By Stan Gabruk

Getting pulled over or questioned by the police in Puerto Vallarta can be stressful

Pulled over by a Police Officer: Ok, so you rent this car, you’re driving down the street cautiously but things are different here. Sometimes you make left hand turns from the right hand side or the streets are not marked at all and you have to figure this out as you go along. So this serious looking police officer in his best English informs you that you did something you can’t understand wrong. This is when not understanding Spanish is your friend or enemy, depending on how you use your “ignorance” …. Now you can be stupid which is believable. Or you can act like you know something. Me, I can talk with these guys and remedy the situation. You couldn’t, so you do this…

Remember Police in Puerto Vallarta run with their amber roof rack lights running at all times. The cops love to pull up behind foreigners and they think they’re being pulled over. In fact if there aren’t any blue lights flashing, noting is going on. Now be aware it’s illegal for the police to do this under Mexican law, but there you are. So, first thing first, don’t pull over if some cop has only amber lights running. When you do this you are a gift from the heavens to these guys.

So OK, you’ve being pulled over, grab your wallet and throw the money under the seat as fast as you can. Whatever money you keep in your wallet is a “goner”. So leave some money in there, and make sure you put the money way back under the seat, don’t want it to be seen, they’ll find it all and that money to is a “goner”. Once you do this, find somewhere you can pull over, you can go a distance if need be, but they’ll let you stop anywhere…

So now the cop is walking up to the driver’s side. But there is most likely two cops in a car. The other cop is walking up the passenger side. They like to sandwich you between eyes, maybe a safety thing, but maybe not. Do not have an open window. If your window is open, roll it up. If it is up, don’t roll it down no matter what they say.  They’ve been known to drop drugs in your window then search your car, then the fun begins. Keep the window shut.

So now we’re dealing with the money. Right now it doesn’t matter With whatever money you have left in your wallet, ask the officer what the fine is going to be? Right now it doesn’t matter what you say, you’re going to pay amigos. They will ask for your driver’s licenses and papers, naturally. Ask him what the issue is, what did you do wrong? He’s going to drag this out a bit, scare the crap out of your wife stuff. Finally they’ll tell you what the deal is. At this point you ask what the “fine” is and if he could pay it for you. This is when you raise you mostly empty wallet and let the cop see inside so he doesn’t get these crazy expectations. Normally five hundred pesos will handle it. If at this point he is getting kinda “I want more money” energy. You then ask for the ticket or cuenta. They don’t want to give you a ticket, they don’t make the money at that point. But you can demand one and it’s going to be something like 200 pesos or ten bucks. But it’s a pain in the drain to drive all the way to Mezcales (between Nuevo Vallarta and Bucerias), get in the office, get it all figured out in your best Spanish and suck up the best part of your vacation day. But hey, you’ll be talking about this experience for some time.

Now this all sounds pretty negative, but in reality it’s something you get used to and learn to live with. Once you know things like I’ve just described to you and you understand the system, then it’s almost another Mexican joke. A local will laugh at the “Amber Lights” trick. “Don’t tell me you got sucked into that one”! or “What did you do “wrong””? I’m smiling just writing this. Consider it part of the learning process aka “your dues”.