Hitch-hiking is a common sight around the world, and New Zealand is no exception. The practice is legal in the country (unlike in neighbouring Australia), so you will likely come across hitch-hikers when you pick up a New Zealand car hire and take it around the country. Most likely, you will see one or two people with their thumbs out when leaving major cities.

But is it safe to pick them up, and what are the unspoken rules of hitch-hiking in the country?

Generally, it’s all about using your common sense.
The hitch-hiker is in more danger than the driver, especially if they are trying to catch a ride in low light. If you are in a group in the car, you all agree you want to give someone a lift, and you have adequate space for them and their gear, then you can consider picking them up. It can be a great way to meet new people on your adventure, and they may even be able to give you advice on where to go next.

Drivers in countries like South Africa, Russia and Indonesia expect reimbursement for picking up hitch-hikers, but in New Zealand this is not the case, so remember that if you pick one up, it should be simply for the pleasure of doing someone a favour.

On the other hand, if you are driving alone and don’t feel comfortable offering someone a ride, or you don’t have enough space for an extra person and their luggage to fit in the car safely, then you should not be picking up extras.

Remember that it is illegal to stop on a motorway unless it is an emergency, so while a hitch-hiker should not be attempting to get a ride in such a place, you will be held responsible if you stop.