Self-driving the Silk Road.
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Postby Tikemyson » Wed Oct 10, 2018 4:46 pm

Police in Central Asia, a summary.

I learned a lot on that trip about encounters with police officers. And my learning started after I left the border of Russia.

People in Mongolia already told me how to bribe the infamous cops in Kazakhstan as they’re wearing bodycams nowadays. So I was taught a special technique, invisible for bodycams. But there was no need to hide money, as deals always happened in the back of police cars. The cops that pulled me over were extremely polite, well dressed and spoke perfect English. Handshake first, like everywhere in Central Asia. After the handshake these dapper gentlemen started every sentence with my name and a smile. “Florian, good to meet you.” “Florian, this street you were coming from is a one way.” “Florian, I will show you the surveillance video, please take s seat in our car.” It even sounds polite when they mention that you have to pay 300 Euro in cash, otherwise they’ll keep your driving license for a month. Then the bargaining begins. I was quite fresh at that time, so I’ve paid quite a lot of money. Still, no negative feelings about these cops, they were just too friendly.

I’ve entered Kyrgyzstan very slow as I was still in the border zone. It was more rolling than driving, but after 20 meters in the new country I got pulled over as I ‘missed’ a ‘stop sign’. Welcome to Kyrgyzstan!
Two cops were sitting on an elevated position behind a table, just waiting for prey. So I went up, shaked hands and these guys asked me to pay a fine they randomly came up with. Even, if they only spoke Russian and Kyrgyz it was easy to understand what they wanted. But I played stupid. Some grimaces of not understanding, dropping only English words and an empty look like I have 2IQ. Works perfectly. But then they saw a few bills when I showed them the car papers and they greedily pointed at it. “Ahhhhh, now I understand. You want money.” But with pantomime acting, I explained them that it’s all I have for fuel. So, I left a tiny amount there...but there was no handover...I had to place the money under the table, so it wasn’t bribery. Shake hands, bye bye.

Traffic police in Kyrgyzstan is ever-present, pulling over cars. And you can be certain there will be cops at the entry and the exit of every town and village, no matter how tiny. But I was lucky and was not on their radar with my quite local car (at that time).

Quite similar to Kyrgyzstan but cops often drive their private cars, so it’s harder to recognize them. Dushanbe was plastered with traffic police.

Just met ultra friendly and stunningly hot cops (see my instagram post @frequentfighter). Along the road many wooden figures of (way too small and unrealistic) police cars and cops. I don’t think they scare anyone off.

I crossed the border at night and drove two hours until I stopped at the roadside and slept. In that time 5 checkpoints. From there to Ashgabat the next day I got pulled over more than 20 times, mostly by a loud whistle - at checkpoints and by police officers standing randomly in the desert. Handshake and small talk. Most of them started to relax as soon as they heard my story and let me go. Some ask for Dollars and almost everyone for foreign cigarettes (which is like a currency there). I’ve heard of that before, bought two packs in Uzbekistan and made many people smiling by giving just one cigarette.
Only one time I’ve encountered a bunch of bastards in police uniforms. They pulled me over but these three guys remained in their car. They asked me to blow into a cap of a deo-spray. I did, they smelled and said that I’m drunk. They gave me a paper to sign - fine: 220$
But other than their Kazakh counterparts they behaved like assholes and were super aggressive. First I played stupid but that didn’t work. They even tried to force me to open my wallet and show them my dollars. But I was persistent, never lost eye contact and stood my ground, even when they lowered to 100$. At the end of this 15 minute staredown they were super annoyed and let me go. I offered them cigarettes with a big smile...
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Re: BE STUPID. BE PERSISTENT. ALWAYS HAVE CIGARETTES. Police in Central Asia, a summary.

Postby nomadichappiness » Wed Oct 10, 2018 7:12 pm

Thank you for this entertaining and informative post. I'll add mine, with less encounters but might worth sharing so we find the right behaviour for each country...

I've never been checked in most Europe and Morroco, despite rag-looking travel cars and vans.

First Police check happened in Turkey when they stopped, checked my wife's passport (not mine), asked twice if my (Kurdish-looking) Chilean wife was really chilean. Yes she is. Chilean from Chile? Yes, in south america. OK, safe travel.

GEORGIA, never checked

AZERBAIJAN, one police check point 25km before Baku. They didn't ask for documents, just where are you from, welcome to Baku.

KAZAKHSTAN 1 : No police control, No check point from Kuruk Port to the Uzbek Border.

UZBEKISTAN : No police control, we were only waved at a few time. Just, do as all the other drivers : they're driving crazy everywhere but amazingly stop ostensibly at each stop sign. So do the same.

On a Highway road block after Turkestan, they stopped me, didn't check my paper, just asked a few questions, climbed in my car to make a few selfies (it's an old Renault 4, so it's always happening). Then let me go.
Later around Kyzylorga, a patrol car rang me to park on the side. Took my papers, asked me to follow them in their car. All as described by Tikmyson. They showed me the picture they took with their speed gun. It screened 82km/h in red (instead of 60, they alledged, and I didn't remember having seen the sign, but maybe I was inattentive). It was hard not to smile : my car hardly reaches 75km/h and I usually drive 65-70. I don't how they do, but they can arrange their numbers. They talked only russian but knew well how to use their translation app (not google, it's one that's working better), and ensued a long conversation where I tryed to look stupid. We exchanged during around 15 minutes then they got tired I think and he said with a slightly higher tone "So, you're disputing?" I tried to stress more clearly then the impossibility for my car to drive this speed. They changed strategy : "show me your insurance paper". Sh.t, I had not: at the border, they didn't tell me anything about it so I guessed it was not mandatory. Actually, maybe it's not, but I had nothing to tell them the contrary. So he said, you have to pay a fine, I tried to get around asking can you take me to an inssurance company, but he said first you pay then you go yourself, and on and on, trying to tire him. He finally wrote a number for the fine : 48000 Tenge (110€). I said I had not that amount with me. He said, "ok, then how much you have". Here it is!! I still talked around trying to make him admit the bribery, but well, he's a professional, I'm just an inexperienced western guy born in a country where anything has a fixed price except for politicians. I said I'll check in my car (so I could open my wallet, make disappear some big bills and leaving around 15000Tenge which, with my heart beating hard for around 40 minutes yet, I miscalculated for around 15€, actually being 35€. I came back, left the bills which were perfectly alright for him. He let me go. Bye bye.
I went to buy an insurance in the next city!!
I'm still driving, I'm in Aral and will cross the border after Uralsk, I hope I'll get through the next ones.
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