Where to Sleep When Hitchhiking & Backpacking
||In these hitchhiking tips I am explaining
how to find free places
where to sleep when
hitchhiking and backpacking.
Concerning oneís safety in relation to where
to sleep when hitchhiking and backpacking,
in time I noticed that some hitchhikers and
backpackers feel safer by camping and sleeping
far away from the eyes of other people while
some other hitchhikers and backpackers feel
safer by sleeping where there are lots of
other people watching. The choice is personal.
About camping and sleeping into the wild,
big predators could pay You an unpleasant
visit while You are asleep, like bears for
example. About sleeping where there are lots
of other people around, someone could steal
your stuff while You are asleep or even hurt
You if You find yourself in an area where
people are xenophobic - cities, towns and
villages, in time I noticed that usually
the smaller they are the safer they are and
train stations, bus stations and parks are
often the most dangerous places so is safer
to stay as far as possible and be careful
when nearby especially by night, not only
when planning where to sleep but also when
walking around in search of free places to
sleep avoiding to attract unwanted attention.
I do both, depending on where I find myself and what the location has to offer, so based on my experience accumulated during the years concerning where to sleep when hitchhiking and backpacking I see two options for You: either You have with You only the sleeping bag but no tent, either You have both sleeping bag and tent.
Only with a sleeping bag is possible to sleep outdoors by finding a covered place that prevents You from getting wet while asleep in case of rain, like for example the entrances to buildings that have a mini roof which extends for one-two meters. When You donít have a tent and You are looking for free places to sleep, a good place is one that protects You also from wind, at least partially, otherwise You risk to feel too cold to rest well.
Where to sleep when hitchhiking and backpacking if You have only the sleeping bag with You but no tent
In developed countries I noticed that often the commercial areas are pretty quiet and safe by night. What You have to keep in mind is that the next morning You must go away about one hour and half before the scheduled opening hours because the employees are expected to get to work earlier to prepare the shop for the day. Another thing that can happen is that on some days per week the shops get the goods delivered, usually a lot earlier than their scheduled opening hours, so someone could wake You up earlier on those days.
I remember that once while hitchhiking around Austria when I slept near the entrance of a supermarket in a small village, the next morning around 5 AM I got awaken by the truck driver that was delivering food to the supermarket and offered me breakfast.
hours) to find good free places to sleep
outdoors. Especially if You know that is
likely to rain and so it wonít be possible
to simply sleep under the stars as You would
get wet. Another disadvantage of having only the sleeping bag is that if is not of top quality and there is lots of humidity in the air in the area where You intend to sleep, the next morning You will wake up with your sleeping bag wet, as during the night will absorb the humidity from the air around.
Big international airports that are open 24/7 often prove to be good free places to sleep while hitchhiking. Modern airports have areas built on purpose so that passengers who take early morning flights and that get to the airport in late night can sleep there for few hours before their flight. If such an airport is along your hitchhiking route it might be wise to consider it as a potential place to rest for one night as finding accommodation in it could be easy.
A big disadvantage of having only the sleeping
bag is that when You are inside a city, town
or village, it takes a lot of time
An advantage of having only the sleeping
bag with You for camping and sleeping while
hitchhiking, is that without a tent your
backpack will be lighter and this will contribute
in saving your energy, especially when exploring
the continent for several weeks or months.
Another advantage is that from a sleeping
bag is very easy to get out, so in case someone
comes to tell You to go away You can get
up, pack it quickly and go away in very short
For camping and sleeping when hitchhiking and backpacking, having also a tent with You besides your sleeping bag is better because You worry less about rain and wind, the sleeping comfort is increased, and the chances to easily find good and beautiful spots compatible with your tent where to sleep while backpacking are exponentially higher.
Where to sleep when hitchhiking and backpacking if You have with You both sleeping bag and tent
A disadvantage of sleeping in the tent is that, when You have to leave, it takes quite long time to pack it. Another disadvantage is that in case of rain it may require to dry it at least a little before packing it and this requires additional time.
In both cases, with or without tent, is good to be aware of where You are in relation to how the people in that area of the continent see You and react to You once they understand that You are sleeping there; it can happen that they will call the police, that they will come to You directly to ask You to leave, that they will not do anything and simply let You rest as much as You want, that they will wake You up because they are kind and brought food to You, or that they will wake You up because they are kind and want to invite You to sleep in their home.
