Hitchhiking from Chisinau to Tiraspol and Odessa

I was staying at the Funky Mamaliga Hostel in Chisinau, a decent hostel for just a fiver a night. Chisinau is a cool city too, I wanted to stay a couple days but I meet David (French) and Tom German) in the hostel on my second morning. They too were hitchhiking.

They told me about a country I had never even heard about called Transistria or Prednestrovia, a breakaway state from Moldova. They planned on hitchhiking there that morning and I felt like joining them, some company on the road would be good. So I packed my bag and headed back on the road again.

hitchhike odessa

We caught a ride fast enough from the airport. If you take a bus there then walk back down hitchhike chisinau moldovaonto the main road where traffic would exit from the airport in the Tiraspol direction you will see a good spot with plenty of room.

Overall Rating : Good, plenty of room but traffic is fast.

Waiting Time : 20 Mins

So we were collected by Igor, a friendly short fellow with tattoos on his arms, hands and knuckles. He didn’t speak English (or Romanian like most Moldovans) instead he just spoke Russian.

As with all native Russian speaking people he spoke away in Russian regardless of the fact we didn’t understand. Russians will speak Russian until you speak Russian, simple as.

We gathered he was from Traninistria and proud of it too, we had our own local tour guide, which is probably how we managed to skip across the border relatively easily.

For more information about the border and money exchange see getting into Transnistria.

Transinistria is essentially a small slender strip of land between a Moldovan River and Ukraine. On the way to Ukraine we would mostly just see the capital city of Tiraspol and a little countryside. The city is chillingly communist with statues of Lenin, Russian Tanks, Soldiers and everything in Russian. It’s a cool experience to see the very quiet town of Tiraspol if only for a few hours.

Tiraspol-tank

We got our new friend to leave us off in what seemed like a city center so we could explore. Immediatley after stepping out of the car it was obvious we were outsiders. Especially David, (he’s black) the locals would stare confused looking and one kid even asked for a photo with him.

There are some gorgeous looking young girls here (dressed 90s style) and all of the guys seemed friendly as we strolled around. One group stopped to have a smoke with us and take a photo. The language barrier is unreal though, no-one speaks anything but Russian here and everyone seemed shy. When we had food in the one restaurant we could find it just had a Russian menu too. I didn’t see any ATMs either.

When it came time to head for Ukraine after eating some dinner we just started walking again and thumbing. People looked a bit scared in the cars though especially with a black guy (the only one in the country ever probably).

In the end a police officer came over to us, he signaled to wait then flagged down a mini-bus and ordered the guy to take us to the Ukraine border. We gave the driver like 3 euro in Moldovan money and everyone was happy.

It was a strange yet interesting experience in the country that dosen’t exist called Traninistria, it felt very Soviet and I felt like a celebrity there. I would like to go back someday and speak to the locals about their lives living inside this little territory with little chance of ever leaving. Learning of Russian would be needed though first.

Once across the Ukraine border we began hitchhiking again, it was surprising how easily we walked the border considering there was a civil war happening in Eastern Ukraine at the time. There was a lot of soldiers around too. Possibly fearing an attack from the Pro-Russia made up country of Transinistria. The border police just laughed at us “Silly Westerner with big bagpack haha, we have bigger problem to fix then bother check their passport”.

We didn’t have any success hitchhiking however, two fat Ukranian men pulled over and simply made money symbols with their hands before we realized we would need to pay. In the end we had to bargain a deal on the side of the road to exchange some Euros, and then pay for a lift to Odessa.

Ukraine sure wasn’t being the most welcoming country.

Overall Rating : Bad, unless your a girl since local girls seemed to not have to pay. This is ahitchhike ukraine bit risky too as many of the old men around the border were considerably dodgy looking.

Waiting Time : Probably not long, like 15 mins once you offer some money to chip in towards the Petrol cost, anywhere from 5 euro to 10 euro should suffice for Odessa.

 

The roads are horrible in Ukraine with potholes the size of craters but on the other hand the trains are very cheap. Travelling hundreds of km for about 10 euro on comfortable sleeper trains is possible. I would recommend this rather then the hitchhiking (unless you speak Russian). Maybe the atmosphere was only tense because of the trouble in Donetsk at the time.

