Hitchhiking with a kid to Kaliningrad : A memorable experience

Since the 1st of July 2019, visiting the Russian city of Kaliningrad became much easier thanks to the introduction of a free e-visa. Since we were visiting the Baltic countries as part of our overland trip from Hong Kong to France with our 2 year-old kid, we decided to enjoy this opportunity to visit Kaliningrad during a couple of days. Hitchhiking with a kid? How? Well we searched on how to get from Kaunas to Kaliningrad but couldn’t find anything straightforward, so we agreed on hitchhiking since the weather was pleasant.

We had hitchhiked in Russia a few weeks before with our son, it worked well and we decided to try again, this time starting from Kaunas in Lithuania. We had a really positive experience hitchhiking with a kid around the Baltic countries, another reason which prompted us to be very confident in doing such a trip.

Kaunas
Darian in Kaunas

Getting out of Kaunas

We stayed two nights in Kaunas, and staying the last night with a wonderful host who invited us through Couchsurfing. To get out of the city we first found a spot on hitchwiki and took the bus #6. We went down at the outskirts of the city, then we started to walk on the side of the road in order to arrive to a gas station, a perfect place to hitch a ride. There was 1.5 kilometers between the bus stop and the station, but when we arrived at our spot a car was already waiting for us because we had been raising our thumb while walking.

Hitchhiking in Lithuania

The guy was a Lithuanian classical singer and spoke well English. We had an interesting conversation about his job and he brought us some 60 kilometers farther, in Marijampole. Hitchwiki says you should turn down ride going to this city, but I disagree, there were many gas stations on the way that would be better spots to hitch towards Poland or Kaliningrad. There’s a gas station right before the Marijampole bypass, and one guy was already hitchhiking there.

Gracefully, our driver made an extra effort by dropping us directly on the road to Kaliningrad. It wasn’t a highway anymore which meant more freedom to hitch. We raised our thumb right before a bus stop, so that cars could stop safely. We waited for 20 minutes. This time the guy brought us to the border city, in Kybartai.

Hitchhiking Marijampole to Kaliningrad
Our hitchhiking spot

The border between Lithuania and Russia

We arrived at the border and we’re pleased to see that you can walk across the border. It wasn’t the case with all the three other borders we crossed in and out of Russia. Therefore we exited the European Union, and then entered Russia. It took about 20 minutes for everything, even though the guards were confused because we have different passports (my wife doesn’t have an EU passport). Maxime entered with an E-Visa, while Darian & HiuYing didn’t need any, since Hong Kong passport owners don’t need a visa for Russia. After being allowed in, the Russian custom decided to check everything in our bag, which took about 15 minutes, and we were out.

Border between Kaliningrad and Lithuania
Right after the border, you can see the immigration in blue and white.

We used the waiting time to have a quick lunch, now that we have a kid, we always prepare food the day before to eat. This time we had boiled eggs, some bread, cheese and a few bananas. It’s not the best lunch ever, but it can fill us until Kaliningrad.

Welcome to Kaliningrad, Russia

Unfortunately we discovered that the exit for pedestrian is different than for cars. Nevertheless, one taxi was waiting at the border, although we did ignore him and walked 30 minutes to get back to the main road and hitch. This border town had a weird feeling, and most people were looking at us. A young guy came to us and showed us the direction to the train station, but we weren’t interested.

Can I have your ID please ?

A lot of military cars passed by us when we were walking. When we reached our hitching spot, two border patrol guards checked us again, one young guy could speak English quite well. They checked our ID, visas, took a few photos and then left. I told them we were hitchhiking, and that we had crossed Russia with the Trans-Siberian not so long ago. The young guy speaking English was friendly and surprised, he told us that we are in a border zone and that we couldn’t exit the main road for a few kilometers. We had no problem with that, as our objective was to reach Kaliningrad today.

Hitchhiking to Kaliningrad

They had no problem with us hitchhking, so they left and we stood there, thumb up, and protected from the sun thanks to an umbrella. There wasn’t much traffic but after slightly more than 5 minutes a car stopped. A friendly guy told us he was going to Gusev, some 25 kilometers farther. He couldn’t speak English at all, he made a few phone calls and soon we understood that he changed his mind and he decided to drop us close to Kaliningrad, our destination. He was from Azerbaijan, so I used all the Turkish I could remember + my 10 words of Russian and we had fun. HiuYing and Darian spent most of the ride sleeping on the back seat. He passed by the center of two towns on the way just to show us around.

Lenin statue
A random Lenin statue in a random town

Arriving in Kaliningrad

Eventually he dropped us 15 kilometers before Kaliningrad. We exited the car, exchanged numbers, and exactly 2 minutes and 30 seconds later we were already in another car, going to Kaliningrad. The driver was Lithuanian, with I assume strong Russian ties. He dropped us in the center, we thanked him and went directly to a playground for our kid to play. A sort of a reward for his attitude that day and also to wait for our Couchsurfing host to finish work. Unfortunately we arrived one hour too early at his home because I didn’t know that Kaliningrad is one hour behind Lithuania.

Kid playing in a playground in Kaliningrad
One great thing about Russia is that playgrounds are everywhere!

Conclusion

We needed 4 cars to get from Kaunas to Kaliningrad. Overall, it was a smooth day, because we didn’t have to wait much. Our maximum waiting time that day was only 20 minutes. We had to cross an international border between Lithuania and Russia, but the process was relatively fast. For us, it was another good experience hitchhiking in Russia and the Baltic countries. Darian was once again very cooperative, it’s impressive how his attitude improved during the year on when to play and when to listen. It makes hitchhiking with a kid so much easier.

A few days later we were back on the road, this time hitchhiking from Kaliningrad to Poland !

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Maxime

A young father following his dream of travelling the world, now joined by HiuYing, his wife, and Darian, their first son.
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