You knew the moment was bound to happen. As you drive along the highway, you see the police car in the distance. You tell each other not to look, keep your eyes straight ahead and maybe he won’t notice.
But then as you draw nearer, the yellow baton is raised in the air and your heart sinks. You are being pulled over by the police for the first time in the Mongol Rally.
How to Survive Being Stopped by Kazakhstani Police
We have driven nearly 5000 miles at this point and avoided all stops and check points. We have been feeling pretty proud of ourselves for not having to pay a bribe or fork over cash to any corrupt officials. Except for our $50 payment to Natasha in Moldova for crossing the two km stretch of tarmac to the Ukrainian border, we have been getting off pretty easy during the Mongol Rally.
I wasn’t speeding. We have been very aware of keeping track of our speed. In towns we go 60 km and on highways we go 90 km. No more, no less and that seems to work very well. So why was I being pulled over?
This was the second police stop of the entire rally for team Social Media Syndicate and I wasn’t thrilled that I was in the drivers seat yet again. Why does it always happen to me? The first time we were stopped, I was asked to turn on my headlights and had a nice conversation (in broken English) with the cop about going to Mongolia and that yes, I was from Canada. He sent me on my merry way as I breathed a sigh of relief.
This second stop was far less easy. This Cop had something in mind.
As I pulled over, Dave got out my paperwork and handed me my International drivers licence with a copy of our ownership for the British car. The officer looked carefully at the papers and babbled incoherently in the Kazakhstan language about other things. I looked at him dumbfounded.
It was as much of an act as really not knowing what he was talking about.
A Little History…
When we crossed the border into Kazakhstan, we had a very easy time. It was a Sunday and the guards let us through with very little hassle.
The only thing they were interested in was our walkie talkies that we were using to communicate with our convoy partners, the Fighting Trousers. We were thrilled to get through the border in a very short time and forgot all the formalities that needed to be done.
By the time we got to the next town two days later, we realized that we didn’t have any insurance and had no way to buy anymore. I guess we would just have to wing it.
Back to my Police Stop…
I knew we didn’t have insurance and I knew that this could be a very big problem. A day earlier we were in Aktobe and met up with the local motorcycle club leader and he told us that we should be ok without insurance.
As long as we had our registration paperwork we could get through Kazakhstan without any problem. Thank God we met him because he took us to the police station to get all our registration paperwork sorted out.
So when this cop asked us for anything, I kept just handing him random papers.
First it was my international drivers license, then my V5 ownership, afterwards, I gave him my green card for Russia. He barked “Ruskie, Ruskie! (pronounced Rooskie, Rooskie) Kazakhstani, Kazakhstani! I pretended I had know idea what he was talking about.
I then gave him my registration paper.
He shook his head.
I smiled and said sorry and he mimicked me saying sorry.
He was very frustrated.
He then mimed out a car crash indicating he needed my insurance papers. I pretended not to see him and said, I am sorry, I don’t understand. He didn’t like me saying I’m sorry. But I smiled and he didn’t know what to do.
I then gave him my insurance papers from Ukraine. He barked… Ukraine, Ukraine! Kazakhstani, Kazakhstani. I pretended to be confused.
It was then that he tried to explain some more and I handed him my passport instead. He looked at it, said my name and city. Corbeil, Debra – Toronto… I said Yes.
We sat in silence for a few minutes.
Sherry then said, want to show him the map?
I said sure!
So we showed him the map and showed him that we were going to Mongolia. We showed him where we entered the country, and I pointed at my registration miming that they said “Passport, papers, registration… thumbs up!”
He clearly was losing patience.
He looked at the map and asked where we were going in Kazakhstan. I showed him the capital city of Astana and then showed where we would be crossing into Russia.
He stood in silence thinking. And then we heard for the second time him sigh “Ayayaya.”
He then asked me to step out of the car and come to the back of the car where we had our route displayed on a sticker. He asked me about Mongolia and then he said something in Kazakhstani. I played dumb.
He then wrote $50 very slowly on the dusty window.
I looked at him, shrugged my shoulders and asked “why?”
He looked at me in disbelief.
He then handed me back my paperwork and passport in disgust and told me to go.
I cheerfully said “Spasiba” (thank you in Kazakhstani)
He mimicked my spasiba as he walked away in frustration.
“Stupid tourists, they don’t even know how to pay a bribe.”
22 thoughts on “How to Survive Being Stopped by Kazakhstani Police”
Hello Great post which has inspired us to put together a team for next years Mongol Rally – The Boss wants to call it Team World First but i liked the idea of Nuns on the Run, ! anyway we have included your post in this weeks World First Weekly Wander – http://wfti.co/mZoQWD
Its a Whats Hot according to..erm..me 🙂
have a look and leave us a comment and tell us what you think
Hi WfTristan, so glad you are doing the rally next year. You’re going to have a blast. Make sure to keep us posted on your progress and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for including us on the Weekly Wander!
Fantastic! Just hope the cops don’t read this post before you have to loop back into K.
Haha, so true. We can’t let them in on our little secret.
i’m so glad you didn’t give him the bribe. i mean, seriously? people take advantage of tourists/travelers too often. it’s not cool. i think you handled that masterfully. well done!
I think I just learned a new tip from this article! 🙂 Wish I’d known some of this when I was stopped in Costa Rica.
Good for you! We’ve been getting some practice at being the “stupid tourists who don’t even know how to pay a bribe” here in Latin America too!
Hey Deb – way to go girl – that was very entertaining – glad you kept your cool and you didn’t have to pay a bribe – hopefully your next border crossing will be as easy (haha) take care be safe and keep playing the ‘dumb tourist’ for as long as you can – can’t wait to hear your stories when you get back home –
You guys are good. Too good.
hahaha great story. You guys will be really great actors by the time you are done this trip!! 🙂
Seriously, coolest adventures EVER!
Good write up.
Playing stupid (Which is really easy for me to do) gets you through many situations.
Traveling in Central America one runs into the same problems.
Ignorance is sometimes a good thing.
Congrats on not having to pay the bribe.
John D. Wilson
that’s funny that’s reminds me in Indonesia same as we did 😀
That’s an awesome post! Very entertaining! I’m originally from Russia, where I lived for 22 years before moving to Boston. And I used to look at those kinds of things (bribes, rudeness and general ‘assholiness’ of the road police) as something normal, a thing you’re used to. But now it does come as a shocker! Good thing you didn’t go along with that! 🙂
Too funny! Playing dumb is the way to go. 🙂
That is freakin AWESOME!
Hahahaha I loved this – especially that you all played dumb! Way to go! Hope you manage to exit Kazakhstan without any issues!
Hilarious!! I think you guys are going to get very good at this playing stupid game!! Cheers!
“Why?” That is so awesome. Way to go Deb!!!!
I loved this post…it totally kept me on the edge of my seat–very entertaining (although I’m sure it wasn’t fun to experience). I am beyond impressed with how you handled yourself. I don’t know what I would have done. Amazing, too, that you got away with not paying the bribe. Good for you!!
Ahh that’s awesome,but wow I know I would have been so damn scared. I already get very nervous when I get pulled over in my own country can’t imagine another one. I am loving yalls adventure so much.
Haha great story. The “dumb tourist” charade has gotten me out of trouble before too, though not with the police! Excited to hear all these stories in person at some point back in Canada. Best of Luck with the rest of the journey!