Being aware of the wild animals in the area where You intend to put your tent is good as well - some of them can be deadly. What You are about to read is a true story that happened to me.
On 22nd of September 2013 I was hitchhiking together with a friend through a region located in the central part of Romania. We were close to the town Hateg and we decided to camp for the night in an orchard located at the border of the town. We found a nice place, we ate some of the food we had in our backpacks, we put the tent and got ready to fall asleep. Then, after midnight, we heard in the distance far from us some dogs barking. I opened the tent and looked outside. It was complete darkness and there was such a fog that the visibility was reduced to less than 50 meters in any direction. I got back inside the tent and both me and my friend listened carefully to the dogs barking in the distance. After short time, it seemed that the dogs were getting closer as we could hear them barking louder and louder until they got to about 10 meters from our tent. This is when we first heard a bear growling just near our tent and instantly everything became crystal clear to us: the bear felt the smell of the food we ate carried by the wind and came for food. When the bear reached our tent, started sniffing and moving around our tent. After few minutes the dogs stopped barking and went away. We were now alone with the bear. We were standing still inside the tent, scared to death, listening carefully to what the bear was doing and where was it in every second, not making any sound and praying God to save us. At a certain moment we thought the bear would have been curious enough to try to move the tent, but didn't do it, just sniffed it. After about two hours, we didn't hear anything anymore, but both me and my friend were too scared to go out to see if the area was clear so we stayed inside until morning arrived.
Before choosing that orchard to camp, we knew that there were bears living in the region where this town was, but we never thought that they would get so close to where humans live. The lesson that I learned from this experience is this: never eat where You want to sleep if your mind is tickled by even the slightest thought that dangerous predators could be in your area.
If You hitchhike in a developed area where petrol stations offer other services as well (like food and drinks) then the petrol stations are your "friends". You can go to brush your teeth, wash yourself and even have hot drinks for free.
After a night in the tent or simply in the
sleeping bag under the
stars, a hot drink
will supercharge your mood
making You feel
a lot better.
I entered in a restaurant located near a
petrol station with the purpose to buy something
to eat. Immediately after I opened the door
and stepped inside, I did not even had the
time to put down my backpack that one of
the people working in there said to me "Hey!
Get out! Leave! Out!". I did not understand
why that person that I never met before treated
me like that so I asked "What is going
on? What is the problem?" to which the
man replied "Leave now! Immediately!".
I did not insist and left.
In countries where people are friendly and
petrol stations have a large green area within
their perimeter, these often prove to be
great places where to sleep while hitchhiking.
Here, what You have to keep in mind is to
always treat the staff at the petrol station
with respect and do not cause any trouble,
because your behavior will influence the
way they will treat the rest of the hitchhikers
that will come at that petrol station after
What You are about to read is what happened
to me once while hitchhiking.
I then returned to the petrol station to
see maybe they had something that I could
buy to eat. While I was looking at what they
were selling, another man that before was
inside the restaurant stepped inside the
petrol station. I noticed that he was looking
at me with the kind of smile like he felt
sorry for what happened to me in the restaurant,
so I went to him and asked him politely "Hello,
I am a hitchhiker and I went to the restaurant to eat something - why did that person treated me like that?" to which he replied "I am sorry for You but few days before two other backpackers were here and besides behaving rude with everybody they also made some damage to the restaurant. That was the owner of the restaurant and he invited You to leave because he associated You with those two other backpackers as they were also having a backpack just like You do. He thought that You would also be rude and destroy his restaurant". I replied "Please tell the owner that I do not know those people and I have nothing to do with them, but I understand him and I ask him to kindly accept my apologies in the name of those two backpackers".
A golden rule that is good to follow also when preparing for camping and sleeping when hitchhiking consists in keeping the documents and money always on the body scattered in various places and always be ready to lose the backpack.
Finding accommodation when hitchhiking, or really nice places to put the tent, sometimes is harder and sometimes is easier, but wherever You decide to sleep leave everything as You found it, never leave trash behind You and always treat with respect the people You meet and the customs of the places You visit. Remember that as hitchhiker You represent not only yourself and the country in which You were born, but You represent also all the other hitchhikers around the world, and the way You behave in an area will have a consequence on the hitchhikers that will come to that area after You and on how the image of the hitchhikers will be perceived by the people living in that country. Hitchhike responsibly!
Written by Claudio Adriano Dobre, © 2017