ANTON  KROTOV «Practice of Free Travels or Free Travels in Practice (In English) » á×ÔÏÒ ÒÕÓÓËÏÇÏ ÔÅËÓÔÁ: áÎÔÏÎ ëÒÏÔÏ×, 1995-2007
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Foreword

HITCHHIKING

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SCHOOLS OF HITCHHIKING

HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP

THE POSITION ON THE ROAD

THUMBING RIDE TECHNIQUE

HOW TO BEHAVE IN A CAR

THE WAVE. HITCHHIKING AT NIGHT

HITCHHIKING IN WINTER

PASSING THROUGH THE CITIES

ABOUT CALCULATING YOUR SPEED

HITCHHIKING ON REMOTE ROADS

GROUPED MOVING

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT HITCHHIKING

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TRAINS

SEA AND RIVER

CONTACTING PEOPLE

LONG TRAVELS

Hitchhiking is a free travelling with the help of passing cars. There are two wrong opinions about hitchhiking. One of them states: "nowadays no one will take you for free" (or: "for free!? That’s impossible!"). The other wrong opinion states that "to stop a necessary car is a pure accident ", "it’s impossible to foretell when you get to the place" etc. Luckily, these opinions are disproved by the experience of great number of hitchhikers (including my own experience). Drivers give us a lift (in cars and trucks as well), don’t ask for money, and, besides, you can control the process of hitchhiking.

Moreover, if you learn how to hitchhike in Russia, you’ll be able to do it in Commonwealth of Independent States, countries of Eurasia and Africa and in the whole world. The rules are just the same! And you can make sure that it is so as soon as you want.

Like any other activity you can hitchhike professionally or do it from time to timeâ just when you need it. Spontaneous hitchhiking, without any rules and methods appeared in the first decades of XXth century when motor transport was invented. At our days many people sometimes stop cars and go to somewhere with them, sometimes for free. But not all of them know that the information about hitchhiking can be gathered in a harmonious system, which allow you to make the process of hitchhiking a powerful and universal way of travelling.

A person who has learned the methods of hitchhiking can cover up to one thousand kilometers (620 miles) and even more per twenty-for hours on highways of Russia and the whole world, with average speed (in the daytime, on main roads) about 55 km/hour (35 miles/hour). For example, if you start from Moscow, this very day you can reach St. Petersburg or Minsk; in twenty-for hours you can reach Petrozavodsk, or Samara, or Brest, or Rostov-on-Don. And during your trip you won’t need money for transport and you won’t be depended of train schedules and electric train schedules. Sometimes you’ll be moving even quicker than trains. And even more! Your journey will be more cognitive, you’ll learned things that you would never have learned, and – you will feel the real aroma of the road.

There are several schools of hitchhiking in Russia. The oldest one is Petersburg League of Hitchhiking (PLAS). It was created in 1978. The founder of PLAS is Aleksey Vorov who hitchhiked more than one million six hundred thousand kilometers (1 600 000 km or 995 000 miles). This is an absolute record.

For many years Aleksey Vorov teaches people how to hitchhike in a sport manner. That means to move fast and as fast as possible. To master in high-speed hitchhiking members of PLAS organize lectures and competitions. They also use special equipment. An experienced member of PLAS can cover (in summer time and on highways) about 1100-1400 kilometers per twenty-four hours moving during the day and during the night as well. You can easily recognize a member of PLAS on the road by special bright yellow suits.

The author of this book has learned a lot through communication with Aleksey Vorov and his followers.

The most serious achievement of PLAS is the round-the-world hitchhiking trip which is known as “AutoColumb” (1992-1993). The members of this trip hitchhiked round the world not using any regular transport. They crossed 25 countries of Eurasia, North and South America.

More detailed information about PLAS you can see on www.pasl.spb.ru

The second school of hitchhiking in Russia is called Moscow Hitchhiking School. It is situated in Moscow and was founded by a Moscow hitchhiker Valeriy Shanin in 1994. At that time he published his book “Hitchhiking in the USA and Europe”. Even nowadays you can find it in some bookshops of Russia. He also wrote some more books.

During 1990th Valeriy and his followers from “Hitchhiking School” travelled all over the Europe (with visas and without them as well). Nowadays Valeriy and his followers are fond of Asia countries. Valeryy Shanin also made a trip round the world (he used not hitchhiking only but also other transport) in 2000-2002. He also wrote some guide-books about Europe, Turkey and South-East Asia. Meetings of “the Moscow Hitchhiking School” are organized every Saturday. More detailed information you can see on www.msha-club.ru

You can recognize Shanin and his followers on the road by a special gesture. It’s traditional hitchhiking gesture. While thumbing a lift they keep their thump up.

Probably, the most ancient hitchhikers are hippies. Through decades hundreds and thousands of hairy people have gathered a great experience of hitchhiking. But this experience is not systemized so it can’t be used by other people. This book is an attempt to summarize the experience of great number of hitchhikers.

In 1995 one more school of Hitchhiking appeared. It is called Academy of Free Travels (AVP). Its founder is the author of this book. AVP’s purpose is organizing of big hitchhiking trips, popularization of free travels. We also search, collect and spread the information about travelling. Some members of AVP write books. One of them is in your hands now.

