How to Get Robbed While Hitchhiking.

hitchhiking europe I was almost hesitating to write this story as I don't want to unnecessarily scare people who have never tried hitchhiking, which can and usually is an extremely safe way to travel, but I think it is also important to share my idiotic mistakes so that others can learn from them. Also you should consider that I have been hitchhiking for around 7 years now, travelling more than 150,000km and gotten into 1000s of cars without any problems. But most importantly I consider this experience 100% my own fault, this time I really WAS a stupid foreigner. The thing that annoys me the most is that I KNEW THEY WERE GOING TO ROB ME before I even got into the car!! Here's what happened.

I was on my way back from Greece to my temporary home in Istanbul, and had finally made it to the edge of the city but unfortunately my driver wasn't going to the centre so I decided to hop out at a large service area and look for another car, despite it being 2am in the morning. I'd actually started my journey at around 7am the morning before with just a few short hours of sleep, but this is the only excuse I can give for the stupid mistakes I made on that night.

Classic Apaçi tofaş car by Mr.Choppers

Mr.ChoppersClassic Turkish "apaçi" car

I asked one or two drivers and then a third car spotted me and came over to see what I was doing. They were 3 guys, covered in tattoos, and driving a very old car with tinted windows which I now know is the official symbol of Turkish wannabe gangsters. They actually approached me and asked me where I was going, which by itself is enough reason to be suspicious! I told them Taksim (the centre of Istanbul) and they told me they would take me.

TIP ALWAYS be weary of any driver who seems too eager to take you, I have turned down many cars for this reason.

I felt something was wrong, I even took a note of their licence plate, something I NEVER do... but I was so tired I thought to myself; ahh screw it, I'll be fine. Then as soon as I got into the car they started asking me to show them my camera, and to take pictures of them with it, although I luckily didn't have one with me at that time. At this point I knew for sure, I was about to be robbed. Luckily the car was dark enough that I managed to slip my iPod which also had my cash in it, out of my pocket and into the back of my jeans, just seconds before they started to tell me that they were actually police and they must search me for drugs. This might just be the most ridiculous story I have ever heard in my life, but I went with it, what else could I do?

They searched my small side bag, and found nothing but a packet of Greek mythological playing cards and some cigars, which they took. And in my wallet they found only 10 lira (€4) which they also took. Obviously they weren't very happy with my lack of any valuables and finally they stopped the car to search my backpack which was in the boot of the car and packed full of duty free alcohol! At this point I'd had enough, you can have my cigars but you shall not have my alcohol!

I waited while one of the men got out and opened the boot of the car, then as soon as my backpack touched the floor I shoved the guy sitting beside me, got out the car, grabbed my pack and crossed the highway. I did it all so fast that the 3 men just stood there looking at each other unsure what to do until they eventually got back in their car and just drove off. I went and hid behind some bushes in case they came back and to call my girlfriend and explain what had just happened.

At this point I was expecting to have a police car come and pick me up from the absolute middle of nowhere but no, they refused to help what so ever, so finally I had to walk for about an hour with a 25kg backpack to get to the nearest exit and back to civilization. As if the experience wasn't enough already.

So after this do I still hitchhike? Of course I do! In fact just last week I was at the exact same petrol station where I met those 3 guys, again at 2am in the morning. I am however VERY choosy about my drivers, as any hitchhiker should be. I turn down any driver I have even the slightest negative feeling about, especially if they are covered in tattoos and driver a car with tinted windows.

Has anyone else ever been robbed or had any bad hitchhiking stories like this? How did it happen, and how do you feel about hitchhiking after such an experience?


If you want to read more about hitchhiking safety you can also read my guide on how to hitchhike here.

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Posted in Hitchhiking stories, Turkey, Weird Stories
25 comments on “How to Get Robbed While Hitchhiking.
  1. I'm glad you wrote this! It's good to show the flip side too 🙂

  2. Didn't you have laptop and expensive camera? I'm surprised at the number of backpackers with really expensive gear who are not constantly afraid of being robbed. I wouldbe!

  3. Yeah I think it's important too, I learned a lot from this experience and am definitely more cautious now.

  4. Actually I was only going to to Greece for 2 days to renew my Turkish visa so I didn't take any computer and I think I had broke my camera a few days before which was why I had almost nothing of value. I was very lucky indeed.

  5. Vishnu Raj says:

    Good to know about the bad experiences as well. I hitched just a couple of times and will definitely be careful from next time.

  6. Really I'm so glad to hear that, I don't want people to stop hitchhiking because of this one story but just to be careful, like anything in the world, you don't cross the street with your eyes closed. Take care and I hope you won't have any problems!

