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Hitchhiking guide: our tips to easily get a lift!

Would you like to hitchhike to travel? What a great idea! We can only encourage and help you to live this great experience made of encounters, exchanges and mutual aid! Whether you’re just a novice, curious or passionate, we hope this guide will give you… a little help to move forward!

The drivers

By experience, we have distinguished three categories of drivers among those crossed on the road:

  • Drivers who stop every time as soon as they see a sign or a thumb up, because they have already hitchhiked in the past or because they like to help, meet people! We thought that they represent half of the drivers met on the road in Europe.
  • Drivers who will never stop because they have a negative thought about hitchhiking. They think that hitchhikers could attack them to steal money for example (“if these people don’t take public transport, that seems suspect?”) or that hitchhikers aren’t of good attendance. We don’t know what proportion represents this category, but we hope that it’s the smallest possible!
  • Drivers who have never stopped or rarely, and who may hesitate once they see you… We call them “undecided drivers” and they represent more than half of the drivers met!

So we must count the most on the last category.

“Hitchhiking success depends not only on the driver, but in your attitude and the choosen waiting spot”

Our tips

The positive attitude

The positive attitude, it’s:

  • smiling (so if you’re a little bit grumpy, try telling you funny jokes or thinking of stupid things)
  • being presentable: in other words, it means keeping your face uncovered, having a trimmed or shaved beard (for men), being clean, being dressed decently, …
  • wearing light colors clothes: if possible avoid black, dark green and camouflage clothing; we must remain visible (and not be confused with a tree for example).
  • avoiding eating or having a full mouth while hitchhiking;
  • avoiding being upset when the waiting time becomes too much long for you! If it happens, change your waiting spot or take another means of transport!
  • being original to distinguish yourself like making some drawings or a winter snowman, dancing, juggling (we hope you’re better than us), or writing in a big sign with colorful letters in the local language that you are traveling around the world! Local people are more proud and excited to see foreigners making integration efforts, and will stop more easily!
  • being polite and wave at the drivers passing by (with a hand sign): this is another way to engage a conversation, by smiling at the drivers and looking at them directly to the eyes, like for any new encounter! 
  • putting your backpack in front of you: to make drivers understand that you are adventurous backpackers and incidentally allow them to imagine the volume occupied by your bag in their trunk!…

In some countries, hitchhiking is not a common practice… Not to mention ups-and-downs: you can’t always have a good mood, nor be lucky every day! Be patient, and convince yourself that your day is not “over” because you haven’t stopped a single car in 3 hours!

Finding the perfect spot

When hitchhiking, finding a good spot (that is to say the place where you wait) is essential! It must guarantee both our safety and allow drivers to see the hitchhikers and stop.
But then, how to choose a good spot?

  • Go out of the cities by taking public transport or walking. In the middle of big cities traffic is dense, axes and directions are too numerous… And developed public transport presence generally dissuades drivers to stop (“why are they bothering us,  can’t they take the train like everyone else?’). We are not saying that hitchhiking is impossible but… more difficult that’s for sure!
  • Being next to a spot where drivers can stop easily like a bus stop, an escape route or free parking spaces
  • Ideally placed on a part of the road where speed is low, like decelaration lanes, roundabouts exits, before steeps ups, before a turn, etc. The goal here is to allow “undecided drivers” (you know, the third drivers category that we were previously talking about!) to have an acceptable time of reflection and to brake more easily. And it’s also good for your own safety!
  • Being visible from far, that is to say avoiding turn exits or fast lanes… For the same reasons as those mentioned above!
  • Hitchhike in a safe and authorized spot. Some countries and states prohibit hitchhiking, or make it prohibited in some specific places such as on highways (which doesn’t prevent us to hitchhike before an entrance!). Find out about it before hitchhiking everywhere!
  • Standing by the right direction! It sounds obvious, but it’s not always the case… Study the course before raising your thumb, on the website  or on a chart. Incase you doubt, don’t hesitate to ask locals for their opinion: they know better than you the area and are generally from very good advice!

Sign or no sign? Thumb up or not thumb up?

