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A fistful of dollars (or should that be dinars?)

December 10th, 2013 (by Steve)

Bribery isn’t good; I think most people would agree with that. Would you pay a bribe? What if it was someone official asking for a bribe, like a policeman or a border guard? Before we left for our travels, we had to ask ourselves this very question as there was the possibility we might encounter corrupt officials. We’d been told to watch out for Serbian police… so we did!

In fact, we managed to pass all the way through Serbia with no issues at all. We were just breathing a sigh of relief as we crossed out of Serbia and got to the Macedonian border. “Papers please. And your green card”. Now our insurance company had told us that we needed to buy insurance on the border so we explained this. “OK, you buy it over there and when you have it, you can have your passports back”. Seemed legit, so off we pootled to buy our insurance.

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I got into a conversation with the guy selling the insurance; talked a bit about Serbia, a bit about England, then we got onto the cost of insurance.

“How long are you in Macedonia?”

I explained we were just passing through on the way to Greece, so only one day.

“Oooh, very expensive”

Oh dear.

“You see, you have a truck over 1 tonne”

Do I have a truck? Is Bertha really a truck? Not according to any other classifications.

“A truck over 1 tonne costs 230 Euros”

WHAT? REALLY?

“But as you are only here for one day, I will help you”

Oh, yeah? This sounds a bit fishy.

“I’ll say that you are a family car”

Which is how we’ve been classified for most tolls.

“You pay 50 Euros”

Still sounds expensive, but that’s better than 230 Euros!

“So how much will you give me for this”

Aha. So that’s your trick. I explained that I would rather pay 230 Euros than give him money.

“No, you only pay 50 Euros, then you give me money”

I explained that I didn’t want to break the law.

“No, family car insurance is legal”

OK, so I’ll pay 50 Euros… why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?!

“So how much will you give me?”

I said that I would rather pay 230 Euros. This went on for 5 minutes. Slowly, he wrote 50 Euros on the insurance card, and asked me for cash. I headed back to Bertha, made sure I had 50 Euros exactly, then emptied my wallet of all but 5 extra Euros… just in case. I handed him 50 Euros exactly. He looked at me. Quizzically. I stared back at him. He gave me the insurance card. I got our passports. I got back into Bertha. We drove off.

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So, should we have paid 230 Euros, or 50 Euros? Post-incident research suggests that 50 Euros was correct for a motorhome and the official was just trying to pull a fast one. It’s really quite sad, as if that guy tried it on with other visitors, that might be their only impression of Macedonians. Fortunately we had met some great Macedonians in Serbia and found a lovely petrol station attendant later on, so we know that Macedonians are generally lovely and honest people.

The moral of the story? Well, I don’t know really. Maybe try to convince your insurance company to give you a green card that covers Macedonia, so you can avoid similar situations?!


All posts about Macedonia

A fistful of dollars (or should that be dinars?)

5 Responses

So, Dinars in Macedonia too? By the way, did welcoming signs say “Dobro DoŇ°li na FYR Makedonja” or something like that? (Substitute Serbian / Macedonian letters with a J for Jugoslavia etc! Good move to go for lower figure I think.

Nice one Steve, well handled. In our experience, there are few dodgy borders in Europe and they all seem to be in the non-EU bits of the Balkans! We paid no bribes as I recall, but did have to hand over various small bits and bobs in North Africa. Hope you’re enjoying Greece and the weather is good. Starting to cool off back here in Blighty, but the frost and ice is yet to come. Cheers, Jay

Thanks for the comments… can’t remember what the signs said I’m afraid! Not sure we could have handled the situation in any other way…

Greece is great – shorts and t-shirt weather… but we’ll say more about that in another blog post!

its 50 for a fortnight and 70 for a month (covers the return journey!)

Useful to know for future trips (and other travellers too I guess). Thanks Rick!

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