Thirteen years passed and during this time we organized 20 big expeditions and great number of trips and hiking tours. Members of AVP have visited all regions of Russia, all countries of Commonwealth of Independent States and about one hundred of other countries. Members of AVP were first in history of Russian hitchhiking who visited such countries as Iran, Pakistan, India... They also hitchhiked in Africa (from Egypt and Sudan to Namibia and Angola). If you want to know the details about our trips you can read some of Anton Krotov’s books (their list is given in the end of this book) or see our site on Internet: www.avp.travel.ru. You can also visit one of our lectures, gatherings, meetings or hiking tours.

From time to time we organize meetings of AVP where we tell about our trips and plan following ones. Everybody can come to our meeting. If you want to come - just call! The number in Moscow is +7 (495) 457-89-49. Ask for Anton.

Other clubs of hitchhiking exist in other cities of Russia and CIS but it would take too long to enumerate all of them and would draw our attention away from the main idea of this book.

You also can found your own club of hitchhiking if you want. You don’t need sponsors, accommodation etc. All you need is your will to do this seriously.

When you plan your hitchhiking trip you should think over your general rout. You should care not only about the cities but also about the main roads. If there are two roads between two cities – the shortest road isn’t the fastest one! The amount of the cars, their speed, peculiarities of their movement, the quality of the road carpet are very different on different roads. Some roads are convenient for hitchhiking others are not convenient at all the third which are pointed in the highway maps don’t even exist now.

Nowadays many roads in Russia are in process of building. All main highways are passible. So, nowadays all roads between the main cities of Russia are suitable for hitchhiking. These roads are marked with the letter “M” (for example M-5 “Moscow – Chelyabinsk”, M-18 “St. Petersburg – Murmansk”).On these roads there are many cars even at nights.

You should be more careful with “local roads”.

The speed of a hitchhiker depends on the direction of his movement. The biggest streams of the cars, the best quality of the road carpet and the best hitchhiking is on the roads to (from) Moscow. Even if you are 2000 Km (1250 miles) from Moscow you can feel it. It is also very convenient to hitchhike to St. Petersburg (from St. Petersburg) or any other megalopolis, Chelyabinsk for example. The big cities “attract” cars.

Usually the capitals of the regions attract cars from the whole territory of the region. There are fewer cars on the borders of the regions.
 Megalopolises and other cities can be compared with magnet which attracts cars from the surrounding territories. The bigger a magnet is the bigger the power of his attraction is. And if you move along “the field lines” you move more faster then when you move across “the field lines”. The most difficult situation is on the border between regions (republics, countries). The power of magnets is the weakest so there are few cars on such positions. But if you manage to catch a car on such a position, the probability that you go rather far with it is high.

It is very useful for everybody to have a highway map. They usually cover the whole territory of the former USSR. There are a lot of them nowadays and the most typical mistakes that were before 2000 are corrected now. But you should remember that any highway map may contain mistakes. It may be that a new road is build and it is not pointed in your highway map so the stream of cars is very weak on the old road. Or otherwise, a road or a bridge that doesn’t exist can be pointed in a highway map. So ask drivers and other hitchhikers about the peculiarities of your rout and they can give you some good advice.

In the Utmost North some roads which are pointed on the map are so called “winter roads”. That means that they function only for some period of time in winter (January – March) and for the rest part of the year they are impassable.

You should remember that if you are going to travel to other countries you should cross the frontier only through special frontier points which are officially approved by the governments of the countries. That also concerns the CIS. For example, the frontier point between Russian Federation and Mongolia that is situated next to the village Mondy works only for the citizens of Mongolia and Russian Federation. And if you are a citizen of the Ukraine or Byelorussia you won’t be admitted to cross the frontier in this place and you’ll have to go to Kjachta which is 2000 kilometers away from Mondy. Some Asian and African countries don’t have any working frontier points at all because they are at war with each other.

Many frontier points are closed at nights and some are closed for weekends. So if you arrive to the frontier at Friday evening you’ll have to wait till Monday morning!

Near frontiers it is popular (especially in some Asia countries) to take money for giving a lift.

So you should know all these peculiarities beforehand if you plan an international trip. Consult my guide-books “Unlimited Asia”, “Unlimited Africa”, “The Near Abroad” (on Russian language).

 THE POSITION ON THE ROAD

Concept of position is one of the main in hitchhiking. Your success depends on your ability of finding good positions for hitchhiking. On a good position a driver can stop his car easily and pick you up so you’ll go in a short period of time. Otherwise, if the position is wrong you can stay there for several hours and miss hundreds of cars.

Good positions are rather rear on roads and it makes sense to walk 1-2 kilometers, reach a good position and then go fast from it. It also makes sense sometimes to leave a car before its final point but on a good position and then go further.

The worst places for hitchhiking are on a bridge, in a tunnel, on overpasses, under the sign “No stopping”, on slopes of the road and also in cities, villages etc. Trying to hitchhike in such places you reduce the percent of cars which will stop for you. It is also wrong to hitchhike on a bus stop. You can be taken for a passenger waiting for a bus.

It is also inconvenient if the road is narrow and there are a lot of cars. There can be accidents. In such cases it’s better to find a place where the road gets wider.

