By Sally Kay
South America is a huge continent, and a lot of backpackers want to hitchhike through it. But in this vast continent every country is different, so hitchhiking can vary quite a lot. Here is a rough guide to hitchhiking in the different countries of South America.
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Argentina is a wonderful country and hands down one of the safest and best countries for hitchhiking. You may occasionally have to wait a few hours for a ride, but one always comes along. Argentina might not be quite as easy as Chile, but it is still one of the best countries to hitchhike in South America. It’s a good thing too, because bus prices in Argentina can be quite expensive.
In many ways Bolivia is a backpacker’s paradise. Unfortunately, it is one of the poorest counties in South America. Because of this there are very few privately-owned cars and hitchhiking can be extremely difficult. The busses, trucks, and public transport are extremely cheap and would certainly be an easier option in this country.
Brazil is far and away the largest country in South America and one of the most expensive, but hitchhiking here is hit or miss. I have had a truck driver offer me a ride all the way to Rio from Santiago de Chile, but often people have terrible luck finding a ride even a short distance. Brazil is also not one of the safest countries and I would not recommend solo travelers tackle hitchhiking there. On the other hand if you are trying to save money, Brazil’s bus prices are astronomical and the country is huge. It might be a good idea to look for a hitchhiking partner to come with you on your tour of the vast expanse of Brazil.
Chile is a fantastic country for hitchhiking. People pick up both male and female hitchhikers quickly and are extremely friendly. Often they will buy lunch, pay for the hostel or hotel they drop their passengers off at, and take passengers right to the address they are going. Even though it is a relatively safe country, I still wouldn’t recommend women hitchhiking alone, especially at night. Still, with Chilean bus prices quite expensive hitching is a good option to consider.
Colombia is an amazing country. The people are friendly, open, caring, and welcoming; it is unquestionably one of the friendliest countries in South America. On the other hand, Colombia is one of the hardest countries to hitchhike in. Though people do have their own cars and transportation is more expensive than neighboring Peru or Ecuador, rides are few and far between. Though the guerilla is chiefly under control and the country is relatively safe, the country’s violent history is fresh in peoples’ minds. Because of this, many Colombians remain leery of picking up strangers on the road. The government also has run ad campaigns discouraging citizens from picking up hitchhikers which does not help.
If you do decide to hitchhike in Colombia, remember not to offer or accept food or drinks. (this does not apply to being taken to restaurants) In the past, kidnappers have used drugged drinks to capture their victims and sharing your water will not be taken kindly.
Busses in Ecuador are not expensive, about USD $1/hour, but it is possible hitchhike there. You might have to wait a while for a ride, but someone will pick you up.
Peru is another of the poorer countries in South America. Because of this, though it is possible to get rides, people will often ask you to pay for gas. Many truck drivers will even go so far as to ask passengers for a fare, supplementing their paycheck by giving rides to backpackers. Busses in Peru are reasonably inexpensive and rather than wait hours for a ride that you will probably have to pay for anyway, the bus might be a better option here.
Formerly a province of Argentina, Uruguay continues to be similar in many respects, kind of a mini-Argentina if you will. The attitude towards hitchhiking is one of these many commonalities. Though Uruguay is a tiny country, it is up there as one of the safest, easiest countries in South America to hitchhike.
There are varied reports of hitchhiking in Venezuela. Some have tremendous luck while others struggle. As a US citizen I am reticent to go to Venezuela and even more hesitant to hitchhike there. Because of Chavez and his problems with the US government, if US citizens choose to travel to Venezuela it is easier, faster, and safer to take busses. But don’t take my word for it, if you are comfortable and confident with it get out there and prove me wrong!
After graduating from the University of Kansas’ school of Journalism Sally hit the road and hasn’t looked back. She has explored Europe, Africa, South America, and North America, lived in Slovakia, Hungary and Argentina and is currently traveling in South America. She writes about her adventures in the blog www.adventuressetravels.wordpress.com, has had articles in various online travel magazines, and is a travel guru for the website Tripeezy LLC.