I never thought I would hitchhike. Not in a million years, and especially not alone. But, here I was, all alone and standing on the side of the road trying to flag down every car that drove past. That’s right, I was hitchhiking in Botswana, jut part of nearly 700km I hitchhiked from
While I’m not going to encourage everyone to hitchhike if you choose to do it, here are a few things to consider:
Research the locations you want to hitchhike. I read about my hitchhiking route in a guidebook, asked several Peace Corps workers in the area who had previously done it, and got directions on the precise place in town to stand and wait for rides. Overall, it’s very safe to hitchhike in Botswana. Locals who had done it told me I would be fine, while a wealthy local farmer thought I was nuts (even though I saw him pick up hitchhikers that same day). Get advice and evaluate how reliable that advice is.
The worst thing you can do is try to hitchhike in an area where it isn't common. People hitchhike all over Africa, but it's especially common in Botswana as towns are spread out, and public transport isn't great. The road I hitchhiked is also
You need to be alert at all times. If someone offers you a ride and you have an uneasy feeling about it, don’t go! My second ride was with a really nice trucker, but I got to know his colleague who was driving the same route while we were at the border crossing, and that guy was a slimeball. I chose wisely!
I was having no luck getting a ride on my first leg of the trip. A local I met was also trying to get to Windhoek that day, so I stuck by his side while we waited for a ride. I was having no luck by myself, but he obviously spoke the local language, and it helped tremendously.
If you’re going to hitchhike, you should tell someone about your plan and tentative route. Let them know the day you’re going, where from, and your final destination. Then, make sure to follow up and tell them that you made it safely so they don’t worry!
I had a phone on me for emergencies. Buy a SIM card for the country you are traveling in, in case you need to call someone. While you’re at it, make note of the local emergency number. I also had a tent, food, and water with me just in case I was stuck beside the road waiting overnight.
I should probably take my own advice. Generally speaking, I recommend you never hitchhike alone – it’s just not as safe. Plus, if you hitchhike with a friend, it will be double the fun.
Most people will agree up front on a price. Although none of my rides ever asked me for money, I bought one lunch and gave him money for going out of his way to get me to my destination. It's nice to repay your driver for their kindness.
During my nine hours of hitchhiking in Botswana, I had a great time. It was nerve-wracking and stressful initially since I wasn’t guaranteed a ride, but I met some genuine, friendly people. Hitchhiking is a great way to do as the locals do, and with some prior planning and common sense, it will be an eventful experience.
Backpacker tips for safe travel on the road, what you should plan for and what you should try to avoid.