South America, the 4th largest continent on the planet, is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes, the highest concentration of wildlife, a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and not to forget all the mouth-watering cuisines.
From the dense bio-diversity of the Amazon to the lonely hot, barren lands of the Atacama Desert, and from the bustling streets in Rio-de-Janeiro to the serene beaches of Patagonia, South America feeds the wanderlust of every kind of traveller.
For people who look for adventure in travel itself and on a tight budget, hitchhiking is a great way to explore the beauty of South America up close. One thing that keeps budding hitchhikers from taking this leap is their doubts about the safety and ease of hitchhiking in South-American countries.
If you have similar doubts about hitchhiking in South America, then sit tight and follow through. We will explore the best South American Countries for hitchhiking that are safe, easy and fun to hitchhike.
Here are the 5 Best South American Countries for Hitchhiking
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Surprised to see Chile on the top? Don’t worry, we were too. Out of the three South-American countries we hitchhiked; Chile surpassed our expectations by a mile.
Chileans are extremely chill when it comes to offering rides to strangers. Hitchhiking here is more prevalent than in other countries of South America.
Hitchhiking from Patagonia to Santiago was an adventure in itself as hitching is more common in the south than in the country’s north. (Well! as for East or West, there isn’t anywhere to go as it is the narrowest country geographically)
Our average waiting times hardly exceeded 15 min at max except in suburbs or rural areas where vehicles are scarce. So, it is definitely worth it if you are ready to wait for long hours to explore the rural and lesser-known tourist spots.
Hitching a ride in Chile
The best place to hitch a ride in Chile is highway entry and exit points, as most traffic flow through these highways. Suppose you are looking to hitch longer distances. In that case, the Panamericana highway or Ruta 5 is the best option from north to south of Chile.
Be as presentable as you can; nobody’s going to bother to take you seriously until you look like a hobo. Another aspect of hitching quick rides is to know a little (un poco) Spanish.
You will rarely come across a person who can talk in English which makes some sense.
When you are standing on the side of the road thumbing for rides, make sure you write down your destination in Spanish on a cardboard. This makes it easier for the driver to easily spot you from a fair distance.
Chile is one of the best places on earth to save money on accommodation.
Why, do you ask?
It’s way too easy and convenient in Chile to put up a tent if you are looking to camp for a night. One can easily camp for a night at service or gas stations, as most owners don’t mind allowing strangers to crash in for a night.
Parks and other public spaces are also great places to put up your tent. Even though it might not be legal to do so, nobody (even the Police authorities) bother to disturb you unless you haven’t asked before to do so.
Final thoughts on hitchhiking in Chile
Hitchhiking in Chile restored our faith in humanity. Most people we came across were very kind and welcoming to us. I vividly remember how one truck driver went as far as being our guide on our journey towards Carrera Austral.
Paraguay is also known as the heart of South America, and rightly so as it is a landlocked country located between Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia.
Hitchhiking is quite common in Paraguay, especially in the rural areas where a few people own private vehicles. As the country’s population is small, hitchhiking is easier on the main roads and some highways.
Hitching a ride in Paraguay
The best route to hitchhike is between Filadelfia and Asunción, due to more traffic than other routes.
Hitchhiking in the remote areas of Gran Chaco can be challenging. There are hardly any cars to be seen for long hours, so make sure you have something to keep you awake.
Don’t let the waiting times bog you down from experiencing the love and beauty of the land and its Guarani culture. Although there are fewer cars here than in Chile but totally worth your time nonetheless.
Final thoughts on hitchhiking in Paraguay
Hitchhiking is a beautiful way to explore the heart of South America. Apart from the region of Gran Chacko and the border region with Bolivia, hitchhiking in Paraguay is a gradual process. Still, the stunning landscapes and kind people make up for the time spent on the road.
The ever-welcoming nature and the kindness of Uruguayan people make it an ideal destination for hitchhiking. In fact, the kindness of people here trumps even its splendid natural beauty. So, it comes as no surprise that Uruguay is amongst the best countries to hitchhike South America.
Hitching a ride in Uruguay
Uruguay is the smallest South American country with only a 3.5 million population. Most of the population is concentrated around the capital Montevideo. So, hitching a ride from the Northern border to Montevideo isn’t much of a big deal.
The only problem with hitchhiking in Uruguay is it is difficult to get a ride away from cities. Not because people don’t pick up hitchhikers, but due to the deficient population of the country, there’s hardly any traffic to be seen in the suburbs and rural areas.
If you are ready to wait 30-40 min on average on these dirt roads, then it’s a total payoff of your effort. You will be treated with one of the best hospitality in the world and the splendor of the Uruguayan landscape.
Final thoughts on hitchhiking in Uruguay
Uruguay is one of the most laid-back countries in the world to hang out. Due to a low number of private vehicles, hitchhiking is very firmly ingrained in the culture.
Most tourists rarely wander away from famous tourist attractions. Most people from rural areas are interested in anyone passing by and eager to talk to strangers which makes Uruguay a wonderful place to make new friends.
Ecuador came as a complete surprise to us. This small country blooming with Amazon rainforests and pristine beaches on the west is an excellent place for putting out your thumb.
