Hitchhiking in Ireland

One of the things that comes up when budget travelers are looking into traveling to Ireland is the question of how to get around the country in the cheapest way – and inevitably when investigating cheap transportation, you’ll have someone say to you, “Oh, just hitchhike!” Now, if you’re a solo traveler, a woman, or someone who’s seen any of those hitchhiker horror movies, you may think this so-called friend is just trying to get you killed so they can inherit your iPod. But the reality is that hitchhiking in Ireland is a time-honored – and generally quite safe – method of getting around the country on a budget.

Much of Ireland is quite rural, and without a rental car you’ll be stuck riding the bus to get to many of the places that are even just slightly off the beaten tourist track. But there are still more out-of-the-way spots that might be totally inaccessible to those truly traveling on a budget if it weren’t for the kindness of Irish strangers picking up hitchhikers alongside the road. Unlike in some countries, hitching isn’t illegal in Ireland (except on the motorways, so don’t try it there), and in fact it’s historically one of the easier ways to get between some points.

Unfortunately, in recent years hitchhiking in Ireland is actually becoming less common and less popular. It’s still much more common in Ireland than it is in just about any other European country, and much easier to get places hitching in Ireland than elsewhere, but whereas many people used to claim that you’d only have to wait 15-20 minutes for a ride (30-45 minutes on a more rural road), the wait times are getting steadily longer.

Some things to know if you’re thinking about hitchhiking in Ireland:

  • You’re not going to get a ride if you’re not well-groomed and clean.
  • You’re more apt to get a ride if you’re traveling alone or with one other person than if you’re traveling in a group of three or more.
  • Most of the rides you’ll get will likely be for relatively short distances, so it could take you several rides to get where you actually want to go.
  • A sign with your destination clearly marked is more helpful than just your thumb when it comes to getting a ride.
  • It’s generally easier to hitch a ride outside the cities.
  • Bring a good rain jacket.

As mentioned, because you’re relying on the kindness of strangers – people who aren’t out driving out specifically to become your personal taxi drivers, who actually are going on their own journeys from place to place – you can’t count on a trip taking a specified amount of time. The main thing to keep in mind is that balance between time and money – if you’ve got all the time in the world but seriously limited funds, then hitching in Ireland is an ideal option. But if your time is more limited and you can afford a bus ride now and then, then maybe you’ll want to try hitchhiking on a short trip for fun rather than rely on it as your sole method of transport around the country.

Be sure to check out this August 2008 article in the Irish Times about hitchhiking in Ireland.

If you haven’t heard of Tony Hawks’ popular book, “Round Ireland With a Fridge,” you might want to pick up a copy – it’s a funny book (even if Sean didn’t like it much!), and although your experience hitching in Ireland will likely be absolutely nothing like his, it could give you an idea of how common hitching around Ireland really can be.