Yes, we can: Hitchhiking in Spain and Portugal for a month on €200 budget
I bet you’re looking at the screen right now and can’t believe your eyes. How? What’s the catch? There must be a catch!
The catch is: CouchSurfing and hitchhiking in Spain and Portugal. You can read about that in our previous blog entry, but in this one, you will read how it went for my friend Adina and me. Have in mind we did it in August – it’s hot hot hot hot hot outside.
The route done is this one, starting in Valencia, and ending in Pamplona:
We met in Valencia, enjoyed a few days there as I showed her around the city and made her try the delicious Spanish (and Valencian!) food.
The first hitchhiking was short-distance, only to Javea (marked B on the map). We got picked up by Guardia civil (local police) that took us to a better hitchhiking spot and from there we easily got a ride straight to Javea, where we enjoyed beautiful beaches and the company of my good Valencian friends who spend their summers there.
The next stop was Granada (marked C). The hitch was slow and horrible until Murcia, but later we got a ride straight to Granada – only because we were from the Balkans, more precisely the former Yugoslavia. The guy lived in Split, Croatia and is in love with our country and speaks Croatian! Imagine that! 🙂
We didn’t have a CouchSurfing host in Granada because it’s August and everybody’s travelling and all the students are back home in their hometowns. We decided to take a walk and ask people where we could put our sleeping bags and sleep. One lady told us to go to St. Nicolas square to sleep.
– But sleeping outside might be dangerous, someone might rob them! – said another lady.
– How could someone rob them when there’s nothing to steal? They don’t have anything of value! – replied the first lady, laughing.
We arrived at the city centre and I suggested taking a walk around to meet some alternative people.
– Why alternative? – Adina asked.
– Well, they surely know about some squats or other safe places to sleep. – I explained.
– But what if we don’t see any alternative people? – She asked again.
– Well then we’ll ask a random person to tell us where the alternative people hang out. – I laughed at my brilliant suggestion.
One guy pointed us to walk the main street in the old town because there’s a good sleeping place at the end of the street. But while walking that street, we saw a street musician who was about to start playing the flute.
– Hey, it’s not even 10 o’clock, we could sit and enjoy his music for a while. We don’t have to go to sleep straight away. – I suggested.
As soon as we put our backpacks down, another girl that was listening to that musician approached us.
– Hey girls, you seem like you don’t have a place to stay. There’s this Travel House, just around the corner! – she said.
– Oh my, how could I have been so forgetful! That’s my friend’s project! – I completely forgot that my friend from Serbia, Lazar, decided that The Travel House will be in Granada this year.
Now, you’re probably wondering, how did the girl know that we don’t have a place to stay? Well, if you see travellers at night with a backpack that just sit around – it’s probably because they’re tired and don’t have any place to go. (Otherwise, they’d first leave their heavy backpacks and then head to the city centre to listen to the street musicians.)
We spent a few days in Granada, or should I say nights. It was too hot to leave the apartment when the sun is up.
The next stop was Lisbon (marked E). It’s more than 700 km from Granada. We knew it was going to be hard. We knew it was probably going to take us two days. (Spain is not really the easiest country to hitchhike in. In some other countries, one day is more than enough for 700 km.)
After an exhausting day of hitchhiking, we got to Sevilla. It was 8 p.m. and 38°C and we didn’t want to spend a single extra minute there. Let’s continue hitchhiking towards Lisboa, just to get away from this hell.
A couple in a camper picked us up. Long story short, they took us almost to the border with Portugal, to a little place called Isla Cristina (marked D). We made friends, they gave us food and juice and we gave them our stories. They lifted up the roof of the camper, and it created a sort of a tent-like space where two of us could sleep. I couldn’t believe it – we slept on the roof of a camper! 😀
We continued hitchhiking to Lisbon the following day. As soon as we crossed the border, as soon as we entered Portugal, hitchhiking became so easy. We got to Lisbon within a few hours.
Our CouchSurfing hosts in Lisbon were amazing. We went out with them, rode in the trunk of their car, went sightseeing, went to the beach, went to the pool, jumped off a 10-meter jumping board, met loads of people, drank loads of beer, and ate loads of food. Hospitality – amazing!
The next thing was Porto (marked F). Hitchhiking from Lisbon to Porto was so easy and without any complication, we actually realized how much we missed random things happening.
Porto was boring and quite uncomfortable, I must admit. We felt like we were being stared at the whole time. Like they could smell we were foreigners. We wanted to go back to Spain, even if the hitchhiking is hard.
