The ultimate hithhiking travel guide
Hitchhiking is a good way to spice up your trip and give it another dimension. Giving a thumbs up and waiting to be picked up by a car to get to your destination seems like simple from the outside, but hitchhiking works more efficiently with a few tricks, tips and techniques.
👍 How to hitchhike
How to place yourself on the road? Is it dangerous to hitchhike? Wich sign? Several points that we will see in this guide to hitchhiking to be caught very quickly.
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Giving a thumbs up is a fun and rewarding way to travel. But hitchhiking can be a convenient recourse if you’re away from home and absolutely have to get somewhere when your car has just failed.
● Meet people
Hitchhiking means meeting strangers from all walks of life. There is no typical profile of a person who takes more than another. It’s a surprise box, a big lottery. You never know who you’re going to meet, or what you’re going to talk about.
Encounters are always good since the person who stops for you is in the same mood as you: Going to the unknow and available to meet a stranger. Need to see people? Hitchhike!
● Live the journey
The journey is experienced differently. It is certainly longer, but it seems to pass much faster. We exchange, we take unexpected roads, we stop, we observe the landscape, we look where we are on the map, we look for a strategic place to start again, we meet again… In itself, we are here: right here, right now.
● Travel for free
Besides the fact that this practice is exciting and fun, it’s free! Meeting people and traveling: it costs nothing and we come out enriched, beautiful right? Conversely, an alternative to hitchhiking, but paying, is carpooling. I don’t think I’m teaching you anything by talking about Blablacar. The concept is different but the substance remains substantially the same excluding financial gain.
● Be immersed
At home or abroad, hitchhiking is an excellent practice to be directly immersed in a new environment. We give a thumbs up and we’re in it: the discovery of the culture, the way of thinking of the locals, the language… The benefits of hitchhiking are more numerous than one might imagine and they offer many unexpected surprises.
My experience with hitchhiking
I will quickly share my experience so that you know what the following tips and tricks are based on.
More than 20,000 kilometres travelled
My hitchhiking odometer exceeded the 20 000 at the time of writing these lines (I no longer count them). It’s a lot, but spread over several years it climbs very quickly when you spend several weeks hitchhiking over long distances.
My beginnings with hitchhiking
The bulk of my experience was in Europe, the majority of which was in France. I started hitchhiking in 2017 when I lived in a remote hole in the countryside, without a permit and without public transport. I had already been advised to hitchhike, but I did not dare. I didn’t know anything about this practice but I tried. Once, twice, three times. Eh, but… Hitchhiking is incredible.
By practicing it more regularly, I began to take a liking to these random encounters. I met people who sometimes lived right next door to me but whom I had never seen before. Hitchhiking was the door open to chance encounters and I loved it.
First hitchhiking trip
One day on a whim, I gave a thumbs up and drove several hundred kilometers in my country. During this trip, I traveled a day with a girl who picked me up while she was on a solo road trip. Later, I traveled with 2 other hitchhikers for several days and then a whole day with a retired couple in a motorhome. I was conquered by this trip and by hitchhiking. The machine started.
● The hitchhike/bivouac combo: adopted.
Hitchhiking with everything that rolls or move
Backhoe, donkey, cattle-hitchhike, motorbike at 5 (yes yes in India everything is possible)… A multitude of hitchhike-tricks that I was able to experience through these experiences.
Some hitchhiking routes
These routes are some of the most notable I’ve ever done. For the France, the map is (very) incomplete. Google Maps doesn’t allow me to add more destinations than there already are. Otherwise, it will be all blue. From the center of the country, I took at least once all the yellow roads that you can see in the first image.
The next route is the one where I crossed the most different countries in one go. This is definitely a trip I recommend. I loved walking this road solo. I couldn’t have better discovered the continent I live on other than in this way in a short time.
Now let’s see how to hitchhike
and the strategies to adopt to be caught
How to be hitchhiking?
Have a neat appearance
Hitchhiking usually works well regardless of its outfit, but we grill a lot of opportunities to be caught if we look like a filth.
