Quick check, you know I love you people right? 😀
NO? Oh my… I am heartbroken now…
Just kidding. 😀
Ok, no more bullshit. I was recently asked by a friend who was my Couchsurfing host in Chile about hitchhiking across the Eurasian continent. As an experienced hitchhiker (sorry, not a very modest guy 😀 😀 ) who also has numerous friends who crossed the Eurasian continent by hitchhiking, I am sure you will find this information useful.
I hitchhiked so far in about 70 countries and in 2014, I was hitchhiking from the Netherlands to China. How was it? I must say that it was the most unforgettable time of my life! WOWO! Had such amazing experiences!
So… there are two directions, Europe to Asia and Asia to Europe (what a surprise!). For most readers of this blog, whom I presume are westerners who do not possess a proficiency in Chinese or other Eastern Asian languages, I strongly suggest you to start from Europe, head for Asia, so that you can gradually get used to the difficulty and the cultural shock.
Of course, if you are an experienced hitchhiker who is more than ready to embrace the most radical cultural shock, feel free to start from any point you want. For example, you can start from Afghanistan, make a circle around all the former Soviet countries and return to Afghanistan! 😛 WOWO!
Basically, there are two routes, the Northern route and the Southern route.
The Northern route is Western Europe — Eastern Europe — Russia — Mongolia/China — South East Asia.
The Southern route is Western Europe — Balkans — Turkey — Iran — Pakistan — India/China — South East Asia.
Northern route advantages: Russia under Putin is a stable and rather well off country. There is no ISIS or other major Islamic extremist groups operating on this route anymore and you only need to arrange the visas of a few countries (mainly Russia and China). Russian is a difficult language but still it is an European language, which makes it easier for European language speakers to learn. In addition, when you get tired of hitchhiking or get scared of bears of the Siberian forest, you can choose to take the Trans Siberian railway. This train ride…… which is claimed to be the longest in the world can be a bit boring, just to warn you. 😛
Northern route disadvantages: The cultural diversity is rather limited comparing with the Southern route. In addition, there is the threat of the long Russian winter, which has been the most effective Russian weapon in almost all major wars in her recent history. As you know, hitchhiking across the vastest continent of our planet is a time consuming enterprise, so to avoid the brutally long Russian winter is essential. Lastly, the Donetsk crisis of 2014 in Ukraine still has some aftermath, which might not be the best for western hitchhikers.
Southern route advantages: Oh man! It is the SILK ROAD! WOWO! The most important ancient trade route in history, which lasted for a period of almost two millenniums! You would have amazing historical and cultural experiences! The hospitality of those Muslim countries en route is amazing, which means that hitchhiking is relatively easy. To be honest, Iran has been so far the easiest country for me to hitchhike. If you have never had any contacts with Persian culture, you will probably be AMAZED at how open, hospitable and civilized the Iranians are (I mean the people, not the government). This route is relatively warm and the landscapes you will encounter are more diverse.
Southern route disadvantages: ISIS, PKK, Syrian rebel groups, Taliban and possibly ETLO are hiding behind the trees (if there are any) to get you! WOWO! These countries are among the most dangerous in the world. I personally hitchhiked through Taliban-influenced area in Pakistani Kashmir and had to overnight in a fortress guarded 24/7/365 by armed police officers. If you cross there in high summer, this route can be quite hot.
Most hitchhikers I met took the Southern route. I did the Southern Route and up until this moment I am still in one piece, so do not let the terror bring you down, brave souls! It is perfectly doable. Once you are there, you will discover how limited and biased the mainstream media is against countries on this route.
I also met some hitchhikers who took the Northern route. A half-German half-Russian girl took a 3-month hitchhiing journey from Berlin to Shanghai. That was pretty fast! She did it in a fast way because she wanted to avoid the crushing Russian winter. 🙂
— Bullshit! There are also other routes!
— Well, that is true and that is why I said “BASICALLY there are two routes”. You can also go through Central Asia, via the ‘Stan’ countries. However, depending on your nationality, Stan countries can be a bit troublesome to get visas. You can also make a detour to the three Caucasus countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) from either route as these three countries feature amazing landscapes and hospitality. WOWO!
Pretty sure you want to prepare ahead so to avoid extreme weather conditions. A snowstorm can get you stuck in a Siberian forest with a couple of bears or Siberian tigers. I am sure it would be an extraordinary adventure! 😀 Of course, if you were stuck in the Iranian desert in July, it would also be quite an adventure. 😀
For the Northern route, It is better to avoid high winter and actually it would be the best to hitchhike through Russian and northeastern China in summer, so you should start hitchhiking from Western Europe in spring or early summer.
For the Southern route, it is advisable to avoid the high summer. As we know, Europe (especially the Northwestern part of Europe) is more fun in summer, when most festivals and cultural events take place, so to start hitchhiking in Europe in summer and enter Turkey in autumn would be the best.
What? You have never hitchhiked?……
That is unforgivable!
Ok, no worries, just refer to hitchwiki and you will be fine, although some information there can be a bit outdated. Of course, the best would be to have an experienced hitchhiker friend and do a hitchhiking together with this friend to get the feeling.
