The experience in numbers
- – Kilometers covered: 2.669 km
– Number of vehicles: 49
– Days on the road: 13
– Total minutes waiting: 749,5 mins (12,5h)
- – Average wait / car: 15,3 mins
– Average distance / car: 54,5 km
– Average distance / day: 205,3 km
- – Maximum distance in one day: 516 km
How we lived it
Coming from Thailand, a paradise for hitchhikers, we thought that hitchhiking would easily get harder in this neighboring country, where the few experiences we had heard about were not too good. And the truth is that, luckily, we could not have been more wrong.
The main problem that you will find in Laos basically is that there are not too many cars circulating (and even less covering long distances) and due to the poor condition of the roads, you will spend more time than expected to do less kilometers. To give you an idea of how their infrastructures are, the main road that begins in the Chinese border and connects the capital with Thailand at several points and finally with Cambodia, is a simple badly paved dual carriageway. And even this one is not illuminated, so forget about hitchhiking when the sun begins to set.
The communication with the drivers is also one of the major impediments, as outside Vientiane few people speak English and much of the rural population does not even know to read Lao, so you will have little more than gestures and the sympathy that you can transmit to make yourself understandable.
In general throughout the country we never needed to clarify we were not going to pay, because they never asked for money, unless in Si Phan Don where more than one wanted to charge us. So when a car stopped and we could not understand if he wanted money or not, we said a simple ‘ Po ao taxi ‘ (I do not want taxi) and if he disappeared we could quickly see that he had not stopped just to help out.
Although when we reached the country, seeing the low traffic on the roads we thought we would hitchhike always with the sign with our destination written on it, the truth is that we never did and it always worked well, with the exception of the section between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, where we spent an entire afternoon hitching and nobody stopped. Finally, a farang stopped to tell us that noone was going to stop, since that was the known area where in the last months several locals had shot a couple of tourist buses, and obviously local people did not want to bring any foreign in their cars and run the same fate.
Finally, while it is true that on average we had to wait a little longer than in other countries, with the exception mentioned, we always got where we wanted without too much trouble.