Earth > Asia > Southern Asia > India
|Language:||Hindi, English, various regional languages|
|Currency:||Indian rupee (₨) (INR)|
|Hitchability:||<rating country='in' />|
|Meet fellow hitchhikers on Trustroots or BeWelcome|
|<map lat='21.739091217718574' lng='82.177734375' zoom='5' view='0' float='right' />|
India is a land of diverse cultures, faiths, languages and people. For all practical purposes though, English is widely understood throughout the country. However, throughout the northern regions Hindi is also widely spoken apart from the regional languages.
The condition of road surfaces, driving habits, vehicles and driver profiles varies greatly from region to region even in the same state. Sikh drivers are generally friendly and can be generally trusted - hospitality is part of their religion after all. Although hitchhiking is allowed as in it is not illegal, it is not something which is common, except in the western states. A ride may be sometimes difficult to get as some local hitchhikers actually turn out to be robbers and dacoits who flag down vehicles and loot them.
However, hitchhiking is possible. The Academy of Free Travel organized an expedition in India in 1998 where nine participants hitchhiked the entire length of the country north to south. There is a growing Indian hitchhiking community, and the rise of the car-owning middle class means that hitchhiking from cities to popular excursion sites is increasingly simple.
Gesturing for a ride will inevitably attract a taxi, bus or the three wheeler auto rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. Rates will vary from region to region.
In the adjoining Punjab and Haryana states in the north and in the western provinces of Rajasthan and Gujarat, particularly on the road from Jaipur and Agra and in rural areas, it will be possible to hitch a ride on the back of a Jugaad or another home-made vehicle. Jugaads are constructed by fitting locally available 10-14 horsepower diesel pump sets, normally used to draw up water from underground wells for irrigation. These are connected to steering wheels taken from abandoned jeeps or trucks using other similarly cannibalised parts. The entire contraption is then mounted on a long wooden, trailer-like chassis on four wheels. If you ever decide to hitch-hike to and from a rural village in these areas, chances are you will get a ride on a home-made vehicle - it is a way of life for the driver and the locals. Usually, a payment of up to 10 rupees per journey is expected.
In Sikkim in the Northwest it is common for drivers to pick up locals as well as hitchhikers and charge them the same price for the ride as the scarce official jeeps would.
Rides on Trucks
In some regions, the only vehicles which may bother to stop and pick up hikers would be long distance trucks. They generally ply between cities or villages. Speeding is common and trucks are often involved in accidents. Drunk driving is also fairly common. If offered a ride on the truck, it is best to humor the driver and helper by engaging in small talk as far as possible. Silence may lead to sullen behavior and even hostility. On the good side, truck drivers may press food upon you and you can sleep on rope beds at the truck stops. There’s also water in the trucks for you to wash in your underwear (men only)!
It is very easy to hitch short distances in India on the back of someones motorbike. Even in the big cities, short lifts can easily be had. A foreigner flagging down a motobike is not a very common sight, so often the first bike to see you will enthusiastically stop. Most bikes travel only short distances, a few km. Long journeys will involve changing bikes very often. Works perfectly for example if you can't be bothered to walk half a km to the train station. Just flag down a bike, point in the right direction and off you go!
Even passionate hitchhikers often resort to train travel in India, as it offers its own kind of adventure. Most trains in India, with the exception of the Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Garib Rath express trains, have four carriages marked General class (two at the front of the train, two at the rear). Riding in these carriages requires only that you buy a ticket just before boarding or paying the conductor, while other classes require reservations days or weeks in advance. General Class carriages do not guarantee a place to sit. You might encounter carriages where people are packed together as tightly as cattle, while at other times the carriage might be half-empty and you can lie down and sleep. An overnight journey in a General Class compartment costs only around 100Rs, making them a good alternative to hitchhiking. Drinking water is available at train stations.
A few tickets on each train are reserved for foreigners ("Foreign Tourist Quota") and can often be purchased just before boarding or a day or two before. These tickets are available at major stations and must usually be bought from a special office at the station. You will be asked to show your passport.
