Hitchiking in Central and South America

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Hitchiking in Central and South America

Last Post This thread is marked as being about Chile
1. Posted by catatennui (Budding Member 5 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

So, I've been kind of wanting to hitchike around Europe for a while, kind of bum it, but it seems as though my plans are changing to going to Central and South America instead... I know that there are a variety of safety levels down there, and I'm wondering if any one has done any hitchiking down there, or knows any one who has, and might have any stories about it, good or bad, or tips in general... I"m very interested in this because, of course it would be more economical to travel this way, but the main reason is i think it would give me more opportunity to meet people, and have a less planned , more spontaneous trip...if any body has any info/tips, i would so greatly appreciate hearing about it... thanks...

2. Posted by SamSalmon (Respected Member 626 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Having lived in Central America and travelled in South America I can tell you that it's a very poor idea.
People are poor and you have the money to spend what is for them a year's income-now you stand around begging rides-bad form very bad.
In any case if someone stops to give you a ride paying for the ride is the norm-nothing is free.
Gasoline might be cheap but wages are low and-again-you have more money than any 10 people on the street.

3. Posted by chilecota (Budding Member 7 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Chile might be the only latin american country where hichiking is posible and quite safe. Most of the people don`t expect money for the ride so it`s a great way to get to know this great country!
HAve fun,

4. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Dear Catatennui,

This is my best advice that includes my knowledge, street sense, common sense, and care. Really. It is long, so I devided it up. I had to use Word. But it would have been longer if I sent you a private message, so I’m posting this here. Please forgive me for the lenth. I forgive you for the general question about a topic that I know too much about . There is important advice in CAPSLOCK later on.

I've heard about this, too. What this means is that you just assume that they are a street taxi if they stop (don't thumb a ride, I don't know about signs, but I think that they just stop if they know that you are in need of a ride and it'll be obvious to them). It does not have to say "taxi" on the car if you are in a rural area. Most people can't afford that if they need to run a taxi out if their vehicle. If they stop and ask you where you are going, (Assume that they only speak Spanish, and be able to speak Spanish fluently (enough) before you go down, and learn it from someone who has either travelled extensively in Latin America or has been born in Latin America. You don't need to learn Portugese unless you plan to travel extensively where they speak it. Keep reading.) then tell them the town or city like the locals say it (your guidebook should be right) and then negotiate the rate in the local currency (and LEARN ABOUT COUNTERFEIT MONEY SCHEMES!!!!!!). This is basically how it should work.

People might approach you on the streets in South America and offer to be your guide. Accept if you think you need a guide or if you are travelling solo and won't mind the company in English. Always tip if it is helpful, and never if it deffinately isn't. If they specify an amount- they should before you accept, and then just use your discretion. But, seriously, tip, even if they are children, as long as they are really helping you- and don't just give kids candy, because a lot of people will do that, so think about if they were your kids. Some people really need this income and that is why they ask, so you would be directly helping out the locals. They will speak English if they are a guide. Local guides are good. Remember that, because it is common sense (you obviously have that if you have hitchhiked before and aren't afraid of hitching again, but don't be afraid of people ever when you travel because they will find a way to take advantage of you in some way, and I am being absolutely honest and I'm talking from experience.). Also, know that some museums won't translate everything into English. They may even hire the guides, so really use your discretion about tipping then. Don't ever be too generous to people, because they will see your compassion and take advantage of it. Don't look for local guides. Act like you don't expect to be bothered, that you are enjoying the peace of aloneness. Don't look nonchalant, but do look relaxed and untroubled by anything. If no one approaches you, then no one has a need. Assume this and enjoy your day in peace alone or with the company of another traveller you met along the way. Concretely, this means, don't ask, "Are you a guide?" to someone who looks like a local, because if they are a local they might feel obligated and you would be putting him/her out and that is impolite in any culture. Only ask locals directions when you can't find something in THEIR local langauge (Spanish or Portugese, depending on the country, and if it isn't Brazil, speak Spanish.


5. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

part 2 of bluewaav's responce (I'm talking about languages, now)

Skip this paragraph if you speak another European language fluently, unless it isn't French. When you are travelling in Europe, you need to only learn how to pronounce the MOST POLITE WAY to ask a local if he/she speaks English in the country's official language. E.G. in French, this would be, "Parlez(par-lay) vous(voo) francias(frahn-say), Monsier(mohn-se-ur) (to a male adult) or Mademmoiselle(Mad-am-moi-zel) (to a young lady) or Madame(Mah-dam), (to an older woman, or a woman with a ring that obviously implies marriage)?" Say that in a question voice. "Parllez vous...", is a polite form that shows respect in French. Never do what I did, never say, "Tu Parlles..." That is like making a declaration in French. It is rude and will justifyably be met with "No." in English. If you forget, pray that someone with compassion on tourists will find you. Someone will. Someone helped us, and I forgot to pray- God knew I needed help! While I'm at it, if you want to eat out at a restaurant in Europe, then learn the numbers in German (very important, and they have English menus, FYI), Italian, French, Swiss (3 dialects of Swiss-German, -French, -Italian, just so you know), and anywhere else you might travel in Europe. Not Dutch, though, because they EXPECT you to speak English to them. They find it rude in Amsterdam if you don't. I know this from Dutch people. AND DON'T QUOTE THAT ADVICE TO DUTCH PEOPLE ANYWHERE because they might get you really high on some wierd drugs to get revenge on you for being annoying! Just memorize the French sentence if you are going to Europe, but you will remember the rest when you need it there, so stop worrying.

You don't need to hitchhike in Europe, but in case you are in trouble there, I will explain European hitchhiking to you. First of all, it is called autostop in Europe. So call it that when you are in Europe, but never outside. Next, look at a map in a train station (bahnhof (pronounced as spelled), in German) to learn the local names of cities and how to spell them correctly. This is very important- spell the city names correctly because if you don't, then they will silently judge you as rude. And use the local spellings and pronunciations. For example, to English-speakers, Munich is the name that we recognize. But in Germany, they call it Munchen, with 2 dots over the U. Pronounce it "Myoon- ghin" to everyone in Europe. And call Italy by it's proper name, "Italia" and pronounce "France", "Frahnss." Say every other country name the English way, especially Spain. This is especially important if you want to make friends with the locals and not risk having them judge you as ignorant. Don't ever call Germany, Deutschland, EVER. Just know it is called that if someone says that around you. Just know "Deutschland" is "Germany." Try this country name advice in Latin America, to European travellers, though. Europeans are all multi-lingual, but don't feel bad if you aren't, because they all genuinely wish that they are as fluent as you in English. Just don't assume all Europeans speak some English, and don't be offended if they don't. It is not personal if you are travelling in their country. Assume it is not personal if you are travelling in a non-English speaking country. Back to autostops . . . (get used to that word ;) ). Use a permanent marker and a piece of cardboard, like in Canada and the U.S.A., but just write the city name and hold it up. If you can pronounce the local name well, then thumb a ride (thumb up, fingers closed around palm, like in N.America). Dress this way: No shadows on your face- guys need to shave, no hats, period, for either sex, or bandanas. Be dressed appriopriately for the weather and the culture. BANDANA STORY: in Germany, you will be stopped and possibly chased by the Zoll for wearing a bandana b/c they might assume that you are part of a gang. This happened to a friend of mine who is American, but born in Munich, Germany, and she freaked out and they chased her. They looked crazier than her. But she didn't have her passport on her because she was living in S.W. Germany (Shwebia), as I was. Cooperate with people no matter what on the streets in Europe (but just look, don't stare, back at rude guards and pretend to be mute on the trains). SEE PART 3 ..

6. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

part 3 (appology to everyone )