So, let’s speak about good positions. There are some places on the roads where drivers slow down and become more attentive. They are: 1) traffic police’s offices, frontiers and custom houses, 2) crossroads, bifurcations, 3) railway crossings 4) defects of the road carpet, 5) traffic lights etc.

The position before such places is wrong: the driver’s attention is concentrated on the peculiarity of the road not on a hitchhiker. That’s why practically nobody will stop before a traffic police’s office to pick up a hitchhiker. As well no one will pick you up before a bifurcation (because it’s not clear which way you need).

And vice-versa, standing behind such places is a very good idea. So you should stand behind the peculiarity of the road (20-30 meters behind railway crossing or traffic light or bifurcation) and wait. If there are a lot of peculiarities you should stand behind the last one. If the road is hilly you should stand on the top of one hill. The driver will notice you from far away and the speed of the cars will be minimal. You shouldn’t stand on a slope or between two hills.

A good position is on road turns where drivers slow down. A left turn is better because in this case a hitchhiker is seen from far away (on a right turn he appears suddenly). But it’s dangerous to stand on road turns in winter because the road is slippery and an accident may happen.

(It is vice-versa in the countries where left driving is accepted. Hitchhike with your left hand, stand on a turn to right).

If I try to thumb a ride and no one stops for a long time, it means that my position is probably wrong. It is useful to have a rest and walk 1-2-3 kilometers. Maybe a bifurcation or traffic police’s office is there.

Some distinctive features of a good position: 1) a driver can see you from far away, 2) there aren’t any factors which can attract the driver’s attention (defects of the road carpet, other hitchhikers), 3) a car that will stop for you shouldn’t hinder other cars’ moving.

In many European countries it is prohibited to hitchhike on autobahns. So, in this case you should go to a gas station. There you can wait for a car or can try to talk directly with drivers on the station to pick you up. It’s not effective in Russia or CIS because these countries don’t have autobahns yet.

If you hitchhike at night it’s important to have a torch or to stand in a lighted place. A hitchhiker in dark clothes and in a dark place won’t succeed in hitchhiking.

Thumbing ride is exchanging gestures between a hitchhiker and a driver. First of all you should point out one car out of the stream. Choose one driver who you are going to appeal to. Look a driver in the eye not on your boots or your handkerchief.

How to raise your hand. There are several variants: 1) your hand is stretched parallel to the road and your thumb is up – this is used in Europe and in Russia it is used by V. Shanin. 2) your hand is bent and your fingers are upright. That is like long-distance truck drivers greet each other on the road. 3) you just stretch your hand parallel to the road like a roadway gate.

But any gesture should be addressed to the concrete driver. You should ask, not beg. (Like: “Ple-e-e-e-e-s-e-e, pick me u-u-u-u-p!”)

Thumb a ride as you like. But don’t stand with your side or back to drivers. You also shouldn’t thumb ride with thoughts like “Oh, boy, this one will never stop…” Don’t lose concentration and raise your hand with a thought of success. If you aren’t sure you’d better skip a car or two and eat a candy.

Don’t stay still like a statue with your hand raised (you’ll get bored soon).

If a driver doesn’t want to stop, he usually tries “to justify” his behavior. For example he can show (by gestures) that his car is full and there isn’t enough space for you. Or he can show that he is going to turn right or left soon. If a driver doesn’t react at all it means that hitchhiker does something not right.

A hitchhiker may try to convince a driver. If a driver shows that there isn’t enough space in the car you can show that you won’t need much of it. If a driver shows that he is going to turn you can show that you would be glad to get at least to the turn. If you see that a van body is empty you can point to it. So, remember, that you should be most active during those 5-7 seconds when you “talk” with a driver. If a car didn’t stop – don’t get upset. Stay where you are and wait for another one. Only 30th or 50th car may stop for you but it doesn’t mean that “hitchhiking is crap”. It just means that your skills of hitchhiker haven’t developed yet.

It’s better not to thumb a ride while walking because you’ll go along the road and cars will be appearing behind you. That’s inconvenient; you’ll have to turn all the time. If you go – just go, if you stay – just stay (and thumb a ride). Both at the same time don’t make sense. Usually the point of destination is too far to walk there.

If there are a lot of cars on the road (3-4 per a minute) choose a position fast and start thumb a ride without wasting time. If there are fewer cars on the road (1 per 5 minutes) choose position more careful. But, of course, if there aren’t any cars (1 per an hour or so) you can go along the road towards a nearest turn or a village which may be a source of additional cars. At the same time look back for approaching cars from time to time.

Placards. In Europe some hitchhikers use placards on which the point of destination is written. It’s better not to use them in Russia. Remember that: 1) its difficult to read your placard if a car moves fast, 2) if you have a placard “IRKUTSK” or some other remote place you can “scare away” local drivers who can be very useful for you. Experienced hitchhikers never use placards.

* How long will I wait for a car?

There isn’t a universal answer. Time of waiting depends on many factors. Your experience and equipment, position and the stream of cars, time of the day and season, region and country… It also depends on your being alone or travelling with a friend and also on good luck. It happens that even experienced hitchhikers in the daytime on a good position get stuck for 2-3 hours and beginners go fast from a bad position. You should calculate not time but average speed. It’s rather stable and is about 500-600 kilometers (310-370 miles) per 10 hours on the highway in Russia.

