Hitchhiking in the south of Sweden. June 2023

Here's the gist of our hitchhiking journey from Copenhagen to Uppsala in June 2023. In hitchhiking communities Sweden (along with other Scandinavian countries) is often described as a paradise for thumbing. We'd say it's a bit more difficult than Iceland but hey, at least the weather is nicer. You don't stand out there feeling miserable under a pissing rain and a freezing wind at seven degrees Celsius in July trying to hitch a ride out of Reykjavik airport. However, we must admit that this particular summer in Sweden was abnormally warm, dry, sunny and overall pleasant.

There are also some things about Swedes that we learned from our couchsurfing hosts. This secret knowledge might come in handy if you are planning to hit the road in this country. Firstly, they need a lot of time to make a decision so you'd better be visible from afar. Secondly, they like watching American horror movies where every hitchhiker is a murderer. Just try to look innocent, that's all! Now let's go!

Hitchhiking in Sweden

Copenhagen - Billinge

It took us two hours and three cars to cover 86 km from the capital of Denmark to our couchsurfing host in Sweden.

The first driver was from India who's been living in Denmark for ten years. He picked us up at the bus stop near the Copenhagen airport. He was heading to work in Lund and brought us across the Øresund bridge and through the border.

At the roundabout near Lund an old local farmer picked us up. He spoke good English and told us that he was following several YouTube channels on off-grid living in Central Portugal. However, he's never been to Portugal himself.

Our last driver on this trip was a cheerful middle-aged Swedish woman who works as a customs officer. Surprisingly, after the pandemic, she is somehow able to carry out her duties from the home office. She also works as a firefighter in her village. She told us that although firefighters are volunteers in Sweden, they get paid and are highly respected in their community. They are allowed to perform those hobby duties during regular working hours. "If there's an alarm, I jump into my own car and rush to the fire station. There we all get into a fire truck and drive to the scene of the accident. I have put out a lot of fires!" she said proudly.

Hitchhiking in Sweden

Billinge - Växjö

During our first full hitchhiking day in Sweden we covered 165 km thanks to five drivers. Two of them were from the Balkans and three were Swedes.

We started the day at a bus stop outside the church in Billinge. After about 20 minutes of waiting, an elderly man stopped. He was very surprised to learn that we were hitchhiking on purpose, not because we'd missed the bus. He recalled how, as a young man, he traveled with a thumb from Sweden to Greece, and then through the former Yugoslavia. In fact, as we eventually learned, the most common reason people decide to stop for us is memories of the adventures they had in their youth.

Our next driver was a Macedonian who owns a pizzeria in Höör. When we got into his car, it became obvious he was not a local. The seat belts were broken or non-existent, and the driver immediately commented, "That's not necessary, we don't have police here." He was the first foreigner to tell us that the Swedes would never stop for hitchhikers because they were afraid. The little experience we had already showed the opposite, but we decided not to argue. He seemed extremely confident in his views because he had been living in Sweden for thirty years.

He dropped us off in front of his restaurant. We walked through the town and found what seemed to be a good hitchhiking spot on the E23 road. It took us a while to catch a ride though and we managed to cover only 10 km. It was a Swedish hippie guy with dreamcatchers on the windshield. He was complaining about the government throughout the whole short ten-minute trip.

After him, a guy from Kosovo picked us up. He had a two-year-old son in the front seat. However, that didn't stop him from taking his hands off the wheel every time he tried to make his point in the conversation. He launched into the same rant about Swedes being scared of hitchhikers and punctuated every sentence with the emphatic "I promise!".

We must mention though that both Balkan fellows had decent jobs, liked living in Sweden and praised social democracy. Yet thanks to them our hitchhiking journey got seasoned with a bit of a Balkan flavor and gave us a flashback of our trip through Bosnia and Croatia in 2018.

Our last driver for that day was definitely a character. Not only did he save us from a completely hopeless spot, he also brought us all the way to Växjö for 115 kilometers. He was a viking-looking rock musician from Malmö with a lot of weird stories to tell about his hectic life. "If I pick up a hitchhiker there's a very slim chance she's an axe murderer but if I don't there's a 100 percent chance I'm an asshole" — were his words. That would be a grand epigraph for a yet-to-be-written book about thumbing, don't you think? Or a disclaimer for an American horror movie?!

