Van is a city in Turkey. It's located in eastern Anatolia, quite close to Iran and Iraq. It's the unofficial capital of the eastern part of the Kurdish region, and also houses a large amount of Armenians.
The population of Van mostly consists of Muslims, but they appear very western. There aren't many headscarfs and young people (both genders) seem very outgoing. Because Van is so far off the beaten track, and not many Turks go there because of the Kurdish conflict, people here are very friendly towards visitors (especially westeners). Hitching out and around the area won't be a problem at all.
North toward Dogubayazit
Take one of the many city buses marked "Kampus" to the university (it costs 1.25 lira as of 2012). See the famous cats at the Kedi Evi. Get back to the main road and stick out your thumb.
East toward Iran
You can either walk or take a minibus to the eastern part of the city. From here, you need to head towards "Saray" to reach the border.Don't start too early in the morning (before 7 or 8) as the border is closed until almost 9.
Accommodation and Sleep
There aren't any hostels, but several cheap hotels. When you bargain properly, you van get the price down to about 25 lira a night (12.5 euro).
Since people here are so friendly towards travellers, camping in a park is also an option. Even the police are generally interested in where you are from etc.