Is it Safe to Hitchhike in New Zealand?
The free way to get from A to B in New Zealand is to hitchhike. Sounds pretty appealing, right? However, over the years more and more countries are making hitchhiking illegal, which makes us wonder if it is really Ok to travel by hitchhiking in New Zealand?
When you’re a budgeting backpacker, you want to cut the costs where ever you can, and hitchhiking is a good way to do it. First, hitchhiking is legal in New Zealand. And second, it’s pretty common practice. However, there are a few risks when it comes to hitchhiking so you do have to take a few safety precautions before jumping in the car with a stranger. For those who are savvy enough to hitchhike, we’ve listed a few tips on how to get picked up quickly when hitchhiking in New Zealand, as well as going through the pros and cons of hitchhiking
So write your destination on a sign, stick out your thumb, look friendly and fun, and get ready to take the free way of travelling in New Zealand!
The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking in New Zealand
Why doesn’t everyone hitchhike? Well, like everything where there are pros there are cons. You just have to decide what you can deal with.
Pros of Hitchhiking
- It’s free!
- Meet some locals and interesting people
- It’s more eco-friendly as you use less gas than you would in your own vehicle
- It’s adventurous – who knows who’ll you’ll meet and what you’ll discover!
Cons of Hitchhiking
- It can be time-consuming trying to get a lift
- You might have to hitch a couple of times to cover long distances
- There is an element of risk
- You can’t spontaneously stop to take photos.
Is it Safe to Hitchhike in New Zealand?
Like most things, when you are hitchhiking in New Zealand, you are taking a chance. Much like if you drive and someone crashes into you or you cross the road and you get run over by a bus. In the case of hitchhiking, there are some untrustworthy individuals out there that you don’t want to get in a car with. Although the chances of being picked up by such individuals are very slim, it could still happen so it’s something to be aware of and be able to identify yourself.
Most stories you’ll hear of hitchhiking in New Zealand are positive ones. Only about one or two bad incidents are reported in the national media per year, for instance, there are only 1.5 homicides per year involving unprovoked attacks on strangers.
Unlike in many other countries, it is legal to hitchhike in New Zealand and is therefore very common practice.
For more information on staying safe in New Zealand, check out Is New Zealand Safe?
Hitchhiking Safety Tips
Be a savvy hitchhiker and increase your safety by following these tips:
- Hitchhike in pairs
- Engage in conversation before you jump in the car. If your instinct tells you something is not right, then simply wait for the next car. (Don’t be afraid to offend people – you’ll never see them again)
- If you start to feel uncomfortable with the driver, whether they are bad at driving, seem like they want to chop you into little pieces, or are a bit “sleazy”, then ask to be dropped off immediately. Come up with an excuse if you have to.
- Text the vehicle registration number to a trusted contact while hitchhiking. Stay in touch with this friend throughout the journey and make the driver aware of that.
- Be cautious about getting in a car with a group of males (whether you’re male or female)
- Have a Plan B. If you are unsuccessful in hitchhiking, at least have an accommodation option or alternative transport. Check out the Bus Networks in New Zealand for more cheap travel options.
- And on that note, don’t hitchhike at night. Not only does this make you look dodgy, but the night also tends to bring out more dodgy people who are more likely to be intoxicated.
How to Be a Successful Hitchhiker
Now that we have all the safety stuff out of the way, let’s move onto how you can be a successful hitchhiker.
As much as you need to be aware of your own safety, remember that drivers are also aware of their own safety. Basically, the safer you look, the more likely you’ll be picked up. With that in mind, make yourself look presentable: shave, shower, wear bright colours (not dark and dangerous colours), smile and look friendly, and don’t wear hats or hoods.
Where to Stand
Where you hitchhike from makes all the difference of how quickly you’ll be picked up. Make sure you stand where drivers have enough time to see, also be where drivers can safely pull over to pick you up. A few especially good spots to increase your chances of being picked up include:
- Outside of the city limits (do this even if it means taking a bus to get to the outskirts)
- At a T-junction where drivers are slowing down anyway, giving them enough time to check you out
- At the exit of a gas station.
A Few Extra Hitchhiking Tips
Finally, a few more tips to make your hitchhiking experience a successful one:
- Make a sign with your destination on it. It’s not necessary but it helps you find people who will want to put up with you. Plus, you can add a quirky little note to make yourself look like a good travel companion
- Don’t look like you have a lot of stuff. Lie your backpack down on the floor and try to avoid travelling with your surfboard
- Don’t hitchhike as a group. This is off-putting to the driver.
- Face the traffic so drivers can see your face.