Hitchhiking the Balkan Coast

Andi trying to hitch us a ride in Montenegro

Andi trying to hitch us a ride in Montenegro

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!

Hitchhiking map

Our approximate hitchhiking route from Albania to Croatia

Logistics:

Borders crossed:

  • 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)

Overnight stays:

  • 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.

Taking a break after walking a few kilometers with our packs

Taking a break after walking a few kilometers with our packs

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”.

Hitchhiking includes A LOT of walking

Hitchhiking includes A LOT of walking

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!

This was our view as we hitched and walked through Montenegro

This was our view as we hitched and walked through Montenegro

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!

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Hitchhiking the Balkan Coast | I never expected to find myself hitchhiking on the side of the road in Albania. Actually, I never expected that I’d ever hitchhike... | Lavi was here.

Have you ever hitchhiked before? If not, would you ever do it?

24 Comments

  1. August 28, 2014 / 10:23 am

    This was such a fun read! I hitchhiked through Albania and Macedonia this summer, and I found the Balkans the easiest region I’ve ever hitchhiked through by far (though hitchhiking tends to always be a little easier for women). Glad you also had a good experience with it!

    • August 29, 2014 / 7:44 am

      Thanks, Silvia! I read your blog all the time! Your post on Albania really put it on the map for me although I ended up not having enough time to go to Saranda. Hopefully another time!

  2. August 28, 2014 / 6:03 pm

    I agree with Silvia above, what an entertaining read!! I love to read about adventures like the one you shared here. I myself haven’t hitchhiked, I tried a couple times but no one picked me up haha Maybe it was because I was wearing sunglasses and couldn’t make eye contact?

    So glad I found your website, I’m a fan!

    • August 29, 2014 / 7:53 am

      You should give hitchhiking another try sometime! It sounds silly but the eye contact thing really helps, I think the drivers can sympathize with you more that way! But trust me, there are times when we were waiting outside in the hot sun a LONG time. Hitchhiking takes a lot more patience than I thought! Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. purnima aunty
    August 28, 2014 / 6:28 pm

    I can only say that you are brave like me. I have done in Bombay hitchhike. (we use to call lift). You are absolutely right it’s risky. We have to be very careful. God is great to take care of us.

    • August 29, 2014 / 7:54 am

      I’m not sure I would have even done it in Bombay! Some places are definitely safer than others!

  4. Kiran
    August 29, 2014 / 1:18 am

    Darling, Montenegro is just wonderful in August. Did you stop by the ladies-only nude beach in Ulcinj? I got super-dark there, laying in the sun for far too long. And the reason you loved the tomatoes is because those tomatoes are the most delicious in the whole world. I still remember them, all these years later, along with the grilled squid and super-fresh dorade and supreme feta. Enjoy!

    • August 29, 2014 / 7:58 am

      I unfortunately just passed through Ulcinj as we were trying to make it up to Kotor the same day so I didn’t get to check out that beach! The grilled squid IS so good! We grilled our own on Braç and it was amazing! I’m definitely going to miss the food of the Balkans!

  5. August 29, 2014 / 11:55 am

    Wonderful travelogue Pallavi, you are really living your dream! Thanks for sharing, stay safe and enjoy the rest of the travel. Beautiful pictures.

    • September 5, 2014 / 4:01 pm

      Thanks, Minati aunty! I hope you stay tuned for my upcoming Spanish adventures!

  6. Vidya Nair
    August 29, 2014 / 2:49 pm

    Lavi, you are having the time of your life. Wish I could be young again, and have all these experiences. You have such good parents who are so brave and strong, to let you out of their sight! WHO ARE THEY :).

    Love you dear. Looking forward to Sep 4.

    • September 5, 2014 / 4:00 pm

      It’s not too late for you to create your own experiences, Mom! I AM very lucky to have amazing parents like you!

  7. EMcA
    August 29, 2014 / 6:44 pm

    Proud of you guyz 😀
    C u in Madrid and Vienna
    Emanuele

    • September 5, 2014 / 3:59 pm

      I’m glad you followed our adventure, Emanuele! How was the rest of your trip? Keep in touch!

  8. Pankaj
    August 31, 2014 / 1:30 pm

    great read and pics!….sounds like lot of fun!! gotta get there sometime…

    • September 5, 2014 / 4:02 pm

      You definitely need to check out the Balkans, it’s an amazing part of the world. There’s so much more that I didn’t get to see on this trip, I need to go back eventually!

  9. January 20, 2015 / 8:22 am

    I just discovered your blog and I love this post! I’m hoping to get to the Balkans later this year and I had never really considered hitchhiking before. I have always been too scared to do so being female and all that. Although lately I’ve read a few different posts about hitchhiking through Europe and I’m slowly opening up to the idea! Can’t wait to read through more of your posts! 🙂

    • January 23, 2015 / 11:52 am

      If you’re nervous about hitchhiking, the Balkans is a great place to try it for the first time. However, I was hitching with an experienced hitchhiker (who was also a male), so I was much more comfortable with the idea. It’s important to do some research on the country you’re planning on hitchhiking in, and try it with a friend! I would definitely do it again if I was in a safe place! 🙂

  10. April 24, 2015 / 4:47 pm

    Absolutely love that area of the world, and I am not sure how you resisted jumping right into that water after making it into Montenegro. Wow, what a view. Funny how everyone is so concerned about the safety of hitchhiking but I have honestly never heard one bad thing.

    • April 24, 2015 / 11:58 pm

      I agree about hitchhiking! It’s people helping other people out of the goodness of their hearts – it’s a beautiful thing!

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