My first trip to NZ is coming up in January, I'll be checking out the South Island for about a month. I'm thinking about hitchiking at least some of the time, since i can't drive and i'd like to get to some out of the way places.
I've heard hitching in NZ is pretty easy, just wondering how it rates on the risky scale. I know a solo female traveller is always taking a risk by hitching but - do lots of people pick up hitchers, or will i be waiting on a deserted roadside for the homicidal maniac?
I came back from NZ recently and saw a fair few hitchers - most of them were in groups of two though. I think its supposed to be fairly safe but not something I'd try because I'm a bit of a wuss! The thing is, those 'out of the way' places that you want to go to are probably the places where you'll stand by the side of the road for 2 hours waiting for a car to go past. I hired a car when I was there, which turned out to be very reasonable, but obviously you get more for your GBP than your AUS$ so it might not work out quite as cheap for you. From what I saw - pretty much everywhere you want to go is accessable by group trips organised by hostels / publice bus service so you shouldn't miss out on anything if you chose not to travel by car.
New Zealand is no safer than any where else, as can be notted from our news reports of assaults, so its up to you if you hitch over here.
I spent 6 months hitchiking around NZ on both the North and South Islands. Over that time I caught 86 rides. Of the 86 rides, I only waited for more than 20 minutes 3 times - twice in Kiakoura, and once in Punakaiki. Just about every other time I was picked up within 10 minutes and often within the first 2 or 3 cars.
So I would rate NZ as an extremely easy place to hitchike. I would also rate it as a fairly safe place to hitchike compared to many other western countries.
However, for a solo women, I wouldn't even consider it. You are just asking for trouble and I think it's too risky. If you can pair up with one more person, preferably a male, though even another female, then you will be alot better off. You can no doubt meet people in hostels who are willing to head out on the road with you. I often found partners to hitch with.
However, if you do decide to do it, here are a couple safety tips that I find important.
First - Never start by telling the driver where you are going. You must ask them where they are going first. This is for two reasons - a)this gives you a short oportunity to check out the driver. If you feel that it may not be safe then you have an easy way to back out - you just say that you are heading somewhere else. b) A driver with ill intentions will always conveniently be going exactly where you are heading, or at least they will tell you they are in order to get you into the car. If they don't know where you are going they can't lie.
Second - don't put your bags in the trunk. But them in the back seat. If you are getting in the front seat, open the front door first, leave it open, then open the back and put your bags in. Do the same when getting out, and leave the passenger door open until after you get your bags. Hopefully with the doors open it will prevent the driver from taking off with your bags.
If you need any more advice on hitching, send me a message.
When I was in NZ I picked up several hitch hikers and they all seem to agree that it was easy to get around. Just use your common sense. Enjoy. NZ is awesome.
That's really good advice from Degolasse - just use your common sense. I wouldn't do it personally but everyone has their own area that they take risks - for me hitching isn't one of them.
I wouldn't hitch anywhere even though NZ is a nice place there are crazy people everywhere and just never know! So Hitch at your own risk!
sorry, i had forgotten i posted this. Thanks for the responses. Hitched most the way round the south island with no problems - Kiwis are almost as good as the Irish for hitching!