Earth > Europe > Southern Europe > Spain
|Language:||Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician|
|Hitchability:||<rating country='es' />|
|Meet fellow hitchhikers on Trustroots or BeWelcome|
|<map lat='40' lng='-1.8' zoom='6' view='0'/>|
Spain is a member state of the European Union as well as the Schengen Agreement.
Spain consists of 17 administrative units called Comunidades Autónomas. Some of these administrative units also represent historical nations that vary in traditions, culture, gastronomy and even language. Although all citizens of Spain speak Spanish and are politically recognised as Spaniards, you will be more liked by locals – especially in the nationalistic Basque country and Catalunya – if you learn the basic distinctive features of each region (i.e don't expect sevillanas and bullfighting in Girona, and don't be surprised if you see bagpipes and celtic-like stuff in Santiago de Compostela!).
In Spain, hitching isn’t a very common concept and mostly done by foreigners. But It's really different depending on the autonomous community : it's easy in Galicia, Asturia and Extrémadura. In these communities it works like in France. It's better to stand with a cardboard. In Euskadi and Catalonia, you will wait a long time just stand with a cardboard. However, the thumb will be understood. An effective best method can be ask people directly whenever possible, e.g. in service stations, even if your Spanish is very poor. The Spanish phrase vas a... ? ‘are you going to...?’ is a good starting point. Because Spain is a touristic country, at some large service stations you can find drivers from all over Europe, who are more likely to take you than the local people. However, this strategy is not advised in the far south of Spain (Andalucia), as service stations there tend to be deserted and sometimes off of the main road. Generally, there are petrol stations every 20-30 km, often in a so-called "via de servicio", along with a hotel or a restaurant. This means that each and every one of those petrol stations has less traffic. Most people who travel certain roads regularly will know (or pretend to know!) the good spots where a lot of traffic passes through (e.g. truck stops, or nice restaurants). Try not to get stuck in places off the main road (in a village, or an industrial zone), but ask your driver if s/he knows a place with lots of people.
Even if you hitchhike alone or in groups of two, be prepared to make much fewer kilometres per day than in e.g. Germany or France. Waiting times of over an hour are common, and 500–700 km a day may prove a real challenge. The first time you hitchhike in Spain, it might be a good idea to only plan for 300 km a day. If you do master some Spanish, however, and if you carefully stick to service stations asking people, hitching can be easy and fun - even in Spain.
During the "the siesta" (from 14:00 to 17:00), there tends to be less traffic. In the summer, the sun can be very powerful at this time of day, so it may be best to avoid standing on the road during the siesta hours.
As hitch-hiking is not a very common concept in Spain, many Spanish people travel via blablacar. If you want to get out of big cities (Madrid, Barcelona) you might have to pay 3-5 Euros to get to a hitch-hiking spot. In this case, consider finding a short ride just out of the city to a nearby small town, with blablacar. The driver can drop you directly on a service station on the motorway, and you might not have to walk around in the Spanish summer heat.
License Plate IDs
Pro tip: Under the old licensing system, license plates got identifying letters showing the city/region where the car is registered. This is great for quickly identifying (at least on old cars) if the car is heading your way. i.e. lots of old "B" plates out there going to and from Barcelona. Read more: 
- Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya
- Donostia-San Sebastián
- Madrid, the capital
- Santiago de Compostela
The north of Spain has a well developed system of Autopistas. Autopistas are very similar to French autoroutes, and so similar rules can be applied when hitchhiking. Autopistas have two or more lanes in each direction, accessed after passing through a peaje (tollgate) and have large rest stops along the way.
When hitching at peajes, usually people have great success, and can obtain long distance rides, even at night time. Usually the police and motorway staff do not interfere, but some stricter police may request that you leave. It is important to note that large peaje sections are usually split by a concrete wall; 2 or 3 lanes for cars, on the inside, and another 2 or 3 lanes for buses and trucks on the outside. The concrete walls usually carry on some distance after the peaje, and end once the vehicles are travelling too fast to stop. It is up to the hitchhiker to decide which lanes to take, however sticking to the outside and waiting for a truck may attract less attention from the authorities than standing further inside waiting for a car.
When hitching long distances it is a good idea to stick to large peaje sections or rest stops. Bring water and food, since these áreas de servicio are expensive. It should be noted that hitching at small peaje sections, on motorway exits, is not recommended, as often there is one peaje for both directions, automatically ruling out many vehicles as possible rides.
In the south of Spain, and parts of the center and the North, the motorways are smaller and the petrol stations are usually further away from the road; this system is called autovia. This website shows exits and also service areas for some autovias, as well as autopistas. It is best to be patient at these places. Be careful when people promise you to drop you off at a "very busy" petrol station, as it might turn out to be deserted. It is better in these cases to find direct lifts from one town to another (use a sign when thumbing).
When entering the country from France you should try to get a lift as close to your destination as possible. On the Mediterranean side, a good place for this is La Jonquera, one of the biggest truck stops in Europe. You’ll find plenty of international truck drivers all over the country, because Spain is a centre of the fruit industry, exporting their oranges and tomatoes. On the Atlantic side, there is another huge truck stop near Irun called Oyarzun (accessible in both directions).
If you arrive by the ferry from Africa you should try to get a ride on the ferry or at the port. There are lots of people from Morocco, who went to visit their families and now return. You’ll see number plates from many other European states.