 

 

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Hitchhiking from Brasov to Chisinau via Iasi

Hitchhiking from Brasov to Chisinau

Hitchhiking is never fun when hungover, the main reason is that you miss out on an early start. Precisely the unfortunate reason I had to cheat on this journey and take a bus near the end when I went hitchhiking from Brasov to Chisinau.

300 of the 400 kilometers were hitchhiked however, and they were eventful too. Being in a near fatal collision and learning all about magic mushrooms. Really all you can come to expect from a days hitchking in Europe’s wildest country (Romania).

Hitchhiking BrasovI walked from the Old Town Hostel (where I had an enjoyable stay) to Strada Harmanului and began hitchhiking just after the roundabout. Its possible to hitch at the bus stop, a sign is recommended (for Bacau) a local actually went and made me one while I was standing. If you get sick of standing too there is a Petrol station maybe 300 meters up the road where you can ask the drivers for a lift.

Overall Rating : Good

Waiting Time : 30 Mins

I was picked up by “Coco”, least that’s what he said his name was. A young eccentric type in an Astra. He took me to Onesti Along a very scenic road through hills with great views of the mountains. His good English allowed for some deep conversation about the world and the necessary changes according to Coco.

He claimed to be inspired by many great movies, such as “Into The Wild“, camping and was in the middle of starting his own business selling fruit juice. Something I noticed about the younger Romanians whom I could speak with was how in touch with nature they are.

I don’t mean in a “hipster” save the world sense, they just seem to love camping trips and making campfires. We discussed magic mushrooms, apparently the mafia runs their distribution and part of the Bible was inspired by hallucinogenic mushrooms. Who knows?

I bid farewell to Coco in Onesti, he was off to romance his girlfriend, I walked on through the town in the Bacau direction.
hitchhike from onesti bacauI crossed a bridge and began hitchhiking again outside a restaurant with plenty of space for a car to pull in, using a sign for Bacau.

Overall Rating : Good

Waiting Time : 20 mins

I got picked up by a gorgeous lady in her forties, would it be rude to call her a “Milf”? There isn’t a doubt in my mind she fit the description anyway, (assuming she had children). She was accompanied by her husband and her brother, a mentally handicapped man. He sat in the back with me playing his game-boy. She was the only one with any English so the conversation didn’t exactly flow.

I gathered however that her father had passed away the day before (Rest In Peace) and the family were on the way to their home-place. Seems like a depressing time when you wouldn’t stop for a hitchhiker but hey! Romania is a bloody random place.

She dropped me off at the bus station in Bacau because when I told her I was hitchhiking to Moldova she got worried. This is a thing about Eastern Europe which get’s annoying sometimes.

Every country warns you about their neighbours usually claiming that there are lawless gypsys everywhere once you cross the border.

You don’t need to pay heed on these warnings but the Lady (Milf) was fairly stubborn on the subject. It took 5 minutes of tough persuasion and the demonstration that I had a phone before she was happy to say goodbye to me. Sometimes it’s a blessing that men are so much more likely to pick up hitchhikers, women often worry too much and seem to think up every conceivable possibility that could possibly go wrong and then convince themselves it will go wrong.

I strolled across the bridge then confident that I was making hay on my way to Moldova, I came to a Petrom which looked to have only local traffic so I continued along the road past an Hitchhike bacauimpressive Orthodox Church. Bored of walking and tired of my rugsack (hungover) I made a quick Iasi sign and stuck the thumb out.

Overall Rating : Surprisingly Good considering the traffic moved quickly.

Waiting Time : 30 mins.

I got collected by Marcel, and what a character he was, absolutely wired to the moon would be an understatement. He had no English but would scream in Romanian out the window as he drove and wave inappropriate gestures a lot, especially at the Gypsys. One Gypsy lady in fact flung a fistful of horse-shit at the car (a focus hatchback). Marcel truly was a mad old bastard (probably about 55 years old).

He got lost of course on the way to Iasi (not the last Romanian I would get lost with). Blamed his phones shitty satellite navigation (repeatedly banging it off the dash to make it function properly). He asked a man who was gardening at one stage in a village about directions and nearly got in a fight, as entertaining as it was to hear an argument in Romanian it really wasn’t a smart move. The gardener was carrying a massive scythe.