To stop a car is only a half of success. You should go with it and a driver should be pleased with you. So, came up to a car and start a conversation. Many beginners don’t know what to say. Here is one of the variants:

- Hello, can you give me a lift?

The answer usually is: “Get in.” or “And where are you going?” I usually call the final point of destination: “Well, I’m going to Moscow actually but as far as you can.” A remote point of destination usually raises interest and you can develop a conversation with a driver on it. You can also say: “Can I go with you in the direction of Moscow?” A driver usually expresses his surprise: “To Moscow? I’m going to Samara, not further.” I agree and the conversation begins: “To Mo-o-o-o-o-scow?” and so on.

If I know that before N city is a good position I can say:

Can you give me a lift to N city?

In a city or in the Caucasus or in the Middle Asia or in any place where you are afraid that a driver will ask for money you can say:

Hello! Can you give me a lift? Sorry I don’t have money.

Or, on getting known where a driver is going, ask:

Can I go with you? No money!

The answer will be: “Oh, that’s ok, don’t worry, man. Get in!”

You can also ask: “Are you going straight? Can I go with you?” or “Hello! Can you take a hitchhiker in the direction of N?”

-          What is “a hitchhiker”? – A driver can ask. You’ll tell him and he’ll give you a ride.

-           

… Many people ask how to develop a conversation with a driver.

It’s better to avoid extremes. Some hitchhikers talk without stopping, tell funny stories; others keep silent all the time. But the wisest is to make a driver talk. In this case a hitchhiker just perceive the information, ask questions, but most of the time a driver talks. And he is glad that he has found such an attentive listener.

Themes for conversation may be different. Ask a driver where he is going, ask him about the city. What’s interesting to see in this city? Is it old? What are the prices? How long will it take to get there? If you go with a long-distance truck driver ask him about the places that you are interested in. How long does he works as a truck driver? What was his previous occupation?

If it is a foreign brand of a car ask about its advantages. Ask about traffic policemen and problems with them. If you like music – it’s useful to have a CD with your favorite songs and offer it to the driver. Especially if both of you are tired of the music that a driver listens to.

Drivers are a very important source of information about roads, cities and sometimes about local places of interest. Don’s miss the opportunity to get know this information from drivers. Perceiving the information, you’ll learn a lot instead of telling the same stories to drivers.

At nights drivers usually take hitchhikers because they are afraid of falling asleep. So they take a hitchhiker for talking. It is strongly recommended not to sleep in a car!

The beginners are usually worried about the money for giving a lift. But it’s easy to make sure that most of the drivers in Russia and many countries of CIS don’t expect any payment! Even at town gates of big cities (St. Petersburg, Moscow) only 20% or less of drivers ask for money. And “a taxi driver” will ask: “How much?” If that didn’t happen before your getting into a car, this question is usually never raised again. (But if you are in a city you’d better to warn a driver that you want to go without money! The fare may be implied!)

If you manage to get in contact with a driver, a question about money will never appear. Moreover, some drivers treat hitchhikers; they try to give hitchhikers some money for food.

On the other hand, a hitchhiker should care about a driver. If you have some food or drinking water or a chewing gum – offer it to a driver. A driver usually refuses an offer but you should show your gratitude. Give him “Practice of Free Travels” as a present.

And can it happen that after your leaving a car you’ll hear:

- Hey, what about some cash for fuel?

Well, in Russia it happens very rear.

In my practice that happened only few times. As far as it means that a hitchhiker isn’t experienced enough (was too lazy to explain that he’s travelling without money) you can give the driver some money (for example in Russia that may be one rouble fore one kilometer). Some people in this case say that they don’t have money at all. But if you haven’t warned a driver beforehand and you have money, it’s not clever to try keeping them. Saving money is like saving air. But if you really don’t have money just say it. Warn a driver beforehand if you have any doubts!

In general, if a driver who gave you a lift asks for money, it doesn’t means that he is “a bad guy” but it means that a hitchhiker is a fool. In far countries of Africa and Asia you should always warn drivers when you are going to get into a car. Beforehand, learn (in the vernacular language) a phrase: “No money!” or “Can – for free – straight!”

In the process of travelling you’ll learn to judge by the appearance of the driver and his car what his expectations may be. If a car is an expensive one, a driver asks about hitchhiking, treats you, you have a nice conversation - it’s clear that he doesn’t expect money from you. If a car is old and shabby and a driver eats separately and keeps silent all the time and takes others people who hitch a ride and take money from them – you’d better warn that you don’t have money until it’s too late!

All that was said before is useful if you are a hitchhiker. If you are a driver you can follow some advice as well. Here they are:

There are people (alone or in pairs, young ad not, in bright equipment and without any equipment standing sometimes with rucksacks near the road and waving their hands). They are hitchhikers. Usually they are absolutely safe. If you have some space in your car, give them a lift. They won’t pay you but they can tell you something interesting. They can give you some useful information about roads, cities and regions. Some hitchhikers have a disc or a cassette with music. Hitchhikers will help you not to fall asleep at night and avoid accidents.

