Getting Pulled over in Vino

Yet again, we experienced another first this morning, not quite as fun as our other firsts though. This week is Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Latin America. It’s the busiest time in Tamarindo for the entire year, the week leading up to Easter. The entire country shuts down this week and it seems that the entire country also comes to Tamarindo to celebrate. It’s packed. It’s supposedly the biggest week for theft, the most crowded week and also the week with the most rules, the largest of which is the halting of all alcohol sales from midnight wednesday until Saturday morning when the stores re-open. Traffic is also a nightmare in town this week.

This morning we were having breakfast at Kahiki’s and we needed to head to the grocery store, so we walked back home, immediately jumped in Vino and took off to the store. We were hoping to avoid the gridlocked roads getting out of town to the store. We were successful in avoiding the traffic, but as we rounded the corner to head out of town there was a police road block. They were letting most cars go through with no issues, so I wasn’t stressed. As we approached, we were waived over to the side. Oh great…

The Policia came to the window and (in spanish) asked for my license to operate a vehicle.  I knew this was going to be an issue as you have to carry your passport while you’re driving in CR and in our haste to beat the traffic, I had neglected to grab my “purse” with my passport. I decided to play dumb. I gave him my USA license and waited for the response. He looked at it and then asked for my passport. Again, in spanish, I told him that I was sorry, but that I did not have my passport with me, I had left it at the house. He said something back to me that I didn’t understand so I asked him to speak more slowly. Slowly, he said in spanish “I have to give you a ticket.” – “Ok” I said, and then added “I’m sorry about that.”

He walked away from the car and I awaited my punishment. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was the first time I’ve spoken with the Policia here. I didn’t really care what the fee was going to be, I was more worried about how and where I would have to pay it. A drive to Liberia or the dreaded San Jose would be far worse punishment than any fee they could asses. About 20 paces from the van, the police man turned back around and gave me my license back and said something. I couldn’t understand him, so again, I asked him to repeat. Then I realized he was speaking in english, which I was not expecting. He said “Only a warning today. Passport next time.” Whew!!

I thanked him a few times with true conviction, shook his hand, smiled and drove away. At least the guy was nice. Lesson learned. Bring your passport. Always.

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  1. Well Matt when you drive around town with only sunglasses and a speedo, not sure you have any place for the passport…I am sure they have seen it a thousand times

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