Sleeping outside is accepted in India, and millions of urban poor do it. Theft is rarely a concern if you are sleeping among a large crowd, though you ought to secure your bag in some small way. If you need a place to overnight, head for the nearest train station, where you can spread out your sleeping bag and no one will bother you. Often there is a waiting room for those with train reservations (called "Upper Class Waiting Room" or similar), and foreigners can usually enter those and sleep without being asked to show a ticket. Earplugs are useful. In the Golden Temple in Amritsar foreigners get free accommodation. The rooms are located next to the train ticket counter on the south-eastern side of the Golden Temple. Sometimes, Buddhist temples will also be able to provide free accommodation. Just ask for it :)
The Sikh religion of India emphasizes hospitality and at any Sikh temple (gurdwara) you can find meals. Don't be ashamed to ask anyone standing around there where you can find the dining room (langar), as many Sikhs voice regret that few foreigners come and accept what they offer. There is no religious proselytizing, and because everyone eats sitting in a row on the floor, it's a great way to strike up conversations with everyday Indians.
- New Delhi
- Mumbai (Bombay)
- Kolkata (Calcutta)
- Kerala is not a city, but a continuum of heavily urbanized 'villages' with Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kollam and a dozen more places as cities in their own might.)
Craig: Iran turned out to be the best country to thumb up lifts. Even the other countries were far easier to hitchhike than Germany. With one exception … India. We had an awesome time hitching Indian tractors etc. but hitching there is exhausting: Sometimes it takes you more than half an hour to simply explain what you do. Other reasons: Extreme cheap public transport and scarce long distance traffic on roads. Can you imagine that one of the four principal highways leaving 20-million-Mumbai is a two-lane (!!!) road? Anyways. If you can stand long waits go for it! It is possible! 
Rumunskoje: I have just finished my hitchhiking trip through India. So here are some tips to share which I hope will be helpful. But keep in mind, that they are based on my experience so there can be some variables. 1. Hitchhiking in India IS possible. Be self-confident and never give up, even if everybody tells you that it's impossible. 2. HH here is easy, but a little bit complicated. First of all, it's not possible to catch a ride inside of the city because of thousands of rikshaws, motor rikshaws, cabs and other vehicles. The suburbs are endless and hardly walkable. The only way to get out of the city is by bus or train. But the thing is that bus drivers don't speak English, so it's quite challenging to explain them what you need. However, when I was walking throughout the city I was given a lift by couple of bikers without hitchhiking. 3. NOBODY actually knows what hh is. The best answer is: "I'm walking". If they keep on questioning continue by saying that you're walking along the road, stopping cars and asking for a free LIFT". The key word is a LIFT. 4. If you say that you don't have money for transport, Indians will offer you some money, food, bus and train tickets, accommodation and even alcohol. Sometimes it's really difficult to refuse. 5. Be prepared for being picked up by trucks and motobikes. Normal cars are rare here. 6. Truck drivers don't speak English, and sometimes they do not speak Hindi. Illiteracy level is quite high here. 7. ALWAYS stress that you will not pay for a ride. There are lots of types of public transport with the fixed fees. After a while you will be able to distinguish them. 8. White people are privileged. 9. If you are not extremely lucky, you will not cover more than 400 km a day. 10. There are often ring-roads in bigger cities, so once you leave one, you risk not to get inside of the big city again. 11. Although HH in India is safe, it's better not to trust Indians too much. 12. NEVER EVER say that you support Pakistan National Cricket Team. Once I did it for fun to check the reaction. Driver stopped the car and asked me to get off. 13. FOR NOMADS: It's a good idea to stay overnight in temples. They are very clean and monks won't disturb your rest." [www.rumunskojetravels.wordpress.com]
PhyiscsHipster: I hitched around Kashmir in May 2016 and found it quite easy. Traffic is much more scarce, so people understand the concept better. Lots of trucks will stopped, and didn't expect payment. Knowing hindi was a huge asset, as most people don't speak English in remote areas. Also be careful of the altitude, as it can mess with you.
