Cheap Travel

South America

This page gives a quick run down on the ins and outs of hitching in South America. Write us if an Argentine ever picks you up. Feliz viajes!

Argentina:

Good roads, good cars… hard hitchhiking. It’s still a mystery to me how can so many cars with lots of space inside just pass you on the road. But when you eventually do get a ride there’s a good chance it will be a long one, especially in huge, never ending Patagonia. Only be prepared for freezing temperatures in winter and never-stopping wild wind in the summer.

Bolivia:

So far, the hardest country for hitchhiking. Because of the poverty, not many people own cars here, so almost every vehicle on the road functions as some kind of public transportation, either a bus, a taxi or a truck (trucks also carry people for about half the bus fee). So if you want a free ride you have to make it very clear before you get in, and don’t be surprised if the driver refuses. But usually it’s possible to negotiate very reasonable price, even with official, long distance buses.

One thing is to manage to get some kind of a ride. Another thing is to survive it. The distances are enormous and the time your vehicle needs to cover them, even larger. And consider yourself lucky if you’re going on the paved road. Most roads are very poor quality dirt roads winding up or down high mountains, so it does take time, patience and endurance. But the breathtaking views are absolutely worth it. If you’re traveling at the back of a truck at night prepare all the warm clothes you have plus a sleeping bag – it does get below freezing sometimes.

Brazil:

Surprisingly, one of the more difficult countries for hitchhiking, in spite of quite good roads and number of vehicles. But it’s such an enormous country, that it’s hard to generalize. There are regions (like the Amazon, for example) where hitching is easy, and there are regions where it’s really hard. It might depend on the place or on your personal luck this particular day.

But there’s one wonderful thing about hitching in Brasil – almost every gas station offers free coffee, bathrooms and often showers. And amazing buffets, where for a dollar or two (if you’re vegetarian, more if you’re not) you can eat as much as you want, and eat well.

Chile:

Entering from Peru, we entered a different world. A hitchhiker’s paradise. So far it’s been the best country ever for hitchhiking. The roads are excellent, so are the cars. And… so are the people. People who not only have cars, not only stop for hitchhikers but also invite you for lunch and give you phone numbers of their family and friends along the way so that you’ll have a place to stay. But generally hitchhiking is very popular here. Nowhere else did we see so many hitchhikers. But most drivers confess they only stop for foreigners, and only for those more friendly looking.

Chile is an incredibly long country, so you cover huge distances of wonderful landscapes, but at least you don’t have a dilemma where to go. In this country you can only head north or south!

Colombia:

This country is tough. Because of the troubles here and the crime rate people are afraid to pick anybody up. The best option is to go to the place where drivers stop for a meal or gas and talk to them directly. Roads are not so great either, many roads (apart from the main ones) are not paved so get ready for some slow and tough going. But the people (once you manage to talk them into giving you a ride) are some of the most friendly we ever met.

Still be aware that most of the kidnapping in Colombia goes on in the countryside. As a foreigner you are a potential target no matter how poor you consider yourself.

Ecuador:

What a change. We expected it to be similar to Peru and Bolivia but we were positively wrong. The roads are better, more people have cars and generally quickly stop for hitchhikers. Nice experience, only the country is small so it ended too fast.

Paraguay:

We had no problems with hitch-hiking in Paraguay whatsoever. People quickly picked us up, so the only times we had to wait for rides where in the more remote regions of Gran Chaco. There you might wait for hours but not because people pass without noticing you, but because there isn’t much traffic. But you can be sure that when somebody comes, he’ll pick you up.

Getting through Gran Chacko to Bolivia means a lot of patience and endurance – slow, endless hours on the dirt, horribly dusty road. But that’s the only way, and in the end, it’s worth it.

Peru:

Slightly better than Bolivia but generally quite similar. Not many vehicles that are not public transportation, and only some truck drivers will take you without asking for money.

The distances are even larger than in Bolivia and only the main roads are paved. You do need a looooot of time go get to some places, especially if the place is in the more remote region in the mountains and the road is unpaved. Example: it took us three days and nights with one truck from Nazca to (almost) Cuzco.

The situation is a bit better in the north than in the south of the country.

Uruguay:

In this small, quiet country hitch-hiking is quite OK Only you go short distances, from one village to the other, especially off the main road.

Venezuela:

Hitchhiking is quite popular here, many local people hitchhike from one village to the other and if you stick your thumb out everybody understands what you want and will give you a free ride.