Africa
How to hitchhike in Africa like a pro
November 6, 2013
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As an African travel activist, I thought it would be fitting to  feature guest posts from African travellers who inspire me, in the hope that they will inspire you too.

hitchhiking uganda africa

Here’s the first in my Afritravelers series from my friend Doron du Toit who recently hitch-hiked through Africa solo with just his tent and his backpack. When I heard about Doron’s journey, I was truly inspired by his determination to challenge people’s stereotypes of African travel. I can’t think of a better person to share his experiences of hitchhiking in Africa.

 

Afritraveler series: Doron du Toit

On hitchhiking in Africa

We all love the adventure and romance of travelling. The freedom of the open road. I made that a personal reality recently when I travelled more than 28,000 kilometres by land across Africa, passing through 22 countries and territories.

Hitchhiking africa

Doron du Toit, Afritraveller, walking the Mali-Senegal border

 

Over 20,000km’s of the journey were covered by hitching rides in all types of trucks and cars, as I leisurely went from South Africa north to Sudan, then west across the Sahel to Senegal and up to Morocco.  It’s easier than you think, and here are some tips to help you get started on the road:

Top 10 Tips For Hitchhiking In Africa

hitchhiking africa

sunrise over Western Sahara

 

1.  Start early:  Before 9am. Truckers hit the road early to cover distance before it gets hot.

2.   Walk and hitch: Don’t be lazy standing on the side of the road. Someone will pick you up. The saying “no food for lazy man”  (a popular bumper sticker in Malawi) applies here.

 

hitchhiking togo

Walking and hitching in Togo

 

3.  Hand signals: There are generally two main hand signals in Africa  – the traditional hitch-hikers thumb, or your arm out at 90 degrees to your side, palm down, waving vehicles down. Your thumb has the power to bring 100-ton trucks to a grinding halt and they will offer you a ride!

4. Ask about payment before you get in: Greet the occupants before enquiring about the destination and payment. Rides are usually free, but ask politely if the ride is free. You can pay your way if you feel inclined to.

 

hitchhiking kenya afritravel

hitchhiking in Kenya

 

5. Listen to your instincts:  It’s alright to say no to any vehicle that’s stopped for you if you don’t feel comfortable about getting in or continuing. Be politely firm.

6.  Let someone know your direction of travel:  For example, it’s more than 2000km from Dakar to Agadir, so let friends & family know they may not hear from you for a while.

 

hitchhiking mali

roadside food – Bamako, Mali

 

7.  Plan for the road ahead: Take water, food, visas, medicine. Don’t just walk into the desert, rather wait for a ride. Travel lightly; you are taking up space that locals often pay for.

8.  Give back: To keep generosity flowing. People will give you lifts, feed you, and give you shelter. There’s always a way to give back.

 

hitchhiking Africa

hitching in Darfur

 

9.  Be ready to rough it: When travelling long-distances town to town, or across borders, you may need to sit in the back with 20 people in a 10-person space with sacks of grain, cement, animals, and strange smells. Or you may be given the front seat of honour. Your bed could be truck seats, the floor, a cot on the side of the road, or your tent. Adapt and smile.

10. Attitude: Be open-minded and respectful of your host’s culture. Handy tools like humour, patience, and good looks should be kept nearby in case of an emergency and general use. Share your conversation and food with the kind people who give you rides.

 

hitchhiking africa

Nile River, Murchison Falls, Uganda

 

Remember, the journey is more important than the destination, and one particular way of travelling. If hitch-hiking doesn’t work in one area, try buses, taxis, or trains, but make sure you enjoy the journey. Safe roads to you all!

 

hitchhiking africa afritravel

Its all about the journey (Zambia)

Some stats…

Number of countries travelled through: 22 including 1 non-self-governing territory (Western Sahara) and 1 unrecognised independent republic (Somaliland)
Level of fun and adventure: Beyond epic.
Number of km by road: 28,000+ km
Number of months on the road: 14 months
Equator crossings: 3
Number of truly dangerous encounters while hitch-hiking: 0
Malarial, bilharzia, and other issues: 0

 

About Doron Du Toit
afritravelHi folks. I’m Doron –  a writer, adventurer, budding musician, and an advocate of independent-solo-one-way-travel. I left the corporate world to pursue one of my passions: crossing Africa with a tent, fishing-rod & backpack. I currently live, write & strum in Canada. I’m an African son, through and through. Check out my blog or find me  on Twitter @dorondutoit

 

 

* All photos copyright Doron Du Toit

 

Have you hitchhiked in Africa? Share your experiences in the comments below.

 

About author

Meruschka Govender

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There are 15 comments

  • Jenna says:

    This is so inspiring! Wonderful guest post – am aching to spend a year or so travelling Africa 🙂

  • Zaid says:

    Yoh! I’m not sure if I could travel that way on purpose. I could in a an emergency, but this sounds like real guts! I guess its the best way to meet the locals, and get to places that are “off the beaten path”

    • mzansigirl says:

      Hi Zaid. I’ve met quite a few people who’ve hitchhiked in Africa safely. I’ve only done it a couple of times – in Swaziland and Mozambique – which were both a great fun. Its a great way to meet people, travel more sustainably and have an adventure. You really learn to trust your instinct. That being said, its definitely not for everybody.

  • Sarah says:

    Awesome post! I’ve hitchhiked some parts of Uganda and Tanzania, but this.. this is… top level! 😀 very inspiring!

  • Chris says:

    hitch hiking is a fantastic mode of travel! you get to see so many new things

  • Ballito says:

    Looks like you had yourself a pretty epic journey. It’s great to hear that you still can hitchhike through some parts of Africa without worries.

  • […] Hitchhiking: This isn’t something I would do from the roadside personally, but I know people who have. Hitchhiking anywhere in the world carries risks, Africa is no different. If you are really on a budget, the best thing to do would be to ask the other guests (there are often overlanders who could give you a lift) or staff at your hostel/hotel can hook you up with a ride (in my experience, Africans are very well connected – especially those that work in the tourist industry)! For example, I was camping at Lake Malawi, few days to spare before a Lilongwe to Jo’burg flight, and met a group who offered to take me with them overland to Jo’burg instead. I ended up taking a quick trip to Zambia instead to pass the time, but the safari was longer than I had so I made my own way back to Malawi with the help of the camp barman. True story. The only time this isn’t great is when you’re on a schedule, but schedules in Africa are a bad idea anyway! If your heart is set on hitchhiking, I found this great post on Mzansi Girl which has some tips for hitchiking in Africa. […]

  • Great advice thank-you. I’ve done some hitchhiking in Europe, Australia and South America, but would be interested to try Africa some time. 🙂

    • Meruschka Govender says:

      Hi Katie! You should try it! I’ve met a few travellers who’ve travelled Africa just by hitchhiking.

    • rose says:

      Hey, did u ever hitch hike across Africa? Am Rose in Joburg itching to drop everything & go….Sometime is here Katie….lets! 🙂

  • Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you will be a great
    author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and may
    come back later on. I want to encourage you to continue your great writing, have a nice weekend!

  • These are some very practical and helpful tips, Meruschka! Africa seems breath-taking!

  • […] definitely one of the best ways to get to know this place. Forget about renting a 4×4 and go hitchhiking in Namibia, Malawi or Botswana. You will have exciting experiences, you will get in touch with the […]

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