Your guide to hitchhiking through Europe

Fiachradh McDermott spills the details on his time hitchhiking and tells us why it's an unbelievable way to travel

It’s the summer and people are thinking of travelling. If you're considering a different way of doing it, like hitchhiking across the continent, here’s a few things to consider:

Hitchhiking is a dirty word

Hitchhiking is fraught with negativity in modern day times, though for the most part, much of this is false. Bad things happen, just as bad things can always happen, but I’ve always found it one of the most enjoyable ways to travel.

Skirting through a countryside so foreign to your own is a beautiful feeling, but nothing compares to the absolute freedom of being able to say, “I want to go there so I will.” You’re commanded only by your ingenuity rather than what your capital can muster.

Pack light

It’s always important to pack lightly, and you’d be surprised how little clothes you need when you’re used to not showering for extended periods of time. Sounds bad, but when you walk across the border from Bulgaria to Serbia wondering how you ended up here, you tend to forget the little insignificant things. Three t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, endless underwear and water are really the only essentials. Everything else is somewhat arbitrary, but up to an individual to decide.

Sleeping free

Hostels in Europe are dirt cheap compared to home, so upon arriving in any city, you can sort yourself out easily enough. However, the unfiltered liberty of being able to pitch a tent along a road in the middle of the countryside is even better. When you realise you can sleep anywhere you want and you’ll be comfortable, you’ve found inner freedom. Some nights, weather permitting, you can kip out on the grass or on some tarp. It sounds unfavourable, but you’ll find yourself in a hostel with a soft pillow straining your neck because you’re so used to resting your head on your arm.

Serendipitous discovery

My favourite aspect about hitching is the fact that I ended up in places I hardly even knew existed. Aiming for Italy, I ended up in Romania for two weeks. Someone says they’re going this way so grand, let’s go that way. There’s no itinerary to follow so it’s not like you’re losing time going on an adventure.

I ended up on the Black Sea kicking it on a beautiful beach that used to be a hippy commune. I walked across the border into Hungary, then later again into Serbia. Then I spent time in the Serbian mountains, that took my breath away. I also stayed in Bratislava four times that year, three on the hitching trip, and became a local in a bar. Hitched alone for the first time into Warsaw, Poland and nearly lost my mind I was so terrified. Spent a week hitching around Lake Balaton in Hungary in 40-degree weather, spending all day in the lake and each night in the forest. Got an overnight train in Bulgaria because we were absolutely exhausted with hitching and the mental toll it can take on you (it happens, but it’s not a total negative). Lived on a steady diet of cheese sandwiches and cans of beans. Learned how to say hello in strange languages. Discovered Romania was incredibly different to any other country I was ever in, and just how beautiful the people are there.

People on the road

Places are great and cities have wonderful breath-taking architecture, but people always matter more. I’ve met the most amazing people in the most unlikely of places, and still keep in contact with a great many of them to this day. I’ve always felt that meeting someone on the road is a special connection, one traveller to another. Seeing another hitchhiker on the road is always fun too, and stories are endless.

Lessons learned

I learned a great many lessons about people and myself through hitching, most notably that people can be nice, and people will go far out of their way to help you for no gain to themselves other than just wanting to genuinely help. I also discovered a great deal about myself and how to handle situations you don’t encounter at home, like where do I sleep, or where food is coming from, or where on Earth am I standing?

Most importantly, I found freedom, a feeling that never leaves your mind once you taste it.

All I have to say really is just do it, stand on the side of the road and stick the thumb out.

Looking out at the longer evenings makes me want to hit the road again and end up somewhere I didn’t know existed.

Read other news on the city site of Dublin.
hitchhiking throughEurope guide
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
4 views in december
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

A Dublin mother is extremely concerned for the welfare of her 15-year-old son after he never came home from the shop yesterday. Aleksejs Snitko went to the Tesco shop in Balbriggan yesterday, Saturday December 9 at around 4.30pm. His mother Iveta told Dublin Live that when her son left the home, he was wearing light grey basketball shoes, tight sport trousers and a warm navy jacket with a hoodie. He was also carrying a black and blue Puma school bag. The t...
A man and woman were arrested following a stabbing incident that left Dublin city centre on lockdown on Sunday evening. The pair were taken to Pearse st station after another man in his early 20s was hospitalised with 'non-fatal injuries'. It is believed a fight spilled out onto the road with one witness telling Dublin Live that she thought the man was going to be "throw him into the river". She said: "They stopped the traffic while they were fighting that...
The final report into the marine tragedy in which Doolin-based volunteer coastguard crew member Caitríona Lucas died in 2016 is critical of safety aspects of the operation. It concluded that the Delta Rigid Inflatable Boat that capsized was launched in conditions that were outside the operational limits of the vessel and that there were deficiencies with its communications and navigational equipment. Ms Lucas, a 41-year-old mother-of-two living in Liscanno...
A software development company is to create 85 jobs in Galway over the next 12 months. MathWorks says the expansion will lead to the recruitment of candidates with sales, service, marketing or administrative skills. It hopes to hire 20 people immediately with the remaining 65 roles being filled in 2019. The company opened an office in Galway two years ago. It provides sales and services support throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with staff operat...
A woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by a taxi driver in North Dublin on Saturday night. The woman, believed to be in her 30s, had been picked up by a registered taxi from the Main Street in Malahide after socialising in the area and was heading in the Swords direction. It is believed after the taxi driver dropped off the other people in the car, the alleged victim was left alone with the driver for a stretch of road. The taxi driver then allegedly sex...
A man was yesterday convicted of assaulting and injuring his neighbour by “continuously punching and head-butting him”. Peter Lambe, 50, was found guilty of assaulting 62-year-old Gerard Furlong after he pinned the grandad to the ground and left him bloodied and bruised. The victim, who said he is still in constant fear, suffered serious facial injuries during the frenzied attack on March 4, 2016, which came after ongoing disputes. Mr Furlong described how...
The long-suffering father of Trevor Deely has told how he refuses to abandon his dream that his missing son will one day walk back through the front door of his family home. Heartbroken parents Michael and Ann Deely have endured yet another agonising year in which not one single lead has emerged into their youngest son’s baffling disappearance. But speaking on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the last sighting of the then-22-year-old, resolute Michael sa...
The funny note left on the car, which will teach them. A motorist in Dublin was left with a hilarious note on their car after some "arseways parking". A Dublin Live reader sent us in a picture of the unique note perched on the window of the vehicle. The note says: "Many three year olds have trouble staying within the lines. "Maybe if you practice colouring this turtle, it will help with your parking." The reader said the driver was parked "arseways" outsid...
A surge in Corporation Tax payments last month will go towards making Ireland's finances safer by the end of the year, the Minister for Finance has said. When asked whether the additional money could be spent on alleviating the housing crisis, Paschal Donohoe said he has made some of the funding available for the needs of today. However, he said that "the right thing to do" is to allow the "higher than expected tax collection to flow through into improving...