Hitchhiking is a great struggle, especially when you are in a country where is difficult to make people agree to let them take you with them. Hitchhiking is the cheapest way of traveling. The traditional way in hitchhiking to get a ride is to stand in the side of the road and show your thumb whenever some vehicle passes by. Although it is not easy, you can make friends and create new experiences with people you haven’t met before.
There are some people who only travel by the means of hitchhiking, and by this way they have managed to travel in most of the countries in the world. In some countries, hitchhiking is welcoming, but in some, it isn’t. In some countries or states, it is even banned. But when it comes to India, hitchhiking is not that difficult, and if you are a foreigner, it will be easier, as Indians are very welcoming, and always tempting to know more about foreigners. In 1988, the academy of free travel did an expedition in India where they sent people to hitchhike, and nine of them managed to cover whole country, from north to south. Although there are various methods, there are some prominent and common methods to get a free ride in India. There are as follows:
1. Rides on Trucks
It is one of the most common methods of getting rides, as truckers, especially Sikh/Punjabi truckers are the ones who stop for hitchhikers the most. Although trucks can suck your energy quickly, but truck drivers often share food and drinks with fellow passengers. You can also find water in trucks for cleaning your clothes. But rides on trucks come with highest risk factors for travelling. There are several cases of drink and drive, and trucks and very often broken down and sometimes even meet with accidents. You may have to keep the drivers humorous, since silence is awful in trucks. The truck drivers sleep in truck spots built sideways of highways or roads. They even sleep in their “truck beds”.
2. Train Rides
It is the biggest factor that makes hitchhiking in India easy. If you have no problem in riding in overcrowded train compartments (most of the time), then this method may suit you the most. Most of the trains in India, except Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and some other trains, there are General class compartments. These compartments are mostly found on the front or backside of the trains. You are required to only buy ticket before boarding the train. There are also reserved tickets for foreigners known as “Foreign tourist quota”(FTC). These tickets require showing your passports at a special office in the railway station. General quota tickets are the cheapest, and snacks and drinks can be found on alternative stations. It can be a good alternative to hitchhiking.
You can easily get a ride from motorcyclists. It is not uncommon in big cities or suburbs to get short distance rides from people. Another benefit of travelling with motorbikes in suburbs is that it saves you from the never ending and overwhelming traffic on the road. Hitchhiking in motorcycles is also common in mountainous regions such as Himachal, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Leh, Laddakh and Kashmir etc. Lots of adventurists travel through motorcycles up the mountains, and are ready for helping someone in need. A foreigner backside on a motorcycle is not uncommon in India. If you are up for a long journey, chances are that you would have to change bikes frequently.
4. Getting a ride
Rides in India usually stop for helping, only don’t if they are full or going somewhere urgently. The most important factor for getting a ride is: location. For ex: you may get a ride for free near a plain city, but is difficult in mountainous hill stations, where you may sight groups of tourists walking on foot on the sides of the road, as it is almost impossible to get an empty ride. However, getting a ride at night is very difficult, and is neither safe. You might consider going on trains, which are safest for a hitchhiker.
SOME EXTRA TIPS
- Consider buying a map of the area, or always turn your location on in your mobile or any other device, so that you know whether or not you are going closer to your destination.
- Be prepared to walk all day, and to spend night in some public place or even outside. There is not a full probability that you might get a fair ride anytime and anywhere. So, be prepared. This is even the biggest challenge with hitchhiking.
- Try to learn the language of locals. Even little understanding of the local’s language will help a lot.Carry with you a flashlight, a towel, a black marker, pocket knife, sunscreens, facials etc.