A Guide to Hitchhiking
After hitchhiking across twenty something countries with very little money and having the time of my life, I have built up a good knowledge of what to do and what not to do when hitchhiking. Here’s how to Enjoy Several Months Hitchhiking from Jamie Bowlby-Whiting on Vimeo.
Listen to Others
Checking online forums such as HitchWiki or DigiHitch gives you up-to-date information about which countries are good and bad for hitchhiking, as well as where you should start hitchhiking from when leaving a city. This information is invaluable and can save you hours of learning by trial and error.
Travel with the Right Person
The first thing you need to consider is whether you are hitching alone or with someone else. If you are alone, play by your own rules, but if you are hitching with someone else, you need to set ground rules. For example, will you hitch over night? Will you have a signal when one of you isn’t comfortable in a situation? Are you flexible to change? Where will you sleep at night? Generally, the more people that you hitch with, the harder it is to get a ride.
Take pre-emptive action by trusting your instincts and take responsive action by having travel insurance. Travel insurance should cover all of your medical concerns so that in an emergency situation, you don’t have to worry. Trusting your instincts is the best way to stay safe. If you aren’t comfortable in a situation, get out of it. When hitchhiking on a busy road, again use your common sense and stand somewhere where you won’t get hit or cause drivers to swerve. Keep valuables (passport / camera) on your person and leave doors open as you open / close the trunk so you don’t lose your things.
Make a sign asking to be taken ’20km.’ You can write a location name if you wish, but try not to be too specific. A 20 km sign gets you rides very quickly because everybody is travelling this far. Wear clothes and have an appearance that suggest you are nice company. While looking dirty and homeless isn’t a problem, it won’t help you to get a ride. Try to make eye contact with the drivers and let them see your face by not wearing sun glasses. Put your backpack (if you have one) where drivers can see it so that they know you’re not homeless or a prostitute.
Know What You’re Doing
If you have a destination in mind, check maps so that you know whether or not to accept rides to certain towns. If you are self-assured, this also helps to improve your safety because others see you as confident.
Stand in a Good Place
Stand on the road you hope to travel along, in a location that is wide enough for cars to pull over safely. Make sure that drivers can see you from a great distance and signal clearly. People won’t stop if you jump out and surprise them or if they can’t pull over safely. Stay off motorways because it is illegal in most countries and you will run into trouble with the law. Preferably stand where cars aren’t passing at great speed. Asking drivers at service stations is also a great technique to get a ride if you have the confidence. If you don’t, why not? The worst thing that they will do is say no. Try and stay away from cities when hitchhiking, they are terrible, sometimes impossible to escape from.
At times, be prepared to walk to find a good hitchhiking spot. You will have to walk a long way if you are in cities and sometimes the extra walk is worth the distance because you will find a better ride. Think carefully when packing because you don’t want to be lugging 30 kg up and down the road. Try to limit yourself to 10. What more do you need than a tent and sleeping bag?
Do it. Love the adventure.
This is a condensed guide to hitchhiking, but there is so much more that can help you with hitchhiking if you wish to try it. The biggest help really is the last point however. Jump. Do it now, get out there, and you’ll learn everything else on the way.