Some hitchhikers are sources or important information about roads, about mistakes in your “Highways map” and, sometimes, about local places of interest. But they are shy. Draw them out. Ask them low long had they been standing on the road. Ask their parents’ attitude to their travelling. And friends? And police-officers?

It seems strange but hitchhikers rather rare meet other hitchhikers. Some of them don’t know about clubs of hitchhiking or methods of hitchhiking. Tell them all that you know abut hitchhiking. Give them a book “Practice of Free Travels”.

  

The amount of cars on the road is different in different parts of the day. Most of the cars leave cities between 7:00 and 9:30 in the morning. That is called “the wave”. The wave is more distinctive in weekdays. In the evening there is another small wave (between 18:00 and 19:30).

The wave is moving along the road with the average speed 60 km/h (35 ml/h). Moving on the wave is very convenient. There are a lot of cars and you never stay for a long time. Optimal time for starting from a big city is about 7:00 in the morning.

In the evening hitchhiking is worse. Between 1:00 and 5:00 there are very little of cars so it’s a good time to go to sleep.

In the environs of big cities (Moscow for example) some night movement still exists. But small remote roads are empty. Try to go through remote parts of your route in the morning or in the day time.

Hitchhiking in nighttime has its own peculiarities. First, at nights there are fewer cars, drivers fall asleep. On the local roads the traffic can disappear completely.

Secondly, a hitchhiker, who travelled only in daytime, will be very surprised when he found out that at night and in a dark place cars “don’t stop”.

That’s simple: drivers had no enough time to react to a hitchhiker. It is dangerous to throw yourself on the road thinking that “you’ll be seen better”!

In summer (in Middle Asia, in India and in other warm countries) a lot of long distance drivers go at night. In Extreme North some drivers also prefer long nights to short days when the snow is dazzling. Learn this information beforehand and won’t miss your cars.

Experienced hitchhikers travel at nights without problems. They use bright, light-reflecting suits, retroreflectors, head lamps… A man in a bright suit, who is blinking his torch, attracts a driver’s attention on distance in 100-200-300 meters even in a dark place. A man in a suit on the road at night raises a lot of associations (“Greenpeace? Parachute jumpers? Cops? Astronauts?”), which helps in hitchhiking a lot. If there are two hitchhikers in the same suits – that’s even better.

Despite the fact that travelling in suits is rather effective, most people travel without them. In this case, if you hitchhike at night, you should have light-coloured clothes with light-reflecting stripes, have a torch or, at least, a retroreflector. You should also be careful and stay in lighted positions. It’s better to leave a car earlier but in a lighted position than to go 40 kilometers further but stay all night through in some dark village.

At nights drivers usually give you a lift because they want you not to let them fall asleep. It’s dangerous to sleep in a car – a driver can fall asleep too and you can have an accident! Don’t sleep in cars! Take a chewing gum, nuts or sweets, something eatable, share it with a driver - drive away sleepiness. Open the window put of your sweaters and jackets – warmth raises sleepiness. Drive away sleepiness!

If there are two of you, you can sleep in turn and go round-the-clock. One of you sits next to the driver and talks while the other one is sleeping. In the next car you can change.

If a driver is going to “flake out” and you also lose control over the situation – convince the driver to stop and to have a nap. It’s better to arrive two hours later than fall in a ditch and don’t arrive at all.

 

In our north country it is much more difficult to travel in winter than in summer. Two-hours waiting when the temperature is 20 degrees below zero (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) plus even light wind will freeze anyone if he doesn’t have winter outfit. The temperature -30 degrees below zero (22 degrees Fahrenheit) can be really dangerous, you can freeze to death if there aren’t cars for a long time. It is prohibited to go on the road in winter without winter outfit!

Besides, in winter the road is narrower because of snow. Most of the roads are so narrow that two cars can hardly pass one another. The braking length grows (especially when the road is covered with ice). While thumbing a ride, avoid standing on the carriageway – you risk not only being hit by a car but you can also provoke a dangerous situation when a driver tries to bypass you. Avoid stopping a car which is followed by another one.

Some positions which are very good in summer are very dangerous in winter – a driver can’t stop his car or he is afraid of not being able to start it again. Chose positions where a driver has more space for parking.

In wintertime the daylight is short and cars’ (and hitchhikers’) speed is slower. So, if you (starting from Moscow) in summertime can reach St. Petersburg, Minsk, Voronezh, Penza in daylight, in wintertime you’ll start when it’s still dark and arrive when it’s already dark. So, be ready for night hitchhiking. Take a torch, retroreflectors etc. Start from the city as early as possible. Remember that all battery-powered devises (like torches) lose their energy very fast in the cold.

Dress warmly! But even then make physical exercises to avid getting cold. Don’t take and don’t drink any alcohol. Standing on a road, place some branches of trees under four feet. Feet usually get cold first.

In the North in winter it’s obligatory to have equipment for night hitchhiking because of the polar night when the sun never appears (or only for a short period of time). Drifting is also possible. And road traffic can stop completely because of it (sometimes for several days).

But hitchhiking in winter is still possible in our country. And, besides, even new possibilities of hitchhiking are available in winter. Many roads which are impassible in summertime are passable in wintertime. These are so called “winter roads”. Winter roads play an important role in providing remote regions with food and fuel (a typical winter road was a famous Leningrad “Lifeline” across the ice of the Lake Ladoga in 1942-1944).

