Thumbs Up! Hitchhiking in Thailand


The land of crumpled peaks, pools of blue and pot plant pathways.

The mecca for wandering souls of the Indian Ocean. Travellers from all directions seem to wash up in Thailand. From Vietnam to the east, to India from the West, it is a perfect place to regather, revive and relax.

Reviving, to the budget traveller also means reviving that bank account. Every overnight bus, sleeper train and border crossing does, unfortunately add up.

One of the perks of travelling Thailand is a $10 limit per day is very doable. Although for most, this tight budget also requires staying put in the one place and eating rice… Rice remains a part of the bargain, but you can still get around! A bit of wit and an open mind will get you wherever you’d like to go.

thai bus.jpg

If you’ve been travelling in Thailand, you will know a few things:

– Sleeper trains are super hard to book last minute. They are in demand. This is fine if you plan ahead, I never do.

– Sleeper buses are fantastic, unless the toilet overflows or you are high up in the mountains. Or both.

– If you are tall, inflexible or hate cramped spaces… mini vans will not be your thing.

– If you are on a budget, taxis are never a good idea.

– And finally, A) Your motorcycle skills will be put to the test. Or B) You realise that you do not have motorcycle skills at all.

What worked for me, the skint-no-time-frame traveller was, in fact hitchhiking.

Disclaimer: Hitching, in no means is safe, or suggested. In fact, if you’ve got the money… just get that damned bus. But I’ll let you in some advice anyways.


For me, hitching always begins with butterflies. It’s a mixture of morning coffee jitters and stomach-knotting uncertainty. Will we end up in the right place? How long will we be waiting? Should we just get a bus?

Although these fears tend to subside as I stand on the roads edge. Let the great unknown take you on a ride.

I’ve had rides in trays of trucks where there is barely an inch of room to move. I’ve had rides with people paying bribes for illegal activities.

I’ve had rides with lovely French tourists and organic farming expats.

Every vehicle is a new adventure.

Some rides are better than others.

I’ve made great friends from hitching in Thailand, seen places I wouldn’t have otherwise visited and learned plenty of lessons. I’ll let you in on a few…

  1. Hitching in Thailand is not all about the thumb.

This took me a while to learn. I would stand on the roads edge, thumbs out and a big grin on my face. People just thought I was a strange, happy person. I would get waves, honks and “Hellllooooooooooos”. Only few understood thumbs up. It’s better off to stick your hand out like you’re hailing a bus. Or alternatively, get a local to write you out a sign and hold it out.


  1. Stand in the right places.

I usually wander to the outskirts of the town and watch maps to see where the highway veered in the direction I needed to go. Face the incoming traffic and get a bit of shade from the sun if you can!

  1. Bring sunglasses.

If you get a ride on the back of a truck, you will want sunglasses. Otherwise bugs and unidentified flying objects will get all up in them eyeballs.


  1. Give yourself time.

Don’t plan on starting your ride at 3 in the afternoon. Night hitching is dangerous, don’t do it. Also it’s best to travel in smaller 3-4hr increments so you have a plan if you end up getting several lifts to reach the destination.

  1. Be prepared for a good yarn.

I’ve definitely encountered people who want to pick up hitchers just for a good chat. Be open-minded and enjoy the stories. It’s an awesome opportunity for cultural exchange and travel tips.

  1. Bring a charged phone.

Sounds obvious but it’s important. Maps.Me is a lifesaver if you have ended up in an unfamiliar area and need to find accommodation or get your bearings on the location. Having a local sim card is a bonus!

  1. Show your thanks.

If you’ve been driving a long way with your lift and they’re stopping for a toilet break offer buying them a coffee. It’s a simple gesture of saying thanks. Although hitching is free I do believe that a little sign of appreciation goes a long way.

  1. Be safe.

If the situation seems sketchy, it probably is. Stay alert; check the news for the area to ensure there aren’t any issues with tourists and the locals. Travel with a buddy if possible. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for a toilet break and to pull over if something feels off.


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