Hitchhiking is one of the most fun ways to travel around a country. It might sound a bit intimidating in the beginning, but if you do it right, you’ll be in for a fun ride. Hitchhiking is quite common amongst locals in Vietnam and although not many travelers might do it since it’s really cheap to get around, you’ll still find a few people on the road trying to hitch a ride. It’s more than just about getting a free ride, it’s about getting to know locals and sharing a few laughs along the way. When we take public transportation, we don’t usually sit with the driver to chat. But when we hitch a ride, we get the opportunity to talk to a lot more locals. If you’re up for an adventure, try hitchhiking! Here are a few tips for you before you start hitchhiking in Vietnam.
Hitchhiking isn’t always for free in Vietnam
In most places in Europe for example, people are really used to seeing people hitchhiking and most know that it means people want a free ride somewhere. It’s a bit different here in Vietnam. Many people will probably take you in for free, but a lot will also ask for a bit of money. With a yearly per capita income of around three hundred dollars, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they ask for a bit of money. If they ask for way too much or you simply don’t want to pay, just make sure that you ask before you step in the car. Never enter the car before you’ve decided on a price or if they’ll 100% take you in for free.
Don’t hitchhike in the cities
It’s almost impossible to find a ride in the cities and most people will probably think you’re looking for a taxi. Instead, take a taxi or bus to the highway, stand on the side of the road towards the direction you need to go to and stick your thumb out.
The best time to hitchhike is early in the morning, especially if you have a long way to go. You’ll most likely be picked up by a truck driver and they leave early in the morning. It also gets scorching hot in the afternoon in Vietnam, and you don’t want to be stuck somewhere in the heat.
Don’t give up
The first few minutes are always frustrating because you’re wishing that someone would pick you up straight away. But that’s far from reality. Sometimes, you’re very lucky and people will pick you up quickly. Other times, it takes longer. Perhaps much longer. But if you’re just patient, you’ll definitely get picked up. You might get a few weird glances from locals, because they’re not used to seeing foreigners hitchhiking, but the Vietnamese are very hospitable people and will try to help you.
It’s okay to say no to a ride
If a car stops for you and you notice the driver is intoxicated, or you just get a bad feeling, don’t hop in. It’s okay to say no to a driver. Just tell them that you’re going further than they’re going so you’d rather wait for someone to take you all the way. Never hop in a car if you don’t feel comfortable.
Always have a plan B
IF all fails, make sure that you do have a plan B. Look for buses or trains that go to the place you’re going to so you can at least get there the day you intended on going.
Make sure people know where you are
Write to your family and friends where you’re going and make sure that you’re always online when you’re hitchhiking. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Put your GPS on so it’s easy to track where you are, too.
Be respectful to the driver
Remember that the driver also took a risk by picking you up. He or she is offering to give you a free, or at least very affordable, ride to your destination, so act respectful to your driver.
Don’t stick your thumb out
Last but not least, don’t stick your thumb out. Yes, this is the general sign for hitchhiking in most countries, but they don’t really know what this means in Southeast Asia. If you want to get a ride, wave people down – palm facing the ground – or use a sign so people can see where you want to go. The only downside with having a sign is that some people might not stop because they’re not going to that exact same place. They might go halfway to where you’re going, but since your sign says something else, they won’t bother to pick you up. But sometimes a sign is also great because then you’ll be sure that the drivers who stops are going that way.
Follow these tips and you’ll have a great time hitchhiking in Vietnam. It might be a bit more challenging, but it wouldn’t be an adventure without some challenges along the way. Vietnam is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and it would be a shame to not see it thoroughly. So, have fun, make a few stops along the way, make new friends and prepare yourself for an unforgettable journey in Vietnam.