The Academy of Free Travel
Hitchhiking is popular in many countries. It is a favorite pastime in Europe and a common way of travel for many people in Asia and Africa. A few decades ago, it was also popular in North America. But only in Russia it became a competitive sport, a science, an art, and a way of life for many people.
Our club, The Academy of Free Travel, is one of many hitchhiking clubs in Russia. It was founded in 1995, and now has more than a hundred members. Our main activities are: organizing large-scale hitchhiking expeditions in CIS, Asia and Africa; publishing and otherwise distributing useful information for independent travelers.
We do not do any fundraising. All our expeditions are financed by participants, who rely on hospitality and friendliness of local people. We know that the success of a trip depends not on the amount of money available, but on your preparedness and attitude.
Normally we don't use hotels, commercial campgrounds, airlines, and travel agencies, and don't try to arrange our own transportation. But anyone who is going in the same direction and agrees to give us a lift is welcome to do so. We usually spend nights outdoors or in the homes of people willing to invite us.
Hitchhiking trips tend to be many times cheaper than regular ones. But saving money is not our goal. We don't mind spending if we wish to do so, and never mind losing money: the world is plentiful, and we'll always find what we need on the road.
We try to avoid touristic areas. Instead, we live, eat, travel, and communicate with local people, trying to experience their life as it is, not as it can be seen through specially arranged tours or politically correct guidebooks.
In our trips we found that the world is kind, that people are compassionate and hospitable everywhere, that our planet is open for everyone and belongs to us all. Life is wonderful; coming back from remote lands, we better understand people around us and try to be worthy of being a part of humanity.
Our Best Expeditions:
We have conducted about a dozen unique expeditions, and visited most countries in Eurasia and Africa.
Across Russia from Moscow to Magadan and back - more than 20,000 km by hitchhiking on cars, trains, and cargo ships, 1996.
From Moscow to Georgia, Armenia, Karabakh Republic, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan - 10,000+ km, 1997.
To India and back via Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Pakistan - nine participants covered up to 25,000 km each, 1998.
"Project 501" - hitchhiking to an unfinished railroad which had been built in Stalin's era, and hiking along this abandoned railroad across uninhabited areas of Arctic Siberia, 7,000 km of hitchhiking and 400 km of trekking, 1998.
Georgia, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan - more than 20,000 km. We explored most roads of Egypt and Sudan, 1999
Central Asian countries - we covered more than 10,000 km, visiting Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, including areas controlled by Islamist guerillas. We found people to be nice and friendly everywhere, and rumors of horrors and dangers to be greatly exaggerated. 1999.
Winter trip to Nenets Autonomous Okrug - the 18 participants were the first travelers in history to hitchhike to the Arctic city of Naryan Mar. This expedition included many hours of riding in open trunks at -25 deg. centigrade, and hitching a ride on a small cargo plane from Naryan Mar to Rybinsk in North-Central Russia. Some of use used unconventional ways of travel: long-distance cross-country skiing and trekking, hitching rides on reindeer sleds, snowmobiles, and helicopters. 2000.
Africa - our largest expedition. Ten of us covered more than 30,000 km in Russia, Georgia, Middle East, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Namibia. Some participants also visited Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Yemen, Congo - Brazzaville, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, and other countries, spending up to 1.5 years on the road. 2000-2002.
This tropical trip was followed by winter expedition to Tura, a town in Evenkia known as the geographical center of Russia. This remote place is only accessible by automobile in winter, when swamps and rivers freeze over. We had to wait for rides for up to two days in taiga forests, where the temperature dropped to -52 deg. centigrade. Seven participants made it to Tura and back. 2002.
Next we visited Afghanistan, hitchhiking there and back from Moscow. We spent a month in this friendly country, making a full circle around it and visiting all major cities. Two of the five participants continued to Pakistan, Kashmir, and China. 2002.
In addition to these large expedition, many our members traveled independently. Sergei Lekai, a mountaineer, spent a long time in Tibet. Grigory Kubatyan hitchhiked from Saint-Petersburg to Australia and back via Russia, Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, spending ten months traveling. In total, our members have visited ninety countries.
Our president, Anton Krotov, has covered about 400,000 km hitchhiking in Eurasia and Africa, and published 17 books about free travel.
Not everyone can afford to spend most of time, or at least 2-3 month a year, traveling away from home. Such busy people prefer to participate in our small events. The most popular are hiking trips - 50-80 km of cross-country trekking per day.
From time to time, some of our members would organize brief trips to various places of interest all around Russia, such as ancient cities or monasteries. These trips are a good way to learn more about our country, and to get traveling experience.
Our methods of travel are not a secret - we spend a lot of time and effort distributing information about hitchhiking techniques, ways of getting visas to other countries (the most difficult part of any long trip if you have a Russian passport), obtaining food, shelter and money.
Unfortunately, all 17 of Anton Krotov's books only exist in Russian (more than 100,000 copies have been sold). The most popular ones are:
Practical Guide to Free Travel (How to travel in Russia by car, train, and boat, never spending any money).
Hitchhiking in Russia, Hitchhiking to India, Hitchhiking to Sudan, Aurora Borealis, 200 Days Southward, Africa, Russian Routes, Across Seven Borders, and Hitchhiking in Afghanistan - travel diaries.
Hitchhiking in Asia and Hitchhiking in Africa - travel guides.
Encyclopedia of Free Travel contains more than 500 articles by many authors, covering all regions and cities of Russia and many other countries. All that information is also available online from our site avp.travel.ru
Unfortunately, all these texts are currently only available in Russian. We'd be glad to provide them to anybody willing to translate and/or publish them.
All our unique information about geography, places of interest, and travel comes from our own experience. With this information everyone can get to any city in Russia with little or no money. We also have contact info for tourist clubs, ferry and boat schedules, climate and road conditions updates, and are always happy to share this knowledge.
Independent travelers from any other country are always welcome to contact or visit us.