Many winter roads go across marshes or the ice of frozen rivers. Using winter roads you can reach Chukchi Peninsula for example. This way made A. Vorov and his friends making their round the world trip. In two month they made a way from St. Petersburg to the very Chukchi Peninsula! But so long-distance journeys are very difficult because of extreme low temperatures and also because of waiting cars for a long time (for several days sometimes). The lowest temperature for hitchhikers in the North-West of Russia was about 55-60 degrees below zero (- 67-76 degrees Fahrenheit).

In the beginning of 2000 we travelled on winter roads to an arctic city Narian-Mar. There were 18 of us! Mass hours-long riding in a car cabin in the polar night, riding on snowmobiles, helicopters, on deer-teams and even skis and then air-hitchhiking back on a plane from Narian-Mar to Rubynsk (ten people)… Details are in the book “Aurora Polaris” (on Russian language)..

In January –February of 2002 we had a trip to a village Tura – a geographical center of Russia which is situated in 1400 kilometers (870 miles) to North-East from Krasnoyarsk. 13 people took part and the temperature reached 50 degrees below zero (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) and even lower. Two members of that trip liked the North so much that they continued their trip in the direction of North-East and reached Uelen village having spent more that four years within the Polar circle. In Uelen village they got married and got in Moscow soon on a plane which took them for free (air-hitchhiking).

Going to cold regions, it’s better to chose positions nearby some lodging. And if there are some of us it’s better to hitchhike in turn. One thumbs a lift for 1-2 hours and then goes into the lodging to get warm and another one goes on the position. If there isn’t any lodging you can make a fire – take care of firewood. One of you should take care of it all the time.

Walking along the winter road, going away from a settlement and knowing that the nearest one is in 100-500 kilometers, is very-very dangerous.

Besides trucks you’ll also be able to have a ride on snowmobiles especially if you travel alone.
 

Settlements are one of the main problems for hitchhikers. Settlements and especially cities, despite their positive features (possibility of having a meal, washing clothes etc.), slow down your speed a lot.

Approaching the city in which a driver is going to drop you off, you should get the information about this city from him.

All the cities for you are divided in two groups: those which have bypass road and those which haven’t. Highways usually go around the city. That’s convenient – a bypass road is usually better for hitchhiker than a city itself. If there is a bypass road it’s better not to get into the city (if you don’t have any affairs there of course). So, moving from Moscow to St. Petersburg (and back) use bypass roads which goes around Tver and N. Novgorod. If a car goes to the center of these cities – alight at a bypass road!

But most of small cities and villages don’t have a bypass road. If a city is situated on a river there could be only one bridge and no bypass road either (even if a city is a big one). In this case you’ll have to walk through the city or use public transport or, again, hitchhike. By the way, at nights it’s easier to cross such cities.

It’s good to find a city map beforehand or get the information about crossing the city on public transport. Don’t worry if you don’t have a map - you can get anywhere if you know how to use your tongue. It’s not difficult to move on public transport but your average speed will be about 10-15 km/hour (5-10 miles per hour). Walking is easier but not faster. Metro is very convenient but there are few cities which have it. Moving across the city like on the road – thumbing a ride – you’ll be able to move with an average speed about 20-25 km/hour (10-15 miles per hour). So, this method is most effective.

One man from St. Petersburg wrote a treatise “Hitchhiking inside the city as it is”. Having organized some hitchhiking races across St. Petersburg and Moscow he showed that city-hitchhiking is possible. From my personal experience I can say – it works! And not only in Russia but also in all big cities of the world even in such “taxi-cities” like Istanbul, Cairo, Damask, Addis-Ababa. (It’s better to have a map of the city beforehand or know the general plan of main streets).

There are taxi-drivers in all big cities so, on stopping a car somewhere in a street, warn the driver immediately:

Hello! Give me a ride along the street for free! As far as you can.

In Moscow and in others big cites in the daytime you may scare away about 90% of the drivers. It’s more convenient to show “no money” with the help of gestures and then taxi-drivers will drive off and other drivers won’t. Then came up and talk.

It’s easier at nights. Remember, that there are a lot of cars in a city so chose position and wait for the positive result. You’ll score a success soon!
 

The rated speed of a hitchhiker (in summer, in daytime, on highways of European part of Russia) is about – 55 km/hour (35 miles per hour); in winter – 45 km/hour (25 miles per hour). In summer it’s real to cover 800 kilometers (500 miles) in daylight hours. In winter, when there is ice on the roads, the speed is lower.

In the daytime the speed of an advanced and not-advanced hitchhiker will be more or less the same. At night an advanced hitchhiker will move with an average speed about 50 km/h (35 ml/h) (in summer), 40 km/h (25 ml/h) (in winter). A not-advanced one moves without any speed calculating but only if he’ll be lucky enough.

But qualified hitchhikers on highways are able to move at night without any problems. There are less cars but they go further and faster.

An average speed about 50 km/h (35 ml/h) is real not only on the territory of Russia but also in Byelorussia, Ukraine, Turkey, Iran… But on serpentine roads an average speed slows a lot. The higher a road is, the lower your speed. In developing countries of Asia and Africa your speed can be about 200-300 kilometers (125-185 miles) a day or even slower.

