Dear future volunteers of Baile Tusnad,
in this blogpost I would like to give you some useful information for hitchhiking in Romania, as well as share with you some of my own stories. Happy reading! 🙂
First of all I have to admit, that I am not an experienced hitchhiker (although by now, I could say that I am :)) and that I have never tried hitchhiking before coming to Romania. In my home country Germany, hitchhiking is not a very common phenomenon, and I would actually be more afraid to do it there, than here in Romania. So, all of the following tips and stories come solely from my own experiences and I can’t guarantee that the same can be applied to other hitchhikers as well.
In Romania, hitchhiking is a practice that people from almost all age groups do, rather than relying on public transport. It is, of course, a cheaper and faster way of transportation (don’t get me started on the Romanian train system…) and usually you can meet quite interesting people. It is very easy, especially if you are a girl. Also, the people here are probably one of the friendlest I know and on top of that very helpful. Of course, hitchhiking always means stepping into unknown territory, but what would life be without some risks?
1. Always make signs with the places you want to go to!
This tip can be used in other countries as well, but it can be especially helpful if you are an EVS volunteer in an unfamiliar country. In this way, people are more likely to think you’re a foreigner and can immediately see in where you want to go and if they drive into this direction as well.
2. Talking about directions: Romania doesn’t really have motorways, so there are mostly main roads which lead to bigger cities and they go through a lot of villages. So, in case you get lost in the middle of nowhere, remember to orientate yourself on these main roads and wait for a car there.
3. If you hitchhike in winter, remember to pretend that you are almost freezed to death and shake your whole body out of coldness.
I am not lying, this has actually worked a couple of times for me. On the other hand, you don’t really need to pretend that you are frozen, because Romanian winters feel like you’re stuck in a fridge for six months. But still you can try this method if you see, that after half an hour nobody takes you and you can also exaggerate your shaking a bit. Maybe then some driver will have pity with the poor, snowman-like volunteer. 🙂
4. Another tip for hitchhiking in winter: NEVER EVER forget your gloves and try to wear at least three pairs of socks…
5. A useful sentence in Romanian to tell drivers, that you don’t want to pay them: ”Nu am/avem bani.” (I/we don’t have money.)
Hitchhiking in Romania is somehow illegal, as it is seen as an unauthorized source of profit. The government tried to make a law against it, but hasn’t fully achieved it yet as far as I know. But actually nobody cares, because almost everybody practices it. You also shouldn’t feel obliged to pay the drivers, as hitchhiking should be for free in the first place and not a source of extra income to the advantage of the drivers. Of course some people give them a couple of lei and you can do too if you feel like it; but if you don’t want to , just say the sentence above and they (hopefully) won’t bother you about this issue anymore. From my experience though, the Romanian drivers usually never ask for money.
6. Always make sure you haven’t accidentally stepped into a long-distance-taxi or something similiar.
When Zivile and me hitchhiked back from Sighisoara, we were taken by a man who had a device, which suspiciously looked like a Taxameter. He also constantly talked with other people through a walkie-talkie-like device, which taxi drivers usually possess. So after realization hit us, that we could potentially be in a taxi for quite a long way, we decided to ask him. The answer wasn’t at all what we had expected it to be: The potential taxi driver turned out to be a policeman! He laughed at us at first and reassured us then that he won’t ask for money.
7. Romanians/Hungarian drive like crazy.
If you want to hitchhike, be prepared that Romanians/Hungarians don’t really follow the driving rules. Sometimes they drove so fast and overran other cars, that I almost got several heartattacks and thought my last minutes had come…This can be especially problematic as the roads are very narrow and curvy.
8. Last but not least, hitchhiking in Romania is a very good way to practice your Romanian or Hungarian and get to know the people better.
When we volunteers go hitchhiking, it is usually me who speak with the drivers, because I speak the best Romanian from all of us. And as not all of the drivers can speak English and you can use Hungarian only in Transylvania, I am a lot of times forced to speak in Romanian. Which is a good thing in my opinion, because I don’t speak a lot of Romanian. Also in this way I don’t have the time to be ashamed of grammatical mistakes, because I don’t have another choice. So if you have gained some basic skills in Romanian or Hungarian during your EVS, I can only encourage you to try speaking, because I can assure you, it will be worth it. Once for example, when we hitchhiked to Sighisoara, a man from Miercurea Ciuc took us all the way. He only spoke Romanian and Hungarian and I talked with him almost all of the drive. Not only did I find out interesting things about Romania, which I didn’t know before, I was also very proud of myself to keep up a conversation in Romanian for so long. After we came back to Tusnad, he wrote me on Facebook, that he looked on our Youth Centers page and is always very glad to meet volunteers, because he admires the energy we put into our work and do many good things in behalf of the community. On top of that, he offered to help us if we need anything at any time. So, this was probably one of the nicest experiences I had so far during hitchhiking.
I hope this blogpost can be somehow helpful for you, if you decide to hitchhike on a regular basis.
So in this case, have a happy hitchhiking! 🙂