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Desert Travels - Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa!

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  #1  
Old 9 Mar 2008
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Bribery and corruption.

I've recently returned from a 2 month solo motorbike trip to Timbuktu and back visiting Spain, Morocco,Western Sahara,Mauretania,Mali and Senegal.I found the majority of police, customs and other officials, like the general population, helpful and friendly and at no time was pressured into paying bribes or fines for invented infractions. I was asked occasionally for a gift but always politely made my excuses and wasn't pressed further.I always made a point of shaking hands with any officials I met and found a smile and a few words of (bad) French usually got a friendly reply. I met with indifference rarely and hostility never. Occasionally,principally at borders,the persistent attentions of would be guides and helpers became tiresome but it was never more than an irritation and when I saw other travellers taking a 'robust' line with officials or 'guides' the result was usually their own inconvenience.
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  #2  
Old 9 Mar 2008
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I always made a point of shaking hands with any officials I met and found a smile and a few words of (bad) French usually got a friendly reply. I met with indifference rarely and hostility never.
Very true usually; I try to remember not to speak French or understand anything that's going on at borders unless it gets out of hand (Kedougou border Senegal - Guinea, Kandiafara border Guinea Bissau-Guinea & Assinie Mafia border, Cote d'Ivoire - Ghana have been the worst)

As for touts that's a whole new ball game ... I try & I try to joke with them but some of them never know when to give up!

Kira
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  #3  
Old 9 Mar 2008
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Originally Posted by pibbins View Post
I've recently returned from a 2 month solo motorbike trip to Timbuktu and back visiting Spain, Morocco,Western Sahara,Mauretania,Mali and Senegal.I found the majority of police, customs and other officials, like the general population, helpful and friendly and at no time was pressured into paying bribes or fines for invented infractions. I was asked occasionally for a gift but always politely made my excuses and wasn't pressed further.I always made a point of shaking hands with any officials I met and found a smile and a few words of (bad) French usually got a friendly reply. I met with indifference rarely and hostility never. Occasionally,principally at borders,the persistent attentions of would be guides and helpers became tiresome but it was never more than an irritation and when I saw other travellers taking a 'robust' line with officials or 'guides' the result was usually their own inconvenience.
Having heard so many negative stories of encounters with border officials and police etc. good to hear a more upbeat account. I'll try to heed your advice as I set off on a similar route later this week.
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  #4  
Old 9 Mar 2008
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Thumbs up relaxed borders crossings and police encounters

What Pibbins writes about Police and Border officials is correct. We have the same experience but our journey extends over 60.000 km and 30 countries! Only mild attempts of getting presents or some money on both borders in Mauritania and Mali but otherwise throughout Africa no problems at all. The exception with regards Police behaviour was Cameroon. They were aggressive and corrupt up to point that we just wanted to leave the country as quickly as possible. But that was really the exception. Even in Congo, DRC and and Angola of which you expect the worst, we had no negative experiences with customs and police!


Cheers,
Noel

www.exploreafica.web-log.nl
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  #5  
Old 9 Mar 2008
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After 25 countries in Africa I would agree that most of the borders and police are friendly and usually only require allot of patience to pass.....with the exception of Central Africa Republic; that place is like no other with police that havent been paid for 8 months every single one we met was corrupt and mean.
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Josh
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  #6  
Old 10 Mar 2008
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Originally Posted by pibbins View Post
I've recently returned from a 2 month solo motorbike trip to Timbuktu and back visiting Spain, Morocco,Western Sahara,Mauretania,Mali and Senegal.I found the majority of police, customs and other officials, like the general population, helpful and friendly and at no time was pressured into paying bribes or fines for invented infractions. I was asked occasionally for a gift but always politely made my excuses and wasn't pressed further.I always made a point of shaking hands with any officials I met and found a smile and a few words of (bad) French usually got a friendly reply. I met with indifference rarely and hostility never. Occasionally,principally at borders,the persistent attentions of would be guides and helpers became tiresome but it was never more than an irritation and when I saw other travellers taking a 'robust' line with officials or 'guides' the result was usually their own inconvenience.


I couldn't agree more. I got back from a very similar trip to Timbuktu in January. I was pleasantly suprised at every border we came to, i can't over emphasise the power of a friendly smile and a handshake, we never once parted with more than a digestive buiscuit!
Cape Town and back next i think
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  #7  
Old 11 Mar 2008
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Thumbs up Mostly friendly

Just back from a trip to south senegal and back. All border crossing quite oke except for the Diama crossing, but with a bit of persuasion you could get through without a tip. Senegalese police have all been friendly but one occasion on which it took quite some effort on of getting through without a small fee for his breakfast! If you can't handle it, don't come to Africa!
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  #8  
Old 15 Mar 2008
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Corrupt police around St. Louis/Senegal

Hello together,

I totally agree that police on the road and mostly at the border very quite friendly. But there is on exception: This around St. Louis, in the North of Senegal. So be sure you have bought an issurance at the border, have international driving license, internation card gris, otherwise be sure they try to squeeze you (around EUR 5.00) and be aware South of St. Louis, coming from the South (or Zebrabar), police is just wating for accusing you of being to fast. The rest of Senegal was really relaxing at least if you speak some French.

