Traffic Enforcement in Costa Rica

We were in Costa Rica and had rented a car in Manuel Antonio and were headed back to the airport through the beautiful, winding countryside in a rented car, when I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop standing on the side of the road pointing what looked like an old hair dryer at me.  With no license with me and in a rental car in a foreign Central American country, this wasn’t a good situation.

The trip had been terrific to that point, staying with a good friend who owns a resort there, we had been surfing, on a jungle safari, and adventuring way back on some unknown two-track in a Land Rover with some Ticos, generally enjoyed the tropics.  One item that stood out to me, after visiting many countries around the world, was the lack of the Ticos’ willingness to bargain.  The rental car agencies refused, all four of them we visited were firm on their first prices, not budging a single dollar.  A beachside coconut salesman was firm at 500 colones, even after we walked away, I was sure he’d come down to 450 at the least, but nope, firm at 500, and no sale.

So I pull over and the cop comes to the car, very upset.  He tells me in a series of gestures and broken english that he is going to write me a huge ticket for speeding and lack of a license and will probably have to take me to the police station if things don’t go well.  I was in a bad way as I didn’t have a license, and Lisa couldn’t drive a stickshift.  After a brief and intense tirade, he offered another option – “Forty dollars, all ok”.  In my cheapness I asked him “How about twenty?”  He said great, I pulled out twenty bucks and handed it to him.  His demeanor immediately changed as a smile lit up his face.   He vigorously shook my hand and reached across to shake Lisa’s as well, asking our names and wishing us a good trip, striding away with a bit of a bounce in his step.  Good times in Costa Rica.


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