Crossing Spain to get to Portugal
If you just want to get to Portugal, you'll want to to keep your hitch journey in Spain as short and quick as possible. This will happen by sticking to the the main road (AP-1, A-62, mostly "autovia") from Bayonne/San Sebastian to Salamanca / Vilar Formoso (the portuguese border near Guarda). Even if you come from, say, Montpellier, it's recommended to hitch up to Bayonne and cross the basque country.
A good technique is to stay in one of the last service stations on the A63 in France before the spanish border, and wait for someone who can take you all to way to Portugal. Portuguese plates (1/3 of portuguese nationals live outside Portugal) or tourists (20 million invaded Portugal in 2016) will pass there.
Otherwise, don't let your drivers drop you at just any gas station along the way - try your best to stick to busy ones (on the right side and near the highway, Repsol and Galp).
If your ride is only taking you to somewhere near Vilar Formoso border and you want to go further in Portugal, you can stay at the last Cepsa gas station on the right side of the road, 5kms before the border. Gas is cheaper in Spain.
Myths and truths about hitchhiking in Spain
- It is illegal to hitchhike in Spain.
Truth: This assertion that you will hear from both the locals and the travellers is a result of a wrong understanding of the Spanish law that forbids pedestrians walking on a private motorway. Therefore, it is absolutely legal to hitchhike in Spain.
- It is impossible to travel hitchhiking in Spain.
Truth: While it is definitely harder to catch a ride in Spain than in Germany, it is not impossible if done smartly. Actually, in many areas in the countryside or the north of Spain where there are very few means of public transportation, hitchhiking is done frequently by locals who need to take rides from town to town (Galicia and its messy bus network is a great example of this). However, many old Spaniards believe that hitchhiking culture died in the 70s, and there is a lot of fear around, because of some cases of theft or rape when hitching. To get a ride in Spain you will need to put more effort and think tactical: hide the hippy clothes in your backpack and look clean, smile, know a few Spanish words, be polite, be familiar with the Spanish hours and always try to hitch from a service station.
- Spanish people will rob you.
Truth: Indeed, Barcelona and Madrid score very high in the pickpocketing league, but this is something all locals are very embarrassed about. They will often advise you to keep an eye on your belongings and never put your wallet in the rear pocket. The best advice is to avoid as much as possible the touristy areas.
As mentioned above, the Comunidades are not only administrative districts; many of the regions have their own culture, language and some even are reluctant about considering themselves as a part of Spain. For example the dominating language in Catalonia is Catalan, so be aware of that. Nevertheless, everyone speaks castellano (Spanish).
Aside from Spanish, other recognised spoken languages are Galician, Basque, Catalan, Aranese, Astur-leonese and Aragonese. Only the first three are legally official and have a considerable number of speakers. But don't panic! Everybody speaks perfect Spanish and won't feel uncomfortable talking to you. Younger Spaniards will easily understand you in English as well. Obviously, big co-official languages like Basque, Catalan and Galician are widely used in their respective regions, and learning a handful of words or at least showing your interest in local languages may make the driver loosen up.
Also, you will find that some Catalan, Basque and Galician cities can appear in signs and maps with two names: one in its local language form and the other in Spanish. For instance: Donostia (in Basque) is also known as San Sebastián (in Spanish), Lleida (in Catalan) is Lérida (in Spanish), Rianxo (in Galician) is Rianjo (in Spanish) etc. Whatever your map says and whichever language you are speaking —even if you are speaking in Spanish— , hitchwiki encourages you to use the local language form better than the Spanish one if possible, also in your sign, in order to not mess with politics. Spaniards all across Spain understand both forms.
Note: Although the signs on the road and other kinds of key information (i.e: restaurant menus) are translated into Spanish in bilingual territories, you will definitely need help in small towns and non-touristy places in the Basque Country and Catalonia, especially because Basque is an isolated language that does not resemble anything you have heard before. In case of doubt, ask the locals. In Spanish Disculpe, ¿qué signfica... (Excuse me, what does ... mean?) works fine everywhere. Mariam , who does not speak Basque, walked from a small town following a sign in Basque that she thought would guide her to the next town and ended up in a recycling plant.
Spanish for the Hitchhiker
The Spanish phrase ¡Hola! Vas a... ? (Hello, are you going to... ?) with a wide smile is an excellent starting point. Remember most Spaniards actually meet the stereotype of being loud and friendly, but aren't used to see hitchhikers on the road. Therefore, you'd better be extra familiar and polite by saying things like "¡Gracias, buen viaje!" (Thank you, have a nice trip!) after your driver drops you off or when they make excuses to not pick you up (this way they will think twice the next time they bump into a hitchhiker). Check the Spanish section in the phrasebook for more basic words.
In Spanish there are only five vowel sounds and, conversely to French or English, you should pronounce all the letters that you read as an independent sound. So say phonetically with a clear distinction of each sound "autopista" [ aw to 'pis ta ] (motorway), not ottopista, or otpist . Other difficulties that foreigners usually face:
The letter Ñ as in España and "mañana" (morning or tomorrow), which is the equivalent of the Portuguese digraph NH and Catalan NY. If you struggle with it just pronounce it as an N and an I like when you say "Estonia" — it is not the actual sound, but it will work for a tourist. The digraph "LL" as in "calle" (¨street) and "valle" (valley) is pronounced in most places as a strong "y". You would say "ka-yeh" and "ba-yeh". The digraph "CH" is always pronounced as in church in English.
There are other tricky sounds like the Z and C, the double RR... but you can get away with these brief tips pretty well. Spanish is easy!
From any tourist-info around country, you can find good roadmap of the region and/or the autonomous area for free of charge.
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