You have decided to hitchhike for your future travel: great idea! We can only encourage and help you to fully live this beautiful experience made of encounters, exchanges and mutual aid!
But before starting, we prefer to warn you: in some countries, hitchhiking is not a common practice… Not to mention some days “with” and some days “without” – we can’t have a great mood nor to be lucky every day! So be patient and relaxed, and remember that it’s not because you waited 3 hours without stopping a single car that your day is “damn”. Sometimes it just needs time, a person, a driver, a generous act to change everything!
By experience, we have distinguished three categories of drivers among those crossed on the road:
- 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!…
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 Hitchwiki.org 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!
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!
- 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!
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
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!
Many retired drivers told us about their youth where hitchhiking was much easier and much more widespread.
Our little games while waiting
- 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!
- 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?)
Unexpected hitchhiking lifts
* Post written according to our personal experience *