My turn to be pulled over!
Everything is a game here. I was driving a long minding my own business when a cop turned his lights on behind me. He told me I didn’t stop. Didn’t stop where? There was no light, there was no intersection, no nuthin’. He was just making shit up. They see our yellow license plates with the 02 on it which signifies we’re from Almaty and they think it means a big payout for them. The yellow license plate means we don’t legally own our car, the company owns the car. It’s a weird way the laws work here in Kazakhstan. We bought the car with our money but the legal documentation is in our employer’s name and the license plate is yellow instead of white like privately owned vehicle plates are. So we stand out to the cops.
Anyway, back to my story, I was just driving along and bam! flashing lights behind me. It works differently here, you get out of your car and you go sit in the passenger seat of the police car. He was very friendly to me. He made eye contact, he smiled, he repeated that I didn’t stop. I didn’t argue with him, I knew it didn’t matter, it was all bullshit anyway. I said “Okay, give me the ticket so I can be on my way.” He said we don’t give tickets here, you pay a fine. I said okay, what’s the fine? He said 15,000 tenge. I laughed. I said I’ve traveled in over 40 countries. I know how this works. Tell me your bottom number so I can leave. He said 10,000 tenge. I laughed. I said I have lived in Kasakhstan for a year now. I know it’s 5,000. I will pay you 5,000 and then I’m leaving with my family. He looked hurt. He actually looked like I was hurting his feelings. He pulled me over for no reason! He was was scamming me and making me pay him a bribe and when I refused to pay him what he wanted he gave me hurt puppy dog eyes???
I told him I didn’t have any money on me, I’d have to go back to the car. I went back to the car, got 5,000 tenge, returned to the police car, at in the passenger seat, closed the door, he wouldn’t take the money from my hands, I had to open the glovebox and put the money in there. And then he said thank you and I got out and walked away.
Then! Two days later it happened again! But this time Brandon was driving. We’re on this road. We’re not crazy drivers and we’ve been having issues with Donkey, our car, anyway so we hardly ever drive over 90 kilometers per hour. That’s 50 MPH. At this time we were going 83 KPH. That’s what the cops had us clocked at. Cars are flying past us at well over 120 KPH. Who got pulled over a few minutes ago? We did. Why? The officer claimed we were driving through a village and the speed limit was 60 KPH. 60???? That’s insane! That’s like 30 miles per hour on this highway in the middle of nowhere in the desert.
It was clearly a speed trap. Brandon was driving this time so it was him that went to sit in the police car. It was the same ol’ routine. He told the officer to give him the ticket. The officer said we don’t issue tickets here, you just pay a fine. Okay, what’s the fine? 30,000 tenge. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Naw, come on, this is nothing but a speed trap, I’ll take my chances with the judge, give me my ticket and I’ll come back for my court date. Then he pulled out his phone and marked the location of Google Maps. He said when he did that the officer looked nervous. Suddenly he became really friendly and said since we were guests he was going to let us go with only a warning. He said any time we’re driving through a village the speed limit is 60. The thing is it’s all just barren desert with just one random house off in the distance every five or ten minutes or so. How the hell are we supposed to know when we’re in a “village’? It was nothing but a speed trap.
Then, there’s the first time we were pulled over on this trip, a little over a month ago, on our way to Uzbekistan. I’ll re-tell the story here So, we were on our way! We drove about three hours and got pulled over by the police. Now, had this been me of 15 years ago I would have been terrified. Heck, had this been me of 7 years ago I would have been terrified, but me today? Naw. You want to know what we did? Or what my husband did? He laughed at them. Literally. Here’s how it went down,
The kid and I sat in the car; the cops told the husband to come back to the car with him. They tried to get him to pay a $300 USD bribe. He LOL’d at them. He told me one of them laughed when he laughed at the cop. So my husband laughed directly in a cop’s face and then the other cop laughed at that. So, they went back and forth and back and forth the cop trying to get a bribe out of him and my husband kept insisting just give me the ticket. That’s not what they want. They don’t want to give you the ticket. They want you to pay a bribe. In the end, we paid a bribe. $10 USD. Yes, you read that right. $10. The cops originally tried to get $300 out of us.
We’ve lived in China and Benin. These Kazakh cops aren’t going to get shit outta us.
The point is If you’re pulled over in Kazakhstan, it’s just a shake down. Remain calm. Wait them out. Insist on your ticket. If they refuse to give you a ticket, which they will, pay them 5,000 tenge and be on your merry way. They’ll try to tell you there’s some huge fee. They’re lying. Just laugh at them. If you’re not as weathered as I am and you can’t laugh at a police officer, just remember to remain calm. They’re not gonna haul you off to jail or anything. They just see you as a pay check and they’re trying to see how much money they can get out of you. Stay firm. It’s 5,000. Don’t give them a penny more. Just keep insisting on the ticket. Say “Write me the ticket. I’ll go to court.” They’ll never write you a ticket. All they want is for you to pay a bribe. And you do get in the car with them. One cop will get out of the car and hang out outside while you sit in the passenger’s seat. Don’t be nervous, everything’s okay. It’s just how they do it here. They might not want to take the money directly from your hands. Set it down somewhere, or open the glovebox and put it in there. Even though they’re shaking you down, they’re strangely friendly about it. Oh, and they might not even care to see your documents. So far, we’ve been pulled over three times. One time they tried to get 150,000 tenge ($300) from us, one time they tried to get 30,000 ($60) tenge from us, and one time they tried to get 15,000 ($30) tenge from us. Each time we paid 5,000 ($10) and drove away.