Kinds of people you see when hitchhiking

I was Hitchhiking in Europe during my 6 weeks there, and here’s a little observation about the different kinds of people that I saw, when doing so.

  • The ones that smile or wave.

Usually girls, or kids with their families or others who’ve probably not seen many hitchhikers, but are friendly. This is good and and very encouraging for me. It keeps me going.

  • The ones that ignore you completely.

You don’t exist for these people and they can’t see you. Mostly old people and single ladies.

  • The ones that communicate something.

“Not going there, mate”, “My car is full, sorry” … and the likes. Mostly young adults.

  • The ones with a baffled expression. 

What they see, doesn’t make sense to them. Why would anyone be on the road like that?

  • The ones in shiny, fancy cars.

Who never stop.

  • Trucks.

Never stopped in Europe but used to stop for me in Canada.

  • The kind ones.

These people stop for you because they want to help you. They make sure you’re comfortable, and don’t have trouble deviating a little to get you to a nice spot.

  • The cool ones.

They stop for you because they know what hitchhiking is and have probably done it at some point in their lives.

 

I’m missing a lot of categories, but this covers most of the people that I noticed.

Finnish people and culture

I spent 5 days in Finland as a part of my 6 weeks in Europe, and I have to say Finnish people are slightly odd 😀

Not in a bad way though. Before I say more, watch this behind the scenes video of Jimmy Kimmel’s show:

https://tune.pk/video/2541067/jimmy-kimmel-chats-with-his-studio-audience-guys-from-finland

That’s what Finnish people are stereotyped to be: quiet, reserved, unexcited.

The only time Finnish people talk are when they have had alcohol or are half naked in the sauna 🙂

Finnish people love their saunas. Everyone has access to at least one either close by, or in their homes, or a common one at the apartments. It’s very central to Finnish culture and if you talk to any Finnish person for some amount of time you will hear the word sauna come up. It’s how they live and how they survive the winters and it’s equally fun in summers because summers are just pleasant 15 celsius.

I was in Oulu for majority of my time in Finland, and this is the sauna that I tried out (the hut):

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I went here twice. Once during the afternoon, where I found 2-3 people. Other time past midnight, since it was my last day here, and it was full! And since everyone had alcohol in their system at night, they were so talkative! I had at least 4-5 people who were curious about me being there.

The place is run by volunteers and is open to everyone. The cabin, had a place inside to burn wood, over which there were stones. There were two buckets of water in the room and you throw water on hot stones to generate steam.

You stay inside the room till you’re comfortable. After some time you get quite hot, and it’s impossible to stay in longer. At this point, you come out and jump into the river. The river which would feel cold otherwise, feels refreshing after coming out of the sauna. I would dive in multiple times, before I repeated the same process again.

You do the sauna + dip, on loop, till the point you are content.

It’s very relaxing, and highly recommended if you ever go to Finland. Sure you have sauna rooms in gyms but they are not the same.


The sauna pic is taken at 1 am.It was never dark in Oulu during this period. The sun wasn’t there at midnight, but it was bright. I believe they call this “white nights”.

Oulu was very safe. I was out late at night on most days and even out till 5 am on the one that I went to sauna. I didn’t see any homeless people. Surely there must be some in cities like Helsinki, but I couldn’t see any here. The country is highly socialist. Basically, you have to be an idiot to be on the streets. There’s free healthcare, free education, social security if you’re unemployed where you get a place to stay and money to survive. Students get money while studying in colleges!

Finland was also the only place where my hitchhiking attempts did not work. 5 hours at a busy highway and not a single ride. I didn’t take it to heart though, they are just from a different culture.

I did meet wonderful Finnish people when I was there. Friendly and warm couchsurfers, plus a couple of friends that I made at the music festival that I attended. By the way, Finland has amongst the best metal music in the world. If you didn’t know it’s amongst the highest metal bands per capita regions. Look at the bright red in this graph below:

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I saw the bands Kalmah, Swallow the Sun, and Moonsorrow, and a few others, who were the main reasons for me to attend Jalometalli. The 3 that I mentioned are bloody amazing bands <3  Some pictures:


The country is perfect, except for the fact that it’s pretty much flat and hence no opportunities for hiking. It has tons of lakes though, more than 150k, which is a lot if you consider that there are just 5 million people.

