United Kingdom

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Flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom
Information
Language: English; recognized regional languages are Welsh, Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish
Capital: London
Population: 60,975,000
Currency: Pound sterling (GBP)
Hitchability: <rating country='uk' />
Meet fellow hitchhikers on Trustroots or BeWelcome
<map lat='54.6992335284814' lng='-4.130859375' zoom='5' view='3' country='United Kingdom' height='420'/>


The United Kingdom is a member state of the European Union which forms the so-called Common Travel area with Ireland and is not part of the Schengen Agreement. Hitchhiking in the United Kingdom is feasible although the British are a little surprised (especially in England) to see people still doing it these days since it has become a dying trend largely due to the safety worries, insurance issues and very busy roads, but also extremely cheap coach fares . You will still manage a ride somehow but you really need to be at the right spot. Finding a safe spot where drivers can pull over easily can be crucial here - British people usually don't like to stop in bad places, so make it easy for them to pick you up!

Hitching in Scotland or Wales tends to be more easy than in southern England although this depends from county to county. For example, the rural mentality in the South West makes it a lot more easier than trying to hitch in the South East. It seems the closer you are to big cities, especially London, the harder it is. Furthermore, especially in the South of England, people have some kind of you-only-get-what-you-merit-(equals: work for)-attitude, which is why they sometimes react unfriendly to the idea of hitching. On the other hand, very many students hitched in the 70s and 80s and they often give lifts now they are rich and 50plus.

Roaming Pencil has hitchhiked over 5000 km in the UK (Mid/North England, Wales and Scotland). She was initially apprehensive due to this page, but has found out that UK is great for hitchhiking, often with low waiting times, people offering rides even before you officially start hitchhiking, and very helpful drivers.

Like anywhere else, it is illegal to walk on motorways, and so hitchhiking is best done from the bottom of slip roads and at service stations (at discretion of the owner). Highways Agency officials may question you if you hitch from sliproads on motorways as technically you are not allowed to do this, but the police will not pay any interest; the Highways Agency staff are more pedantic than the police regarding that.

When traveling a long distance on the motorways it is best to stick to the service stations as getting a lift on a slip road will take an exceptionally longer time. Don't get dropped at any motorway intersection junctions (M25/M4, M4/M5 etc.) as traffic will be going too fast to stop and you will probably be picked up by the police. In case you do get dropped there your best option is probably to start walking a bit away from the motorway, and if you're a foreigner, attach a sign to your backpack saying e.g. from Holland.

Apart from motorways, you can also hitch on the so-called A-roads, where - legally - you can stand on the side lane. As A-roads, however, are a replacement for motorways in more rural areas, people basically go at the same speed, and it is quite difficult and dangerous to flag somebody down.

British people don't like stopping in unsafe places! Try to find a stop where it's easy to stop, even at the cost of lower traffic.

Also, here rides are lifts and trucks are lorries :)

If you're hitchhiking long distances and considering making a sign, in general people use the motorway names rather than the city names. For example, from London to Cornwall have a sign saying M4. But if you are hitching on a motorway with multiple cities (i.e. M1) it is an idea to use a sign with the city name (e.g. Nottingham, Sheffield).

Most people in the United Kingdom seems to be afraid of terrorist attacks, criminals or whatever. You can easily notice that junctions, stations, supermarkets and sometimes even pubs are video-monitored. They have naked scanners at the airports and so on. If you ask unknown people in cities in the dark for the way or for something, they can be terrified or anxious.

Insights about service stations method

  • As it is mentioned above, try to stick to motorway services, as lot of traffic is passing, filling up their tanks.
  • TALK with drivers who are filling up their tanks in petrol station.
  • It will help if you will have a sign, or if you don't have one, have some kind of paper map, because you will look more trustable from distance.
  • As they are afraid of terrorists, try to be as polite as possible, sometimes you'll encounter chatty people, chat a little bit for their pleasure, and for you to calm down if you are trying to get a ride for longer time. Also you can even get job offers (Strazdas007 got offer from driver to work as roofpainter or smth like that in service station near Leeds).
  • If there are a lot of traffic coming through petrol station, or in general, don't waste time going to speek to drivers in rest area, they will pass you at some point.
  • Try asking drivers if you are in good place for heading that direction, for example: Strazdas007 was stuck on Maidstone services while trying to get to the North, as all drivers where going South, or just around the corner, so he just went back to Dover port. If you are in bad service station for your direction, don't hesitate going back to last good spot, or possibly good spot.
  • Try to look up service stations on maps or gps. A Collins road map of the UK (+ Ireland) can be found in book stores for ~£5 and is very useful here since you don't want to miss the last possible service sttation.
  • Go for the popular ones if you have a choice, like: Starbucks over Costa, as it is with petrol stations - Shell over BP.

Climate

The UK is infamous for its rainy weather. The oceanic climate makes the weather changeable from one day to the next and causes comparatively long but light phases of rain. This doesn't mean it's always raining, but it can always rain. Be prepared and always have waterproof clothes with you. The rainiest months are October−January. As a rule of thumb, one could say the further west and the higher the elevation, the greater the rainfall. Contradicting the cliché, some parts of south and west England are surprisingly dry and may even have drought problems in summer.

An advantage of the mild oceanic climate is that it does not get extremely cold or hot.

Hitchhiking towards Western Europe

Carl and his hitch partner Naomi leaving Cardiff for Morocco.

Hitchhiking the English Channel from England to France is possible. Just hitchhike in direction of Dover along the M20 in the South East to reach the ferries or The Channel Tunnel. Once you're there, you could either try to find a lift in Dover or in a more relaxed atmosphere on one of the services along the M20, e.g. Maidstone Services (note however that a lot of people on this service station are locals, so you might be better off with a truck driver, they are parked behind the restaurant).

