Posted by: Gideon | October 9, 2010

Istanbul with Kids: The Great Istanbul Taxi Scam

We flew from Trabzon back to Istanbul. Our choice had been either an 18 hour bus journey or a 1.5 hour flight. Internal flights in Turkey come cheap and so it was an easy decision.

Arriving at Sabiha Gokcen Airport outside Istanbul, we took the Havas airport bus into the city centre. This took at least an hour and we were dropped off in Taksim. We had decided to stay at our friend Ercan’s  (from Smiley Kofte in Merzifon, Amasya) cousin’s boutique hotel in Sultanahmet and we could have taken a taxi directly to our hotel, but I felt that we knew Istanbul well enough to  do it with public transport, and so loaded with our stuff we took the light railway to Sultanahmet – it was crowded and we struggled to get on and off but we made it. But we couldn’t figure out where the hotel actually was, so in the end we took a cab. Now, it had been a long day, we had already had a earky morning flight, then traveled in a crowded train, it was super hot and the kids were tired and  jumpy and so was I my guard was down. After driving for about 10 minutes he dropped us off at our hotel and it was time to pay. I took out a 50 Lira note to pay him, and he took it, but then he happened to notice I had a $20 bill in my wallet and said he would take that instead – so he gave me back my money (folded) and took the $20. But then he changed his mind and said I should pay him in Liras and he gave  me back my $20 dollar bill (folded) – so I paid him with some smaller notes. IT WAS ONLY LATER ON THAT I DISCOVERED THAT THE  50 LIRA NOTE HE HAD RETURNED TO ME WAS A FOLDED UP 5 LIRA NOTE, AND THAT MY $20 BILL WAS A FOLDED $1 BILL. He has stolen about $50 from me in total. I felt so stupid but there was now nothing I could do about it.

My warning – watch out – know your money – don’t accept folded money – the color of the 5 Lira and 50 Lira is the same!! Obviously the same goes for greenbacks! And make a note of the cab license plate when you get in – just in case!!

I was so upset this had happened but I had learned a valuable lesson. I won’t let it happen ever again!

PS: These days I am planning great family trips to Turkey. Click here for more info.



  1. Hello, thanks for sharing your story. I recently returned from Istanbul and i faced the EXACT same problem. I was so upset that the remaining 3 days of my Holiday was pretty much ruined but i tried to get over it. I actually lost approximately $100 with this scam, i can’t believe that i fell for it being someone who travelled alot around the world and avoided many attempts of theft and scams. The taxi Bill was 70Lira , my wife proceeds to give him 100Lira, he takes the 100Lira and within 2 seconds in an instant he claims that we gave him 20Lira.

    Now my wife is v sharp she never makes a mistake i know that so i was sort of in disbelief, but we were in a holiday mood so we gave the guy benefit of the doubt, now i proceeded to give him money from my wallet instead, exact change of 70 Lira, he takes it and within seconds he screams and says you gave me 5 lira instead of 50! He did it twice! at that point i was like it can’t be, he proceed to shout at us in Turkish, so i gave him a proper 50 Lira he took the money and we left. Only 5 minutes later when we arrived to the Hotel and properly calculated what we had, we realized he robbed us of 150Lira which is about $100 . Too bad we didn’t take his plate, otherwise we shouldve reported him to the police.

    • Hi James

      Sorry to hear about it – I know just how you felt! And I felt like real sucker – remember – that was my 5th trip to Turkey! The fact remains, the Turkish people are amongs the friendliest I have ever come across in my travels, but the taxi drivers are a different ball game completely.
      Hopefully people will read this and watch out.

      all the best

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