Eventually we got back on the main road to Iasi, after passing through many small villages cut off from civilization almost. With a single local well for water and sometimes (rare) no electricity and horse drawn carts everywhere, I had to wonder how Romania was in the EU. The country is very medieval in places.

At one stage a van pulled right out in front of Marcel on the main road after a fork where to roads joined each other. Marcel had to slam on the breaks after I let out a horrible shout. It was the van drivers fault to be fair, his daughter was standing on the seat blocking his view of the road but he drove on anyway. I will only say this once The driving in Romania is Lethal!.

I did eventually get to Iasi, (late) and began hitchhiking for Moldova. I asked a local where to hitchhike and walked to the spot, however it proved to be futile after maybe 2 hours trying.hitchhike iasi

Overall Rating : Bad

Waiting Time : 2 Hours Unsuccesful.

I guess to head for Chisinau I should of stood at the north side of the city not the east because the border with Moldova is north of Iasi even if Chisinau is East technically east. If I hadn’t been hungover I could of figured this out instead of standing like an eegit for two hours.

An old lady began talking to me and she was happy to walk me to the bus station, and I got a bus to Chisinau for about 8 euro if I remember right.

Hitchhiking from Sarajevo to Belgrade, an Epic Journey

Hitchhiking from Sarajevo to Belgrade

Hitchhiking from Sarajevo to Belgrade was definitely one of the longest and best remembered days I have ever had on the road.hitchhike belgrade

Hitchhiking at least 10 different cars with fishermen, farmers, business men and all sorts of interesting characters from Bosnia and Serbia.

I even got set-up on a date with one Serbian man’s daughter in one car.

The road was rough for most of the journey with low traffic but it was possible to hitchhike anywhere (at least until the Serbia border anyway).

I hopped from village to village in Bosnia catching lifts in Mk2 VW Golfs and VW Camper Vans which make up 90% of the rural traffic there.

The rides in Serbia were longer and much faster. In either country no-one spoke English except for one Bosnian, sign language and a map had to just about suffice.

I left Sarajevo in the early morning walking along the road to Donja Ljubogosta which goes through a tunnel just outside the city which is dangerous enough to walk but can be done (I did it). The traffic might be less then impressed.

A man in a bus pulled over after the first tunnel to politely shout something at me, when he realized I was foreigner he was a sound ambassador for his new country and offered me a lift. The place where he collected me being marked in red below.hitchhike from sarajevo belgradeOverall Rating : OK, no space for a car to pull in

Waiting Time : Had been walking maybe 15 mins

After getting dropped off near a petrol station at Donja Ljubogosta I strolled up the road 100 meters to the fork in the road. There was a few locals here already hitchhiking and I noticed some Serbia flags hanging from houses from here on, this part of Bosnia is home to mainly Orthodox, Serbian speaking folk who consider themselves Serbian.

I joined the queue of locals hitchhiking on the road over the bridge (at the green mark on the map) looking all natural and not like a bag-packer at all I hope. A sign isn’t needed just wait until your turn to be picked up.

Overall Rating : Great, mostly local traffic. You could try a sign for “Beograd” (Belgrade in Serbian) but its better to take any lifts you get and just to keep moving.

Waiting Time : 10 mins

A man in a van delivering bread to a bakery (mind blowing stuff) brought me a few miles to Sumbolovac. Here I just walked to the edge of the village and stood with my thumb out again where there was space for a car to pull in.

It only took maybe 10 minutes before I was on the road again. If you get impatient just walk along the roads with your thumb out whenever you hear the rumble of some banged up car coming around the bend and hope its a “comrade”.

This pattern repeated itself maybe ten times until the Serbia border. I won’t go into detail on each place I caught a lift because I don’t remember each village and it really dosen’t matter. You can thumb anywhere and walk anywhere.

Some traffic will go maybe two or three villages and most will be going only a few miles, just keep taking lifts. Don’t be bothered if the car has no seat-belts (I gave up checking) or if the driver is chain smoking (most were). Definitely act normal if the driver is drinking beer, I got offered beer in two cars by drinking drivers. Dogs were common too on the passenger seats.

The one guy who spoke English had a very long chat with me and took me to his favourite fishing location. He had run to Italy as a teenager (now probably a hundred) and took a boat to goatAustralia where he worked for many years. He truly had an inspirational life, and gave me his number in case I ran into trouble on the road.

