon realized was a rookie mistake on my part.
As soon as he had my license he quickly cut to the chase. We could either pick up the license the next day at the police station in a nearby town and pay a very large fine, or we could, because the police officer was such a nice guy, settle it right there, for just a fraction of the cost. So, if I were just to hand over about USD 100, he would give me my license back and we were free to go. No negotiation. As my son was tired, crying and hungry, we paid up and left.
Not even an hour later, as we were only five minutes from our hotel, we heard another siren and, surprise, we got pulled over again. This time the police had a mighty scary gun in his holster that he lovingly caressed as he informed me of my crime and demanded my drivers license. I had no choice but to hand it over. This cop claimed I had not used my turn signal correctly. Never mind that we had been going straight for about 20 minutes... The cop, and his sour looking, partner cut to the chase and said that for 500 USD we were free to go. Our other choice was to accompany them to the police station, an hour or so away. After some discussion we ended up forking over about 80 USD. It was either that or go with our son to some scary looking police station, in the dark, in an unknown city.... No thanks!
The second day we got pulled over four more times. The day after two times. Not one day went by that we did not get pulled over until we reached the Yucatan where we never got pulled over. According to the locals there had been some serious crackdown on corrupt cops there!
But we had learned our lesson and after the first day we never handed over any more drivers licenses. We simply gave the cops copies that we had xeroxed at the hotel. And then we acted dumb and dumber. We pretended that we spoke no Spanish, no English, barely any language at all and didn't have a clue as to what the police wanted even though they showed every conceivable sign for money there is. We simply smiled and patiently waited for the cops to decide what to do. Sometimes it took an hour, sometimes only a few minutes, but eventually they let us go and we never paid another cop on our month long trip in Mexico!
So on your next trip, keep your id's in your underwear pocket and have some copies at hand and you are at least safe from corrupt cop extortion.