Friday, January 27, 2006

Immigration, Parking Officers, and Bribery in Costa Rica

We were parked in a bad spot. But, everybody else was, there were four other cars parked in similar spots. Right as we were about to drive away a parking guard walked up to us and wanted to see our license and registration. This request was in Spanish and we kick into dumb gringo. "I don't understand Spanish"...

Which is only partially true, but playing dumb worked getting us through immigration from Guatemala. When we flew back from Guatemala they stopped us at customs and requested to see our return ticket, which we didn't have. You have to have one to enter the country. Adam had a return ticket to Houston which he flaked on a week earlier but he was going to attempt to have them change the flight that he missed. They told us to go buy a return ticket, but all of the ticket booths were on the other side of custom booths. I'm not sure how they expect you to buy a ticket. But we found a phone, make some calls and determine that we are not going to buy an overpriced ticket to Panama. So we return to the same immigration lady, she calls her boss and eventually the boss accepts the argument that we were having difficulties 'changing' Adam's ticket. Adam just told them that I didn't have one. They took our passports for about an hour and than came back to us. At that point they were sick of dealing with us, stamped us, and waved us through. Dumb gringo act kind of worked. Next time we aren't chancing it. We will buy cheap bus tickets to Nicaragua as our exit tickets.

….Back to the Parking Officer. He kept telling us it would be 5,000 colones parking ticket to park in that spot. Adam kept telling him, well write us a ticket and we'll pay it. This went on for a while. The Parking Officer just wanted some cash. Finally he let us go and didn't write us a ticket, which he could have except it probably wouldn't have been for 5 mil.

Moral of the story play dumb, but hold your ground and always let Adam do the talking. He is great at this stuff. He credits his stereo-typical Jewish grandma.

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