You can hitchhike alone or in pair. But take into consideration that a single person moves a bit faster than a pair and a girl moves a bit faster than a guy.

The drivers have some reasons due which they prefer to give a lift to a single person than to a pair (even with a girl). First, in many cars (in trucks especially) there is only one passenger seat and for taking an extra person into a cabin a driver can be fined. Secondly, drivers can be afraid of fuel overexpenditure because some hitchhikers have big backpacks. And, finally, drivers want to chat with one person (instead of listening to the chat of two hitchhikers). These three reasons leads to the fact that alone hitchhiker moves faster.

But the more experienced hitchhiker you’ll become the less all the differences in speed will be (no matter if you are a male or a female). Your appearance, face expression, clothes, gestures should convince the driver that he should give you a lift. Some hitchhikers think that it’s better to travel with a girl than alone. But they just don’t know how to raise the driver’s interest besides with the help of a girl.

 Is it possible for three people to travel without getting apart?

Yes, it is possible, but in central part of Russia most of the time you’ll be standing on the road and waiting for an altruistic driver. Your average speed will be about four times slower than if you travel alone. It’s better to move apart.

Though, in remote regions where hitchhiking is the only possible way of movement and traffic-officers are absent, drivers can let you to go in a truck body (if there are three or even four of you). Almost on the whole territory of Africa and Asia you’ll be riding in truck bodies.

 In autumn of 2000 we made a trip from a Gedaref (Sudan) to Bahr-Dara (Ethiopia) and there were six of us! For a week we changed 17 vehicles (8 motor cars among them). Because of the bad weather (it was raining season) it took us more than a week to cover only 500 kilometers (310 miles).

 What trip can I make during a month?

Despite the fact that you can move several days without stopping (and made a trip from Moscow to Irkutsk in 4-5 days for example), in big trips the average speed usually slows down. I cover about 8 000-10 000 kilometers (5000-6200 miles) during a month so I have enough time for watching remote cities, learning the local style of living and sleeping well. And after spending 6 months in Africa I hitchhiked only 30 000 kilometers (18 000 miles).

The average speed on your way home is usually greater than the average speed when you leave home. It took only two weeks for some hitchhikers to get to St. Petersburg from Senegal and to Moscow from Sudan. It often happens that the trip back from Vladivostok to Moscow takes only 10-12 days.
 

On highways of European part of Russia hitchhiking technique allows you to cover big distances in rather short periods of time. Well, that’s clear. If there are 50 cars per hour on the road you can go fast from any position practically.

But there are roads in Russia on which only 10-20 cars per day pass. We travelled on Kolyma high road where 3 cars per day is a success and a driver who makes 300 km. (190 ml.) is a crazy racer. In some regions of Russia two or three days waiting is a usual thing. You can forget abut “European speed” here.

But, the less the amount of the cars is and worse the road is, the more percent of cars will stop for you. Such parameters of the cars like willing of giving a lift and free space for hitchhikers grows. Maybe there will be an opportunity to go in a truck body. Hitchhiking will be very restful. You’ll be able to make a fire, cook food and don’t hurry anywhere. When a car will appear it’ll be heard from a big distance.

A. Vinokurov and the author of this book on their way to Magadan hitchhiked 700 km (430 miles) from Handyga (Yakutia) to Kadykchan (Magadan region) for a week! We moved only one and a half day of it and the rest of the time we were waiting for a car or sleeping in cars. The only excuse for us is the fact that there isn’t any regular traffic on Kolyma high road so it was ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to pass it faster.

In 1999 in Sudan we waited for a car near the city Dongola for a long time. Every day people riding donkeys passed by us and told us: “There won’t be any cars today – we have a holiday! Maybe tomorrow Allah will send you a car…” People treated us, invited us to their homes for a night, but still, there weren’t cars. We managed to go only in 4 days.

But remember, o reader… Before you’ll reach such remote places, read others parts of this book and it will let you to make your trips easier and faster in any place.

Capacity of every road is limited so every road can carry only a limited number of hitchhikers in a time unit. That’s clear. The number of cars on the road is limited and not all drivers are eager and able to give a ride to hitchhikers.

There is such a phenomenon which is called “an overloaded road” – an average speed of hitchhikers slows down because of the big number of hitchhikers on the road.

Highways have a big capacity. But if there are about 100 hitchhikers going to some hitchhiking gathering – even on highways (M1, M10 for example) our speed slows down. Remember that!

In big days-long and mass trips you always meet a lot of king people who invite you for a night and so on. So be careful and don’t stay in one place for a long time. Remember that after you other hitchhikers will come here.

On the other hand, there are some advantages of “an overloaded road”. One of them is called “filter”. A driver notices a hitchhiking man with a backpack on the road and doesn’t stop. Soon he notices another one and another one and so on. Sooner or later he stops to find out what’s going on. He picks up a hitchhiker and goes further. A hitchhiker explains to the driver what hitchhiking is and after that the driver gives a lift to other hitchhikers.

Another advantage is much alike the first one. If our group is big and we are stretched along the road for several days and one-two thousand kilometers, soon all the regular buses and cars, traffic policemen, customs officers ad even street vendors remember us and help us.

