How to Hitchhike a Boat

Hitch-hike [verb] travel by getting free lifts in passing vehicles

Hitchhiking is generally seen as the act of getting a free ride in a car or truck; something that takes you along a road or two. However, as defined by oxford online dictionary, it is not unique to land vehicles. It refers to the act of getting a free lift in any passing vehicle, be it on land, water, or air.

I have had hundreds of lifts in vehicles on the road without problem. I have had several lifts on boats without a problem. I have never hitchhiked an aircraft. If you want to hitchhike on land, read about how to hitchhike. If you are wondering how to hitchhike a boat from England to France, it really isn’t that difficult. The same following set of rules apply when hitchhiking a boat across any body of water.

Does the boat charge per vehicle or per person? If the boat charges per vehicle (as opposed to per passenger), drivers should be willing to pick you up. Simply stand near the entrance to the boat lanes and put out your thumb or sign. When hitchhiking from Dover to Calais, stand outside the police station next to the ticket offices and someone will pick you up. You might have to wait in a line of hitchhikers, as many other hitchhikers often do the same thing!

If the boat charges per passenger, you will probably have to offer to pay the supplement to the drivers. You might have to make a sign indicating that you are willing to pay, so that drivers are more happy to pick you up. Check with the ferry companies where you are hitching and compare the cost of a walk-on passenger to an extra passenger in a car. If you have to pay, it isn’t really hitchhiking. Try and avoid ferry crossings where you have to pay per passenger, as you are very unlikely to get a free ride.

If you don’t want to pay (you want to hitchhike), head to the private marinas. Be polite and friendly as you approach people and offer to work on their boats in exchange for free passage. It might take hours or days to find a route across, but eventually you should be able to find something. People regularly hitch from Greece to Italy and around the Caribbean in exchange for being a deck hand for a few days. If you’re really lucky, you might find a private individual who simply wants company on their water voyage.

Whatever happens, be prepared to wait, look everywhere, and ride your luck.. good luck! In the meantime, check out my hitchhiking through Europe video. And if you’ve never hitchhiked, read The Avant-Garde Life and receive a well earned kick up the bum.

By | 2013-04-02T18:04:07+00:00 December 6th, 2012|Advice|4 Comments


  1. Zoe 04/08/2016 at 15:40 - Reply

    Hi Jamie, thanks for the great ideas!
    Where would you go in Athens to hitchike a boat? 🙂

    • Jamie 26/08/2016 at 01:31 - Reply

      I’ve never hitched a boat in Athens, but I did take a boat to Naxos from Athens a couple of years back. There is a pretty big port area, so I guess that wondering around there and asking around would be the best option. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

  2. Shaun 16/03/2015 at 09:35 - Reply

    Hey Jamie!

    Just wondering, have you ever / would it be possible to hitchhike on cargo ships or commercial boats? It would make for a great story if you were able to do so, I would love to do something like it. Possibility or pipe dream?


    • Jamie 26/03/2015 at 15:22 - Reply

      I am sure that it is a possibility, although I have never tried it myself. I’d love to hear about it if you manage it.

Leave A Comment