Dadu12: Me an my friend hitched from Dharamshala to Srinagar via Jammu. As PhysicalHipster wrote, its quite easy if you know how to wave. Additional Infos about hitching in Kashmir: You may find some locals trying to get a lift from trucks. We also sat in tracks together with Kasmiris going home after sunset. Be aware that the road condition of the Jammu-Srinagar Highway it quite bad and it takes long time. Hitching in Leh/Ladakh: It was a blast and worked okay, since many regions are quite remote. Be prepared to freeze on a pickup at -temperatures. Also, be aware of high passes/streets (f.ex. Kardung La). You may also like to hitch without destination and see what will happen.. Some guy took us to a REAL bad road leading to some workers midst of a National Park, and it was beautiful.
Jo_hannaaah hitchhiked almost the entire length of India in the summer of 2018 and this is a short recap of her experiences: Hitchhiking in India is easy, although people do not understand what the heck you are up to. If you're white, they'll think you're very very rich and they won't understand what you are doing outside an air-conditioned taxi or bus or train. Almost all my rides brought me to a busstation rather than allowing me to stay on the highway. Apart from that , hitchhiking in India is amazing! People are curious and kind and inclined towards helping you. I have to add here that I am a blond, white female solo traveler, not extremely unappealing. If you're not, your experiences might slightly differ from mine. Remember; everything in India moves slow; busses, trains , but cars as well. You won't be covering the distances you're used to in other countries maybe. 250 km is a good distance for a day. Trucks offer great long-distance rides and high views, but they mover extremely slow. Sometimes the truck drivers got a bit sexual, but not on a dangerous level.. just slightly uncomfortable. The Roadhouses next to the highways offer the greatest food I had in India so far. I started in Madurai and Hitched all the way up to new Delhi. In the south, people are generally more friendly and less money-driven than the people in the north (Rajasthan and Delhi). The hitchhiking itself became easier further up north, as the private cars slowly appeared. In the southern states (Tamil Nadu, Kerala , Karnataka) I hopped on every vehicle I flagged down, but the greater variety of available cars in the north (Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Delhi) allowed me to be picky and to stop thumbing up so many trucks. If you are alone, motorcycles offer great rides, although some of them were slightly uncomfortable in a physical sense. The roads were surprisingly alright , apart from the occasional dead cow or dog! The highways are the best for hitchhikers, since you can just stand on the actual highway, and people just stop for you. It's very normal to park your car on the middle of the highway to chat you up or let you in (love it). In short: hitchhiking is easy and safe, although people don't understand it. It is slow, but remember that everything moves slow in India.. hitchhiking is probably one of the fastest options to reach your destination. Please make sure for yourself to be comfortable with what you are doing. It is simply not for everyone.
Bangladesh: Most borders are open.
Bhutan: The main border is Pheuntsholing, with a number of smaller ones to the west. In theory, all are open, however Bhutan's strict visa process requires a guided tour that costs 250 USD a day. There is word that border guards will sometimes let tourists explore the Pheuntsholing border town without a visa, but all onward travel will require police and visa checks. A better option could be going to nearby Sikkim, which is very similar in terms of culture and geography.
China: There are no land borders open to foreigners. Going through Nepal is also generally not an option, as Tibet is heavily controlled and not open to independent travel.
Nepal: Most borders are open.
Myanmar: The only border crossing open is Moreh - Tamu in Manipur. Moreh is around 100 km away from Imphal (capital of Manipur state) through a mountain road. A special border permit is needed to enter Myanmar through this border, and it can be obtained via email through a travel agency in Myanmar, provided one has already a Myanmar visa in his/her passport.
EDIT 2017: Obtaining a cross border permit from Myanmar's government is no longer possible without booking an all-inclusive tour with a state-approved Myanmar travel agent (we're talking several thousand USDs). Also there is a stupid Myanmar regulation that says that, unless you are coming in the country with your own vehicle, you can only exit Myanmar through the same border you used for entering. The rule does seem to be enforced at major airports (they will not let you check out immigration if your entry stamp was at Tamu, but there have been reports that it is relaxed at land border crossings with Thailand and people have been able to cross the country in that direction (back when you did not need a tour to get the border crossing permit...)