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Hitchhiking in New Zealand

  

Hitchhiking in New Zealand

A lot of travellers in New Zealand, in particular those who label themselves as “backpackers”, in an attempt to save some dollars will consider hitchhiking as a form of transport. While this is illegal or frowned upon in many parts of the world, in New Zealand it is perfectly legal and a perfectly acceptable form of transport. Here are some reasons why New Zealand is an excellent location to try hitchhiking in.

It's green - New Zealand prides itself on being a natural paradise, and there are many efforts in place to try to live a green lifestyle so that the residents can protect the natural beauty that surrounds them. The logistics are there - the car will already be going in the same direction, and, if you take out of the equation the extra fuel consumed from the little bit of extra weight in the passenger seat and the potential extra distance that your ride may be willing to take you to your destination, there are no more harmful emissions released into the atmosphere.
New Zealand doesn't have many roads - When you look at the South Island, most of the towns, most of which are very small and based around one large road, are all located on a large loop road that circles the Southern Alps. This means there is a high chance that everybody going in one direction on the road will be passing by the destination you are trying to reach. The drivers and the hitchhikers know this, and so drivers are more likely to stop to pick you up, and when they do, there is no awkward moment of “well actually I'm not going in that direction”. At the very least, they can take you further down the road where you can wait for the next ride. The North Island is a little more complex, but is still very easy to navigate by hitchhiking.
Kiwis are friendly - This is a bit of a stereotype, and of course there are exceptions to the rule and you cannot guarantee that your driver will be somebody that you get along with, but generally speaking, on the whole, Kiwis are friendly and talkative people. Sometimes they are too friendly and talkative that you miss some of the beautiful landscape rolling by out of the windows. Most hitchhikers will tell you stories about the wonderful people they have met, about some drivers who have become best friends, about people who have been willing to not only drive them but to take them into their homes and to feed and accomodate them, and of course of the amazing stories that these people have conjured up on the road. Most of the drivers who will pick up hitchhikers have been hitchhikers themselves before, and so there is a real sense of community amongst those who participate in hitchhiking.
Money saving - While it is courteous to offer your driver a small amount of money to offset the cost of fuel, most of them will turn down your offer. The cost of private transport in New Zealand is often expensive, and in some remote places services like Intercity don't run every day, but you can always guarantee there are cars travelling on the roads. These bus companies do operate at a very reasonable rate, but it doesn't compete with the diminished price of hitchhiking.
Waiting times - You will hear horror stories of people waiting for hours and hours on the side of the road in the rain, but, generally speaking, usually you will be picked up in under twenty minutes. Hitchhiking is very popular in New Zealand, so much so you don't really see people standing on the side of the road with their thumbs up because they have already been picked up and are making friends on the way to their destination. There are times when you will have to wait longer, and picking a good location where cars are driving slowly and where you are clearly visible makes a huge difference, but on the other end of the scale, sometimes people are offering to give you a ride when you haven't even begun to try to get a ride.
See the sights - if you don't get picked up by a local, chances are you will get picked up by an international traveller who will want to stop and to take photographs and to visit the locations. You shouldn't try to hitchhike if you are on a tight schedule, but if you have the time, you will most likely get a very thorough tour of the area you are in.

 

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