The summer is just around the corner and so is the hitchhiking season. Even though, we are not planning to catch a ride any time soon, we have some tips for those who want to try the old, good auto-stop this year. We experienced firsthand all the difficulties connected to it and through a trial and error method we’ve created THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO HITCHHIKING. Hoping that you find it useful, we wish you all a summer full of adventures!
1. Ask for a ride at petrol stations
If you are in a rush, somewhere at a highway’s petrol station and you don’t want to be stuck there overnight- act quickly. As soon as you leave a car look for another ride as there is no time to wonder whether a person might give you a ride- just ask everyone!
People are more likely to help you out when they talk to you in person and can judge you with their own eyes. Thus, they can tell that you are probably not a serial killer, but even a nice person. To be honest, many drivers find it very hard to say no when they face you. Use this power!
2. Leave your cardboard at home
Even if it looks great in your holiday pictures, using a cardboard can make your journey seriously longer. Many people passing a hitchhiker with a board will not stop if they don’t go to exactly the same destination you do. They assume you will catch a better- direct ride soon.
On the long distance travels like crossing Europe it is also quite problematic to find a cardboard every time you need to write the name of your next destination. Throw away your marker and just point the direction you want to go. It makes it easier for everyone.
3. Be precise on where you want to leave and don’t be shy to say it with emphasis if the driver does not get it
Don’t make mistakes out of politeness- people will give you advises and try to help you, but their help is not always good for you, most of the times they don’t have a clue about what’s good for a hitchhiker or even where exactly they are. Be sure you do, be accurate and explain the driver in a clear way where you want to leave his car. It obviously gets more complicated when both of you don’t speak a common language, but hey, that’s the beauty of hitchhiking. Maps, GPS and cell phone (translator) can help with that issue.
4. Stay positive
A good hitchhiker never gives up! Don’t look for a bus or a train whenever you face problems (shame on you if you do!). Remember that you are not special and nobody is obliged to give you a ride. So don’t get angry or excited when no driver feels like having you in his car. Stay patient, what really counts is the adventure!
5. Eye contact is very important, as well as a smile
Look the driver in the eye to make it more personal. Show some effort. People are more likely to give you a ride if they empathize with you.
6. Even the worst weather can be an advantage
Make your saddest face, jump around and show them how cold you are! Make the bad weather an advantage to you. Pity is the key!
7. Ask people on traffic lights and stop signs
Many times we have reached a perfect hitchhiking spot on the way out of the city and found other people trying to catch a ride there. Probably they have been waiting there already for hours. It can be a real bummer because some hitchhikers claim the right to get the ride first as they already have been waiting for a long time. In these situations we would walk towards the traffic lights and wait for the red one. We would knock on windows of waiting cars and ask for a ride. Sometimes people get scared and keep their windows closed but apart of that it works pretty well. This strategy saved us already many times from potentially hopeless situations. Just go for it and don’t be shy.
8. The most important thing is the location
Try to be visible from distance so the driver has time to make up his mind whether he wants to give you a ride. Remember that he needs some space to pull over.
9. Act fast
If there is not much time to explain yourself because of whatever circumstances just get inside the car. You can do all the talking inside. Worst case scenario- you have to leave the car because the driver takes the next exit.
10. Avoid crossing borders inside a car (unfortunately there are borders where you have to do so)
You never know what exactly is in the car (drugs, weapons) and who is the person sitting next to you (criminal, terrorist) even if she is a sweet granny or a mother of four. Don’t be naïve and stay out of troubles.
Dropped on the main road (if it is not a highway) we always walk towards our destination. This way we can see more, enjoy new places and keep ourselves fit. It is a great opportunity to stretch one’s legs after a whole day in the car and to get closer to your destination step by step. Don’t stay in one place for hours (unless you have to) and move your butt. If you see that your position is hopeless don’t wait for miracles and save yourself! Start walking towards your destination. Most probably the solution for your problems is closer than you think.
12. Know a few words in the local language
It is always worth to learn some basic vocabulary of the local tongue. People will certainly appreciate you knowing “thank you” and “hello” in their language. It makes you more likeable and the driver more willing to help you.
13. Make sure that the ride is free
In some countries people might expect you to pay for the ride. If you feel the necessity, don’t hesitate to explain that you are not going to pay for the ride. Make sure it is clear that the driver helps you only out of the pure kindness.
14. If there is a girl in your hitchhiking team- make her visible!
As bad as it sounds- this way of catching a ride really works. The presence of a girl calms driver’s fear of being murdered on the road and whatever else is going on in his mind.
15. If you have no choice- don’t be afraid to hitchhike back in order to find a better spot.
Sometimes you get stuck in places you would never ever like to be. Suddenly you end up on a pay toll in the middle of nowhere or a desert road leading to some forgotten village. We have already been in many hopeless positions and were waiting for hours for a car going towards our destination. Frustrated with loosing precious time we decided to hitchhike back. It often turns out to be a great decision as we found a perfect spot on a petrol station and caught a ride very fast.
16. If you travel with a companion of opposite sex, it might be an advantage to introduce him/her as your spouse.
That way, especially if you are a girl, it’s easier to avoid unpleasant situations or rude comments.
17. Bite your tongue if you have to and don’t argue with the driver
It can and for sure will happen that one of the drivers who gives you a ride is an asshole with some sick opinions. Remember that it is not your job to educate him and avoid arguing. The best way is to stay quiet and calm. After all you don’t know what the guy is like when he gets seriously furious. Though you have to make clear statements in case someone touches you or offends you in any way.
18. Dress properly
It is not true that, as a girl, the more flesh you show the faster you get a ride. In fact it may only put you into troubles. The real key to success is to look clean and neat. The important thing is to wear clothes proper for the country you are visiting. Wearing sunglasses is probably not going to help you either.
19. Don’t be stupid
Hitchhiking at night is something you should avoid. Don’t try to catch a ride while being drunk or drugged. Stay focused. Try to avoid getting robed and if you can, keep your bag with you instead of putting it into a trunk. Forced to do so be quick getting it back out. Leaving the passenger side door open till you got your bag back will help. Simply try to keep your stuff close to you.
20.Obtain information regarding legality or way of hitchhiking in the country you intend to hitchhike in
Watch out for the police. Even if it is legal where you are, they might question you for ages and not let you leave for a long time.