Corruption – At Home and Abroad

At the risk of turning this into a blog of noting but indexes, I think it is worth taking note of Transparency International’s 2006 Corruption Index This list can help travelers figure out the best places where you can expect to be charged a few “unofficial fees” for visas at border crossings, or for just about anything else anywhere at anytime, particularly if you’re in Haiti, rated as the most corrupt country in the world this year.

Another example I have first-hand experience with is Cambodia, where you simply won’t be able to cross the border in some places without paying an extra $5 to $10 over the true fee of the visa. I saw a few poor souls try to fight this, pointing insistently at their Lonely Planet guidebook, or even to print-outs from Cambodia’s official immigration website. As far as I can tell, that approach always ended with the indignant traveler retreating to a bus to head to another crossing many miles away to give it another shot. When traveling in poorer countries, you might want to remember that they’ve never heard of the philosophy, “the customer is always right.” In fact, the attitude is more likely to resemble some sort of a cross between your local DMV and hell.
Not much on the index is surprising, there’s a strong connection between corruption and poverty, as always. Lots of European countries lead the way in having the least corruption. The US comes in at #20, along with Chile and not too far up the is from Estonia. Not sure if that really means much of anything. If you’re planning a trip, it’s worth checking this list to see which countries on your itinerary might be a hassle.