Hitchhiking is quite prevalent in the country, and many people, especially in the rural areas, use hitchhiking as means of travel. Although, it is not the safest country to hitchhike in South America.
Hitching a ride in Ecuador
Ecuador is a small country, but the quality of roads and traffic is surprisingly good compared to Peru. The best place to hitch a ride is on highways and toll booths, as most traffic flows from here.
If you are looking to hitchhike away from cities, then get ready to wait (probably count to 10000) for hours as there’s hardly any traffic on the road. But, the best thing is almost every car will offer you a ride when you put your thumb out.
Final thoughts on hitchhiking in Ecuador
Ecuador is one of the less explored gems of the world laced with rich wildlife, pristine beaches and ancient tradition and culture. Hitchhiking is a great way to explore this country on a budget.
Before you decide to hitchhike in Ecuador, remember that it’s not the most ideal country to hitchhike in the world. You would encounter many drivers who would charge you for the ride due to poor economic conditions.
Ensure you clarify to the driver (in Spanish) that you are hitchhiking before stepping into the car. Sometimes, it is better to pay for the ride or take the bus rather than compromise your safety. The transportation fares are very cheap anyway that it won’t put a strain on your budget.
Tucked away on the North Atlantic coast and between Venezuela on the east and Suriname on the west, and Brazil in the south, Guyana is a tropical wonder.
As fewer people own cars in the country, hitchhiking is a primary way of getting around for the locals. If you put out your thumb for a ride, people, understand that you are a hitchhiker.
Hitching a ride in Guyana
You can hitchhike almost everywhere in Guyana, except the waiting times vary depending on the traffic in the region. Almost every second car you put out your thumb will stop for you.
Apart from a few private vehicles, one can easily hitch trucks that travel all around the country carrying goods. From time to time, you might come across public buses stopping for you to take you in.
Like everywhere else, buses charge you fare for travel, but the bus fares here are some of the lowest in the world. If you tell the bus driver that you are hitchhiking, he might try to convince you to step in by lowering the bus fare, which is a good deal to save some time on travelling.
Final thoughts on hitchhiking in Guyana
Guyana is a fantastic place for hitchhiking. The country is gifted with dense tropical rainforests and beautiful sandy beaches in the north, making it a traveller’s paradise. The best thing about travelling to Guyana is English is their official language, so you won’t find any problem communicating.
As traffic here is less, expect longer waiting times up to an hour, especially in rural areas of the country. Almost every person you encounter shares a curiosity to know you and kindness that will warm your heart.
Avoid hitchhiking in these South American countries
Despite having adequate roads and many automobiles, it is one of the most challenging countries for hitchhiking. However, because it is such a large country, generalizations are tricky. There are areas (such as the Amazon) where hitchhiking is simple and others where it is challenging. It could be determined by the location or by your personal luck on this specific day.
But there is one advantage to hitching in Brazil: almost every gas station provides free coffee, bathrooms, and sometimes showers. If you’re vegetarian, the buffets are even better.
A tough country. People are afraid to pick anyone up because of the violence. The best option is to approach drivers directly at a restaurant or gas station. Many roads (apart from the main ones) are not paved, so expect slow and difficult travel. But once you get a ride, the people are some of the friendliest we’ve ever met.
Remember that most kidnappings in Colombia occur in the countryside. You are a target as a foreigner, no matter how poor you are.
A lovely country but a very politically unstable country nonetheless. Venezuela, in recent years, has been the centre of political unrest in South America. Many Venezuelan citizens are themselves fleeing the country to seek refuge against the ongoing civil war.
Venezuela currently also has the highest inflation rate globally, and things are not seeming to return to normal still now. In simple words, not just hitchhiking but avoid travelling to Venezuela for now.
Suriname is a small country that was a Dutch colony before, so the official language is Dutch. There are also parts of Suriname where people speak English, but they are not many, to begin with.
Getting in and around Suriname is very difficult. Apart from a few highways, you can hardly find any paved roads at all.
The most challenging country to hitchhike is South America, even though most of the people hitchhike themselves. Due to the poor economic conditions, Bolivia has the lowest number of private vehicles and unpaved roads amongst South American countries.
Beautiful country, beautiful people, plenty of traffic on the road but a big letdown when it comes to hitchhiking. Probably people are afraid to pick hitchhikers here.
Better than Bolivia, but similar. Few non-public vehicles and only a few truck drivers will take you for free.
In contrast to Bolivia, only the main roads are paved. Some places take a long time to get to, especially if they are in the mountains and unpaved. It takes three days and nights with one truck from Nazca almost to Cuzco.
The north of the country has it better than the south.
Hitchhiking is definitely doable here, but it is tough to hitch a ride. The cost of travelling in French Guyana will blow your mind and your wallet.
For people on a tight budget hitchhiking is one of the best ways to save money on travelling and accommodation. Traffic in most South American countries is relatively low, so expect longer waiting times to hitch a ride.
If you are an amateur or hitchhiking for the first time, make sure you do it with a partner for safety. Avoid hitchhiking in the night and areas which are blocked for tourists.
All said, if you follow the essential safety tips of hitchhiking, then you can complete your journey without any hassle. So, pack your bags, pull up your socks and brace yourself on an adventure into the beautiful and majestic continent of South America.