Some hitchhikers always use a sign with the direction written on it, others don’t… We have tried both methods and we have our own opinion about that:

If the road has several directions or crossroads located just after your spot, or if it’s a highway with several exits. The sign can be also very useful if your destination is on a busy road between two big cities… We have the perfect example when after waiting a good hour and changed two times our spot, a car finally stopped because we wrote our destination in a piece of cardboard found in the street (our destination was 8km away and was not the next served big city, far from 50km).
If your destination is the next served big city, or if you are in a country where hitchhiking is pretty easy (see our map to know the level of difficulty of each country). A thumbs up / hand sign will be enough to stop drivers who will lift you in any case!

We always have crayons on us to write down our direction on a sign with a cardboard found in the bins, next to local stores. It’s preferable to make a sign with a cardboard rather than carrying a dry-erasable board: it’s smaller so less visible, not practical and it’s impossible to write on it under the rain.
As for thumbs up, it’s for the moment the official and recognized worldwide hitchhikers sign. However in Iran, thumbs up is to be avoided: this sign is insulting! In Asia, it would be easier too to get a ride by waving your hand rather using your thumb (and by addind after that you are looking for a free lift).

Hitchhiking stories: those gestures that have a different meaning

Put yourself in favorable condition

You would like to move forward? Put the odds on your side!

  • Find out about other means of transport (carpooling, train, bus): it will reassure you and you will never be a loser (and lost!) in case of hitchhiking failure.
  • Hitchhiking by night is  strongly discouraged, we don’t play in a horror movie! If you really can’t do otherwise, put yourself as much as possible under public lights.
  • Waiting time becomes a bit too much long? Change your spot! Sometimes you just need to make a few steps to allow a car to stop more easily… but also to let the negative waves that began to overhelm you right behind.
  • Prefer sunny days as much possible – and this is the most amazing thing we have learnt in hitchhiking! We really thought at first that people would have more pity for hitchhikers soaked in the rain… Actually the opposite happened, with a much longer wait on rainy days! We thought that sun’s rays would have a positive effect on the drivers mood – and hitchhikers! – not to mention that rain must make hitchhikers less visible and sexy under their rain coats… In reality, it’s probably easier to brake on a dry road than a soaked one!
  • Take with you a flag or an emblematic object of the region / country crossed and use-it wisely: in some countries or regions of the globe, we have seen the existence of a strong patriotic feeling among locals – who stop at the mere sight of the object in question! Be careful though: we said to use this trick “wisely“! Patriotic sentiment can vary greatly from region to region; if you don’t learn enough, you may simply create the opposite effect and stay on the road side for a very long time!

Active hitchhiking

Active hitchhiking consists to talk directly to the drivers on a parking lot or gas station. Two solutions may be offered on the way towards a successful lift:

  • ask directly to the drivers if they agree to give you a lift,
  • being helped by locals (gas station attendants, garage mechanics, policemen, customs officers) who by their jobs can approach drivers daily in the local language and are allowed to establish a certain confidence: you are somehow recommended by them.

In active hitchhiking, you have to have a certain amount of courage to formulate your request because unlike the thumb-up technique, you sometimes have to deal with the roughness of several ‘no’ voiced before finding someone. Nevertheless, it really reduces the waiting time and allow to have with the “undecided” drivers a first verbal exchange with you, which can influence them in the right direction!

Rules of truck-hitchhiking

Stopping a truck has become, for us, a habit in Asia (thanks to the famous Turkish truck drivers). This allowed us to cover long distances for which it would have taken several cars and waiting hours in normal times… But hitchhiking a truck by two people has some essential rules to know before attempting the lorry experience:

  • Remove your shoes when entering the cabin, particularly if you are traveling on the back berth
  • Never eat or spread food/drinks on the back berth: respect the bed cleanliness of your driver!
  • If you are sitting on the back berth, be discreet! Often it’s illegal to be more than 2 inside the cabin and your driver risks a big fine! Try to hide as much as you can if you meet police on the road

Hitchhiking according to the countries

In terms of hitchhiking, there are countries easier than others to cross. By putting ourselves in the best conditions and following our advice above, we were able to rank the countries crossed in different colors, on our map below. For more details about hitchhiking per country, we invite you to read our posts on each country crossed to have our opinion on the question!


Very easy hitchhiking experience: the first car will stop as if by magic!
Easy hitchhiking experience: few minutes to 30 minutes of waiting maximum
Intermediate hitchhiking experience: 1h of waiting in average (or drivers asking systematically money)
Difficult hitchhiking experience: up to 2h of waiting…
Very difficult hitchhiking experience: almost impossible mission!