Lalli
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Old 15 Mar 2008
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Ghana...

If I drive to Kumase in my work car (i.e. std normal looking landcruiser) I get hassled if "speeding" and given the standard spiel for anything... If I do the same route in my own car (i.e. obviously a tourist car with roof tent etc) I get told after being stopped "welcome to Ghana" even with Ghana plates. Yes corruption is alive and kicking, but in a nice way...

Once told a lady police inspector that she should chase the Benz I was following and not hassle me who was in a slower car so was breaking the law "less"... She reached in, grabbed my nipple and twisted it with force!!! My GF's mother was next to me and speechless! The police lady and I went on to be great friends and I regularly see her on the same stretch of road and have a chat!

another time testing a new landcruiser I was flying through a 50km/h zone and got busted @ 120km/h on a radar gun - when I saw the cop with the speed gun I hit the brakes hard - all 4 wheels locked up and smoke pouring out... he sprinted to where I had finally stopped and told me I had "tried" but he still got me - cost me a packet of digestives that was lying on the passenger seat!

Once paid a customs officer at a remote forest border crossing for a go of his short barelled AK47 - quite an experience for a fiver.

Corruption is a way of life in West Africa, but it doesn't always have to mean aviator shade clad ganja loonies with a desire to screw a visitor or start a war.
Gil
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  #10  
Old 24 Mar 2008
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Bribery and corruption

Why the hell not?

Imagine you would have to do everything by the book: you would never get anything done.
cadeau means present, what's wrong with giving a present? Your reward is greater than the value of the caeau - at the end of the day you had a "smooth" day, a friendly smile, maybe even a cup of tea with people, who you would otherwise never have gotten to know a little. And isn't that why we all go through all the troubles while travelling? To get to know the people of the country we are travelling in?

I know there are two fractions:
1. the righteous: I have the right to be here free of charge, therefore I don't pay. I don't think one enjoyes his/her live regardless where one is, but of course they are RIGHT.
2. the diplomatic - and yes, I belong here too - who are avoiding unnecessary conflict.

I know category one will tear me appart with so many RIGHT reasons, but they never learn anyway.

KR
Arthur

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  #11  
Old 24 Mar 2008
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be aware South of St. Louis, coming from the South (or Zebrabar), police is just wating
It's not just speeding, if you are in a car they fine try to fine you for not wearing your seatbelt, for not having a warning triangle... On bikes they tried to get €30 from each of us for not indicating when *they* told us to pull over. Not that we paid, but I spoke later to four Dutch bikers who had each paid €50.
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Old 24 Mar 2008
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Tim,
You referring to these louts?


I told them my government requires a receipt for every $$ I spend in a foreign country now because other wise when I go back to the US, they will think I'm a terrorist.

Since they didn't want to give me a receipt...the best I could do was give them a stick of deodarant...
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Old 25 Mar 2008
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After paying off the police a few times to not issue you legitimate speeding tickets in some parts of Africa, you'll wish they were just a little more corrupt in Europe too.
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  #14  
Old 26 Mar 2008
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After paying off the police a few times to not issue you legitimate speeding tickets in some parts of Africa, you'll wish they were just a little more corrupt in Europe too.
Believe me they are corrupt in Europe, I've just had first hand experience of it with the accident on here - posted by a friend of mine!

110 km/h au lieu de 40, 2.4g d'alcool et... le bras long - Sécurité Témoignage : accident - FORUM Sécurité - FORUM Automobile Pratique

Kira
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  #15  
Old 27 Mar 2008
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Originally Posted by Tim Cullis View Post
On bikes they tried to get €30 from each of us for not indicating when *they* told us to pull over. Not that we paid, but I spoke later to four Dutch bikers who had each paid €50.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MotoEdde
You referring to these louts?
That's the buggers - the little guy on the right! He tried us, too. I even left them in our google earth kml file, here. There's a garmin download available on the same page. We were only going from St Louis to Zebrabar so weren't in a hurry, so we just waited it out, didn't understand, sat in the shade, ate some biscuits, maintained we'd not done anything wrong, got in the way of them pulling over any other tourists, dismantled one of the bikes and eventually got our licences back.

The Gabonese police tried it on near Libreville airport, settled on a fine before settling on an offence (a schoolboy error) so we laughed at him, refused to pay and eventually got our licences back.

The Malian police in Bamako did get us however as we didn't have time to argue it with them. Another regular scam, similar to near St Louis, where they claim people jumped the red light on a roundabout.

Do I think we should quit whinging and give presents or pay made-up fines to have an easy day? Of course not. It's a ridiculous thing to do and just encourages them to ask for presents or make up offences which MAKES EVERYBODY ELSES LIFE HARDER. It even makes other locals hostile as they are frustrated they don't have a position of authority to abuse. Give gifts to people who have helped you out by all means, but people who try to extort one out of you should be told to get stuffed, in no uncertain terms. REALLY.

End of rant.
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