If you do not have much experience with hitchhiking, then I ever strongly suggest you to start your Eurasian trip from Europe. In Europe the environment is safer and hitchhiking is widely understood and accepted, also you would encounter less communication problem than in East Asia or South East Asia.
What? You don’t have a backpack?!……
Go get one then! I am not your dad……
If you want to take the Southern route, bear in mind that IRAN does not have ATMs for foreign banks! I repeat! You can NOT use your bank cards, let it be credit cards or debit cards in IRAN!!!! You have to carry CASH, Euros and dollars being the most convenient!!!
For Iranian visa, you can either apply for it in the Iranian embassy in your country of residence or on your way. In 2014 I was in Istanbul and wanted to apply for the Iranian consulate there. No, the procedures were too tedious and too many documents were needed. I went to several tourist agencies in Istanbul to see if they could arrange it for me with some fee. ALL OF THEM replied with “go to the Iranian Consulate in Trabzon and you can get it in one day.” That was exactly what I did. I hitchhiked to Trabzon in Eastern Turkey and did Couchsurfing there. With some other travelers, including a German dude who walked all the way from Germany and another German dude who biked all the way from Germany and … (yes, more Germans) some Japanese and Korean tourists, we got our visas in one day. WOWO!
For most nationalities, you have to apply for Pakistani visa in your COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE and IN ADVANCE. Of course then you have to enter Pakistan before your visa expires. 🙂 Normally it has a 3-month validity, so you have 3 month from the moment of its issue to reach Pakistan. I know… you want to spend more time in Iran, Turkey or the Caucasus! Totally understandable! 😀 Then you have to find a way to circumvent Pakistan, normally this means that you would have to go through former Soviet Central Asia. Of course, you can also go through Afghanistan (I know you really look forward to that)! I have friends who hitchhiked in Afghanistan and I am planning to do it myself next year. It is totally doable! 😉
Of course it is always nicer to find a hitchhiking partner provided that you two get along well. You might expect to find one on the road, but keep in mind that once you enter the Eastern part of Turkey, there will be much less hitchhikers than in Europe or Western Turkey, so it is rather improbable to encounter a potential hitchpartner en route. Of course, it is still possible to meet some of them on the road. For example, I met a couple of hitchhikers in Iran at the same spot where I was hitchhiking! WOWO! The only problem is…… They were going the opposite direction and one of them was a local homeless old man in rags who did not speak a word of English, so nope, no chance of teaming up.
However, if you want, you can surely find potential hitchpartners. The most useful platform for this would be …… Couchsurfing (CS) website and Facebook groups.
When I was planning to hitchhike through the Balkans to Turkey, I simply posted in the Couchsurfing discussion groups of major cities in the Balkans to ask if anybody would like to join me for the whole or part of the adventure. A 17-year old highschool girl replied and she eventually escaped classes to hitchhike with me in the cold snowy winter! WOWO! Amazing! 🙂
Oh by the way, as you can imagine, it is always more favorable if your hitchpartner does not look like a serial killer. 🙂
Besides, on CS there are also groups related to hitchhiking and you can join them and ask there. To be honest (these three words are not necessary as I have always been an honest guy), CS has changed in the last couple of years, mainly to the bad direction. I heard many complaints about the payment verification and the limitation for requests you can send per week. However, the worst of all is the fact that most new members do not seem to grasp the spirit behind the platform and many are just abusing it as a place to find a free space for sleeping. I have been using CS since 2012 and have more than 300 references at this moment. I pretty much met the coolest people in my life through this platform. So, please use it properly! If you just need a free place to sleep and nothing more, you had better fuck off from CS!
There are a few Facebook groups related to hitchhiking also and for sure, you can post there to try your luck. I will just list a few.
Many countries have their own hitchhiker groups also, which are mostly in their native languages, so for that you need some language proficiency. 🙂
Ok, I am not a sexist, but you know… we have to believe in SCIENCE. According to statistics, the best hitchhiking team would be two girls.
What? You happen to be a guy like me?
Eh… how about dressing up like a girl? Especially if you don’t have big beards!
Just kidding. Then find a girl to team up would be the best choice. 🙂 I personally think one guy one girl combo is the best for hitchhiking, as the guy can provide some security while the girl guarantees that they do not look like serial killers. In Muslim countries where harassment against western females is not uncommon, the guy can also act as the “husband/fiancee/cousin” of the girl. Trust me; many unfavorable situations can be avoided this way.
When I was hitchhiking with female friends in Turkey, almost every time the driver would ask us:”are you two married?” I would immediately (gently of course) grab the hand of my hitchpartner and reply shamelessly:” Yes, we have been married for two years already!”
What a powerful trick!
Since crossing Eurasian continent is a very lengthy journey, normally one cannot find a partner who will do the whole journey with you. That is normal and actually better in many cases. You know, we are sociable animals but still from time to time, we would like to be alone.
All right, I think this would be sufficient for a start. If there are other questions, please feel free to comment and I will do my best to answer. Travelers help travelers! Let’s spread peace and love! 🙂