Hobo tourism/Overnight stays in long intercontinental journeys/At the police station

Overnight stay at the police station has nothing to do with forced confinement of law and order offenders; it is an official rule applied by five countries in the southern part of the African continent: South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini (Swaziland), Botswana, Namibia — for residents. Following local traditions, traveller practising methods of bum tours can find overnight accommodation in a police station — on general grounds.

Russian traveller Viktor Pinchuk against the background of wanted posters at the police station in Lae, PNG, where he spent the night.
Photo from the book "Six months by islands... and countries"
The cell in the police station, next to where the traveller was sleeping (Lae, Papua New Guinea).
Photo from the book "Six months by islands... and countries"
Reference from the "Сentre for victims of crime" in Leroro, South Africa, where the traveller spent the night

In theory edit

This method is used by locals who come from the provinces to the big city and cannot afford even the cheapest room in a simple hotel. The officers allow "lodgers" to stay at the police station if they plan to leave the city in the early hours of the morning. Double or even multiple overnight stays at the same police station are not allowed. The measure is intended to protect the African population from street crime, which is more active at night.

In practice edit

If a white traveller arrives to spend the night, the police in the above-mentioned countries will "house" him or her in the same way as local "clients", i.e. without singling out from the general public. In villages and provincial settlements (where there are hardly anybody willing to spend the night at the police station) the foreigner will be received more kindly: the officers will allow him to spend the night in a horizontal position and may provide with a separate room (for example, some sort of meeting room). In big cities and capitals it is different: a traveler who came to spend the night won't be turned away but he will have to "sleep" in a sitting position on a bench at the hall, next to dark-skinned "companions in misfortune".

This is not an official practice in other parts of the world but the police can be of help to the stranger — it depends on the personal character of both the traveler and the law enforcement officers.

For a description, with concrete examples from the traveller's own experience, see Wikisource at the link in the relevant section below.

More on this topic edit

  • Most foreigners visiting countries in southern Africa — people who are wealthy, they arrival to visit national parks and unaware of this method.
  • South Africa has a special service for victims of street crime and domestic violence, where a Russian traveller who sought help at the Leroro police station once spent the night (12 April 2018):

Five minutes later, when I was ready to lie down on the floor and come to sleep, a police officer entered the room and mysteriously informed me that there was a much more comfortable option. Having gathered my things, I followed the uniformed man. As if at customs before a flight, my luggage thoroughly inspected and I was escorted to the next building — a rehabilitation centre for victims of criminal offences. "If you don't have money to live in a hotel, then in a way you are a victim too," the policeman said. I was allocated a separate room with two beds and I selected the one I liked. A black woman, a staff member of the "Remmogo Victim Support Centre", escorted me to the shower room, handed a toothbrush with toothpaste and soap, took my clothes to the wash, and provided me with second-hand clothes in return. I tried — the size fit. After the ablution, I got dinner — a national dish, similar to porridge. "No victims today but you," said the "housewife". — "Are there any at all?" — "Of course," replied the woman: "people who have been robbed by criminals, wives of violent alcoholic husbands... [1]

Materials in Wikisource project edit

References edit

  1. Pinchuk, Viktor. Holiday of wandering mzungu (in Russian). Russia: Brovko. p. 169. ISBN 978-5-9908234-0-2.