Hitchhiking learnings

In conclusion, hitchhiking has taught us that we can not make generality about drivers who stop: we have (almost) seen everything from the poor man to the richest one, the “wreck” car to the luxury sedan. On the other hand, it can be said that a majority of men stop: it’s not so much that women have no empathy, quite the opposite, but the fear when you are a solo woman behind the wheel takes the top.

Many retired drivers told us about their youth where hitchhiking was much easier and much more widespread.

Hitchhiking phenomenon has faded with the development of transport networks, “car democratization” and rare media incidents that have generated a fear of the other.
We are convinced that we absolutely must not give up hitchhiking and continue to do it all over the world! This is one of the beautiful things that makes people interact with each other, in a world governed by commercial exchanges… Even if an “undecided driver” did not stop for you, your thumb up and your positive attitude may have led him to think and change his mind about hitchhiking! 

SerialHikers Bonus

Our little games while waiting

Waiting can sometimes be long to bear, so to keep our positive attitude we invented small games:

  • Count each the number of cars of different brands and comment on the score as if it was a sport’s game (example: number of Punto vs number of Panda in Italy, where Fiat brand is well established)
  • Sing each a song / verse – our preferred one is “Trucks! Trucks! Trucks! I’m looking for a good ride!
  • Tell stories – funny or not, but we prefer funny stories anyway!
  • Dance!…
  • Mimic wellknown characters (or not)
  • Comment on drivers and passengers attitude, and give them a nickname: with us, sleeping people are called “the dead”, a car with children in the back is called “a nursery”… It gives very funny sentences like “Hey, I just saw a dead man in a nursery!” (you got it?)

Sunset car

Sunset… what? Sunset car means litteraly “the car catched at the sunset”. In practice, this is the last car stopped usually just before dark. Travelers who do not have accommodation can be offered hospitality by the driver of the sunset car, in exchange for a meal cooked by them or a little help for example… This situation happened to us several times, in Italy, Greece, Armenia, Iran, Central Asia, China, and South East Asia!

Hitchhiking races

Yes, it exists! Rules differ depending on the race, but in general it’s either to go as far as possible or to be the first to travel a well-defined distance, all thanks to hitchhiking.
In France, there are several races: we know the “Pouce d’Or” race organized by Ecole Centrale of Nantes – race in which the brother of Julien participated, and “Mad’ Jacques” race open to all. We wish good luck to all the participants and we hope that they will be inspired by our hitchhiking tips! 

Sponsored hitchhiking races, marketing in disguise

Unexpected hitchhiking lifts

We’ve stopped a lot of cars since we left France… But there were some more unusual vehicles than others along the way! Here are our winners:

– 1 in Kosovo (Jaguar)
– 1 in Georgia (Subaru)

– 1 in Kosovo
– 1 in Georgia
– 1 in Vietnam

– 1 in Turkey

– 1 in Thailand

– 1 in Greece
– 1 in Turkey
– 1 in Iran
– 2 in China
– 1 in Vietnam
– 1 in Thailand

– 1 in Greece
– 1 in Bulgaria
– 1 in Iran

– 2 in Kyrgyzstan

– 1 in Kyrgyzstan

– 1 in Laos
– 2 in Cambodia

– 1 Bangka in the Philippines

– 11 in Vietnam
– 1 in Thailand
– 1 in Indonesia
– 1 in the Philippines

– 2 in Greece
– 19 in Laos
– 1 in Vietnam
– 4 in Cambodia
– 5 in Thailand
– 1 in Malaysia
– 2 in the Philippines

– 1 in Vietnam

– 2 in Iran
– 3 in Laos
– 1 in Vietnam
– 4 in Cambodia

– 1 in Turkey
– 2 in Iran
– 2 in Vietnam
– 1 in Hong-Kong

– 1 in Turkey
– 5 in Iran
– 1 in Vietnam
– 2 in Cambodia
– 1 bus ride, 3 minivans in the Philippines

– 1 in Montenegro
– 2 in Greece
– 1 in Bulgaria
– 17 in Turkey
– 3 in Georgia
– 1 in Armenia
– 3 in Iran
– 1 in Turkmenistan
– 5 in Kazakhstan
– 3 in Kyrgyzstan
– 3 in Uzbekistan
– 3 in China
– 4 in Laos
– 8 in Vietnam
– 2 in Cambodia
– 3 in the Philippines

* Post written according to our personal experience *

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