Every wanderlust no matter from where you are always dreams of traveling to this one country at least once in his lifetime and that country is France. It’s no wonder that France ranks as the most visited country on the planet.
From sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains and to the bustling streets of Paris, France has everything for every kind of wanderlust.
When it comes to hitchhiking in France, it is one of the easiest and safest places to hitchhike in the world.
When I hitchhiked in France some years ago, I didn’t know how I would be treated as a hitchhiker.
At the time, I acquired some information from French hitchhikers via hitchhiking forums, but still, it was insufficient. At the time, information about hitchhiking was scarce.
Keeping that in mind I decided to write this article that would give some basic information about hitchhiking in France.
So if you are planning to hitchhike in France then this article would give you an idea about it what’s it’s like to hitchhike in France and the things you must do and avoid while your time on the French roads.
Hitchhiking in France
Table of Contents
Is Hitchhiking still relevant in France?
France is a great place for hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is easy and, it is a common thing in France. French people are friendly towards hitchhikers even if they don’t understand your language. They will try to help you in every possible way (especially in rural areas). The average waiting time for hitchhikers to get a ride is 20 minutes in France.
Motorways are the fastest way to hitchhike in France. Toll booths of these Autoroutes/Motorways are the best location for hitchhiking in France. Like other western European countries, Hitchhiking or walking on the motorways is illegal so always stick to tollbooth for hitchhiking.
Hitchhiking works really well in the french countryside.
But, if you stick to only motorways you may not see the beautiful French countryside as motorways connect only the big cities in France. So, if you want to see the beautiful french countryside you would have to go away from the motorways.
Hitchhiking becomes easier in France if you use a cardboard sign with your destination name on it (obviously in French).
The language barrier is the biggest problem for hitchhikers in France.
If you are lucky you will hardly meet any French driver who can speak English. So, you must learn some basic French words in order to make your communication easier with French drivers.
Is France Safe for Hitchhiking?
France is quite safe for hitchhiking. French drivers are friendly towards hitchhikers and French drivers usually try to help hitchhikers. Even, Female hitchhikers are common in France.
France is the most visited country in the world. Alone in 2018, nearly 90 million tourists visited France.
Even after such a huge number of travelers, incidents of violent crime against travelers are very rare.
However, pickpockets and theft are common in Paris and crowded places like railway stations, and travelers are the easy target for them.
Where to start Hitchhiking in France?
Tollbooths of the motorways are the best place to start hitchhiking. Motorways are the best and fastest way to travel around France. Unfortunately, it is illegal to hitchhike on the motorways but you can hitchhike from the tollbooths.
Every road leading to or away from these motorways has these tollbooths(known as peage in French). If you stand at entrances or lanes leading to these tollbooths you have greater chances of hitching a ride as all vehicles slow down to choose the lanes.
So, stay close to the tollbooths and when any French driver will stop by to pay on tollbooth, then ask him for a ride (in French). Standing at tollbooths isn’t exactly illegal but officials are used to seeing hitchhikers and don’t mind you thumbing at vehicles.
French drivers are kind, most of the time they will give you a ride and sometimes may even offer you money. One lady offered me 50 Euros and also gave me food to eat.
If you find yourself in such a situation politely return the money unless you really are in need of some bucks, you can keep the food (why would you say no to free food?).
Another best location to start hitchhiking is a service station.
Generally, in France, the staff of these service stations doesn’t mind the hitchhikers. You can ask for a ride from French drivers when they would stop for fueling their cars.
Generally, this is a much better method for hitchhiking.
Because in this way you can directly approach the drivers and you can explain to them your situation. Also, drivers get some time to judge whether you are a genuine traveler or not.
A service station is also a good place for hitchhikers to spend the night. If you are looking to camp for a night, make sure you ask the manager if it’s OK to put up a tent for a night.
Is it illegal to Hitchhike in France?
Hitchhiking is not illegal in France. In fact, hitchhiking is much common in France as compared to other western European countries. But, there are some places like motorways where hitchhikers and pedestrians are not allowed for the purpose of safety.
Usually, they neglect hitchhikers. Sometimes, it is possible that French police may confront hitchhikers but it is very rare. Even when they do they are more concerned about your safety than anything else and would probably drop you at a bus station.
But it’s quite rare that hitchhikers are fined by the police and hitchhikers usually travel around France without any trouble.
Things that you should know before Hitchhiking to France
Always start your conversation with word ‘Bonjour’
In France, every conversation starts with the word “bonjour“. In other countries, you can easily start a conversation with a smile or with the word excuse me.
But it doesn’t work in France.
French people are very formal and they respect their culture. It is considered ill-mannered to start a conversation without saying bonjour. Because bonjour is a sign of respect.
So, always remember, to start your conversation with bonjour when you will approach French drivers for a ride.
Where to sleep while Hitchhiking?
In France, the cost of accommodation is high as compared to other countries. So, if you are a budget traveler and want a free place to spend the night then service stations are a good option. Hitchhikers can spend their night at a service station either in their tent or sleeping bag and on the next morning, they can get a ride to their next destination from the same service station.
Camping along the Autoroutes is another good option to spend the night if you have a tent.
You can easily find a lot of free space along the autoroutes to set up a tent.
I personally never spent the night in such a way but French hitchhikers told me that they usually spend nights inside tents in the free space of the side of the autoroutes.
Use Cardboard Sign
In France, unlike other countries, a cardboard sign increases the probability of getting a ride.
A French hitchhiker once told me that French drivers like to know your destination before they pick you up.
So, to increase your chances of getting a ride in France, take white cardboard and write the name of your destination on that cardboard so that French drivers will know from a long distance where you are heading.
Many people in India cannot speak English but they understand basic English.
Before moving to France I knew that French do not speak English, but I thought that French people would understand basic English like the Indian people as France shares a border with England.
But, I was wrong. French people are very proud of their language. If you are lucky you will hardly find any French driver who can understand and speak English. Even those French people who can speak English don’t like to speak it.
So, the Language barrier is the main problem for foreign hitchhikers in France.
If you don’t know the French language it would be hard for you to communicate with drivers.
For me, the hardest part was to explain my destination to French drivers.
So if you are planning to hitchhike in France then learn some basic French words that can help you in communication with French drivers.