The featured image of this post is again a picture that I took past midnight, at a place called Hetta. Very hypnotising view!

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Hitchhiking in Europe

If any of you don’t know what hitchhiking is, it’s basically standing near highways (mostly), with a sweet smile on your face and your thumb sticking out, hoping to get lifts from people going in your direction. Something like the pic above (not me):

As a part of maintaining the overall cost of my Eurotrip, I was hitchhiking when I was there. Not all the time, but did it whenever I wasn’t too tired or in a time constraint to reach my next destination. This also answers one aspect of “how I travelled”, that I promised to talk about in the post titled 6 weeks in Europe.

But cutting down costs wasn’t the only reason. In fact, it wasn’t even the primary reason. The main motive was to spice things up, meet people and have fun 🙂

A 3 hour train ride or a 5 hour bus ride is extremely boring if you are alone. It feels like wasted time on your trip. On the other hand even if you spend 8 hours hitchhiking instead, the journey becomes an adventure in itself. You have people to talk to the entire time and sometimes making fun of yourself on the road is fun 🙂 It’s also nice to have a little trust in strangers.

I first hitchhiked 4 years ago in Canada. It was born out of necessity. There were no trains and the buses were infrequent or even non-existent. And it worked the first day that I tried it (interesting story, may be some day in another post).  I didn’t get an opportunity to do it again till my trip and I’ve never done it in India.

I think, I was reminded of this by a Russian guy who I hosted in Bangalore, who had been hitchhiking for 4 months in India, by the time he came here. What other way to make my trip offbeat than to hitchhike around!


My hitchhiking stats for the trip look something like this:

Number of days tried – 7
Number of days successful – 6 (I see you, Finland)
Rides hitched – 14
Distance ~ 1300 kms

The ease of doing this varied by countries and regions. It was very easy in western Europe. My first day, was trying to get to Amsterdam from Ghent, and I was successful in doing so. I had to wait <5 mins for my first ride from Ghent to Antwerpen. It was an excellent spot suggested to me by my Couchsurfing host. So the feeling how “What the heck am I doing?” was short lived 🙂
3 more rides Antwerpen -> Rotterdam -> Den Hague -> Amsterdam took me to my destination. On this day, I had single woman in cars stopping for me.

It became considerably harder in Sweden. My next attempt was from Malmo to Gothenburg, in Sweden. Here I had to wait for 1.5 hours before a taxi pulled over. Slightly confused with this, I went ahead and talked to the guy. As my luck would have it, he was okay with me going along and was going all the way to Gothenburg! 1 straight ride!

The interesting thing was that the guy was from Iran and had moved to Sweden more than a decade ago.  People had told me, and I had read, that hitchhiking is quite hard in the Scandinavian countries. People are more reserved and don’t like the concept of picking up strangers. My host in Gothenburg suggested that I do something with my board, because being a “dark skinned guy, with a beard, doesn’t help”. I still didn’t want to give up though, so the next time when hitchhiking to Stockholm, I had this board, along with a small Swedish flag on top:

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To give you a perspective of how big the board is, look at this pic of the board with my backpack:

IMG_20160706_111502

The one for Stockholm did work. A woman, probably in her fifties, and has an Indian godson, stopped for me. She was rocking to Bruce Springsteen and drove 20 kms ahead of her spot to drop me at a good gas station, so that I could hitch a ride easily.

The one place it didn’t work was Finland. I stood for 5 hours in Turku at a nice stop with the board above, but no one stopped. Not even a single ride. I took the bus at night to go to Oulu.

Norway was okay. The usual 1-2 hour waiting times did apply though.

I didn’t take pictures in the beginning which I deeply regretted later on, and made it a point to request for one. Some pics:

The last ones have an interesting Instagram account as well. Their van was called rico on the run.


