Since the definition of traveling is the movement of people between relatively distant geographical locations, it is obvious that to travel you need to move from point A to point B. And usually that is the most expensive part of one’s journey.
But, there are alternatives, and here we will talk about one of them – hitchhiking.
Before you start, be aware that there are no rules as such, but since people ask me about travel advices, I hope this article will help them.
Hitchhiking is not for everybody. People will tell you it’s dangerous. Maybe it is, but I cannot confirm this since I don’t have any horror stories after over 50,000 kilometers hitchhiked on five different continents. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful while hitchhiking. This article is here for that – carefulness.
1. PREPARE YOURSELF
While deciding what you should bring with you in your backpack, choose a route that you’ll take to the next city (I use maps.google.com), find out how to get out of the city you are currently in (I use hitchwiki.org) and make some signs with the name of the cities that you go to. In most cases you won’t need it, but its better to have it, just in case.
Check the weather forecast for the day(s) to come, and start with hitchhiking early as possible so you reach your destination before the night falls. If it rains, think about spending another day in the city you are currently in – rainy days are not meant for hitchhiking.
Carry a map with you, or at least printed version of the route you’re taking. If you don’t have a plan, disregard this suggestion.
Maps are better as they’re more precise. The best would be to have a map with gas stations shown so you can see where you can leave the car before it gets off the road and out of your way – in case you are taking the highways.
2. GET OUT OF THE CITY
When you did your preparation, you can go to the spot that is the best to start hitchhiking from. You will have to use public transportation most of the times. Its up to you will you pay for the ticket.
3. CHOOSE A GOOD SPOT
Choosing a good spot to start hitchhiking is crucial. You should be on a place where drivers can stop their car (bus stops and such) and where they’re not driving too fast so they can react and stop the car without fearing that some car will run to their behind.
If you choose to travel using highways, there are 3 good solutions:
PAY TOLLS – they are the best when it comes to number of cars passing by. Cars also have to stop to take the card or pay the toll, and that’s your advantage. Be on a safe place, if possible inside the small fence – and thumbs up!
If it happens that police or someone gives you hard time, listen to their advice. While they’re looking.
Other spot you can try out is ENTRANCE OF THE HIGHWAY. When you’re in small places or in countries that don’t have tolls, best would be to go on the place where the highway starts, with having in mind that there has to be enough space for cars to stop by.
If you have a long way ahead, ask drivers to give you a lift at least to the first gas station or the next exit on the highway. Just be sure that they go your way.
GAS STATIONS – maybe even the best choice when you’re on the highway, because of few reasons. People have to stop, get out of the car, do whatever they came there for, and you have enough time to evaluate them and choose someone who looks normal and unlikely to crash his/hers car while driving you. Your advantage is that you can start a conversation and let them know that you’re not a lunatic.
In most cases it looks like this:
I approach slowly, with my backpack on my back, give them few seconds to see me and understand what I’m doing there, I never come to them behind their back, I don’t want to scare them. So, give them few seconds, the best time is while they’re sipping the gas in their car.
„Excuse me, are you maybe going in direction of ____________?“ – with a smile on my face.
„Yes“ – if he says no, fck it, thank him and try with someone else.
„Well, see, I’m hitchhiking, blah blah, could you give me a ride?“ with a huge smile, try to be nice and give good first impression.
There are few reasons why people will turn you down even then (car is full, s/he doesn’t take hitchhikers, whatever), but in most cases they will smile and say „okay“. When getting a ride on a gas station, one more advantage is that you see the registration plates and you can assume where is the driver going.
4. LOOK DECENT, BE PATIENT, AND SMILE
When you hitchhike, put yourself in the position of a driver. Would you pick up someone that is dirty, nervous and grumpy, or someone that is clean and smiling from the side of the road?
If you are in a rush or in a bad mood, take the bus/train. Hitchhiking is not easy sometimes, but that’s a good thing – if it was simple, everyone would be doing it, and nobody could pick us up then.
Also, put your backpack in front of you, where drivers can see it. Its more likely that they will want to help out when they see a backpacker, less chances that you’re a loony. Loonies don’t carry extra weight.
5. BE SAFE
There are couple of no-no’s when it comes to hitchhiking:
Don’t walk on, or let the drivers drop you off on the middle of the highway, you will have big problems finding a good spot to be picked up, and cops will most probably show up soon. Plus, it’s very dangerous.
Try not to sleep while driving, apart from its dangers, the driver can feel like you’re just using him/her, and that’s not fair. You can always at least give them a good story.
Also, avoid driving with people that are drinking and/or are drunk. Politely leave the vehicle, or ask to drive yourself.
Don’t drive without your seatbelt on!
6. HAVE A PLAN B
Sometimes you won’t get to your destination as planned, so be prepared for those kind of situations – bring a tent, mattress and a sleeping bag.
7. GO WITH THE FLOW (aka DON’T HAVE A PLAN)
Don’t plan too much. After all, you are using one of the most random forms of transportation, and who knows where will the road (and your driver) bring you.
Sometimes it will be a lunch, some random village they were just going to, and maybe even their homes. Sometimes they will offer you money. Accept the unexpected, if you feel like it.
You are on an adventure, so enjoy every moment of it!
Well, I think that’s it.
Remember, there are no rules. I had to hitchhike bunch of kilometers to learn some things, but sometimes I just go with my hunch, with the flow, breaking the rules. Listen to your instinct. Don’t be stubborn, unless you have to. Then it’s okay.
At the end, the most important thing. Be patient. Hitchhiking is my best teacher in that area. And have in mind the ultimate hitchhiking rule – “no matter how long you wait, the right ride will come”
If you want to know some tips for hitchhiking as a women, check out Ana’a article – 36 tips for a solo female hitchhiker.
If you want even more of this, here is my HITCHHIKING GUIDE video: