One billion people call India home.
India is a traveller’s paradise, from the snow-capped mountains in the north to the lush green mountains in the south, and from the desert in the west to the rainforests in the east.
India is huge, not just in terms of size, but also in terms of the diversity of its cultures, colours, traditions, landscapes, and people.
If you want to see how two very different worlds coexist near to each other, you must go around India at least once in your life.
That being said, for those on a tight budget, hitchhiking is a terrific option that will not only save you money but also make your travel an adventure in and of itself.
I’m sure the first question that you are bound to have isi ‘Is hitchhiking safe in India?. As a hitchhiker, safety is always a major consideration before embarking on your adventure, especially if you intend to hitchhike your way across the country.
From how to hitchhike safely in India to what you should do to make your journey memorable, here’s a guide to help you visit India and build some pleasant memories along the way.
Let’s get started.
Is Hitchhiking safe in India? A guide on how to hitchhike safely in India
Is it legal in India to hitchhike?
Except for a few expressways, hitchhiking is legal in India. Hitchhiking is particularly common in rural India, where public transportation is scarce and few individuals own private vehicles.
Is hitchhiking safe in India?
Hitchhiking in India is as safe as it is in any other emerging Asian country. It depends on where you are hitchhiking in the country, how well you plan ahead of time, and how much you know about the local culture. Overall, it’s not as safe as hitchhiking in Europe or America.
Is it safe for male travellers to hitchhike alone in India?
If you are visiting India for the first time, the answer is emphatical no. Travelling alone in India might be dangerous if you are unfamiliar with the routes, local culture, and traditions. It is only suggested to hitchhike alone in India if you are familiar with the routes and local culture of the area you are visiting.
Is it safe to hitchhike in India as a woman?
India is ranked seventh in the world among the ten most dangerous nations for female travellers. So travelling alone, let alone hitchhiking in the country, is not a safe option.
The only time you should hitchhike alone in India is if you are on a tight budget and are highly familiar with the local culture. If you insist on hitchhiking in India, do so with someone you know. Hitchhiking with a companion would be a safer alternative.
Travel guidelines are continually changing around the world due to the current Pandemic(COVID-19) crisis. We recommend that you organise your trip around the constraints and limitations set by the nation to which you will be travelling. Please adhere to all WHO-recommended COVID-19 travel safety protocols.
COVID 19 Travel Resources
11 Safety Tips for Hitchhiking in India
Know the specifics of the area ahead of time.
Whether you’re hitchhiking in India or elsewhere, learning about the location you’re going to in and out is a must.
Knowing about the location you’ll be visiting makes you aware of the things you’ll need to take care of.
Learn as much as you can before hitting the road, including how to get there, where to hitchhike, what sights to see, and safety precautions to take.
Remember that your journey will be more fun if you the take the effort to plan for it.
Make use of a cardboard sign
Another general hitchhiking suggestion is to flash a cardboard sign with your destination written on it to oncoming vehicles to easily hitch a ride and reduce your waiting time.
The cardboard sign will help the driver recognise you from a distance and learn about the location you want to ride to. This allows the driver some time to consider whether or not to provide you with a ride.
If a driver decides to pull over after seeing your cardboard sign, it is far safer for both you and the driver to slow down and pull over to the side of the road.
Avoid carrying or wearing expensive stuff
Displaying your fancy jewellery, gadgets, or clothing is the last thing you want to do when travelling anywhere, let alone in India.
Not everyone out there is ready to get their paws on you, but as is true everywhere, there are a few people that feed on tourists, such as pickpockets and minor crooks.
Another thing to remember is that you will be relying on others compassion to get from one place to another and to call on in times of need. Displaying your valuable possessions does not come off as polite or humble, and it makes you appear to be a freeloader rather than a true hitchhiker.
Avoid hitchhiking in major cities
Hitchhiking in cities is dangerous, especially during rush hour, and this is true in most nations.
Except for major highways, most Indian roads are riddled with potholes and drivers who believe in “There are No Rules, Only Consequences,” and as it turns out, the consequences are numerous.
India has the largest number of road accidents in the world, accounting for 11% of all road accident deaths worldwide. These statistics are not intended to discourage you from hitchhiking on Indian highways, but rather to inform you of the reality.
Tollbooths, service stations, and roads leading to suburbs or towns are the finest sites to start hitchhiking in India. Hitchhiking is legal on several highways, and if you find a good area for hitchhiking, you can easily grab a ride.
