The route of many travelers hitchhiking their way from Europe to Asia passes through Bulgaria. Although this is a hitchhike-friendly country, as with anywhere, hitchhiking in Bulgaria has its specifics. Here are some of the things you should know before finding yourself by the road with your thumb in the air.
Speaking English won’t always help you
Most young people speak enough English to ask you where you are from, why you are in Bulgaria and if you like the country. If a senior Bulgarian picks you up, however, your English will prove useless. Elderly people usually speak decent Russian or maybe some French or German. The chances of your driver speaking any foreign language considerably decrease when you go to small towns and especially in villages.
The language barrier doesn’t mean you can’t communicate
Meeting a driver with whom you don’t share the same language doesn’t always mean you will have to take a vow of silence until the end of the journey. Many Bulgarians are enthusiastic about meeting foreigners and will just try to speak to you in Bulgarian (veeery slooowly) and hope you understand something. Use the international language of your expressive face and waving hands to try to convey your message.
Drivers may go out of their way to help you
In general, Bulgarians are hospitable and friendly and they will often go out of their way to give you a lift to your destination, even if it’s not where they are going. Accept these gestures of caring and enjoy the local cordiality.
Second and third-class roads may leave you stranded
The road system in Bulgaria is in a pretty bad condition and drivers often choose their route based not on the miles they’ll cover but on the quality of the roads. That’s why some second and third-class roads that look like the logical choice on the map may actually be very scarcely used. The most active roads are Sofia – Burgas, Sofia – Varna, and Sofia – Blagoevgrad.
Drivers often break the rules
One of the important things you should know about Bulgaria is that Bulgarian drivers are notorious for acting mindlessly and often aggressively on the road. Some drivers often break the rules and don’t respect others on the road as well as drive at a very high speed, which may make you feel unsafe in the car.
You are not expected to pay for the trip
Hitchhiking is relatively widespread in Bulgaria which means you don’t have to worry about being asked to pay for the ride. Drivers are used to a hitchhiking culture and usually pick up people by the road to share a chat, to meet new people or to stock up on their own hitchhiker’s good karma.
Stick to the hitchhikers’ general rules
Smile, be polite, be sensible and don’t take the ride of a hitchhiker who has arrived on the road before you – these are just a few of the common sense hitchhiking rules that are valid in Bulgaria too. You will find it easier to get a ride at the exits of the main cities compared to highways or gas stations, which are not popular spots for picking up hitchhikers.
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