For your chances of success to be high, it’s nice to stand at a spot where you are visible from some distance away. There also definitely has to be a place for cars to pull over for you easily, otherwise they won’t/can’t stop for you. If you are a girl and/or have white skin it’s a LOT easier. The immigration problems in Europe don’t help someone like me.

It’s only a few seconds for people to make decisions so you really have to look friendly out there. The other better option is to be at gas stations. Here there is the added advantage of being personal and talking to people, so that they get time to judge you. Just ask them if they are going in that direction and if they could accommodate with you. Say thank you even if they say no 🙂

The presence of sun late at nights and the all brightness, definitely helped.

Hitchwiki is an amazing site, that give a lot of tips and spots to be at, for different cities.

10/10 would do again.

Most beautiful place on my trip to Europe?

“Most beautiful place that I saw?” or “Which was the best place that I went to on my trip?” are variations of the most common question that I receive from people. And the answer is easy:

Norway!

Norway is amazing. Period.

I think I even have a new all time favorite country, displacing the undefeated champion since the past 4 years: Canada. But since Canada is my first love, I can call it a tie 🙂

This is what my hike that I did on the first day in Norway, in the city Tromso, looked like:

 

I went in with zero expectations. What makes this really special is that the time in these pictures is around midnight! The clear ones are at around 10 pm. The ones with the least sun are at around 1 am.

I was blown away by how beautiful this was. I had no words to describe this. It was by far the most beautiful thing that I had seen ever.

When I started the hike at around 9:30 pm, the sky was clear and gradually by 11 pm when I made it to the top, the clouds moved in perfectly over the city. When on the edge of the place, lying down, it almost felt like the clouds are the sea, with mountains and sunlight above them.

I was thinking, “why don’t I just stay here forever?” The hut had a restaurant and washroom, and I had my tent up there to sleep for the night. If this is what Norway was going to offer me, I was in for a treat! I was super glad that I kept 11-12 days for Norway.

I later found out this phenomenon of the clouds moving in at the perfect time at around midnight, happens only 7-8 times a year. I was very lucky to see this. This video is a time lapse of the entire thing, which might be from the same day that I was up there:

 

Sadly the weather wasn’t like this the entire time I was there. It rained continuously for the next 2-3 days. Didn’t deter us from hiking another spot:

I was with my Couchsurfing host and other guests at his place. A steep one, which was also quite slippery due to the rain.

After Tromso, I went to Lofoten, the starting of which I’ve written in the post titled Nomad in Norway.

During the last two days in Lofoten, I went to a beach called Haukland Beach. It was my 3rd option in things to do that day, which I was cycling through in the morning. When the first two didn’t work out, I decided to pick a place at random and go there and camp for a day, before coming back.

I’m glad that I did this one, because this one even beat the first place in terms of views!

Here you go:

 

I reached the place at around 4 pm and hung out by the beach, with a group of people who had given me a ride for the last 8 kms, after getting down from the bus. I didn’t know whether any of the surrounding mountains were hikeable and neither did they. When they left at around 8, I pitched my tent, and did a hike on the shorter mountain in front of the beach. I came down and saw people going to some other spot and followed them.

This was a longer and much steeper hike. I started at 9:30 pm and made it up at by 11. The scene was surreal.

On one side you can see the pristine blue waters, the sandy beach with my tent next to it, and amazing Norwegian fjords. On the other side you could see the sun shining nice and bright above the horizon. All of this at around 11:30 pm. A little while later, when the sun was just above the horizon, you could see the full moon on the other side!

Basically, Pristine blue beach + Norwegian fjords + Amazing hike + Midnight sun + Full moon + Camping. Everything that you see at separate times, or in groups of 2 were all present at the same moment of time.

I think it’s impossible to beat this. I spent the night next to the beach and went back next day.

My couchsurfing host on the last day, had a place next to a fjords with views of normal mountains, snow mountains and a waterfall. There was also a hike 5 minutes walk away from her place.

Norway is unreal. Norway is spectacular. Norway is utopia.