Beside me in the van though was a live goat which he had just bought and planned on killing because he recently got good news. I shit you not.

He began to rant about the divide up of Yugoslavia after the wars and got quite emotional. I sat and listened as he recalled the good old days when there was no border between him and his friends. Not the first or last man I’v meet on my journeys to praise the days under Tito’s Communist Dictatorship. I didn’t meet a single Bosnian who praised the current state of affairs once.

On the road from Sarajevo to Belgrade not only is there some beautiful nature but you will meet all sorts of interesting “Soviet” characters like him, some of whom have barely left their little villages in their entire life.

Some places appeared quite lawless too and one old man asked for money when he collected me, I refused though saying I had none and he understood enough. Offering a cigerette in these situations usually will suffice. Carry a packet even if you don’t smoke because every Serbian smokes.

To walk across the border you need to first walk over a bridge (a river runs along the border). I encountered no problems from the guards and wasn’t searched. I immediately stuck out my thumb again after the border and quickly got picked up.

This time by a man with one arm and one leg, my jaw dropped when he hopped out of the old merc to open my door. He managed to speed along the road maneuvering with only half a body! He didn’t speak English but I assume he unfortunately stepped on a landmine. He clearly wasn’t letting it hold him back in life though, what a mad bastard he was on the road! Drove like a rally driver I swear.

I got dropped off at a petrol station where my driver hopped out of the car to yell at the attendant in Serbian to find me a lift to Belgrade. Possibly scared of the one legged Schumaker hitchhike belgrade to sabache quickly found me a lift with a guy who was heading to Novi-Sad.

The “not so chatty because I’m always on my phone guy” dropped me at the toll booth on the E70 motorway to Belgrade. An excellent and popular location to hitchhike to Belgrade that wasn’t a completely random spot on the side of the road.

Overall Rating : Great for Belgrade, just stand on the other side of the booth and a driver will collect you after they pay.

Waiting Time : 15 mins

The old man who collected me had no English but quite luckily his daughter did. He rang her up and gave me the phone. What a Gentleman if I might say, I had a date set up for the next day in the city. If you have ever been to Serbia you will know that 99.9% of the girls are extremely hot, so the odds were staked in my favor to land a humdinger of a lady, God I love Eastern European genetics.

All in all it took a full day to make this journey and it was without a doubt my most exciting day on the road that Summer. It was my first experience of the more Soviet parts of Europe too, where lifts are simple to get but no-one speaks any English. Offering a cigerette is all the communication that is needed however to become lifelong comrades.

The Balkan countries truly are scattered with beautiful nature, women and friendly people throughout the countryside.

Very very cheap too, cheap as chips in fact.

Before : Hitchhiking from Mostar to Sarajevo

Hitchhiking from Mostar to Sarajevo

Hitchhiking from Mostar to Sarajevo

I was gutted to start hitchhiking from Mostar to Sarajevo but the journey must go on! And so it did to the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina “Sarajevo”, where Franz Ferdinand was famously shot starting World War 1.Mostar Hitchhike

Bosnia is a super-easy country to hitchhike due to the friendly nature of the locals combined with the fact you can hitchhike anywhere (no real motorways).

So to get out of Mostar simply walk along the Sarajevo road (by the bus station) until you see a decent spot where the traffic (mk2 VW Golfs) are moving without much speed and can pull in easily. I caught a lift with the second car to pass.

He was an elderly local and he drove me as far as Konjic. A town halfway between Sarajevo and Mostar.

Overall Rating : Great

Waiting Time : 5 Mins (less possibly)konjic3

On arrival in Konjic I bought myself a roll and a can a tuna then went for a stroll around.

I definetly stuck out here with my blonde hair a lot more then the touristy Mostar. The town had a nice bridge similar to the one in Mostar but the river looked too shallow for jumping in unfortunately.

When I was bored of Konjic I returned to the main road which passes through the town towards Sarajevo from Mostar and began hitchhiking at the Sarajevo side of the town. It only took about 10 minutes before I caught a lift.