If you are going to travel in a big group, remember the following:

The right chose of the road is the basis of your success. If of your route is an area with low or no capacity – this area will slow the whole group. Choose a rout on active and good roads!

It’s better not to fix places of a meeting too often. Frequent meetings are a waste of time, when all wait for each. Meetings shouldn’t be more frequent than one meeting for 1000 km (620 miles) (if a meeting place isn’t our aim where we are going of course). During our trip to India our first meeting point was in Yerevan (2300 km. /1430 ml. from Moscow) in 5 days after starting time. Someone started earlier, someone later, the road was overloaded, and no one waited for everyone in other places so all of us gathered in Yerevan successfully.

In big trips it is useful to settle the following places of meetings beforehand if someone will miss the first one. It is also useful to arrange that people who didn’t appear on the meeting could connect with others trough telephone or Internet. Get the information if the cellular communications work in that area. Nowadays it’s very convenient to use SMS. Arrange how you are going to keep in touch.

Mass meetings are inconvenient because after them the great number of hitchhikers go on the road and overload it. So, it’s better to arrange such meetings not far from good positions on the road.

 

Do people hitchhike only because they don’t have money?

It depends. Very often people start hitchhiking because they don’t have money for ticket (nowadays this happens more and more rear – our country gets more and more rich after all). Others like hitchhiking because that’s convenient and fast (for example, it is faster to hitchhike from Moscow to Yaroslavl or from St. Petersburg to Pskov then to go on a train and, besides, there are much more cars in the world than trains). Thirds hitchhike because they find it interesting (new places, new people, a lot of communication and interesting information)… In far countries hitchhiking is the best way of learning people’s way of living, learning the country (not from the hotel window), learning the language… Finally, there are routs where hitchhiking is the only possible way of moving. So, we hitchhiked on Kolyma road and many roads of Asia and Africa where everyone hitchhikes because there isn’t any regular transport.

 

What are the main dangers of hitchhiking and how avoid them?

The first and the most real danger is an accident. People who hitchhike a lot get into accidents one time for 100 000 – 200 000 km (62 000 – 124 000 ml.) at the average. So, one time in North Karelia a truck with milk which gave us a lift fell of the road, turned over and fell to pieces. We weren’t injured seriously but the truck and the milk were destroyed completely. In another case, in Nambia, the car that gave us a lift hit a donkey standing on the road. The car was damaged, the donkey was dead and people got scared.

But of course anyone who has ever been in a car as a passenger or as a driver can get into an accident. There are some simple accident control measures. 1) If possible, fasten your seat belts. 2) Don’t go with drunk drivers and don’t take alcohol yourself. 3) At night, if you see that a driver is going to fall asleep, don’t follow his example. If you want to sleep – just sleep, don’t try to hitchhike. 4) If you see that a car that you are sitting in is going to crash into something or falling somewhere etc. – don’t try to jump out of it. 5) While thumbing a ride don’t rush on the road under the cars, especially at night and in dark clothes. 6) finally, follow your intuition. If you feel that you are going to get into an accident – leave a dangerous car tactfully.

 

And what will happen if one day everyone will go hitchhiking?

If one terrible day all the people of the earth, young and old, will give up their daily routine and go hitchhiking – there will be complete civilization collapse. The same will happen if all the people will become artists or physicists or astronauts or drivers or clerks or teachers or retirees – that would be terrible. Luckily, it will never happen. But it’s very useful to know about different kinds of activity and about free travels as well. Maybe one day you’ll need this information.

 

Do only young people hitchhike?  

Most of hitchhikers are young people from 15 to 30. But there are old people among us – it’s not prohibited to travel no matter how old are you. For example, From Moscow through Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Turkey to Damascus (the capital of Syria) and back (10 000 km/6 200 ml) hitchhiked two grannies – N. Kutuzova (69 years old) and T. Kopeyko (59 years old). And there are more and more of examples like that with every year!

 

Is it possible to hitchhike with children?

Yes, it is. Children usually like it. It’s better if they are able not to pee in the cars.

 

I’ve got one more question…

And I’ve got one more book. It is called “134 questions and 134 answers about hitchhiking and everything”. In this book I have gathered the most frequent questions that hitchhikers are usually asked and my answers. Get this book in the same place where you got this one or read an e-version on our site www.avp.travel.ru.

Attention!

A WARNING!

Hitchhiking is not a freebie!

Travelling around the world will give you something that you’ve never experienced before. Simple folk in Siberia or Moscow, in Afghanistan of Europe will be giving you a lift, will be sharing their food and roofs.

Let’s remember this attitude and the feeling of brotherhood!

And when we are in our own car, in our own warm flat or in the streets of our own city – and we will see the opportunity to give a lift or to invite home, or treat some who we don’t know; when we have an opportunity to present something to somebody, or pay for someone – let’s do it with joy. Because free travels are not a freebie; it is life; it is an opportunity to find, feel and share the feeling of common brotherhood
of all the people of the earth!

Let’s be kinder, people!

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You read the English version of the book A. Krotov «Practice of Free Travels or Free Travels in Practice»
on the site avp.travel.ru

Foreword, HITCHHIKING, TRAINS, SEA AND RIVER, CONTACTING PEOPLE, LONG TRAVELS