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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Hi 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.