Basic rules of thumb

Basic rules of thumb

For all those who have yet to try hitch-hiking, the first thing to remember is not to worry! It’s fun. Sometimes after waiting for three hours at the side of the road you might be questioning the wisdom of your decision but trust me it all works our fine in the end! Keep the faith!

In order to aid your hitch-hiking adventures, here are some tips and things to keep in mind.

The First Ride – Get to the edge of the city

Just like sex the first one is always the hardest to accomplish. Standing around on the street corner in the centre of the city is not going to get you anywhere. First you must get to the edge of the city preferable near the road you want to take. This might include long arduous walks or in the case of larger cities interesting suburban bus services but to the edge of the city you must go and arrive there you must.

Positioning

You need to be clearly visible on a long flat stretch of road ideally. Don’t try on corners, that’s just stupid! Choose your road carefully. In many countries hitch-hiking on main roads is illegal so make sure to do some research beforehand. Put your luggage on the ground in front of you so it is clearly visible to any approaching cars.

Hitch-Hiking Techniques

This may sound obvious but make sure you are on the correct side of the road. Face the cars, sunglasses off and depending on the country either stick out your thumb or make a patting action towards the floor with your arm extended at your side. Smile, you want these people to do you a favour. There are much more likely to help you if you’re smiling. Try to make eye-contact with the drivers as well. A map is essential when hitch-hiking.

There are two schools of thought with what to do when you first make contact with the driver. Showing your potential driver your actual destination might put him off if he thinks that you expect him to drive the whole distance. Choosing a town on the way sometimes produces better results as it may be possible to renegotiate the dropping off point if it becomes apparent he is going further.

Keep Safe

No lift is worth it if you do not feel comfortable about the driver. If you do not trust the driver or he is drunk, walk away. It doesn’t matter if you have been waiting for six hours and you are hungry. Walk away. Another sensible precaution is to keep all your valuables, such as electronic equipment out of sight. We usually use a money-belt to keep our money in and it’s probably a good investment.

Make sure you find a safe place from which to hitch-hike, if a car has to break from 90km an hour to 0 in 4 seconds in order to pick you up, it’s not a good place. Also try to keep your luggage with you and not in the boot, in case you need to make a quick exit.

Women Travellers

Women, let’s admit it, hitch-hiking is always going to contain an element of risk. It is always better for women not to travel alone. In order to minimise this risk dress conservatively, cover your arms, legs and bust. Women should try, if possible, to avoid sitting next to men. Make it clear that you are in a relationship or married even if it isn’t true. Wear a ring on your wedding ring finger.

Hitch-hiking in Bosnia and Herzegovina with a couple of guys who picked us up on the way to Banja Luka

written by: Jon

18 comments

  • I’m sorry but I dislike the comment about women not travelling alone. Whilst it is true that we’re more likely to be propositioned, there has never been a time when I’ve really felt in danger. Telling women not to travel alone because of the attitudes of men is shitty. We need more women to travel alone and thus educate men who might act badly in these situations.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tasha! Of course, you are absolutely right that we should educate others (not only men) and encourage girls to travel.
      I’d travelled on my own a lot before I met Jon, and not just in Europe, so I encountered a multitude of different attitudes towards solo women travellers and I must say that I’ve always felt more secure travelling with a male. However, nothing serious ever happened to me, so that’s a good sign.
      Writing this post we wanted to avoid encouraging girls to travel by themselves, even if the chances of something happening are minimal.
      It’s a difficult one. I guess it’s always safer, both for men and women, to have a travel companion, but by no means do we want to scare people off :)
      Ania

    • Good for you! I used to hitchhike a lot, but most important, I would reciprocate by picking up hitchhikers. I encountered more women than men on the road, and was always a gentleman. Conversation was easier, and a couple of times turned into a friendship. I haven’t hitched in decades, and I see very few people doing these days, but I’ll always have the memories of the people and places.

      • Hey Mike, It’s people like you who actually make hitchhiking possible, we salute you good sir! One day when Jon actually learns to drive and Ania plucks up the courage to use her driving licence every hitchhike will be thrown into the back of our car, regardless of their age, sex, clothes or the amount of luggage they have.

  • I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’m a female that’s been hitch hiking alone for over a year now. Every now and then I pick up a road partner. There have been many occasions when I wondered if I might have bitten off more than I could chew. My advice to women hitch hikers is to get a dog. Mine won’t bite anything to save her life and is more likely to lick an assailant to death, but she looks mean ;) Plus she keeps me company. And she really does cut out the rides that I wouldn’t want in the first place. If you’re willing to pick up a dirty hippie and a dog, then you’re the best your area has to offer haha

    • Thanks a lot for your comment and a great piece of advice, Spacy Cake! A dog is a good idea and you’re right that the best kind of drivers wouldn’t mind it anyway. Your dog looks lovely, though, and I’m not sure she could scare anyone off with her angel face ;)

  • So, its not the first time when I read the advice “if you do not feel comfortable about the driver, walk away”. But If you go in the car and then realise the driver is dangerous how to ask him to stop without to offend him or make him angry? Have you been in that kind of situation?