Truckers who cross the channel through the Eurotunnel (train) cannot take an extra person, but those who go by ferry in Dover can. If you're lucky you can even eat for free in the truckers' restaurant on the ferry! If you can't get a ride from a service station before Dover, wait by the BP station just over a mile before the ferry port in Dover. See the English channel page.

You can also hitch from the Immingham docks near Grimsby to Zeebrugge on a truck ferry. Hitching from Scotland to Scandinavia is also possible, see Scrabster. Due to fears of terrorism and illegal immigration authorities may ask you not to wait near the docks.

Hitchhiking from Western Europe

Hitchiking across the English Channel to Great Britain is possible. When coming from France, make sure you stay on the A26. Loads of truck drivers are heading from Switzerland, Luxembourg and Germany to Great Britain. So if someone offers you a ride to Lille, make sure you stay on the A26 or you might get stuck.

If you're dropped off in Calais, you can start hitchhiking at the bottom of the bridge before the check-in. The price is the same for a car, no matter how many passengers (also in Dunkerque). People who booked in advance indicated how many passengers they would have, so it could be better not to mention at the check-in that you're a hitchhiker (?). A one way ticket as a foot passenger is € 40. On the parking lot where everyone's waiting to board the ferry, you can often find another lift that goes in your direction. Just show your sign to all the waiting truckers/cars.

If coming from Zeebrugge note that the truckers usually can have two passengers on the manifest so if you travel this way you don't need to pay for a ferry ticket. You might be better off hitching with a car, because truck drivers are often more suspicious of people who want to be taken across the channel - their livelihood depends on it, as UK police tend to arrest anybody who knowingly or not help illegal immigrants to enter the UK.

Hitchhiking from or towards Ireland

There are ferries from Wales (Holyhead in the North and Fishguard in the South), from Scotland (Troon, Cairnryan, Stranraer) and from England (around Liverpool). Currently, it might only be possible to get across without paying if you can find a sympathetic driver who allows you to hide in their vehicle, as every passenger pays separately.

From Birkenhead there is a ferry with DFDS seaways that goes either directly to Dublin or Belfast. Two ferries per day, one in the morning and one in the evening. If you can find a driver who has already paid for his car + 1, then it is possible to amend that ticket and check in with the driver for only 10 euros. It would still be paying, but on the ferry you get a dinner buffet and breakfast buffet.

Your driver will also get a cabin with his ticket with four bunkbeds in it, so you will depending on wether your driver wants you in the cabin or not, get a night on real sheets. (Cheapest alternative I have been able to come across if you are still to do it in any legal way. Credit to SamanthaofTarth on the westeros internet forum for this initial info.)

(If you decide to pay, consider getting a Megabus for 25 Pound from London to Rosslare, ferry included, as this is already cheaper then the foot passenger ticket for the ferry only. Alternatively, there sometimes are decent Rail & Sail offers from London to Dublin, via the Holyhead Ferry.)


Useful travel information

  • Dumpster-diving/skipping: while it is quite possible and easy in many cities to live completely out of the bins (e.g. London), skipping on motorway service stations can be difficult. There are cameras everywhere, and security can be fast.
  • Cheap travel: if ever you do have to pay for transport, the cheapest option (by far) is megabus.co.uk They sometimes have special offers which allow you to travel for hundres of miles for 5 pound. (Not saying this to advertise for megabus, but sometimes it does make more sense to pay 5 quid for the whole journey, then to pay 4,50 quid on local transport to get to the hitchhiking spot.....)
  • Trains: trains are privatised, therefore expensive (unless you get a special offer). While checks on trains happen with a maybe 50% chance, most of the stations have barriers, and are usually staffed. Don't count on any solidarity when trying to travel for free.
  • Sleep/accomodation: Something to keep in mind is that the British government has threatened to deport (and ban from re-entry for a year) EU nationals who beg or "sleep in the street"/"sleep outside" in the UK. The exact application of this new rule isn't known yet, however. (uncle_sam01 finds this highly unlikely, so long the UK remains an EU member, ie. at least until March 2019, the UK cannot deport or deny entry to an EU national unless they have committed a serious crime and sleeping outside is nowhere near a serious crime.) Squatting in England and Wales is still partly legal, there are squat scenes in London and Brighton, less so in Cardiff, Leeds, and Bristol. Yet, squats are often transient spaces, and difficult to run into if you don't have contacts. Note however, that squatting a commercial building is legal, so if you want to crash somewhere for a night, don't chose a residential building. For more information on squatting check http://www.squatter.org.uk/
  • Internet: In city libraries you can use Internet PCs for free after a short(ish) free registration (some want to see a passport, some aren't that strict). Legally this should be available to everyone, but in some localities, staff may say its only available to local residents or library members. In this case just ask to join the library.
  • Free showers: Most larger UK universities have free shower facilities intended for students and staff who commute by bike. They're usually not in an access-restricted area, so getting in shouldn't be hard - try googling something like "[city/university name] bike showers" for a list of showers with locations and access restrictions, such as this one. Appearing like a student/member of staff (ie. not like a vagrant hippy with a giant backpack :P) might help.


Countries

For more specific information about the countries, islands and cities within the United Kingdom, have a look at this overview of British constituent countries and affiliations:

Constituent countries and affiliations of the United Kingdom

Constituent countries: EnglandNorthern IrelandScotlandWales

Overseas Territories: AnguillaBermudaBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBritish Virgin IslandsCayman IslandsFalkland IslandsGibraltar

Crown dependencies: Channel IslandsGuernseyIsle of ManJersey


Links

Countries of Europe

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