I never expected to find myself hitchhiking on the side of the road in Albania. Actually, I never expected that I’d ever hitchhike. It wasn’t on my radar until I was sitting at my hostel in Tirana, Albania sharing future travel plans with the other travelers.
Enter Andi. An experienced hitchhiker and traveler from Austria, Andi was making his way northbound back to Vienna and was planning to hitchhike through Montenegro and Croatia. I was also headed north with my eyes set on Croatia. The rest is history.
Despite my incessant and annoying questions about the safety of hitchhiking, Andi agreed to have me join him in his venture after meeting me only hours before. That’s backpacker mentality at its finest! I was intrigued yet nervous about hitchhiking, especially as a female, but Andi and the other travelers assured me that it was safe in the Balkans. I knew it would be an unforgettable experience and I’m willing to try (most) things once, so off we went!
- Albania-Montenegro on foot
- Montenegro-Croatia on foot
- Croatia-Bosnia by car
- Bosnia-Croatia by car
Cities stopped at:
- Albania: Shkodër
- Montenegro: Ulcinj, Bar, Budva, Kotor
- Croatia: Dubrovnik, Makarska, Supetar (on the lovely island Brač)
- Budva (Montenegro)
- Kotor (Montenegro)
- Makarska (Croatia)
Distance: about 506km
Total hitches: I can’t remember! We hitched roughly 8 rides a day, but sometimes fewer
Our hitch drivers were from all over Europe, mainly Albania, Montenegro, Russia, England, Germany, and Croatia and we were able to communicate with just about all of them. It helped that aside from English, Andi can speak German, Italian, and a little Russian, which makes me realize that I really need to work on my foreign language skills (that’s on my to-do list for Spain!).
I definitely had some notable favorite hitches along the way:
- An Albanian family that drove us out of their way to the Montenegro border because they didn’t think we would be picked up by anyone else in that area
- An Albanian yacht captain living in Greece who shared his life story with us over coffee and juice at a pit stop
- A Romanian couple that drove us from the Montenegro border to Dubrovnik, sharing their wedding and baby daughter’s photos and marveling at our hitchhiking adventure
- Some Russian kids who we all jammed along to Russian and English pop music with on the way to Budva
- A German couple that drove us past their destination to Makarska so that we could easily take the ferry in the morning to Brač
I’ll never forget these people and all of our other hitches for their generosity.
Our days were busy; we would start walking in the mornings to the outskirts of town so that it would be easier to catch rides leaving town in our direction. Sometimes it would be quick and easy to find rides, but there were a few instances where we were standing outside in the sun for an hour or more. Each day was exhausting, but it was rewarding to have covered so much ground in so little time.
Andi taught me the tricks of the trade: try not to wear sunglasses so that you can make eye contact with the drivers, stick out your thumb, and SMILE! Also, gas stations are key because it’s easy to talk to people and find out which direction they are headed. My favorite tactic was sticking out my right thumb and waving with my left hand, I think it made me look friendlier. It worked, although many times my wave was just met with waves of drivers as they sped by me without stopping. At least I was entertaining for them!
A few moments felt surreal for me. On our first day after crossing the Montenegro border, we stopped to have lunch on the side of the road. It consisted of bread with ajvar (a delicious spread of red pepper, eggplant and garlic), tomatoes, and cucumbers. I don’t even like raw tomatoes that much, but I felt so hungry/tired/accomplished because we had made it to Montenegro, I thought to myself, “this is the best tomato I’ve ever had”.
Another day we walked to the outskirts of Budva but couldn’t find a good spot to drop our backpacks and try to hitch a ride. We ended up walking a few kilometers and had to walk through a tunnel to find a spot on the road that had enough shoulder for us to stand next to it. It was very tiring and frustrating when we had to walk long distances, but there was no turning back. The view of the Montenegro coastline was stunning, however, so waiting for a ride wasn’t too terrible!
Hitchhiking the Balkan coast was an experience I know I’ll never forget. Are my hitchhiking days over? Probably not. I would absolutely do it again, but as a female, I won’t hitchhike alone. There were no points along the way in which I felt unsafe hitchhiking with Andi, but I can see how jumping into a car with a stranger might not be the smartest thing to do in a foreign country (have you ever seen Taken? I don’t think Liam Neeson knows me well enough to fly across the world and save me). It’s important to do some research on the safety of the country you’re hitchhiking in and check out resources like Hitchwiki for best routes and tactics. Then stick out your thumb and see where it takes you!