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A bag-packers guide to hitchhiking in Kenya

The Kenyan transportation system consists of a complex labyrinth of routes that are known only by locals. As a tourist, it’s almost impossible to travel long distances on your own without sensing the need for a professional guide sooner or later. Maps are available, but in most cases, the routes documented on them are either outdated or better undocumented options exist elsewhere.

For most bag packers, transport is the main “unknown” while planning a budget. This is where hitchhiking comes in handy, but is it safe hitchhiking in Kenya? The lonely planet in its book; The Kenyan travel guide says it isn’t, This guy sort of disagrees and since I work for Dandiaa, an awesome ride sharing online service in Kenya. I suppose my opinion is ruled out on account of bias.

Most vehicle types in the country are forbidden from carrying unauthorized passengers, this includes NGO vehicles, trucks, all government vehicles, most company cars and professional safari vehicles. Which leaves private vehicles as a hitchhikers best option, but with the state of insecurity in Kenya, you may end up sticking out your arm for quite a while before flagging down any car. I feel tempted at this point to mention Dandiaa as a solution since it’s basically a meeting point for travelers interested in sharing transport, but I won’t.

Here are 3 simple tricks you can use to better your chances of successfully flagging down a car in Kenya.

Make sure you are respectfully dressed

While hitchhiking, approaching vehicles have less than one minute to deduce their judgment about you. Your choice of clothes can serve as a clue to your personality. If you are a youthful lady dressed in revealing clothes, you are more likely to attract men than women, this might also put your life in danger as such men might be perverted. On the other hand, if the same young lady was dressed in a burka, she’d probably have a chance of flagging down a car carrying muslims than any other group, which lowers her chances further.

Regardless of your faith, dress decently and you might increase your chances of success. It doesn’t have to be a boring outfit, but wearing clothes that are neither revealing nor too conservative can work in your favor. If your body is covered with tattoos, you might want to cover them up since marking the body is considered a taboo by some tribes in Kenya.

If you’re white, try writing your placard in Swahili

Kenyans will find humor in almost any Swahili sentence coming from a white man. If there is a white man standing on the side of the road with a placard reading “saidia mzungu kusafiri” which directly translated into English means “help this white guy travel.” That may very well add some weight to his plea. While jokes can add a positive effect to a hitchhikers attempt, it is important to keep the volume of the joke to a minimum, you don’t want to be the white guy holding an insulting joke in the middle of nowhere in Africa.

Remember to smile while holding the placard, without a smile, the sentence on your placard might be received as a message rather than a joke.

Discuss money before hoping on board

Nine times out of ten, a car will only stop for some profit, after thanking the driver for stopping, remember to ask if it’s a free ride or if the driver expects some payment. Some drivers consider white hitchhikers a jackpot and assume those are hundreds of dollars stashed in your enormous bag-pack. Public transport costs between KES 1000 – KES 2500 for every 100 Kilometers, knowing this might assist you in negotiating in the event you have to pay for the ride.

Visit: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/ for general advice regarding hitchhiking.

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