I’ve been writing about free and cheap travel for the past few months because I passionately believe travel should be accessible to all people. So far I’ve outlined concrete strategies for obtaining free flights and cheap flights, as well as finding trains, buses and boats on six continents. You may have noticed the omission of one major method of transportation up until now. I saved the art of the free/cheap road trip for the finale of my transportation series (at least for now – one day I’d love to write about walking or biking the Camino de Santiago or California Coastal Trail) before moving onward to cover other tight-budget travel topics. I enjoyed countless free and cheap ride shares as I backpacked through Europe for 14 months, and today I am happy to tell you how to how to find them on your own! Ride shares are a great way to travel, make new friends, and it’s always better for the environment to carpool. If sharing rides isn’t your thing, then come back in a couple of weeks to read about how to rent cars, motorbikes, and RVs for free and cheap.
The Art of the Free/Cheap Road Trip: Ride Shares
🚘 Ride Shares for Long Distance
🚗 Facebook groups
There are huge rideshare communities all over the world that connect over Facebook. Search “ride share” or “carpool” + your departure city. If too many groups pop up with similar names, choose the two with the most members and post for rides there. Remember to use the search bar before you post, often times people will already have posted the ride you seek. You can offer to give a ride and name your own price, which may range from covering a portion of the gas to actually profiting from the ride. As a passenger, you will likely find a driver offering a reasonable price for your desired route.
Craigslist is a website for classifieds which has over 700 local sites available in 70 countries (although it is more active in some countries than others). When you enter the website, first select the page of your departure city, then click on “rideshare” under the “community” section. Search through the offers and requests that people have recently posted, or write an ad of your own. Similar to facebook groups, the drivers name the price which passengers can agree to or try to negotiate. Be aware that there is no option for rating or reviewing drivers- use your best judgement before giving or accepting a ride with a stranger. I recommend sending the driver’s name and a picture of their license plate to a friend or relative for safety, and informing the driver that you are doing so. Gumtree is a similar platform to Craigslist that has a rideshare section, but it is only available in the U.K.
🚗 Ride Share Websites
BlaBlaCar is the largest rideshare website and app in Europe. It is also available (but less utilized) in Mexico, India, Brazil, and the United States. Drivers post ride offers at a price of their choice, and BlaBlaCar adds a very small fee to insure the ride. The money is exchanged online, so you never have to worry about giving or receiving cash during the ride. Drivers and riders both have the opportunity to rate and review each other so that everyone feels safe on this ride share platform. Similar websites include Liftshare in the U.K., Kangaride in Canada, Roadmate in New Zealand, and Share Your Ride in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Austria.
🚖 Ride Share Apps for for Shorter Distances
Ride share apps are especially useful when traveling in foreign countries because you can set them to English. Finding rides on an app may eliminate a lot of confusion and frustration when trying to get rides in countries where you face language barriers. Most apps offer a discount for first time riders, so sign up for as many as are available in your country to maximize your free rides!
🚕 Global Rideshare Partnership Alliance
The companies involved in this partnership reach almost 50% of the world’s population between Lyft in the United States, Didi Chuxing in China, Ola in India, and Grab in Southeast Asia (including taxis, motorbikes, and ride shares). You can get rides from any of these four companies using the same app, depending on your location. The reason I prefer these companies as opposed to Uber is that they take the safety of their drivers and passengers very seriously, and they work to contribute toward positive social change. Users new to Lyft can use the promo code RIDERCOUPON to get their first ride for free up to $50! Note that you must enter the promo code before your first ride, and it is valid for 14 days after you input the code.
We can’t talk about rideshare apps without mentioning Uber, which operates now in 78 countries. I personally feel that Uber is unsafe in the United States, as they did not take my concerns seriously the multiple times I reported their drivers for sexual harassment. I’ve heard similar stories from friends in the U.S., and I heard enough horror stories about Uber in India to last a lifetime. However, in countries where many other apps don’t operate, Uber is sometimes still a good option (although in some of these countries they offer only taxi service and not ride shares). I found in Europe that there are entirely different rules for Uber drivers, which made me feel much safer as a passenger. The best promo code I’ve found for Uber is their basic friend referral program. You can use the code JYF4Q for up to $20 off of your first ride. Refer a friend to get another $20 ride credit for yourself.
Gett is an app for booking taxis in the U.S., the U.K., Russia, and Israel. They offer up to $1,000 total in free rides through promotion codes! Use the code GTVOLOZ to get $5 off of each of your next 10 rides (that’s up to $50 in free rides). Refer a friend to get an additional $20 ride credit.
Wundercar is a German app that also operates in the Philippines, India, and Malaysia. Passengers fill in their schedule, and the app calculates your carpool matches for the next few days and offers a fixed price. There is no surge pricing, and the fixed price ensures that the passenger only pays the driver to recover basic costs, rather than profiting from the ride. Users rate and review people they have shared rides with so that you can expect a safe ride.
When you’re in Indonesia try Go-Jek, an app for booking very inexpensive motorbike taxis. Many locals use Go-Jek to get to and from work, and it is an excellent resource for travelers who don’t want to pay a higher price for being non-native. Go-Jek operates on three admirable pillars: speed, innovation, and social impact.
To be entirely honest, I did a minimal amount of hitchhiking due to a promise I made to my mother who was happy to see me solo travel but terrified by the idea of me hitchhiking alone. However, I met quite a few solo travelers (both men and women) who hitchhiked alone or with friends across multiple continents as their main mode of transportation. They had incredible stories to tell, and these are the resources they shared with me.
🚗 The number one hitchhiking resource that all the hitchhikers I know recommend is Hitchwiki. It is a collaborative site similar to Wikipedia, but all about the various aspects of hitchhiking. Hitchwiki features tips for and from hitchhikers all over the world as well as plenty of safety information.
🚗 Check out Hitchlog to track your hitchhiking journey, follow your friends, and read about people’s personal hitchhike experiences.
🚗 In addition to the excellent safety suggestions offered by Hitchwiki, The Travel Club produced a great article of safety tips specifically for solo female hitchhikers (although many of these tips are useful to people of any gender).
I hope that these resources for free and cheap ride shares inspire you to make new friends in an unconventional way and enjoy miles on the road together. If it’s more your style to travel solo or with a partner by car, RV, or motorbike, then you can look forward to my next article in a couple of weeks time about how to get free and cheap rentals!