Hitchhiking through the countries of Eastern Europe remains one to get around and is still done by locals who understand the rules and expectations. However, for a foreigner, hitchhiking may not be the best mode of transport through Eastern Europe. Foreigners are seen as especially easy and lucrative prey for criminals. If you do choose to hitchhike through any Eastern or Central European country, take precautions and follow these important safety recommendations.
Hitchhike in Eastern Europe Only When Necessary
Transportation in Eastern Europe may not always be clean, efficient, or comfortable, but hitchhiking is becoming increasingly more dangerous worldwide. If you find you must hitchhike in Eastern Europe, use extreme caution and don't ignore your instincts if something doesn't seem right.
Choose Your Hitchhiking Location Wisely
Avoid trying to hitch a ride on a highway or especially curvy road that might put you or drivers at risk. Cars having to stop on roads where high speeds are required is not safe for you or the drivers. Instead, try to hitchhike from rest stops or gas stations where you can maintain your safety and where cars are stopped. It's also possible that someone may call the police if you try to hitch a ride on a dangerous roadway or freeway where hitchhiking may be illegal.
Ride in the Front Seat When Hitchhiking in Eastern Europe
The backseat of a car places you in a more vulnerable position. Some cars have child safety locks in the back. You need to be able to bolt at the first sign of trouble, so if you have to ride in the back, check that there is no child safety lock impeding you from opening the door from the inside.
Keep Your Bags with You
At any offer to put your luggage in the trunk, politely decline. Keep your luggage close to you—at your feet or on your lap. At a moment when you may need to get out of the car quickly, you want to be able to grab your things as you go.
Keep Documents, Money, Valuables on You
As during every other time you travel in Eastern Europe, you should keep your documents on you in a separate wallet underneath your cloths, which is one of the best packing practices anyway. That way, if a thief takes your main bag, you’ll still have identification and money in case of this, or another, emergency. Keep all cell phones and other expensive devices well out of eyesight as well.
Hitchhike in Eastern Europe with a Friend
Regardless if you are male or female, it's always smart to hitchhike with a friend. A potential criminal will less likely be able to pull anything funny if you and a buddy are watching each others' backs.
Know Your Destination—But Be Vague
Always carry a map so that you know where you are going. When hitchhiking in Eastern Europe, it’s best to give a general location for a location a short distance away—that way, if you suspect the driver has less-than-good intentions, your ride will be short and the driver won’t know your final destination, whether it is a major city or a small town.
Note the Vehicle Type When You Hitchhike in Eastern Europe
When hitchhiking in Eastern Europe, note details of the car (make, model, color and/or license plate number) before you get into the vehicle. Take a photo if possible.If something goes amiss, you can report the driver to the police.
Dress for Weather and Safety
Make sure you pack items of clothing that are weather-friendly and water-repellent in case you find yourself hitchhiking in inclement weather. Also wear inexpensive older clothing that give the impression you may be free of anything valuable. Whether you're dressed for summer or dressed for winter, think carefully about what will protect you when the temperature rises or falls or precipitation or wind increases.
Don't Hesitate to Turn Down a Ride
Negotiate for a ride before you get into the vehicle when hitchhiking in Eastern Europe. If anything makes you suspicious, don't be afraid to politely turn down the ride. Foreigners are seen as especially vulnerable and anyone giving you a ride may try to get money or other things from you. In addition, don't ride with someone you can't communicate with. You don't want any unspoken expectations from the driver for giving you a ride.