Serbia: Hitchhiking to Belgrade.

Everyone knows that all great stories usually start in commercial parking lots, right?


Ok, well this one does.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m stubbornly frugal when it comes to things like finding accommodation and transportation. I prefer work trades in hostels over paying rent or bills, and I’ll take hitchhiking and Craigslist ridesharing before thinking about paying for a Greyhound bus. Transportation from Zagreb to Belgrade was ridiculously expensive and I couldn’t justify paying 30 Euro for a 4 hour bus ride. Galen and I were sitting in the common area of our hostel brainstorming cheaper alternatives to get to Belgrade when I noticed the words “DON’T PANIC” written in large, friendly letters across Galen’s phone background. Instantly, I knew he was a person I trusted hitching with even if I only knew him for a few days.

“Third option, go to Savski most and get on IKEA bus. It will take you to IKEA, and this is right on the highway to Belgrade, next to Dumovec. This bus ticket costs 10 Kuna and you can use 5 Kuna discount in IKEA for food or coffee.” -Hitchwiki

Galen unearthed a sweet, citrus-y umbrella while searching for cardboard and I believe that brought us enough luck to get us on the right bus. Within the hour, our feet were planted in the middle of the international autobahn of Pinterest inspired homemakers.. The Ikea parking lot.


The first hour wasn’t exactly on our side. While being stuck on the side of a Croatian highway I started wondering why no one was picking us up. Maybe it was the fear of picking up hitchhikers, or maybe it was because we were unknowingly standing 200m from a sign banning people from stopping to pick up hitchhikers. As the doubt started to settle in, I saw a small earthworm inch towards us from the other side of the road. Earthworms aren’t usually known for being brave, but I couldn’t believe the spine on this little invertebrate. If this little creature is able to cross a highway without the ability to see or hear, we will find a way to cross the border.

We decided switching locations was the best idea so we walked to the opposite side of the Ikea. That’s where we met Boris. He stopped on the shoulder and honked at us. He threw our packs into the trunk and quickly ushered us into his car. Boris was heading home to Bosnia and Herzegovina after working at the film festival in Croatia. Boris was a film director so he gave me a list of Bosnian movies to watch after we bonded over our appreciation for Wes Anderson. He told us that he wouldn’t be able to get us to Belgrade, but he can get us close to the border. We thought about ditching our Serbia plans in exchange for an impromptu trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was always curious about Sarajevo.

Galen and I stuck with our Belgrade plans and Boris dropped us off at a gas station somewhere in rural Croatia near the Serbian border. Boris advised us to strike conversations with the truck drivers and see if any of them would let us come along. They didn’t. At this point, the energy from our breakfast pastries was dwindling. We went inside the station and bought gas station sandwiches and a bag of chips.



The sun was setting, and this road wasn’t exactly bustling with cars so we needed to get back to the road if we wanted to get to Serbia. We stood under a street light holding our sign hoping that it was bright enough to illuminate our sign and our personable demeanor silently shouting “pick us up! We don’t have any money but we are full of jokes and harmless nature!”

If only there was some kind of instant personality check, wouldn’t life be so much easier? Instead of drivers passing us thinking “Nah, I’d rather live today” they could pull up our personality log and see something along the lines of..

“Galen is a chemist with a keen interest in grape genetics. He once sparked a conversation about toxoplasmosis in a cat cafe before commenting on the “quality felines.” You can’t miss him, he’s the guy holding a bright yellow umbrella covered with lemons. He remembered his towel”


“Aimee started the day by saving an earthworm from crossing a highway and the only harm she is capable of causing is due to her dry jokes about jalepeno peppers. The only questionable thing in her backpack is 800 self adhesive googly eyes”


A Serbian local saw us standing there with our thumbs out and thought to himself “Yup, I’ll pick them up” We didn’t notice that he stopped until he reversed and honked. Once again we shuffled our backpacks into another sedan and we were off. I was sitting in the backseat and I remember him turning around to smile and introduce himself. His name was Oliver and he was a psychology professor from Belgrade. He was wearing a Space Invaders tie and he listened to British ska. He dropped us off near the center of Belgrade and after our 400km journey we only had one more task to complete. We needed to find a place to sleep.

We walked around with our backpacks for about 2 hours. The first hostel was on the 3rd floor of a dark, empty building. We found a little sign on the door telling us that reception closed a half hour ago. The second hostel did not have a sign on the door but it was very clear that the hostel hasn’t been open for a loooong time. The third hostel seemed perfect. We checked in, started to boil some water for tea and collapsed onto our bunks. Within 5 minutes I heard Galen ask if I could come take a look at something. That “something” was our other unwanted roommates, bedbugs. The fourth hostel was just down the street. It had many lights, it was open and I did not have to share my space with unwanted critters.


Bedbug Disclaimer: For those of you who have never stayed in a hostel, the chances of finding bed bugs are just as rare as finding them at a 5-star hotel. Hostels and hotels take many precautions to avoid these critters but all it takes is one person to unknowingly carry a little bug to evolve into a situation like this. This is why many hostels/hotels refuse to let you bring your own blankets, pillows or sleeping bags into the rooms.

If you’re cold, they probably have tons of extra blankets, just ask 🙂

Heres a link to the “Hitchhikers Guide to Hitchhiking the World.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s