Every year, Transparency International makes a list of the most corrupt countries in the world. I searched through the blogs to find out more about each one, from a travelers’ perspective.
Hardiek at the border of Somalia
“For those of you who don’t know (almost everybody, including me up until a few weeks ago) the once unified country of Somalia is now effectively divided into three, the rump Somalia surrounding dangerous Mogadishu, the country of Puntland from which all the ship piracy of recent fame takes place, and Somaliland, relatively peaceful and open for business, connected by land to the also relatively peaceful states of Djibouti and Ethiopia.” – Hardiek
Samcato telling home base about an explosion in Afghanistan
“From ‘grease my palm’ to ‘oil-fill my bellybutton': corruption has penetrated the political, economic, judicial and social systems so thoroughly that it has ceased to be a deviation from the norm and become the norm itself. Corruption had existed ever since the Taliban regime was toppled, but it has reached a historically record breaking level. Ordinary Afghans are well aware of this, the majority of the country is sorry, not because it existed but they are not in a position to benefit from bribery. Corruption has become so endemic that it is perceived as normal. Nothing is possible at the same time, everything is possible. When a job comes to a standstill it doesn’t mean there is a problem with the job, it is time to grease up some bellybuttons. If one is prepared to pay as much as needed then anything could be done. Shortcuts are introduced if one is willing to compromise. I could have thought of any word as synonyms for bribery but not compromise, Farsi and Pashto languages are rich with euphemisms for bribe. My favorite and all time fresh is ‘Shirini’, the sweetener. It is generally used when you got something done. In other words shirini is post bribery bribe. Don’t be surprised. At least I had something done, these days ordinary citizens pay bribes as much to be left alone as to get something done. They call it ‘Kharcha’, ‘paeesi chai’, ‘jawani’ and many more which are basically *bribe of survival*. Exactly this has changed everything; everyone attempts to be in a position to take a bribe as oppose to a sucker. Bribe takers are at the highest rank of the society where everybody inspires to be.” – Samcato
Markl's tour guide "Stella" spoke about the corruption in her country
“Stella was forthcoming about the current regime and it’s appalling corruption. They have moved the capital inland and have created an insane, artificial compound where the military and civil servants live in pampered luxury. They are building a zoo, of all things there, and transporting the animals from Yangon zoo to fill it. So the people in the capital get a few old camels and the rest get shipped 300 miles inland. Civil service pensions are no better, her mother receives 100 Kyat or $0,10 a day. Stella’s bitterness was mainly reserved for the treatment of the poor who seem to have been mainly abandoned by the political rulers. The stories of aid for rural people post Cyclone Nargis in 2009 were terrifying.” – Markl
Bonthorn on the road in Sudan
“You have two choices when you come to a roadblock. You can play Mr./Mrs. Nice Guy/Gal and greet the officer as if you’ve known him your whole life, shake hands amicably and ask about his health, his family, their health, etc. Calling him ‘my friend’ and patting him on the back is also a good tactic (although never try this if you are female). After all the formalities are completed, he might just let you off the hook and wish you a “Good Journey”. The second option is to play dumb and pretend you have no idea what the officer is saying, although it’s blatantly obvious. Keep jabbering in English in a tone that is neither offensive nor accusing, and sooner or later, he will hopefully tire of you and your feigned stupidity and wave you on. So far, these are the two choices we’ve attempted, both at pretty successful rates. But the key is to pick one and stick to it BEFORE your car is stopped and you’re face to face with him and his gun.” – Bonthorn
Rebecca.mcneal went through several checkpoints in Iraq
“After passing through numerous checkpoints, Iraqi, Pesmerga and Awakening Council fighter types we neared Mosul. Mosul was the only place that was worrisome. We passed by a truck bomb site that had killed 250 people in the recent past. We were not allowed to photograph checkpoints which were all manned with machine guns.” – Rebecca.mcneal
Kevandsian picked up some unexpected hitchhikers in Chad
“Crossing into Chad was surprisingly hassle free, the police in this country have a bad reputation for being corrupt and subtracting bribes and ‘tolls’ at every opportunity. We took a hitch hiker at the request of the police and also transported a soldier to the next village. We then gave another 5 police and military personnel lifts to neighboring towns 55 kms away,becoming the essential local transport as the first truck to pass through in 6-7 days. We decided this might help avoid searches and bribes at police stops and ease our journey. They did help at one small town where the police demanded a 16 dollar fee per person for registering and stamping our passports which was eventually avoided successfully.” – Kevandsian
Crowdywendy's tour guide in Uzbekistan, Behruz
Our first morning in Bukhara introduced us to the entrenched police and official corruption in Uzbekistan. It was our first introduction to “bakeesh” or bribes to officials. At the first Bukhara bank we were told that we were not allowed in. “Why not?” we asked. It was a very large bank and there were numerous tellers open everywhere. Well, we just couldn’t. The police were stationed at the entrance of the bank and would not let people in. Well, of course with a little bribe they would… But we resisted and moved on to yet another bank, and another. Later that evening while talking with other hotel guests, we were told that it is not uncommon for locals to have to try ten or so different banks before they would be allowed entry. The young local people were openly disgusted with the practice.
Similarly, bakeesh is a common practice with the police. There are frequent road blocks throughout Uzbekistan. While we had no problems thanks to Naim calling out “tourists!” at every point we were told over and over again by locals about the road police. Apparently being a police officer on the roads is a much sought after profession. Although they are dreadfully underpaid they certainly make up for it in bribes or bakeesh.” – Crowdywendy
Ricka leaving the "ferry from hell" in Turkmenistan
We loaded on-board after a trainload of freight was stowed and we were squeezed in between the carriages and the crew started to hassle us for “Security Fees”. We all had the sense to tell them to get lost! We were on at last! Another trip back into the customs hall to get our final clearance and it was back on board, passports handed over to a dodgy looking guy along with $90 and then a stagger up to the deck with our luggage. We wondered why there were loads of crewmembers smiling and laughing at us, little did we know!
The dodgy guy we gave our passports and cash to started to try to explain that if we wanted a cabin they were $100. We said no thanks, at that price we could manage the 12 hour crossing on the deck. I had a suspicion that things may not go to plan so I followed a crew down into the ship to have a look at a cabin. He showed me two of the filthyest, run-down excuses for cabins I had ever seen, with the “bathrooms” being even worse. I haggled with the guy anyway as I knew this was a “take it or leave it” situation and I settled on twenty bucks per cabin – I thought we would be needing them!” – Ricka
Jimsim at Persepolis in Shiraz, Iran
“While Sim took a few snaps of the mosque I chatted to a local soldier who was visiting the mosque. He was very young, and was very upbeat about Iran’s prospects for the future. While not stating a preference for either the hardline or more moderate of Iran’s leaders he seemed to believe that by keeping the right (positive) attitude the people of Iran would pull the country in the right direction. It was hard not to be caught up in his enthusiasm. He was also extremely helpful while we were there, happily answering the barrage of questions I had about Shiraz and it’s major attractions.” – Jimsim
Mim301 on her first day volunteering in Haiti
“It is so hard to believe that so many people in Haiti live in poverty because of such a corrupt government, but that the beaches and mountains are so beautiful. I guess that this is just another one of life’s great mysteries.” – Mim301