Trucks are India’s lifeline, transporting supplies from one location to another, and can be seen on rural roads as well as major highways. Many truck drivers may stop and ask whether you require assistance or a lift.
Furthermore, the problem with hitching a ride in larger cities is that you are unlikely to get a free ride. Other commercial public transportation vehicles, such as cabs, auto-rickshaws, and motorcycles, compete for customers in the same way that they do in other cities across the world. As a result, though not impossible, receiving a free ride in cities is extremely unlikely.
You should not always expect a free ride
Make it obvious to the driver where you’re going and that you’re hitchhiking before you get into the vehicle. Only enter the vehicle if the driver agrees to offer you a free trip.
Many truck drivers in India may approach you and ask for money. If you believe it will take a long time to hitch a ride, it is wiser to pay for the journey. This will save you time and effort when looking for a ride.
Once they get to know you, most truck drivers are really nice to strangers. Riding with Indian truck drivers is enjoyable since you will be treated to beautiful scenery and interesting stories about life on the road.
Avoid hitchhiking in the middle of the night
Hitchhiking at night is dangerous in any country, let alone India. Because hitchhiking entails walking and standing for hours on the road, your safety is jeopardised at night due to reduced visibility.
Another reason it is not recommended to hitchhike at night is the difficulties of finding a ride at night. It is difficult for drivers to see you at night, and they are concerned about their own safety, therefore most of them decline to offer a trip to strangers.
You also put yourself in danger from oncoming traffic and possibly small thieves. The easiest method to prevent this issue in the first place is to begin your journey early in the morning when you will have more time to cover longer distances.
Travel with a companion
Travelling with a companion has various advantages; not only do you both share a love of travel, but you are also on the same budget.
Hitchhiking becomes more enjoyable when you go with someone who shares your enthusiasm and sense of adventure. This shared passion for travel encourages you to take risks and take the road less travelled.
The most important thing that travelling with a companion is that it gives you a sense of safety, that there is someone that has your back.
Temples, Monasteries, and Public Halls- Save money on lodging
Where should I sleep?
When a hitchhiker arrives in a foreign country, he must ask himself this question.
But things aren’t so simple when you’re hitchhiking, are they? You can’t expect to spend a night in a comfortable hotel bed while also expecting free rides from strangers on the road. Not to mention that you’re hitchhiking because you want to travel on a tight budget.
If you spend the majority of your nights in hotel rooms, you will undoubtedly surpass your budget by a large margin.
So, how can you save money on lodging in India?
Hundreds of temples, monasteries and public stations throughout India can easily be used for a night’s sleeping. Sleeping in public places is very common in India, and most people, especially the impoverished, do it regularly.
All you have to do is look for large temples, monasteries, or public venues (particularly train stations) with waiting rooms or benches. People regularly sleep on benches or in waiting areas of stations because trains are frequently late.
Temples, particularly Sikh temples (known as Gurudwaras), are famous for their hospitality. Every gurudwara has a Langar (community free kitchen) where thousands of people are fed for free every day.
Gurdwaras are also excellent places to locate a place to sleep at night because they have public restrooms or prayer halls where most people sleep. All you have to do is ask someone respectfully, and they will assist you in locating a place to camp for the night.
Stop and seek guidance if you’re unsure
If you are stuck or are unsure of your route, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the locals.
The majority of Indians, particularly truck drivers and countryside residents, are quite friendly and hospitable to visitors. They will gladly assist you when you approach them politely explain your situation.
When seeking assistance in remote areas, the language barrier may be the most significant difficulty; nonetheless, the majority of Indians can speak English.
Keep your spirits up
Hitchhiking is a free-spirited way of travelling. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed, but hitchhiking is all about smiling and accepting whatever challenges the road throws at you.
A hitchhiking trip in India can seem scary at first, but with proper preparation and an adventurous attitude, it will turn into an enlightening adventure.
Most people will greet you with open hearts and astound you with their hospitality once you’ve conquered the initial language and cultural barrier.
So gather your belongings, pull up your socks, and prepare for one of the most thrilling journeys of your life.
I hope this post helps you to have a safe and exciting hitchhiking trip in India. If you think we have missed something please let us know in the comment section.
Have you hitchhiked in India before or plan to do so in the future?
If you have please share us your experience hitchhiking in India. We would love to hear from you and update our post to help others with having their best time travelling in India.