So we hit the direction of Santiago, even though we didn’t have a place to sleep there. After reading the non-updated directions about our hitchhiking spot, we started getting lost and it took us several hours just to leave Porto and reach the hitchhiking spot.
We got picked up by a brother and sister that were going to Vigo (marked G), which is halfway between Porto and Santiago.
– But why would you go straight to Santiago, you could spend one night in Vigo too? – they suggested.
– Well, we don’t have a place to stay in Santiago, we might as well not have a place to stay in Vigo. – I said.
It turned out that their cousin is a CouchSurfer and lives up one hill in a wooden house with her flatmate, four dogs and a cat. They gave us food and money and we made new friends.
The next day, the sister came for us to take us to the hitchhiking spot. But instead, she bought us train tickets to Santiago and took us to the beach and then she paid for the lunch. Incredible!
In the meantime, we found ourselves a CouchSurfing host in Santiago who picked us up from the train station, and took us to meet a lot of other CouchSurfers and his friends. Quite a lovely time.
We decided to skip Gijon (marked I) and go to Bilbao, a bit before Pamplona (marked J). We didn’t know where we would sleep, but so far everything turned out amazing and we were quite confident it would continue that way.
So, we started hitchhiking, but we had trouble even taking off. Our second ride was to La Coruña and we mentioned to the driver that we might stop in Gijon in the hitchhiking goes wrong. The driver, Pablo, told us he used to live there, so if we do end up there, we should contact him.
The next ride was to the next gas station in the middle of nowhere. Almost no traffic. No one to pick us up. It’s cold, even though it’s August. We go behind the gas station, open our sleeping bags and decide to sleep on the grass there. It’s freezing. We actually can’t sleep because it’s too cold.
The fast-food restaurant at the gas station closes at 1. I go inside to ask if they have any food left that they didn’t sell. They give me two tortilla sandwiches. However, we were too busy hiding in our sleeping bags to care about the food. We put that aside, shakily waiting for the dawn.
As soon as the sky started turning light blue, we got up and went to that fast-food restaurant, ordering a cup of tea to warm up a bit after a terribly cold night. We eat our tortilla sandwiches from the last night and try to regain strength.
We ask a girl if she’s going to Gijon – and she says yes – and we happily accept the ride.
However, it turns out that she has to pick up two friends in one small place off the highway and then she’ll take us all to Gijon. When we get to that village, it turns out it is four friends, not two.
– I’m sorry, girls. I thought there were only two of them. – says the girl that picked us up and leaves us in a village, 50 km off the highway.
Now isn’t that just amazing? (sarcasm) It took us the whole day just to return to the highway and continue. When we got 70 km to Gijon, we decide to spend our almost last money on the bus tickets. When we entered the bus and sat down, we realised how tired we actually were. Exhausted.
I texted Pablo, the guy who said he had friends in Gijon – and he immediately sent us the number of his friend, Alvaro. We contact Alvaro who picks us up. It turns out that Alvaro is an architect, more than well-off, living in a two-floor penthouse in the centre, everything perfectly designed. We have our own bedroom and our own toilet. After the night we spent frozen behind a gas station, sleeping in bed seems like sleeping on clouds. We fall asleep within seconds.
There was no hitchhiking spot for Gijon so we decided to follow the signs and figure out a nice place where someone could pull over and pick us up. We lose about 3-4 hours just to find the perfect spot. (Later, I edited the article, about Gijon on hitchwiki so people could know where to hitch in that area.)
We got a ride to a gas station near Santander and everything was just fine, except that we got stuck at a gas station and it was clear we were about to spend another night at a gas station.
We made friends with the clerk who gave us coffee, cigarettes and food. We spent the whole night talking to him and some other random people. In the end, the clerk got us a ride the following morning, almost to Pamplona.
So it took us four days of hitchhiking to cross 740 km from Santiago to Pamplona. What a success! (sarcasm again)
In Pamplona, we met with our friends from Valencia and stayed at one friend’s sister’s place. We spent four days over there, relaxing, recovering and playing tourists, feeling accomplished. We made it we made it we made it. That thought crossed our minds millions of times. We did it. We hitchhiked almost the whole coast of Spain and Portugal, for €200. We enjoyed our well-deserved peace and relaxation.
But, it was only the calm before the storm. We still had to hitchhike back home. Pamplona – Paris – Munich – Zagreb. But that’s whole another story.