a guideline of successfully catching a ride
Why to spent money on a bus or plane if you can reach your destination for free? Hitchhiking is a great possibility to get in touch with locals, receive important information about the region/country which you are traveling to and mostly its even more comfortable than public transport.
For the most people its pretty strange to stand for the first time on the road, holding their finger in the wind, others are afraid of criminals or violent people.
With this article we would like to help you to overcome your fear about hitchhiking and share some useful information and tricks how to get your free ride.
- Plan your route as good as possible and try to avoid long distances without any villages or cities on the way. If you are not sure check: http://hitchwiki.org/en/Main_Page for recommendations for the route which you are going to take
- Always carry a map or an offline application to define your location and the place where you want to go.
- Make sure that hitchhiking is not illegal in the country you are traveling to. Normally its not a problem but asking is for free, so just try to get some information from locals to avoid unnecessary troubles.
- Be prepared for the change of the weather (sunscreen or rain jacket) and always carry enough food and drinks with you.
- If you are traveling in a foreign country make sure that you able to have at least a basic conversation like introducing yourself and asking for the route the driver is going to take. A good language knowledge can bring you way further than you might think.
- Make sure that that the thumb is a known sign in the area where you plan to hitch. It never happened to us but other travelers told us about places in the world where people actually don't know what that means.
- Choose the right clothes. Show them that you´re an open minded and friendly sunny boy who could never harm anybody. Leave your sunglasses in your pocket, people will be more likely to pick you up if they can see your face. And the most important pick clean clothes, nobody wants to spent a two hour car ride with someone who wasn't showering for the last three days. Just ask yourself „would i pick myself up“ and then act like that.
- Last but not least the sign-question. The good thing with a sign you make sure from the very beginning where you want to go, so its more easy for people to decide if there is a sense in picking you up or not. The contra is that people who could bring you at least to the next village might not stop because their destination doesn't match with yours. So in the end its totally up for you. Normally we use signs only for really far distances, to avoid going in small steps. Make sure your sign readable from far away, use capital letters and make it as colorful as possible. A beautiful sign attracts beautiful people. Another option to catch more attention could be a undefined place like „to the beach“ or „south“. Also a joke could be a way to attract drivers, if you make them smile you raise your chance of getting a ride. Maybe try something like „freshly showered“ or „not a serial killer“ some people also told us that „today is my birthday“ works pretty good, eventually a white lie never killed anybody :)
As mentioned in the beginning lots of people are afraid of hitchhiking and usually if it comes to that topic you hear always the same prejudices about kidnaps, rapes and even murders. But to be honest if you're afraid to get harmed while hitchhiking you should at first stop smoking which is more likely to kill you, than a stranger who's picking you up by accident. Always keep in mind their probably more afraid of you than the other way.You might call this naiv but we are pretty sure that if you go on the road with a positive intention you will meet positive people. Nevertheless there are some safety arrangements which can be done to give you a better feeling or even prevent you from some dangerous situations:
- Travel together. It might be harder to find a ride with an additional person but its also way safer.
- Try to remember as much information as possible when you decide to take a ride (type, color and registration of the car, other characteristics, name of the driver, planned route) and send them to a person which you trust.
- If the only possible place to store your luggage is the trunk, keep at least your important things (passport, ID card, camera, phone etc.) close to you. If you can choose keep all your luggage in reach, so in case of something you can just leave, without loosing your stuff.
- If you really feel unsafe, carry something for your selfdefense, it will make you feel more safe. The mere possession of a pepper spray can already stop people from molesting you. On the other hand it can escalate a already dangerous situation even more then necessary. So maybe just leave your arms at home and trust in the good of the people :)
The right location and time:
- Don´t hitch on highways, intersections or bus stops.
- Pick a good spot. You should be visible from far away, so the driver has enough time to decide if to pick you up or not. In best case you have a side stripe or at least something where your driver can stop to pick you up without handicapping other cars. During hot really hot days a shady place could be helpful.
- If you hitchhike at night wait close to streetlights, to be visible for everyone.
- Gas stations are your friends, in general well frequented places with access to your road are good opportunities to find a ride. Just ask people where they go and if they have a free seat for you. The personal contact makes it easier to decide for your driver.
- Try to avoid the center of bigger cities. If possible try to get out of your ride before you enter a city, at a gas station or a similar place. Once in a city center its almost impossible to find a ride out of there in your direction. If this happens to you, take the public transport to the edge of town and try your luck there.
- Once in a car talk to your driver about a good location to drop you off for further hitchhiking.
- Choose a good time, try to avoid for example rush hours. Get to know the habits of the people in your area. In southern countries for example its almost impossible to find a car between 14.00 and 17.00 because of siesta.
- Try to avoid hitchhiking at night. As soon as the sun goes down, people develop a really strange fear about picking up hitchhikers.
How to catch a ride:
- Our experience showed that most people like to pick up couples. Somehow they assume them to be the least dangerous passengers. For a group of boys its way harder to catch a ride than for example a single girl.
- If you hitching with someone play with open cards and make it visible that you are traveling together. Nobody likes strange surprises like an additional passenger who's hiding behind a tree.
- Be patient, the more cars that pass you the more likely you are to get picked up by another one.
- Let everyone see your face and avoid sunglasses or hats.
- Be kind, wave thanks if somebody gives you attention (eye contact or hand gestures).
- Be happy, if thats not possible try at least to pretend to be it. Who wants to have a conversation with someone who's in a bad mood?
- If you can't walk to your destination stay where you are. If it is possible walk and try to hitch meanwhile.
- Take everything which you can get. A ride to the next village is better than nothing, maybe its a good location to find an ongoing ride. The feeling of moving forward will raise your motivation.
- Try to make eye contact with drivers, catching their attention is the first step to stop them.
- Stand out of the rest, be happy, have fun, perform a dance if necessary if it attracts someone to stop for you it is not stupid.