From the beginning, I just want to stress that I am completely not a pro at hitchhiking and I do not have a lot of experience with it although I tried to hitchhike solo and I totally love it so I decided to share my experience.
My Hitchhiking Experience
For my first time, I tried super “safe” countries – Germany and France, I had a great time hitchhiking even though those experiences are completely different.
In Germany, Stuttgart I was staying with a local guy via Couchsurfing program, I told him that I want to hitchhike from Stuttgart to Karlsruhe and he was so helpful and gave me an old pizza box on which I wrote my destination. He even brought me with his motorbike to a road where I could catch a car faster in his opinion. It took me around 15min to stop the first car and I was lucky because a driver had to go directly to Karlsruhe to take his climbing equipment. It was a nice ride, we shared an interesting conversation and I reached my destination quickly.
My second hitchhike was in France (Cavagnion – Marseille) again I was lucky because I was staying with a Wooff program in France and my host took me to a highway to Marseille. I prepared a sign with my destination, but I manage to leave it at home. This time more cars were stopping, but they didn’t go to the same direction, they stopped just to ask me where I need to go. Until one lady stopped and in French explained me that she is going near Marseille in a small city around 30 km far from Marseille, I decided to risk it and just to take a bus from this small city to Marseille. This woman wasn’t speaking English at all and I was terrible in French, so most of the time we were just listening to music or even a little bit singing. After a while, she started explaining and showing with hands that she needs to sign some document and was repeating the word “cafe” and “Marseille”, at first I understood that she will sign a document and during that time I should drink coffee and then she will go later to Marseille. However, it was better she stopped at the post office to sign a document, left me in a car for 15 min and then we went together to drink coffee with her friends! They were talking English so it was quite nice, they bought me coffee, shared a sandwich and a cigarette and after an hour she brought me to the main train station in Marseille. If I had a sign she would never stop to take me because her main destination was not Marseille, but all the experience were more special this way.
I met so many people who are against hitchhiking and I completely understand it, sometimes you can put yourself in a very dangerous situation I am quite aware of it, but when you hitchhike and have this great memory then you do not want to sit in a boring train or bus anymore. These are my safety tips and tips for more effective hitchhike.
1. Tell somebody where you are
If you travel solo don’t make this mistake of disappearing from your friends or family lives, they have to know where you are and with whom. Agree with one person that before entering the car or when you go somewhere you have to write your place and is everything fine, you can even take a picture of a license plate and send it to a friend.
2. Study the map
Make sure that you know where the car should go and notice soon if you are going in the wrong direction. Don’t be immediately scared if the car made a wrong turn, you can ask a driver about it and if he is being weird just tell him that your friend has the exact location of where you are.
3. Trust your instincts
If a car stops and you don’t feel fully confident about the driver then say “no” and wait for another car, if something feels not right then trust yourself and remember that it is not worth taking a risk. Maybe sometimes you will not catch a car and have to travel by bus but safety always must be first.
4. Avoid hitchhiking at night
Try to avoid hitchhiking when it’s getting dark, consider taking a sleeping bag and a tent with you and just stay for a night at a safe place and in the morning continue hitchhiking. If you need to walk near the road in the evening then always have a reflector or LED lamp.
5. No alcohol smell
For God’s sake if you smell alcohol from a car then don’t even consider entering a car
6. Ask people at gas stations
You can look for drivers who look trustworthy for a ride at the gas station. Talk to them, but don’t be annoying because they don’t have to take you, it’s their decision if they want the stranger in their car or not. Offer to divide expenses for gas if you can. Once you make a connection, it is more likely that you will get a safer lift.
7. Ask local
Ask local people if they have any recommendations on where to start your hitchhiking. Once I tried hitchhiking in Germany and most of the cars who stopped said that I will not be able to hitchhike here because most of the people who go to this directions are not going to my destination.
8. Spot where cars are going slower
The slower cars are going, the better. Give drivers some time to check you out, to discuss taking you with other people in the car, and finally, decide to pick you up or not. An additional tip, choose a place near the top of a hill. The cars go slower and are easier for a car to stop when it is going uphill.
9. Easy to pull aside
Pick a spot where cars can easily pull aside without creating a traffic jam. Nobody wants to stop other cars to pick you up. Make sure there is enough space for the car to pull aside.
10. Outside of a city.
Avoid to hitchhike in the city because people aren’t going far. IChoose the edge of the city, before the cars start to accelerate. The hitchhiking best spot is where the city small streets become a highway.
11. A sign
The benefit of the sign is obvious you are communicating with the drivers where you want to go. The downside of signs is that drivers who don’t go to your destination don’t stop even though they can drive you somewhere else where you can catch another car.
One of the main reason why people pick up hitchhikers is that they want to have a nice conversation. But nobody wants to chat with a grumpy person, so smile and look nice.
13. Think about how you look
If you are a woman then don’t dress top provocatively and even too feminine. If you are a man don’t look dangerous, dress as you a cheerful person. Shower and always look clean.
14. Offer to pay for gas
Offer drivers to pay for gas or to split expenses, most of the people turn off this offer, but it is a polite way to say “Thank you”. You can also offer something else like paying for a meal, a drink, buying a souvenir or giving a gift.
Is Hitchhiking Illegal?
Yes and no. In some countries hitchhiking is illegal, although hitchhikers are rarely ticketed, usually just warned. You just need to follow some basic rules like don’t stand on the side of a major highway and solicit rides and don’t do things which makes danger to the drivers.
Have a nice trip!