Bribing effectively in Asia is an art form that is not to be shunned or ignored. Paying Backseesh (bribe) will at some point allow you to do the things you need to do or get away with the thing that you shouldn’t have done. The most annoying element of backsheesh is occasionally paying for what should be normal service.
That might be crossing a border, buying a train ticket or doing nearly anything. Accept it, embrace it and learn to appreciate that a well timed folded bill can get you out of trouble very fast, but an ill timed bill fold can land you in trouble faster than eating dodgy “meat” in India.
I recommend that you always have a stash of appropriate notes, preferably USD well placed on your person. Personally, I have a zip pocket on my travel trousers and shorts that I keep a folded $10 note in. In the countries that I travel in, it’s generally more than enough backsheesh for minor inconveniences. When buying travel gear I always make sure that there are a number of small zipped pockets on all my trousers and shorts. If there isn’t, I get a friend to add a small concealed pocket. They are good not just for money but for keys and other important stuff.
Firstly, I recommended and will always stick with smiling your way out of trouble and pretending not to speak the language in nearly al situations. However, there comes a time and a place when greasing a palm with a bill is the only way forward. Secondly, don’t fuck with the lawmen in developing countries. You may have to climb down off your righteous western soap box and recognise that the rest of world operates on a different set of rules, regardless as to whether you are wrong or right.
- Never ever offer the bribe first, especially to policeman as this can lead to them accusing you of bribing. Then they will ask for double the amount to make two indiscretions go away. Ouch!
- Allow them to suggest the bribe, but always haggle the bribe, unless you feel its a reasonable amount to achieve your ends.
- Never ever pull money out of your main stash. If they see how much cash your have I can guarantee that they will find another way to tax you. Like I said earlier I always have $10 notes stashed on my person. In poorer countries $1 and $5 notes are more appropriate. Use your judgement.
- If paying backsheesh is possible, try to wrap it up there and then before it gets out of hand an you have to bribe others to be able to walk away. If you have broken the law try to avoid it becoming official and steer clear of a trip to the station at all costs. Which is worse: Paying $400 on the spot or spending six months in Indonesian jail with a cell mate called Tricky Ricky?
Have you got any tips that you would like to share? I learn’t this lesson in the school of hard travel knocks and would like to spare anyone the pain I had to endure.
Tonights homework: Everybody should rent a copy of Midnight Express and read Hotel K and Marching Powder.