    • It’s always a difficult one and highly depends on the situation, your relationship with the driver and the language you are speaking. If you don’t share the same language, it would always be more difficult. Once in Turkey we were picked up by a guy who offered us marijuana and wanted us to have sex in front of him. It’s a long story and maybe one day we will share it here. What we did was to ask him to stop somewhere (it turned out he drove us to a park in the middle of nowhere) and talk to the guy, calmly and without panic. The funny thing was he didn’t speak English and we managed to communicate using the very limited Turkish phrasebook at the back of our Lonely Planet guidebook. In the end we refused to get in the car with him again and eventually he drove off leaving us there. We walked to the edge of the road and got another lift… I guess you can meet fucked up people anywhere and hitch-hiking is not necessary more dangerous than other forms of travelling, but you should always stay calm and use your common sense to judge the situation your in.

  • “Choosing a town on the way sometimes produces better results…”

    I cut my wait times in half by using a white board and always writing the name of the very next town. Sometimes this means a lot of short rides, but drivers are always willing to take me as far as they’re going once they’ve met me. So more often than not I still get a long ride, and I get picked up faster. When they ask about the name of the town on the sign, I just explain that I’d rather get picked up by local traffic than not at all. Also, the white board ends the hunt for cardboard at every stop. So easy!

    It’s a case of lowering initial commitment, because who wants to commit to two hours in a car with someone if they might be crazy!

    Ben Eppard
    http://hitchhikeinterviews.com/

  • Hey guys, just dropping by to say that I really like your blog. A lot of information are very useful, especially for a non-hitch hiker like me who would like to give a shot.
    All the best and keep it going!
    Stella

  • Great stuff. It is amazing how the techniques are so common. Everyone who hitch hikes soon discovers everything you have detailed here., but it is good to find out beforehand. It will cut out several days of learning curve. One soon develops an eye for the good spot to hitch hike. I first discovered the principles in New Zealand in 1978, found they worked as well in Europe and the British Isles in 1983, but tried them out in Scotland and England in 2003 with much less success. Partly the change in the roads and increased traffic, but also a change in attitude, I think.

    I will add:
    Try to look neat. Keep beards trimmed, and shirts tucked in, It helps. I used to get rides with women driving alone, invariably after i had trimmed my beard. And it found that shirts tucked in reduced the number of cars that drove by.

    Use a sign, and I agree that the next nearest town is a good idea, but always write “please” as well underneath, in the local language. In Austria, one driver told me he didn’t pick up hitchhikers, but he picked up me because I added “bitte” to my sign.

    Walking while hitching: Some places (Ireland) they seem to prefer to pick up hitch HIKERS. At least, that was what I was told. I didn’t have a great experience either way in Ireland. This was in 1983, things may be very different now, but the basics described above haven’t changed, so maybe this hasn’t either?

    Hitching with women: For a guy, it definitely reduces the waiting time. Make sure she is standing in front of you. Women together get picked up quickly too. In Ireland, all those years ago, I met this group of 4 women hitching together and having a marvelous time, while I, on my own, had a trouble getting to the next hostel up the road!

    My hitchhiking career is pretty much over, I think, but if you stick to the basics, so I have a chance to see you, and you look neat, and you have a good-size pack (so I know you are a traveler, not just someone trying to get home after a party), and your sign says “Please”, I will be picking you up for sure.

    Have fun, stay dry, and good traveling.

    • Great tips, Rob! Thanks!
      Looking neat definitely helps, not only while hitchhiking but in life generally.
      We rarely use signs, as we find it works better for us just to stop a car and then negotiate with the driver, especially if we a travelling a long distance. But of course, if you decide to use a sign, being polite or funny would always work to your advantage.
      What you say about walking surprises us, but we haven’t hitched in Ireland yet. Perhaps, there are some geographical differences regarding this point. Sometimes in China people stopped when they saw us walking (backwards, facing them), so maybe you are right.
      As for hitchhiking with women, you are absolutely right! Always let the woman stand in front and look friendly and non-threatening :)
      Thanks for commenting and we hope you will meet lots of friendly hitchhikers on your way :)

  • The problem with walking is you soon leave that sweet spot where the traffic can see you, isn’t going too fast, and a has a safe spot to pull over. But like I said, some places seem to expect to see you moving.

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