Hitchhiking is great. No, really, I swear! It is the ideal mean of transports for the adventurer. Not only is it free, but it also allows you to meet an incredible diversity of people and can take you almost anywhere, even in places where buses and trains will not necessarily go. And who knows, your driver will perhaps offer to host you for the night or even offer you a meal! In return, all you have to do is to tell him about your life, your adventures, just to keep him company for a few kilometers. For this experience to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips:
1. You will find the ideal place.
Indeed, a nice driver can have the best will in the world, if it can not stop for you, it will not do so! Find a clear roadside, for example, the output of a city, a roundabout or a street light, when the cars are not driving too fast. Otherwise, an emergency lane or an intersection. Do not stand in a corner or behind a panel so that you can be seen… If you find a good place, no need to tighten the thumb too close to the border of the road, you will be seen from afar. Do not put yourself in unnecessary danger! To help you find a good place to leave bigger cities, hitchwiki.org is a marvel.
2. You will patiently smile.
This seems silly, but if you are waiting for 3 hours in the same place and it’s raining cats and dogs … you can loose the reflex to be smiling. And yet: Smile, smile, smile, this is the keyword! You will greatly increase your chances of being taken. Nobody wants to stop for someone with a 3 foot long face… So look as friendly as possible. Never sit, stay straight, arms tight (yes, it eventually hurts!), and look at the drivers straight in the eye to establish a contact. For men, it is good to know that, quite oddly, a beard puts people at ease.
3. On the highways, the gas stations you will choose.
To get out of the beaten path, there’s nothing like hitchhiking in small country roads… But if you want to reach a big city quickly, better take the highway. However, hitchhiking there is illegal in many countries and fortunately: it is super dangerous. Keep in mind that the life expectancy of a pedestrian on the highway is of 15 to 20 minutes. For this reason, make petrol stations (or rest areas) your best allies. Generally, being placed at the exit of the station just before the cars enter the acceleration lane works well. You can also stand at the entrance of (or directly inside) the store and ask people where they are going and if they can take you with them. You can see the plates and thus select people going to your direction but that should not stop you from asking everyone: people do not take their cars only to go home
4. Before getting into the car, two minutes of reflection you will take.
Someone stops? Awesome! Run to the door, but do not rejoice too soon. Have a first impression of the driver: does it look visibly drunk or stoned? Is it giving you an unreasuring glance ? Do not hesitate to say “No thank you I actually just changed my mind, I’m not going that way” or any other excuse if you have a weird feeling… The driver looks like a fair person? It most probably is one. Ask him or her where he/she is going. If it’s 5 kilometers away and you are in a very good spot, it’s perhaps better to wait for the next car. If it’s 20 kilometers, you’d rather get in as any progress is good to take.
5. Once on the way, a place to be dropped you will arrange.
Do not make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to find out: as soon as you enter the car (after rigorous thanking of course) ask the driver if he or she can drop you off at a station before their destination. If there is none … Try to come up with a solution: just after a toll, a rest area… Some people are not at all used to hitchhikers and do not see what’s wrong with letting you on the emergency lane of the highway … which of course you want to avoid. If you are proposed such a thing, outrightly refuse and explain to your driver the danger involved. Also avoid getting dropped at gas stations or restaurants/hotels that requires taking an exit and leave the highway. There will be only very little traffic and probably only residents! Make sure to be dropped off before entering a city, or you will lose time trying to get out.
On country roads it is much easier, you can be dropped almost anywhere, but still avoid town centers (or be ready to walk!) and favor intersections and exits of towns. If you have a problem or if night is falling, it will be difficult to ask for help on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere …
If you find yourself stranding on the highway, do not panic. Put yourself behind the snubs security or at least on the far side of the road. Stand by a straight road line or at the end of an entry (cars will be running slower), tend your arm and move your hand (thumb extended) from top to bottom. The movement should help you to be spotted from afar by the drivers. It is possible that the police will stops, try to make them take you to a better place. (But they can also just tell you “hitchhiking is prohibited on the highway” and leave immediately … very helpful!) You will always end up finding a kind enough soul to take you and drop you in a more suitable place. Do not demotivate and keep smiling.
6. Sign or no sign?
This is a real debate. It is good to get one or a few signs with the names of the key cities by which you want to get by, or the number of the highways. Write in dark large capital letters on a cardboard. Do not write a city located more than 400 km away from where you are. You can draw little smileys, write “please”, “thank you”, “I’m cold: P” or “mom’s waiting for me” to get some sympathy from drivers. I sometimes prefer to thumb up without panel to encourage people to stop wherever they’re going, may it be to go for smaller distances or to refuse more cars. The risk of the panel is that someone who could have stopped doesn’t thinking “Oh I’m not going that far, I’d rather let him/her to another car that will advance him/her further. “Again, any progress is good to take.
7. How about hitchhiking in groups?
This is quite possible. Women find it easier to stop for girls, so male / female or female / female couples work better than male/ male couple whom will probably take a little more time before seeing a car stop (but it happens anyway!). Three people hitchhiking together is more difficult simply because you will come across less cars with enough space. If you are four or more people, separate yourselves into small groups and make a contest of whom will arrive first! If you come to a place where there is already one or more stoppers, try standing relatively far behind him/them. As a group, you can try to dress with silly costumes, make choreographies … Be imaginative and create a good mood to get sympathy from drivers
8. How about hitchhiking in cities?
… It does not work, or very rarely, as most cars do not go out of town. However, it may be interesting at manifestations, festivals and major events. Stand with a sign when the event ends and the crowd disperses. You will most likely find people from another city. For example: I had a panel “Are you going south? ” At the end of Lollapalooza in Chicago and I found a ride to Austin the next day.
I hope these few tips will be helpful to you … Do not forget to sustain conversation (unless your driver prefers silence of course), give the best of yourself to let only good feelings about hitchhikers! If you are really dead you can probably allow yourself to a little nap after asking the driver if it does not bother him. So now…thumbs up, and bon voyage!