Always explain what you are doing and who you are if you are approached by someone on the streets no matter where you are in the world, but with your level voice, not your body. Look them in the eyes so that they know that you are honest and harmless. If you blend in, they will assume that you are a local, too, if you are caucasian. It is good to blend in. I'm telling you this because of an incident in Amsterdam- females get mistaken as prostitutes there frequently in the Red Light District- no matter how she is dressed, or whether or not she is wearing make-up. Walk away from propositions. Simply walk away around the corner. That is simply how you tell someone that he/she got the wrong idea. No one on this earth assumes people are homosexual by that person's appearance when they meet that person. Dutch people are very tolerant. Sorry that this is so long, but know that all of it is important. Back to autostopping. . . . In Scandinavia (penninsulas in the Arctic Ocean above mainland Europe, in case you aren't familiar with that phrase), most people speak English fluently, because it is difficult to pick up their language. Greet them with, "Hallo" on the streets, and pronounce it that way because that isn't a typo, also in Germany and Swiss-German parts of Switzerland. Anyway, use a reflector up there so vehicles can see you by the road- steal one from a trashed up car, otherwise forget that advice. Layer your clothes, and don't carry a backpack (just a daypack). Realise that people drive small vehicles in other parts of the world, if you are a North American who hasn't travelled outside of your continent. Don't let houseless people pick you up, ever. You will be shocked at that when you get there if you are from Canada or the United States. The roads are smaller too, so abide by pedestrian laws with respect and common sense (like a N.A. pedestrain) in any European city/town. Never get in the way of vehicles while autostopping. Wear visable clothing. Don't rely on glow-in-the-dark city bicycling knowledge, because that looks tacky to Europeans. Dress in a way that will not offend any European local. Always wear socks for comfort's sake. It's cold up there. But Scandinavia is a good place to autostop. Esp. if you are going south. NEVER HITCHHIKE ON THE AUTOBAHN (FREEWAY IN GERMANY) THIS IS ABSOLUTELY INSANE. THERE IS NO SPEED LIMIT. THINK OF FARRARIS AND STAY OFF!!!!! But don't EVER get mad at someone who picks you up and then goes on the autobahn because they won't if they can't handle highway driving- and it will get you there in no time! If you don't recognize that the driver is German, it is normal to ask if he/she has driven on the autobahn before if he/she tells you- or if you suddenly look at the speedometer! No one will ever drive off the road unless they are drunk. NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE, IN CASE YOU HAVE NEVER COME ACROSS AN ALCHOHOLIC IN A CAR, DO NOT GET IN IF YOU SMELL LIQUOR ON THE DRIVER'S BREATH, OR ANYONE ELSES BREATH, AND IF YOU DO, AND YOU FEEL AFRAID (noteworthy), SAY YOU NEED TO PEE REALLY BADLY, SAY YOU NEED TO STOP IMMEDIATELY, GET OUT, AND SAY YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND. KNOW THIS AHEAD OF TIME. HAVE IT IN YOUR MIND. IF YOU CAN'T TELL, AND THE DRIVER SWERVES ALL OVER THE ROAD, THEN STAY CALM, PRAY IF YOU HAVE TO, BUT IT IS BETTER TO REALLY REALLY ZONE OUT, LIKE YOU ARE STONED ON STRONG POT, AND ACT AS NONCHALANT AND VAGUE AS YOU CAN MUSTER, UNTIL YOU GET TO A PLACE THAT HAS A BED. REMEMBER THAT THE DRIVER WILL NOT DRIVE INTO OTHER VEHICLES IF YOU ARE ON AN AMERICAN FREEWAY, IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES(me), OR ANYWHERE THAT WILL KILL HIM IF HE DRIVES INTO A DITCH. HE/SHE NEEDS YOU TO DRIVE. STAY IN THE CAR. (personal experience.)
BUT NEVER HELP ALCOHOLIC DRIVER'S ON ANY STREETS TWICE IN YOUR LIFE. Only hitchhike if all you have with you is a daypack.

I'm glad that this is an international message board, because all of that came from my brain but it seems, strangely enough, that it has been written somewhere. www.digihitch.com if you have any more questions about hitching places. They will answer your every question about hitching. :)



7. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Hi Isabel,

One last interruption

b/c means "because" That is my shorthand. It appears once, but I can't remember where.

I mean hashish by strong pot- in other words, trip out on stuff like you are stoned on marijuana with high levels of THC. Don't make me write the website down!

In case I wrote this ever: b/w means "between".

FYI is another shorthand that means, "For Your Information" and BTW (I didn't use that, but it took me a while to figure out what that stood for, so I am explaining it to people like me) stands for "By The Way"- it is an afterthought.

I don't have all my life to type, but I like to help people, so I try as best as I can. Hitchhiking is a really broad topic after you have had an experience like I did. And that happened at night in the Canadian Rockies in desperation. It was either hitchhike in the second safest place to hitchhike in Canada, and hope for a semi-trailer-truck (tip from someone who has hitched a lot of British Columbia, the province) or sleep in a marshy ditch overnight and walk 10 km back up to the staff residence of which job I had just quit. I chose the hard place instead of the rock. ("Stuck between a rock and a hard place." -common Canadian saying to explain what a dilemma is, not like we have a lot of those in Canada.)

In case you don't understand this because you speak another language, www.xe/com/ucc

And now I have run out of time, for real.

Take care.

8. Posted by SamSalmon (Respected Member 626 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Not only has bluewaav never been to Latina America he's off his Meds again!

9. Posted by Peter (Admin 6632 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Nice info Steph!!

You're right about Dutch people refusing to speak Dutch. And that's coming from a dutchman. I even found that when I spoke Dutch (my Dutch is a bit rusty, but still fluent!) to some shopkeeper in Amsterdam, she spoke English back. Actually, I think maybe that person didn't even speak Dutch :) In the more rural areas of Holland, there are people who don't speak English though, so a few words of Dutch could be handy.

But I digress. Can't help on the South America front I'm afraid ..