Since I’m an exchange student here in Norway, I have changed roles. In France, my country, I was used to pick up strangers with my car. Here, I hitchhike to move around.
I had hitchhiked at home, once or twice, when I was younger, but my parents forbid me from doing it again because they thought it was dangerous for a girl to do it. But since I’m not in France anymore, I am technically not breaking their rules! From Volda I have done it once, twice, three times…I have lost count. It works very well! Hitchhiking here in Norway is legal and a fine way to move around, but many people have already told me it’s not that common.
However, it’s an easy way to travel for free, whatever the time or place. To put your thumb up on the road is a universal sign understood by everyone. This way of travelling also allows you to meet all kinds of people. Most of the time you talk a lot with your driver, and I can assure you you always get to learn something. For example, during my last travel to Ålesund I met two Afghan people who told me about their country and shared with me some Afghan music. It was very exotic! Indeed, it’s a very rewarding experience. Another time I bonded with another driver, and he invited me to have some coffee at his place. His wife had been in France, so we spoke a bit in French… only to find out we both studied in Volda University College!
I think the most efficient is to be two people at least and at most. It’s reassuring, both for me and for the driver. Three people can be a good option, but it slightly reduces your chances of being taken.
Of course, to hitchhike means to be adventurous, to adapt to unexpected circumstances. It’s a good idea not to plan your arrival time somewhere because you never know what is going to happen. When I was in Lillehammer in December with two friends, we planned to come back to Volda by hitchhiking. It was a very cold day, though, and we only managed to be taken for 30km. We ended up waiting for a long time, and since night was coming soon and there weren’t any buses until 4am we had to find a place to spend part of the night. Luckily we were welcomed in a local foundation’s headquarters.
There are some other details to consider when hitchhiking here in Norway – some which don’t exist in France. For instance, the roads are very different. In France there are plenty of highways to cross the country, something which apparently is unusual in Norway – and particularly where we are, on the west coast. The roads are often separated by fjords, so you have to take ferries to get somewhere else. And beware! Normally, the ferry is in the middle of nowhere, and if you are not crossing by car already, you have to wait about 30 minutes just to see new cars (and possible takers). Here‘s a little tip: it can be useful to have a sign with you with the name of your arrival place, and step among the vehicles inside the ferry.
You should also keep in mind that the hours of light in Norway change a lot depending on the season. It’s very difficult to hitchhike when the dark sets in, for example, because drivers can’t see you properly. You may also want to avoid hitchhiking during winter, due to the long nights.
Norway is indeed a very beautiful country to explore, but we must recognise that it is expensive to travel here. By hitchhiking, you get free transport, cultural enrichment, and unique human interactions. Your smile and good sence of humour can certainly make the day for your driver. And let’s not forget, it’s eco-friendly as well!