Hitchhiking in China is an interesting experience. It goes with ups and downs. Read my hitchhike experiences in China and tips.
Huge country with different culture
China is a huge country. Every town has at least a million inhabitants.
Furthermore there are a lot of cities you’ve never heard of with 5+ million inhabitants.
Most of the country is covered with an insane network of highways. Leading everywhere! And they’re still expanding at an insane pace.
For a Western guy like me the culture is super interesting. Everything is so different. From loudly spitting on the street to premise in the row. Also people secretly looking at you as a foreigner or taking photos of you.
Everything is so different from our Western world. That it’s fun!
Social media blocked in China
Oh and even the world of internet is totally different. No Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube or Instagram, these are blocked. Chinese use similar apps made in China.
Get a good VPN if you want to use social media in China.
Hitchhiking in China
For sure they don’t know what hithhiking is in China. They don’t get what you are doing at all. But most of the time it will work out.
I made a sign with Chinese symbols. Asking for a ride. It said something like: “Please give me a ride”.
Many Chinese start smiling when they see it. Some of them will stop. Really depending on the place you’re at.
Toll booths are good places to hitchhike. Employees are often friendly and might help you. Cars easily stop and can bring you further.
Chinese don’t speak English at all. So when they stop they will talk Chinese to you. Learn a few words Chinese or use a translation app to make clear where you want to go.
Hitchhiking on the Chinese highway
The Chinese highway is not always a good place to hitchhike. Some don’t have emergency lanes, which makes it dangerous. Also it will be difficult for cars to stop.
I managed to get a few rides on the highway. But I would recommend to stick to toll booths. For example I got stuck at the highway when the Chinese police picked me up.
Tips for hitchhiking in China
Hitchhiking is China goes with ups and downs. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s difficult.
National roads tend to be easier than highways. But highways go much quicker.
Getting out of big cities is terrible, it can take a lot of time
Hitchhike experiences in China
I’ve had great experiences in China and also tougher days. Here you’ll find some more of my hitchhike experiences in China.
Help at the toll booth in China
Most of the time I tried to hitchhike at toll booths in China. I found out that it works better than hitchhiking right at the highways.
At several toll booths the employees came out of their cabin to help me. Really cool!
For example this experience at the toll booth:
When the employee from the Chinese toll booth saw me, he immediately came to help me.
He got out a chair from the office and placed it outside. He told me to wait there so he could stop cars for me.
Several apologies later he got me a ride. Why apologies? Because he felt it took too long for me… It took about an hour because there was not much traffic.
Of course I wasn’t in a hurry, so I was very happy he arranged it for me. Definitely an comfortable way of hitchhiking.
Hitchhiking in Tibet
Unfortunately it’s not allowed to hitchhike in Tibet. To enter Tibet as a foreigner you need to book a tour with a guide. And you need a permit.
Luckily I found an alternative. In the Western area of Sichuan you’ll find a very similar Tibetan culture. Also the landscape is stunning. I’ve been in Tibet 5 years ago, so I am able to compare it.
Hitchhiking is easier in Tibetan area
Hitchhiking in this former Tibetan area, in Western Sichuan, is surprisingly easy. It’s much easier than other parts of China. When I was there (november 2019) it still felt very authentic, but they were building more highways to boost tourism.
The Tibetans in the area are super friendly. I roughly went from Kangding to Litang, to Batang and back to Litang and eventually to Shangri-La.
Camp in Tibetan area
I can recommend to just get out of the car at a beautiful area. Hike a bit into the mountains and pitch your tent. That was a beautiful experience for me. Note that the police might not like this though.
Invited for lunches and sleeping
A few times I was invited for lunches in China. Also a few times they invited me to sleep at their house. Chinese are hospitable in some ways.
In neighbouring countries like Mongolia and Tajikistan I’ve experienced more hospitality, but also in China they can be very friendly.
Unfortunately the few times I was invited to sleep over, it was a big detour and decided not to do it.
Hitchhike tips for China
These quick tips will help you with hitchhiking in China.
Hitchhike sign with Chinese symbols
Make a hitchhike sign with Chinese symbols. I used the symbols: 搭便车. This is pronounced as: da-bian-che. Which means something similar like hitchhiking. Most people will understand that. Literally translated it means ‘Convenience ride’.
Chinese translation app
Get a Chinese translation app (and buy a Chinese SIM card). Google Translate is blocked in China so it doesn’t work. Download ‘Baidu Translate’ or anything similar before you go to China. Because the appstores are blocked as well.
Get the app A-Map, it’s also known as ‘Gouda’ app in China.
The public transport and navigation app A-Map works perfect in China. It’s an Chinese app.
Google Maps and Maps.me just don’t have good maps of China. They are not up to date, small roads are missing and Google Maps is blocked. A-Map gives the most accurate timing for routes.
On top of that you can use A-Map for public transport. You can select point A and point B within a city and the app will tell you the best options for public transport.
For hitchhikers, the toll booths are also on A-Map. So you’ll be able to easily get public transport to the toll booth, to start hitchhiking. This makes hitchhiking in China easier.
WeChat to make friends
Download WeChat. This is a sort of WhatsApp and Facebook in one app. Chinese people would love to add you. They call it something like “WeChin” in Mandarin.
Get a VPN before you cross the border
Without a VPN you can’t do much in China. App stores are blocked. Whatsapp, Google, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are also blocked.
So get a VPN before you cross the border. Download the VPN app on your phone, because you won’t be able to do it in China.
Express VPN works the best in China. Many VPNs get blocked by Chinese security services. But Express VPN manages to update their VPN servers for China very often. That’s why they can’t be blocked easily.
Get the best VPN for China: download it via their website.
There are many hostels and cheap hotels in China. You can find them all on Booking.com.