A Sarajevo taxi driver offered to take me back with him for free to Sarajevo, just an example of the hospitality you can find in this little country.Hitchhike konjic Sarajevo

Overall Rating : Great

Waiting Time : 10 Mins

 

 

Before : Hitchhiking from Split to Dubrovnik

After : Hitchhiking from Sarajevo to Belgrade

Hitchhiking from Split to Dubrovnik and also Krka National Park

Hitchhiking from Split to Dubrovnik

After spending a couple nights in Split drinking at a hostel with a group of English tourists it was time to hit the road again. The sea, beers and conversations where I didn’t need to speak slowly were refreshing, but I wanted to get to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a change of scenery.

I walked to the Ina petrol station located at the red dot on the map in order to find a lift towards Bosnia. I actually got lost on the way and the Croatian man I asked for directions was sound enough to get his car and drop me at the petrol station.Hitchhike split

I waited there for maybe an hour but every person I approached either spoke no English or indicated that they were only local traffic. I was beginning to get very impatient at this stage.

I was lucky enough however to strike up a conversation with two Chilean guys in a rented Croatian car, tourists driving around the country. They ended up offering me a lift to Krka National Park and after that to Dubrovnik. Deciding that there was still more of Croatia for me to see before Bosnia I took them up on the offer.

Overall Rating : Bad, mostly local traffic, for getting to Zagreb I would recommend finding a way out further from the city to the OMV Station. For the direction of Dubrovnik I would try walking along the coastal road instead with your thumb out.

Waiting Time : 1 Hour (Krka)

 

hitchhike krkaSwimming at Krka National Park. An example of how random hitchhiking can be.

Before : Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split

After : Hitchhiking from Mostar to Sarajevo

Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split

Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split

Hitchhiking from Zagreb to Split proved quite difficult for me but I got to Split in the end. The best way to get out of town is to reach the Lucko toll station. I used tram 14 (or 7 is good) to get to Jadranska avenija. 

My plan was to walk this street until I got to the OMV petrol station on the motorway south instead of getting a bus. It
hitchhiking zagrebfailed though as by some chance of trying to cross the roads at the busy motorway intersection (very dangerous) I ended up at the wrong petrol station, the one marked in the map in red.

This petrol station/motel was more suited to traffic going west however I stuck it out all day and waited.

Two Serbian truck drivers befriended me. They were also stuck there after their truck gotten broken into and their documents stolen.

This is something else worth noting about Zagreb, the edges of the city is riddled with Gypsys so caution is necessary. Just ignore any offers to buy a cheap iphone.

I eventually got a lift to Split from a German guy who was driving to Split because his dog dosen’t like to fly. God bless that dog.

Overall Rating : Bad

Waiting Time : 4-5 Hours

The spot I would recommend using is the point marked in green on the map. The Lucko toll station or the nearby petrol station. The toll booths can be reached by using buses #111 or #132 from Savski mostJust ask the bus driver to tell you when you reach Lucko.

Locals will often hitchhike closer to the city center on Jadranska avenija. Bring a sign for Lucko if your feeling confident and hitchhike a lift to the toll booth instead of using the bus.

Use the signs ST (Split), ZD ( Zadar), DB (Dubrovnik) or try all three on one sign if your not fussy.

Before : Hitchhiking from Ljubljana to Zagreb

After : Hitchhiking from Split to Dubrovnik

What to Bring Hitchhiking

What to Bring Hitchhiking

So what do I need to hitchhike the world? First aid kit maybe, or a shotgun for safety.

Nope its really and simply not anything drastic, and the smaller your bagpack the more enjoyable your journey will be.

Water / Snacks

No matter how short the journey bring water, even if there’s no chance of getting stuck somewhere carrying a bagpack is definetly thirsty work.

Felt Tip Marker

What else for making those artistic signs.

Cardboard

Can usually be found around bins or asking in shops. If your going to be away from the cities then pack some just incase to make your sign.

Lighter

To start a campfire or light a cigarette, never know when a lighter will be needed.

Soap

Clean yourself for fucks sake.

Smokes

Good to offer your driver or share with others on the road, especially in Eastern Europe.

Map / Compass

A map of course for finding your way around, where there is a language barrier just pointing at the map will do the job. I bring a compass too when hiking a bit off the beaten track.

Cash

Always useful in emergencies, when hungry or maybe you will need to catch a bus to get to your hitchhiking spot. Hitchhiking without money is for the more experienced traveller.

