So you’ve never hitchhiked before, and you’ve come across this wild article with some crazy woman telling you to stick out your thumb to get around the magical land known as Iceland. I’m sure you’re wondering – what on earth is this chick on?
I promise you, hitchhiking Iceland will be the best decision you ever make. You’ll get to know locals who recommend hidden gems, as you fumble your way along attempting to pronounce the amazing town names in order to remember them (of course, you’ll inevitably have all the names written down by your new friends, unless you’re a champ at the Icelandic language!) Then there will be the amazing tourists from around the globe you encounter, keen to swap stories of their adventures in Iceland and elsewhere in the world. They’ll make your senses tingle as you gleefully plan your next trip. Best of all, hitchhiking will provide you with new friends from around the globe – and what’s the point of travel if not to find different people with new outlooks to bond with?
Are you ready to hit the road using only your thumb? Here are some basics on how to do it like a champ!
Choosing Your Spot
Choosing a good spot can sometimes be a tricky game while hitchhiking. Fortunately, the ring road that encircles Iceland is complete with a ton of great spots to catch a lift. Generally the best thing to look out for is a part of the highway that is slow – perhaps moving through a town. You want to stand on the outskirts of town in the direction you’re heading while traffic is still at a slower than highway pace. Make sure there is ample room for a car to pull over; while many people are happy to pick up a hitchhiker in Iceland, it needs to be safe for the driver, other vehicles, and the hitchhikers in order to pull over. So just remember: slow traffic, and room to pull over.
Another great option is hitchhiking from gas stations. I use this when getting a ride by way of my thumb just isn’t working, or if the weather is misbehaving; oftentimes gas stations have awnings to stand under while it rains, and sometimes the gas station attendants will even let you hang out inside until the bad weather passes – just make sure to ask them if it’s okay.
While at the gas station, getting lifts is a breeze; many people in this day in age are positively terrified of hitchhikers, but when they are given a few minutes to chat with you and see that you’re not in fact a murderer – just someone who needs a lift – someone who’d never pull over will now give you a ride. Be friendly, ask everyone if they’re heading your direction, and be polite and never offended if you’re turned down. Tell every person you meet to have a great day, and even if your wait is long, it’ll put a smile on your own face just meeting so many new people!
Getting off the Beaten Track
This one is a little trickier; Iceland’s ring road is simple to hitchhike, but getting off it can be harder for the simple fact that there just aren’t many (if any) vehicles on the plethora of tiny roads leading to some hidden gems. Your best bet is to follow someone along for an adventure they’re heading on (which is how I wound up seeing half the great sites in the Golden Circle). If this is simply impossible, try your luck – but don’t forget to bring ample food, water, and your tent in case you can’t make any movement. It’s not a bad idea to grab the phone number of the person who drops you off on the obscure road you’re after, so if you really get stuck, you have a resource to call to rescue you.
Where to Sleep
Never, ever hitchhike without a tent. Hitchhiking can be so random that this is crucial – you need to be able to sleep wherever you wind up, and hitchhiking after dark is incredibly dangerous. Sometimes you just have to hunker down and wait for tomorrow. Fortunately, wild camping is in fact legal in Iceland, for a single night only. There are a few basic rules, like not camping within a certain distance of a town, on private land or within National Parks, and some unspoken rules, like not to leave your garbage after you leave (including toilet paper).
As long as you follow the basics, you can camp most places – whether it be atop a mountain with a gorgeous view that you hiked an hour with your pack to get to, or the side of the road because you were too exhausted to continue. Be sure to find a bathroom before though, no-one wants you to use the nature for a bathroom.
- See also: Travel Etiquette in Iceland
Either way, there’s always somewhere to rest your head and get ready for the next day’s adventure.
Ready to hit the road yet? Hitchhike Iceland and discover a whole new side of the country, while cutting your costs way down. So get to it!