Simon Calder at 25: The best hitch-hikes ever


Hitch-hiking remains, in my experience, an excellent way to travel.

You meet a self-selecting bunch of good people, find out about their hopes, dreams and daily lives; all while being driven through interesting parts of the world.

There is also the added bonus of hitching being the least damaging form of motorised transport.

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The worst place to hitch-hike in the past quarter-century, incidentally, is Nova Scotia, Canada.

1998: Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

The hitching spot on the outskirts of Victoria Falls in western Zimbabwe was inauspicious: motorists were driving uphill and into the sun. But after an hour, a pick-up truck stopped for my wife Charlotte and me. No room in the cab, but plenty of blankets in the back for a drive under the stars.

2005: Somewhere on the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse in the Black Forest to Achern, Germany

On a snowy December morning in the Black Forest I got a lift with a marketing man from Porsche who was test-driving a top of the range Mercedes to assess the competition – and said: “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.” During the half-hour journey to a small town down in the Rhine Valley, he gave me a masterclass in how automobile marketing works.  

2014: Los Barriles to La Paz, Baja California

I muddled the bus departure times, and ended up hitching beside a hot desert highway: Mexico’s Route 1. Regrettably, my family were there too. But remarkably quickly a chap stopped in an MPV, loaded us and our baggage and drove like the wind through formidable lunar scenery for 100 miles to La Paz, overtaking sundry buses along the way.

2016: Mercedes from the start of the road to Neuschwanstein to the castle gates, Germany

Back in Germany (always the best nation for hitch-hiking) I was calamitously lost in the mountains of Bavaria with a ticket in my pocket for the last tour of the day at Ludwig II’s magnificent castle – and a flight booking home next day. With five minutes to go, I found the start of the road to Neuschwanstein, which was a mile away. A Mercedes driver stopped; his vehicle was completely full, but I was welcome to stand on the bumper.

Four and a half minutes later, I sprinted into the castle as the gates closed.

2017: Tore (northwest of Inverness) to Ullapool, Scotland

The two women driving along the A835 were not merely charming company – they were also, like me, tourists, so we stopped at every vantage point for a photo opportunity and a chance to survey enchanting scenery.

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