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Hitchhiker's Guide to Dalmatia

Thumbs up and off you go. Or so you’d like to. Hitchhiking means adventure. By definition. Risky, yet generally worth it. Time-consuming or time-saving, depending on your thumb’s luck. Just be prepared for a scenario in which nothing happens. And then after a while, still nothing happens. Apart from you standing and waiting to not be ignored any longer by drivers passing by. Don’t worry, it will happen. Eventually.

Hitchhiker’s basics

Know your destination. Study the map of Dalmatia and Croatia in general. After all, you wouldn’t want to be standing by the side of a road in Split in direction Dubrovnik, if your destination is Zadar. Being familiar with the approximate location of the places of interest and major cities certainly makes things easier.

Know where to hitch. Croatia’s motorway network is excellent for exploring the country, with the A1, also referred to as Dalmatina, as your target road to get to Dalmatia. Officially, hitchhiking on the motorway is not allowed, but the police will probably turn a blind eye at least on a toll station. The motorway is definitely the fastest way to get to the coast, and in peak season loads of cars and traffic jams can be expected particularly at weekends. If you think that more cars mean it’s easier to get a lift, you may (not) be entirely right. A vast majority of these cars are heading towards the seaside with people inside anxious just to get there. And if their car is already loaded with all the (un)necessary stuff people take on holiday, they won’t be able to have mercy on you standing there, even if they wanted to.

Know where to hitch (Vol.II). Apart from motorways, state roads leading towards Dalmatia are no longer horrible bumpy roads. In fact, many Croatians opt to take their time and take it easy to get to the seaside (and to save some cash by not paying the toll). These are the people you want to take a ride with and these are the roads to go to get one. You’ll get to see the beautiful landscape and enjoy it, not just in a flash, and they might even stop for some excellent lamb meat specialties on the way. Yummy.

Know where to hitch (Vol.III). If nothing works, find free WiFi and do some social networking. No, not to take a break from hitchhiking, but to get a ride. There are groups on Facebook with thousands of members, the key expression being tražim prijevoz (‘I’m looking for a ride’). Some people hate to travel alone and they probably won’t charge you a dime, ie a kuna, while others might ask you to contribute to cover the travel expenses. In any case, even that is cheaper than ending up on a bus or train, oh the marvelous public transport!

Know when to take a break. For real, this time. Grab some coffee in the nearest bar, no matter how shady, and ask around there. Personal contact might just work magic.

Know when to behave like a lunatic by waving your arms as if in desperation, since, if you come to this point, you will be desperate. To get a ride. Finally.

Always keep in mind …

While it’s safer to travel with a friend or two (the more the merrier), two (or more) can mean crowd when hitchhiking. Also, don’t forget to have the three S’s with you: smile, sunscreen and a sheet of paper with your destination written on it. Arm yourself with patience and optimism and things will happen. And most importantly, as Douglas Adams would put it, don’t panic! Dalmatia is waiting for you and you’ll get there. Eventually.