  7. cookieprince says:

    did quite a bit of hitchhiking, both short and long distances and never had anything bad happen to me. plenty of good things though, nice little bonus adventures.

    • Dan Norris says:

      That’s great, I hope it can stay that way for you! I still think hitchhiking is very safe, in fact I just hitched 350km through Turkey today and will another 500km tomorrow 🙂

  8. Natalie says:

    I am glad you wrote it. While traveling is great fun, we still need to be aware of the tricks that can stop us in our tracks

  9. Sinan Korkmaz says:

    Where did you get the photo of the “classic Turkish apaçi car”?? The plate is white letters and numbers on black background – this is used and allowed ONLY for vehicles used in government service! Not the police (Turkish official police cars use plates with blue background), but any cars that are used by government institutions. If that was not THE car that was used in your story, maybe you’d better change the picture. I don’t think anyone would dare to drive with black plate and do such robbery…

    • Dan Norris says:

      Haha that's very interesting… You are right, but I'd really like to know why anyone working for the government would drive a tofas with tinted windows… 🙂

      • Sinan Korkmaz says:

        For a couple of reasons. Tinted windows are very much common in government cars. Somehow they don’t want the traveller to be identified from outside – for prime minister’s car, it might make sense, but they are using that rigth in almost all ocasions. I rarely see a government car without tinted windows. And tinted windows are prohibited in the traffic apart from government cars, so legally they have that right. I don’t generally ask to people why they are practicising their legal privilegdes.

        Technically, the windows are filmed. And that is a very common practise especially in the “killer sun” cities. It has been prohibited for a couple of years, but in southern cities, it used to be quite common, for the simple reason to block some of the sunlight. Still used in many busses, and vans, only not in civil cars anymore.

        Driving a Tofas, that’s another story. Once a car is bought by the government, there are a tons of rules to be satisfied before it can be retired from work. So once you buy such a car, say 10 or 14 years ago, it is a headache to be able to sell it as a government agency. So it is not a big surprise for government agencies to drive older car models. Having said that, that particular model must have been out of service already, since it is quite old and I bet that this picture is not very recent anyways.

        Anyways, I am serious about replacing the picture, it creates a dilusion.

  10. Cale says:

    I was held up by gun on the side of the road in Venezuela. I linked to the story. Not much of a story.

  11. monir says:

    Dear all,
    I want to share one of my bad experience with all of you. I am working here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Recently I lost my car while it was parked in TESCO supermarket. I am so shocked. Because it was second hand car. After that many people shared there similar experience with me. Robbery has been increased as well. I have heard many many robbery stories as well. You cannot expect good help from the police in those scenarios. Generally they are poor observer only. I request all of you to be careful to visit here. At least don’t visit dark pockets Of the city alone

  12. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with
    the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people
    from that service? Bless you!

    • Dan Norris says:

      That is very strange, it should only email you if someone replies to YOUR comment. Anyway, there is an unsubscribe button in the email that is sent. Sorry for any problems.

  13. It’s good that you have written this story, it’s an eye opener not only for beginner hitchhikers but even more so for the experienced ones who think nothing bad can happen.
    We actually never refuse to get in if somebody stops or approaches us. In Albania we hitchhiked with some drug dealers and in Bosnia we got picked up by some tattooed guys in a sports car with tinted windows and before we’d got in the car I had bad feeling about them but in the end nothing bad happened. Hitchhiking is gererally safe, as you said.
    Good luck on the road!

    • Dan Norris says:

      Yeah, I was one of those experienced guys who thought nothing could ever happen… I’m really lucky I could be reminded otherwise without losing any amount of money or worse.

      Btw, checking your blog now. It’s awesome! Can’t believe I didn’t see it before!

  14. Hi i think that site very interesting . i sincerely like your website and it’s content. I wish you succès with that beacause your content article is very informative Thanks for all.

  15. HoboSpirit says:

    I too hitch-hiked Turkey alone and safely (although I came close to being arrested). When I got out of a car the drivers wallet fell out with me (it was on the back seat under my bags and I got into some trouble. Check out my blog Smells like HoboSpirit (Turkey) for the full story.

  16. mplo says:

    It’s not safe to hitch-hike anywhere in the world, especially nowadays. Glad you got off all right.

  17. mplo says:

    Whats so romantic about accepting a ride with a perfect stranger and ending up trapped, so that in the event that things turn bad around the edges, there’s little or no way to flee the situation, call for help, or even to physically defend oneself if the need(s) should arise? It’s not romantic at all, as far as I’m concerned.

  18. This is good to know, Dan! Thanks for the informative post!

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