Tips on Ride Sharing in Armenia
Hitchhiking can be a scary concept to many people. In some countries it is more common and acceptable, and in others not so much. The typical strategy is sticking out your thumb and waiting for a ride.
In Armenia, when often waiting for a mashrutka (a fixed-route minibus) on the way back from Lake Sevan, cars would stop by with the drivers or passengers asking if we were going to Yerevan. While the answer was yes, I usually opted for the mashrutka instead and kindly turned down offers. However, spending more time in the country made me realize the idea of hitchhiking—or ride sharing in Armenia, was common here and practiced not only by travelling foreigners, but by locals as well. For that reason, Armenia is a good country to try this traveling style in, and here are some tips to get you started:
Traveling with small groups is best
If you are in a group of 2-3, this makes you an ideal number to be picked up simply due to space. Bigger groups will usually need to split up, unless of course you are lucky and find a truck (it happens!)
Stick out your thumb
In some countries, such as Iran, sticking your thumb out is actually an offensive gesture. In Armenia, however, it is generally seen as the universal hitchhiking sign, and works just fine to get a ride!
For anyone who has been in Armenia for some time, you know of course that the people tend to be very friendly and want to know everything about your life. Don’t view getting a ride as the end goal. Instead, be open, ask questions, answer questions and get to know who you are riding with! If you can’t speak the language, hand gestures can come in handy!
If you are hitchhiking, chances are you don’t have to be somewhere at a specific time. Your driver may suggest a small coffee break, or even want to show you a nearby attraction. It may not seem very efficient, but try to go with the flow and appreciate new detours and experiences!
Come prepared (optional)
I learned this one after a few lessons. There have been incredibly generous drivers, who have given me their phone numbers and offers of help, bags of fruit or walnuts, water, and incredible advice and there were times when “thank you” did not feel like it was enough. For that reason, it can be a good idea to bring some small gifts—baked goods, dried or fresh fruits—anything really, and offer them as a thank you!
These are some tips to get you going, and always remember to trust your instincts! Try and get rides with families or couples, and don’t feel bad refusing a ride if you feel uncomfortable. In the end, hitchhiking is already a common practice in Armenia, and it can really make the journey just as enjoyable as the destination itself!
Have you tried hitchhiking? What are your favourite stories?