What is hitchhiking really like?

I hitchhiked from England to Morocco!

This was back in the early days of my travelling adventures – my 2nd big trip in fact – and yet it made such an impression on me that I still remember it vividly.

I should point out that I did this trip through a charity called Link Community Development. I raised a certain amount of money for them and in return they provided a tracking system. This online tracking system was updated daily via text so that my friends and family could see where I was.

I’m not saying that it isn’t safe to hitch-hike without a tracking system, I’m just letting you guys know how I did it.

In fact, I think everyone should give hitchhiking a go at some point in their life – it’s exhilarating, it’s interesting, you get to meet new people, you get free lifts and most of all, you come away with great stories. Stories to tell your family, your friends, your grandchildren. Experiences like this don’t come along too often on your everyday travels!

Sure, whilst hitchhiking you’ll come across some bumps in the road. There will be moments where you go hours waiting for a lift. Maybe you get dropped off in an awkward location. Or it’s just too cold to sleep in your tent by the side of the road. But, despite feeling negative at the time, these moments will only make the rest of your hitchhiking journey a better experience!

Anything to attract a lift!

 

So, what is hitchhiking really like?

Here are some details from my friend and I’s hitchhiking journey (skip to the end of this article for tips on how you can take a hitchhiking journey of your own):

The route

We hitchhiked from Plymouth (England) to Tangier (Morocco) via France and Spain. Our journey took 6 days in total, taking us through 17 cities.

After crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff on the ferry we hitched some lifts inland to Poitiers. We then tried to follow the west coast of France, aiming for Bordeaux and Toulouse before entering Spain.

Once over the border, we hugged the east coast of Spain virtually the entire way down – skirting around Barcelona, passing through Valencia and ending up in Murcia. It was then a straightforward last couple of days through Granada and Malaga to the ferry port at Spain’s southernmost tip – Tarifa.

The route we took

 

The lifts

In total, we used 26 lifts throughout our journey. Some were short trips between city centres and outer city toll stations, while others were long cruisy drives between 2 major cities.

Some lifts were in small old cars which barely looked or felt road legal, some were in modern cars, others were in the cabs of vans or lorries (trucks to those of you who aren’t British). Luckily, none of our lifts were in the back of a van, bound and gagged!

The drivers ranged from young to old, quiet to talkative and from interesting to slightly…crazy! One guy I remember in particular was playing trance music the entire time and barely uttered a word to us!

looking through the windscreen of a lorry cab
Hitching a ride in the cab of a lorry

 

The accommodation

In the spirit of hitchhiking – and looking after our wallets – we spent each night camping at the side of the road rather than in a city centre hostel. This helped us keep the journey flowing as lifts were often more difficult to find from the centre of town (where any accommodation was located).

Our setup consisted of a simple tent, roll mats and sleeping bags; nothing special but easy to travel with and relatively quick to assemble/take down.

 

The scenery

Along our journey we saw numerous beautiful landscapes from the windows of our lifts. Unfortunately the places where we got dropped off weren’t always beautiful as they tended to be toll stations or truck stops.

My most vivid memory of the scenery is one night in France where the moon rose above the hills – it looked so clear and for some reason so much larger than usual (see pic below).

the moon rising above the horizon
The beautiful moon – I’ve rarely seen it so big!

 

The food

We survived the majority of our hitchhiking journey on pastries, crisps (chips for non-British speakers), cookies, sandwiches and cereal bars from petrol stations. Not the best diet I know but these foods travelled well without spoiling and were cheap and tasty!

Once in Morocco however, things changed and we binged on the delicious tagines and fresh fruit and veg – continue reading for links to my Morocco articles.

 

The best moments

There’s nothing better than someone offering to take you exactly where you want to go – especially late in the day. There were a couple of times when we were stuck in locations that were less than suited for overnight camping, only for last minute lifts to save our asses and take us onwards to purpose built rest stops or petrol stations!

Another great moment – one that I’ll never forget – was our very first lift. The driver took us all the way from Roscoff to Poitiers (one of our longest lifts) and then showed us round her hometown, taking pictures with us outside the landmark church. She even offered to host us for the night but we politely declined as we were on a tight schedule to reach Morocco (although looking back it would’ve nice to get to know her).

3 people in front of a grandly decorated church
Hanging out in Poitiers with one of our drivers

 

The worst moments

By far the most difficult time in those 6 days were the 10 hours that we spent waiting at a petrol station for a lift on the outskirts of Bordeaux. Yep, 10 hours of approaching people and trying in vain to get a lift in the right direction. Turns out we got dropped off at quite a tricky location and ended up having to double-back on ourselves briefly. Eventually we got out of there and can now look back on the situation and joke about it!

Another gutting situation was when one of our lifts left without us. We were at a truck stop at night and had asked around about lifts leaving the next morning. We supposedly secured one but when we woke up at 4am and went to find the guy (30 mins before the agreed time), he had already made a dash for it!

 

We made it to Morocco!

After arriving in Morocco, we took a bus from the ferry port of Tangier to the traditional market city of Fes. We visited leather tanneries (a very cool experience), wandered around the old city and drank the best mint tea I’ve ever tasted.

Leaving Fes, we continued south to the bustling hub of Marrakech. We explored the winding alleys of the souks, took in rooftop views over the famous Djeema el Fna square and ate more tagines than I could count with my fingers! We also took some side trips from Marrakech; one to some epic waterfalls and another spent overnight camping in the Sahara Desert (although far more luxurious camping than our hitchhiking tent!).

Here are the related articles for more information:

4 things to do in Fes

Top sights in Marrakech

Best side trips from Marrakech

 

hitch hikers with sign at a port in morocco
We made it to Morocco!

 

How to take a hitchhiking journey of your own

Do you like the sound of hitchhiking? Fancy trying it out for yourself?

Before you do, enter Victor for some top tips to increase your chances of securing a ride. He also talks about hitchhiking etiquette.

Check out Victor’s 19 Step Guide to Hitchhiking for all these useful tips.

 

 

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