Sleeping Bag

When travelling any long distances its essential. Pack for the expected weather conditions.

Tent / Camping Bed / Tarp / Hammock

If you plan on camping of course, if you do get stuck outside by accident a sleeping bag is more useful then a tent. Many people don’t bother if just moving from one city to the next one and staying in hostels or couchsurfing.

A tent is the most common camping gear yet its heavy (never 100% waterproof) and a pain to set-up and pack-up everyday. Only really needed in colder weather, provides the best security too since your bag can’t be seen.

A hammock is my favorite method of sleeping outside, especially in warmer climates, just getting off the ground feels so nice and they pack so light. A mosquito net too is essential for anywhere with bugs. You can tie your bag on the ground to the hammock too so that if anyone tries to steal your bag you fell feel the vibrations. Get inventive and maybe stuff your bag up the tree tied to the hammocks ropes.

A tarp is light, trustworthy and can be used in so many ways. Over a hammock it provides rain shelter, you can cook under a tarp in the rain. In stealth camping situations I usually just get in my sleeping bag and roll up in my tarp too. Fast, effective and light. Dosent keep bugs out though like a tent does. Tarp, sleeping bag and hammock are my choice, and I wear extra layers in cold weather.

Pot

To cook some lovely pasta over the campfire. Only if you expect to cook though, otherwise its just a heavy burden.

Book

If you ever get bored on the road then bring a book.

Passport

Not just for emergencies and crossing borders, I was once asked by a driver if he could check my passport before giving me a lift.

Phone (One with Flash-lamp and Wi-Fi)

In case of emergencies or maybe you will find new contacts on the road. Wi-fi is very useful in towns, just stand outside a café and use their internet to locate a hostel or your couchsurfing host.

Camera

If you want to capture the moments on the road.

Small Umbrella / Sun Screen

An umbrella isn’t needed if your hitchhiking in Iran, however do plan for the expected weather.

Reflective Arm Band and Flash Lamp

Night time hitchhiking can occasionally occur. I don’t recommend it though, you should try start early in the morning.

Instrument or Art Materials

How do you make money on the road if you end up living this lifestyle for more than a few months, harmonica or selling bracelets?

Faith

Remain positive, be brave and don’t give up. I have often found the most useful lifts when at my wits ends on the side of the road after hours of walking.

 

Is there something different that you pack? Let us know.

11 Tips for Backpacking Eastern Europe

Backpacking Eastern Europe Tips

Want to know some tricks that will help you to not stick out like a sore Western thumb when backpacking or hitchhiking Eastern Europe. Just follow some simple rules. Nostrovia!

The countries I am referring to are the more Soviet ones, predominately Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Serbia, and Bulgaria (all still have the Cyrillic alphabet on road-signs) Moldova and Georgia too.

To a lesser extent Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuanian and Montenegro.

hitchhiking Soviet-Union

Inter-railers have been travelling through Central European cities like Prague and Budapest for donkeys years thinking they have been visiting Eastern Europe. There is a difference though, even if they were all once part of the USSR some are more “Soviet” than others.

So if you want cheap alcohol, smokes, beautiful girls, some wild nature and to witness a more traditional style of life while hitchhiking then follow these 11 simple rules.

1) Smoke : An important part of everyday life from the age of 14. Even if you are completely against smoking be sure to carry a pack when hitchhiking. The offer of a smoke to someone is a good method for making friends and finding lifts. It’s also a nice gesture when getting into a strangers car. Smoking by the petrol stations and hitchhiking spots somehow makes you look more approachable too.

Beggars are always delighted to take a smoke too and considering a packet will cost less than 2 euro then that’s 20 beggers not bothering you anymore.

All girls and guys smoke too in the bars and nights-clubs, and in some countries like Serbia they smoke inside too. So don’t expect to socialise with locals in a bar without getting smoke in your face. In other words, don’t complain about smoking in Soviet Countries.

2) Enjoy local Vodka / Wine : So you get into a Bulgarian car after 20 minutes of hitch-hiking and he offers you a shot of his home-grown 40% alcohol Rakia. It’s insulting to say no, so just drink it and smile. Even if you make a horrible face from the taste he will be delighted to have shared his own alcohol with you. Offer a smoke in return and you have a comrade for life.images2QYO4NV3

This happens a lot more often then you would think because the alcohol is cheap and most farmers make their own. Whether it be Rakia (Bulgaria, Serbia), Wine (Moldova, Georgia), Vodka (Ukraine, Belarus) or Palinka (Romania, Hungary).

