Traditionally, hitchhiking has been the cheapest way to travel around, but really, it’s more than that: you can meet lots of people and even make friends, you can find out the best places to eat, you can become frustrated and wet, but most of all, you’ll have fun and you’ll feel free. That’s what hitchhiking is about.
Now I’m not gonna focus on the basics, because if you’ve never hitchhiked before, a foreign country is not the place you want to start especially if you don’t speak the language. Of course, you should pay extra attention when you’re alone, and you want to avoid any dangerously looking or careless drivers; you want to bring a marker and something to write on to write your destination, be prepared with sunscreen or a raincoat (depending on the weather), and if you don’t know the nearby destinations, have a map with you.
Hitchhiking is not illegal in most places, but you should be sure you’re doing it in some place cars are actually allowed to stop. In most countries, drivers will do it for free, just for the sake of company, but in some parts of the world, you are usually expected to pay. If you ask me, it’s nice to ask before hand, but if you really want to, you can just fly under the radar and see what happens.
Please do try to avoid hitchhiking if you’re a single female due to obvious reasons. I have friends who do this (one of them did it from Spain to Belgium without any problems), but usually, this is something you want to avoid. That’s pretty much the basics, so lets hitch a ride through Europe!
Thumbing Through the Old Continent
Hitchhiking is common throughout all of Europe; you can catch a ride almost anywhere and everywhere. For example, in Germany this is extremely fast. Viewing the Germans as strict and rather cold people, I was shocked to see just how fast they are to pick you up, even if you don’t speak the language. You can literally travel from one part of the country to the other in a day, no problem. Still, when in Germany, you want to pay attention to the driver there’s no speed limit on the highways, and as useful as that is, you probably want to avoid someone who is an excessive speeder. If you know you want to go a long way fast, you might want to stick around gas stations and find rides there, your odds are really better this way.
While we’re Western Europe, France (especially in the northern area), Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are also great places to go thumbing. There’s some incredible traffic between these countries, lots of truck drivers, you can pretty much go wherever you want though you might have a hard time finding someone who speaks English in France.
But it’s not all Western Europe not at all. Probably some of the best countries to hike are Romania and Greece. You rarely spend more than 1020 minutes in Romania before someone picks you up, and most everyone speaks English there (especially young people). The downside is that you will sometimes have to pay something, though it’s really cheap. The same goes for Greece.
Though I’ve personally never done this in England, I’ve only heard good stories about hitchhiking there I was pretty surprised to see just how developed the culture is there. Other countries in central Europe, like Poland or the Czech Republic for example are also quite receptive to hitchhikers.
Crossing the Border and Other Tips
Since the European Union has opened its borders, people from the EU have started traveling a lot more you don’t require a visa, and most people are not reluctant to get you across the border. Most borders are not even guarded, especially in areas with heavy traffic.
What yo want to do is avoid popular, family resorts especially those beach resorts; your odds of being picked up are really, really small. Like really most of the time, you won’t get picked up and that’s that. I don’t know why this happens (probably families just don’t pick up hitchhikers), but from my experience and the people who I’ve talked to, this is just something you should avoid.
Please keep in mind that most people pick you up for the conversation, so even if you’re pretty tired or not in the mood, try your best to make for a pleasant talk. Also, the driver (who is most often a local) can provide you valuable travel information that isn’t in any brochure what are the best places to eat and hang out, what you should watch out for, and lots of those spicy tips only locals know
This guest post was written by Andrei Mihai.
Ever since he was a kid, Andrei loved nature, and he loved traveling. Now, he’s dedicated a part of his life to science, studying geology and environmental protection, but deep down, he’s still a traveler, eagerly waiting to see new places. Check out more of his writing at ZME Travel.
Featured Image Source: Wiki Commons