Hitchhiking in Sweden

Växjö - Borås

It was the first rainy day since we arrived in Sweden. Luckily we had a 24-hour bus ticket which we bought the day before when we went to visit an acquaintance of ours in the nearby village of Alvesta. It allowed us to get to Moasjön rest station. From there we hesitantly went to the E27 road under a chilly drizzle. We stood on the side of the road, boldly holding out our sign during short breaks in the rain. However, it didn't take long until a young Swedish woman stopped who was on her way to the hospital in Värnamo. She told us that she used to be a drug addict and was going to study to become a youth counselor. She'd been clean for a year now. Smiling, our driver admitted that she did not immediately decide to pick us up. Remember? Always try to be visible from afar in Sweden even in the rain!

In Värnamo a Polish driver in a sporty Toyota unexpectedly stopped for us. He didn't speak English so his story remained a secret. It also stayed a mystery for our couchsurfing hosts in Borås how we managed to hitchhike 145 kilometers in only three and a half hours.

Hitchhiking in Sweden

Borås - Lidköping

The day started with a five kilometer walk through Borås onto the road 42. From the first roundabout outside town we swiftly got picked up by a Syrian guy who brought us to Fristad.

The next 90 kilometers turned out unexpectedly hard. First we chose a desperate spot on a small road 187 just outside Fristad where apparently nobody drove further than the nearest village. When we finally decided to move over to the exit onto the highway, we eventually realized we were holding a wrong sign. Vara was only 55 km away but no one wanted to take us there. We ended up making a new sign for a nearby town of Vårgårda and after 5 minutes a Porsche Cayenne stopped. The driver was a Swedish engineer who still remembered how he hitchhiked on that same road in the seventies. Also, he was the first driver we didn't have to explain to where Setúbal was in Portugal. It turned out he went to play golf in Troia peninsula in the nineties. That day he was on his way to the funeral of a former colleague and had a black suit and a lone dark red rose on the back seat. So "have a nice day" was not an appropriate farewell on this occasion. However he really made our day!

After this exceptional ride our hitchhiking journey went quite smoothly. We got picked up quickly by three other drivers and just before three o'clock we were already standing in front of our host's house in Lidköping.

Hitchhiking in Sweden

Lidköping - Örebro

That was a Midsummer weekend which is a huge holiday in Sweden and we were even warned about drunk drivers on the roads. We decided it would be reasonable to take a train from Lidköping to Laxå and then hitchhike to Örebro. When we got to the station, we discovered the morning train had been canceled. Instead we took a replacement bus that brought us to Laxå for free (the driver didn't bother checking the tickets). From there we hitchhiked 50 km to Örebro with one car. The driver said he hadn't seen a hitchhiker on that road for the past ten years. Of course, he also remembered how in his youth he hitchhiked with a friend to Paris. And… he actually said that to us: he decided to pick us up because we looked harmless. Do you still remember our tips?

Örebro - Eskilstuna

That day was supposed to be the hottest of the month. At 7:00 we were already at the exit to the highway in Örebro. Luck was on our side that morning as soon enough a car stopped and it took us all the way to Eskilstuna. The driver turned out to be a very charismatic guy, half Ethiopian, half Swedish, who works with young immigrants. Throughout the whole 90 kilometer ride we didn't stop talking about political and social problems. I was particularly impressed by one phrase: "I'm trying to motivate them to be decent people."

At eight thirty in the morning we were already messaging our host in Eskilstuna that we had arrived. As she told us later, she couldn't imagine hitchhiking was actually possible in Sweden. Why? Because people watch American horror movies, of course!

Hitchhiking in Sweden

Eskilstuna - Uppsala

Today, at six in the morning, before going to work, our excellent couchsurfing host gave us a ride from Eskilstuna to Enköping. From there we hitched a 40 kilometer ride to Uppsala, arrived at 7:40 and surprised our other host who just woke up. We were supposed to meet him in the hospital emergency department where he works but he didn't have time to get there yet. Our driver that day was a financial advisor and we talked about investment and early retirement. It was the easiest hitch of the whole time in Sweden, and the last one for this trip. As our host put it "That was amazingly fast! This will never NOT be a mystery to me."