3) Have a Phrasebook : Countries like Georgia have had to fight off invaders from large empires for many centuries and still managed to hold onto their native tounge. Its a good idea to learn maybe hello and cheers in the local lingo as a sign of respect. The Eastern countries are very proud of their language’s and history so don’t expect the people to have an interest in speaking English. A translation of the Cyrillic alphabet will be helpful too.

4) Hate your Neighbour Country…. and Turkey…. and Gypsys : If you are in any of these countries you should speak poorly of the immediate neighbours. Bulgarians don’t like Romanians, Serbs don’t like Bosnians etc. Just pick any country that borders you and curse them!

The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) savaged the Balkans and Georgia hundreds of years ago leaving a sour taste in their mouths and they aren’t prepared to forgive. Don’t praise Istanbul as your favourite city.

Russia on the other hand is half in half. Some people despise Russia and the language while some people are happy to learn Russian. Much of the older generations remember communist times fondly (seriously). None more so then in countries where Russian is still spoken by a large population. Moldova, Ukraine, Estonia and Belarus are examples, some people hate Putin and others admire him. It’s hard to know who’s who so its best really to avoid Russia chat.

Germany gets off scot free by the way, Hitler’s third Reich also raped Eastern Europe but an ill attitude towards ze Germans is very rare. In fact many people learn German rather than English or Russian as children in school.

Gypsys are very despised by the people who aren’t themselves Gypsys and some people will claim that they came from “Fucking Turkey” originally. Especially in Romania, it’s easy to tell a Gypsy from the rest too, they always have much darker skin.

5) : Don’t stand out : Subcultures and fashions such as goths, rockers, hippies etc. do not exist in Soviet Europe and girls often wear jeans to night clubs. Dress plainly, brush out them dreadlocks and throw out that Che Guvera t-shirt. Try not to smile too much either when first making conversation. I’m not saying people are overly serious but a bit more reserved, just don’t come on too strong with high fives or fist pumps.

10475511_1523474794539370_7515058759075277743_n
David, Tom and Myself (far right) with some local Ukranians. Notice how there are no Iphones, bag-packs, seashell necklaces or beat headphones on display. David obviously stood out a lot being black but he blends back in by not smiling. Well done!

6) Enjoy Cabbage Soup : The national food of Ukraine, stews and soups will make up your diet when travelling through Eastern Europe. Vegetarian’s needn’t worry.

7) Carry Some Cash and your Passport : Just incase it’s needed, euros will be accepted almost anywhere and exchange stalls/shops are never far away (often far more competitive than banks). Get some exchanged when you can though. I have had to exchange cash before on the street with random people because if your fifty has even the slightest tear on it that angry old bitch in the exchange stall won’t accept it.

Cash comes in handy for a quick bribe too (you never know).

The Passport is required in some countries to be with you at all times, spot checks can happen from the police.

8) Don’t Keep Falling in Love : Yes they are all hot, every young woman. Your going to have to get over it eventually.

Mila Kunis is a typical Ukranian woman but she was raised in The States
Mila Kunis is an almost typical young Ukranian woman.

9) Meet a Local : Couchsurfing is superb for meeting locals, just post a conversation topic in the main page of whatever city you are in. You now have a free tour guide because most young folk actually know their city’s history in Eastern Europe.

10) Be Tolerant : When out socialising just remember that some aspects of education and what’s accepted by society are certainly different here. Don’t claim that Communism was horrible or that the Allies could of won WW2 without Russia, it will lead to heated debates. Who’s to say your education is perfect?

Also don’t complain about issues like the lack or rights for gays, racism or how Gypsys treat horses etc.

Yes it’s not fair but your not going to change the mindsets of millions of people while starting an argument at a bar. You might however get your head kicked in by Dimitri and Igor.

11) Don’t do Drugs : The educations system in some of these places has people convinced weed is about as harmful for you as heroin. Do not under any circumstances approach a border carrying weed (or any other recreational drug). If you do you could be facing jail time in some very shit conditions.

