Like most of the typical Asian parents, in Bhutan we are taught not to eat snacks if strangers offer, not to talk to strangers, not to ride on a strangers car and many more. Amongst many, hitchhiking has always been a big NO especially for women travellers.
If you hitchhike you will be either name shamed as drivers girlfriend or society will tag you as the crazy woman. Its hard to find people who actually appreciate the solo woman who hit the road all by themselves.
When it comes to gender categorisation its women who fear to hitchhike for various reasons such as harassment, bullying, robbing and at the most getting raped and killed.
Today the dark stories we hear from social media about women being molested to getting sexually harassed or being brutally murdered has instilled fear in most of the women.
You see when just read the above scary lines, it freaked you a bit because you read the things through their lens. Of course one needs to be careful while hitchhiking. You have to be smart enough when on road.
Hitching in Bhutan
After hitchhiking and being on the road solo, I must say hitching in Bhutan is very safe. You just need to have some leap of faith for strangers, wear confidence while hitching and most importantly always be positive.
Remember, If you think positive you attract good things and vice versa. You can’t be afraid of people. Hitchhiking forces you to mix with people and challenge your views against theirs.
I am a solo women traveller and I travel around Bhutan on budget. Budget travelling includes ‘hitchhiking’. I have hitchhiked to Central, Northern and Southern part of Bhutan in all sorts of vehicles except in flashy sporty or high-end cars.
Why Hitch Hike?
Hitchhiking is adventurous, its fun and like someone quoted “it’s the journey one must cherish than the destination”. Hitching is considered budget travelling and its known as one of the oldest way of backpackers travel.
You can travel hundreds of kilometres without spending a penny on transport. Usually, travellers land you spending most on logistics (accommodation and transport ).
Besides financial outlook hitchhiking is more than travelling. You can meet a lot of people and make lots of friends. I have made lots of friends from all walk to life.
From the porter of mountains to truck drivers and many more. You hear stories that you never heard of. Even the darkest secrets of drivers.
Hitchhiking helps you think less. Hitching is always uncertain and there is always a beauty in uncertainty. You just hit the road, unlike someone who reserves the bus/flight and has to get to the station on time without delay.
I have travelled with locals and saw places I never would have otherwise. Hadn’t I hitchhiked to place called Gogona in Wangdi Phodrang, I wouldn’t have met local truckers who were very generous enough to share with me their meal. Some other even bought me lunches at the stopovers.
Haven’t I hitchhiked Doyas Bolero I wouldn’t have got an opportunity to learn more of them? The way they travelled included having stopped over at every restaurant for booze and drinks.
Now don’t freak out, there were ladies in the car too. I felt safe despite my travel mates consuming alcoholic beverages.
Haven’t I hitchhiked on students DCM transport, I wouldn’t have met the students and taught them how I travel solo and that too by hitchhiking. I could read students in awe, encouraged and inspired to commute with their thumbs up.
Hitching is not always glamorous. One should be always prepared for uncertainty. One time when I headed out on the road, the truck broke down on the way.
Another time due to monsoon season I met with a roadblock and had to wait for 8 hours to pass the road. From Samtse to Thimphu I got lifted in 5 vehicles and it was super tiring.
When I recall those moments, although it was a little more exhausting, I learnt the great lesson. We don’t really discover how powerful and resilient we are until we face some adversity that fills our mind with challenges.
Then we realise that we all have within us the courage and the capacity to handle the greatest curves life may throw our way.
Tips to hitchhike in Bhutan
1. You simply don’t stop the cars with your thumb but with the smile & a positive attitude. It helps
2. Wear CONFIDENCE on the road.
3. Dress smart and wear a comfortable outfit. Ladies keep your shorts and leggings at home.
4. Limit yourself to one backpack. Keep your baggage to an absolute minimum.
5. Never forget to take plenty of snacks and water, sometimes it takes a while for a ride to come.
6. Always carry some knives or tools for your safety & first aid.
7. After hitching a car, if you don’t feel comfortable you could ask the driver to drop you off on the road. Saying ‘no’ is not impolite at all.
8. Be happy and have fun.
Where to hitchhike in BHUTAN
BOD is the most common place to find your ride if you are travelling in other remote dzongkhags of Bhutan. One time in Bumthang I stopped more than 10 cars and finally managed to get a lift after hours of anticipation and that too under one condition that I have a small luggage bag and I passed the condition and was on the road in potato truck.
Well, if you are still the not so confident traveller, if you are near town, go to traffic police and ask him to help you get a ride. Most drivers never deny traffic police.
Otherwise just hit the road…..