A Travellers' Guide to Hitchhiking in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com
A Travellers' Guide to Hitchhiking in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands

A Travellers’ Guide to Hitchhiking in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands

© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Is it Safe to Hitchhike in the Cook Islands?

Hitchhiking is a fun and popular way to travel a country. Getting around somewhere for free and meeting interesting locals? Why not?! The Cook Islands are one of the rare places in the world where you don’t hear horror stories of hitchhiking. Although the Cook Islands is one of the safest places to hitchhike, there is still a small but potentially serious risk. We go over the hitchhiking culture in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, as well as a few pros, cons and safety tips in this complete guide to hitchhiking in the Cook Islands!

Do People Hitchhike in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?

Hitchhiking isn’t all that common in the Cook Islands. Don’t get us wrong, the locals certainly know what it is – they haven’t been living in a cave, it’s just so uncommon in the Cook Islands that drivers are more likely to be a bit perplexed seeing people sticking their thumbs out on the side of the road; probably more likely to think that the Clockwise/Anticlockwise bus is right behind them than to think you’re hailing them down for a ride.

Another reason for the lack of hitchhiking is due to the fact that half of the vehicles used are scooters – not exactly ride-sharing material.

On the outer islands of the Cook Islands, your wait for a ride is more due to the fact that there are very few cars on the road compared to Rarotonga.

In short, hitchhiking is rare but hitchhikers are picked up eventually – usually within 10 to 20 minutes – it just might take a little bit more work and time.

A Travellers' Guide to Hitchhiking in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© CK - Cook Islands Tourism

The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

Like all ways of getting around, there are pros and cons of hitchhiking in the Cook Islands.

The Pros of Hitchhiking

  • It’s free (or you can offer to contribute a small amount for gas)
  • You will likely meet some interesting people
  • It’s more eco-friendly than using a vehicle all to yourself
  • There’s one main road on Rarotonga, so you’ll know if someone is going off course and taking you for a joy ride
  • It’s an adventure!

The Cons of Hitchhiking

  • It is usually time-consuming trying to get a lift
  • You might have to take several lifts to get to your destination, therefore taking more time
  • Hitchhiking is only likely to be successful on Rarotonga; the lack of cars on the roads of the outer islands might mean you’re waiting even longer
  • There is an element of risk
  • Someone else is in charge – so you can’t spontaneously stop for photos, for example
  • You have far less flexibility than having your own rental car
  • Getting the bus on Rarotonga is more reliable than hitchhiking, especially considering that you can take the bus from anywhere on the main road.
A Travellers' Guide to Hitchhiking in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands© CookIslandsPocketGuide.com

Hitchhiking Safety in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands

There’s no sugar-coating it: when you’re hitchhiking anywhere in the world, you’re taking a risk as you don’t know who you could end up in a vehicle with. Although there have been no public cases of hitchhikers having negative experiences in the Cook Islands, if you are going to do it, be sure to be savvy by following the following tips…

7 Safety Tips for Hitchhiking in the Cook Islands (Mostly on Rarotonga)

  1. Never hitchhike alone
  2. Don’t hitchhike at nighttaxis operate 24/7
  3. Engage in conversation before getting in the car, allowing time for your instinct to determine whether you should wait for the next car or not
  4. Don’t accept a lift if you get bad vibes from the driver
  5. If you start to feel uncomfortable, come up with an excuse to be dropped off immediately. Saying that you’re going to be sick is a good one
  6. Take a picture of the vehicle registration before you get in (ask first and only get in if they accept) and message it to a trusted contact. Even if you have no network to send the picture, it’s more to show the driver how cautious you’re being
  7. Have a “Plan B” – if you are unsuccessful at hitchhiking, have an alternative transport; check out The Complete Guide to Public Transportation in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for your options.

More About Getting Around the Cook Islands

That’s all we have to say on hitchhiking in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. If you’re wondering about some more reliable but cheap ways of getting around, check out our other transport guides:

Finally, compare all your travel options in our Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Best Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of Cook Islands Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before settling in the South Pacific, so he knows a thing or two about planning the perfect trip in this corner of the world. Robin works and consults regularly with Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, a local government body representing the tourism industry. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides and is a regular host of webinars with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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