In countries like Bulgaria (where weed can grow wild), Ukraine and Belarus you can’t even find skins for rolled up cigarettes easily, and you definitely won’t find a bong for sale. Alcohol abuse and chain smoking is common if not encouraged, but drugs are seemingly the devil! Just don’t bring any.

Good luck comrades!

Hitchhiking in Slovenia Tips

Hitchhiking in Slovenia Tips

Capital : Ljubljana 

Population : Around 2 Million

Languages : Slovenian (Similar to other Baltic Languages)

 English (Many People in Ljubljana, Especially Students)

Difficulty : Small Country that’s easy to Hitchhike, people are friendly.

Money : Euro, cheaper than Western Europe but nowhere near as cheap as other former Yugoslavian states like Serbia.

Hitchhiking in Slovenia isn’t difficult. Slovenia is a small EU country home to around 2 million people and a language of around 2.5 million native speakers.

Not many people can find it on a map if we are honest. The Slovenian people are very proud of their culture however and Ljubljana is a real charming and welcoming town.

It is often confused with Slovakia. The story goes that once the Slovenians and Slovakians were one people however they became divided and since then their languages have separated.

The first country to gain independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, it can be considered the most modern of the former Yugoslavian nations due to its strong connections with Western Countries. Don’t expect to be collected when hitchhiking here in a gypsy kart or old Lada.

To get off on the right foot with Slovenians its advisable to compliment the beauty of Slovenia’s countryside and hills. Ask questions about France Preseren a Slovenian poet to get the conversation flowing. I found Slovenians very welcoming, they will invite you for a drink later or they might offer to share some weed.

Besides the picturesque city of Ljubljana with it’s decent night-life, Slovenia boasts a coastline, caves and mountain hiking for a backpacker to enjoy hitchhiking in Slovenia.

Hitchhiking out of Ljubjana to Zagreb.

hitchhike slovenia

The route I took when hitchhiking through Slovenia.

Hitchhiking in Hungary Tips

Hitchhiking in Hungary Tips

Capital : Budapest (The Paris of the East, A popular bag-packer destination for culture and night clubs on the cheap)

Population : Around 10 Million

Languages : Hungarian (Unique, spoken in parts of Transylvania also)

 English (Mostly Students and Younger People),

 German (Older People and especially near the Austria Border)

Difficulty : Great for Hitchhiking. Petrol Stations recommended for fastest travelling by the motorways.

Money : Hungarian Forint (300 to 1 Euro), Much cheaper then Western Europe however inflation is high here since joining the EU. Don’t exchange money at the airport or train stations but in the little exchange shops around the city.

I particularly enjoy hitchhiking in Hungary because it’s the first country other than Ireland I ever hitch-hiked in. I moved to Budapest in January 2013 to study engineering for six months on Erasmus (A European student exchange programme) and it’s where I found a new passion for travelling.

Up until then I always appreciated the idea of travelling but never saw it as something to base my life around, but the enchantingly beautiful and cheap city of Budapest could turn any “couch potato” into a “Wandering Aengus”.

hitccchhiking hungaryMap showing the routes I hitchhiked in Hungary.

 You will improve your chances of getting around Hungary tenfold by learning basic phrases such as “cheers” (egészségedre), “thanks” (köszönöm) and “good day” (jo napot).

Hungarians have great pride in their strangely unique language and love to hear tourists have a try at the pronunciation. Just by learning “egészségedre” you go from dumb tourist to centre of the party. When in the car with male drivers it is useful to compliment Hungarian women’s looks (they are indeed beautiful and Hungarian men are proud of this.)

To really get the conversation flowing mention that delicious Goulash Soup you ate earlier. Don’t praise Romania or mention it at all unless you want to kill the conversation. Hungarians are extremely proud and still feel an emotional connection with the part Hungarian speaking area of Romania called Transylvania.

There isn’t any hatred towards Germans following WW2 but Russians aren’t very popular, or Turks for that matter but violence is completely unlikely.

Overall hitchhiking in Hungary is straight forward, the country can be considered as part of Central Europe and the roads share more in common with Austria and the Czech Republic then more eastern neighbours such as Ukraine or Romania. It still maintains a bit of the Eastern comrade tradition though so don’t be surprised to be offered the local alcohol Palinka around 40 -60% when hitchhiking on countryside roads.