Cost of spending 6 weeks in Europe

Vivek, you’ve been talking about why you did the trip, and all of that extra philosophical stuff that we don’t care about. We know that you had a wonderful time. Let’s get to the elephant in the room. How much did it cost you?

Umm, I think it was fairly alright. I never really had a budget for my trip. I also overestimated the amount that I would spent and then just to use up the Euros from my forex card, paid 2% extra as conversion rate in all Scandinavian countries for more than half of my time 1. Plus I could’ve saved …

Ahem, HOW MUCH did it cost you?

Around 165000-170,000 Indian rupees or 2125 euros ( 1 euro = 80 Indian rupees, roughly)

What?!


Yes, that was the cost of spending 6 weeks. Well, apart from whatever hit that takes on your career 😛

This is where I spent my money:

Accommodation

Couchsurfing – 27 nights
Hostels – 2
Camping – 9 (4 at music festival + 5 wild)
Bus – 1
Airport -2

Total nights – 41
Money spent – 44 euros 🙂

Transport (intercity)

Buses – 2317 kms, 162 euros
Ferry – 21 euros
Train – 149 kms, 36 euros
Rideshare – 1415 kms, 72 euros
Hitchhiking – 1300 kms, Free 🙂

Total distance – 5181 kms
Money spent – 286 euros

Mobile internet cost – 82 euros
Music festival tickets – 335 euros
Flight tickets – 240 euros (Europe, Narvik-Oslo 140, Oslo-Paris 100) + 450 euros (India-Europe) = 690 euros
Visa – 90 euros
Tent, foam pad etc – 30 euros
Food, local bus/train, Misc = 2125 – 1557 = 568 euros
Total = 1,70,000 INR = 2125 euros

 

There are two main reasons why this trip is cheap. Firstly, there is barely any accommodation cost. 2 nights at hostels were the only place where I spent money. Second, I did not have a rail pass. It’s 600 euros for a month long rail pass. Plus, it’s still not free to travel even if you have one. You need to pay money over top for reservations. People assume you need a rail pass when travelling in Europe, but that’s not the case.

I had to spend 240 Euros for flight tickets to Paris from the north of Norway. I also had to spend around 70 euros in buses for my last two days in Lofoten Islands in Norway. This was money that I had to spend because I ran out of time. I would’ve preferred to hitchhike but it’s more time consuming. It’s always time vs money, and I chose to spend money to get a few more days to see stuff. If I had 2-3 weeks more, it would’ve been pretty much the same cost overall.

I had to get expensive mobile internet because French people are bums and don’t speak English (sorry, no offence). It’s cheaper to get a local sim card in each country (or even survive without a sim), but it was hard conveying your message to shopkeepers in Paris, that you wanted something with internet and validity. I ended up buy a sim from Orange that works in all Schengen countries. 40 euros, 2 weeks validity for sim; 21 euros every 2 weeks for recharges.

335 euros for music festival tickets to see my favorite bands play live. I saw around 32 bands play live and had 6 days of live music on the trip.

I didn’t eat out at restaurants but cooked my own food on most days, since I had a kitchen at my Couchsurfing hosts. The most expensive thing I ate was a 13 euro burger in Copenhagen. At the same time I was never hungry or never had the motive of being frugal on food. I always left extra food at my Couchsurfing hosts and/or cooked for them.

So that’s it. When you’re travelling everything apart from flight tickets is up to you. It can be as cheap as you want it to be. I met a guy whose average cost was 1.5 euro/day in Norway. A girl whose spent around 50 euros every two weeks. Travel, Acco, Food are your three main levers and you try to cut down costs in whichever way you can. And the longer you travel, the cheaper it gets 🙂


  1. Denmark, Sweden and Norway have their own currency, separate from Euro. My forex card can have multiple currencies, but if you try to pay with a different currency there’s a 2% extra charge. Since I had too many Euros left on the card, it made sense to use them instead of recharging with other currencies, since all the Euros left on the card depreciate by 5% every year, with no interest.