At the same time, we can consider that it is an effective filter of people who judge only by appearance, but the fact remains that the pace is to be taken into account if we want to have all the chances on his side.
Have a good mindset
The state of mind still plays for me more than the physical. Being in a good mood, present and jovial is one of the keys to being taken for sure. I noticed more than once that the moments when hitchhiking no longer worked at all were when I had lost all my motivation. In those cases I stopped. In fact, drivers feel it. They need a good reason to pick you up, and stopping to chat with someone they think is nice!
Create the contact
Creating contact is a significant point to make people want to stop. It goes hand in hand with the attitude and it is played in a few seconds so do not hesitate to smile and look the person in the eye.
This brief visual exchange can be decisive since many things go through the look, and that’s when the driver will see your sympathy in you. As seen on the previous point, if your motivation is no longer there, the driver will certainly feel it and your chances will decrease. Hitchhiking is clearly a matter of feeling!
What gesture to hitchhike?
In the majority of countries of the world
We hitchhike with our arms outstretched and our thumbs up, but this is not the case for all countries.
In the Middle East, Asia and Africa
Those who know the Western sign (the thumb) will understand. Otherwise, it is rather customary to stretch the arm, the palm of the hand face down, or even to do as a sign of brief and rapid slowdown. I have seen this in a number of countries.
Iran is a special case. Although the use of the thumb is beginning to spread in this culture, it is still an insult. To hitchhike, use the way mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Should I use a sign?
Personally, I rarely use it. The thumb does the job well, but in some areas where hitchhiking is not widespread, drivers understand the intent better when they see the name of a destination. The little extra is to personalize it by adding funny or reassuring things on it.
Don’t list a destination too far away
I advise you to always indicate a destination close to your current location on your sign. If you aim too far, people who only travel short distances think you don’t need to be only a few kilometers ahead. When in fact, it is often the opposite.
Much more than waiting for lead with a sign that mentions Lyon while we are in Paris (to image). If the current passes with the driver and it continues past the mentioned city, you have your chances to continue with him.
Indicate a direction rather than a destination
Another alternative is to write “direction” above the name of your target city, even if it is far away. This is what I do most of the time but this technique works best on major roads or on highways (ramps and tolls). Logically, you take all the drivers who go in the mentioned direction, without them asking too many questions.
Where to hitchhike?
In theory, you can hitchhike anywhere and anytime. However, it is necessary to target strategic places to be caught more quickly and safely.
● Red lights can be a good option since cars stop and have time to make their decision.
● Roundabouts can be strategic for the same reason, only if there is enough space for cars to stop. Check with a road map if there are no other roundabouts further away, in which case you will not sort all the cars going in your direction. So aim for the last one and go straight in the direction you’re going: never before.
● Store parking lots can be clever to get out of cities, especially commercial/industrial areas since they are often located on the outskirts. Choose the most crowded car park if the conditions are not right to hitchhike on the road. The use of the sign is recommended to mention your direction (in the city or outside).
2. In the countryside
● Straight lines where cars drive at normal speed, with a space for parking. Avoid places where motorists drive too fast, it is often a waste of time.
● Avoid turns : No before, no in, no after. Keep a good distance before thumb up in these places.
● Highways are for tracing!
Positioning yourself well
Be clearly visible
You have to be careful to be perfectly visible from afar. The fewer elements around you, the more time the driver has to identify you. Avoid roads where people drive very fast because they don’t have time to make their decision or just don’t notice you.
Find places with space to stop
In the same way, it is necessary to ensure that the car has the place to park without being hindered by the drivers who arrive behind it. It is worth remembering that the driver only has a few seconds to get an idea of yourself, to make his decision and to calculate if he can park safely. All conditions must therefore be optimal to maximize your chances.
● I took this picture in Morocco and the road is deserted but it illustrates my point well with this large space for parking:
We must avoid to hitchhike there. Both in, before and after. As we have just seen, visibility is very poor. That is to say, you can endanger drivers since a car can enter the one that stops for you and therefore cause an accident.
Hitchhiking on the highway
Pros and cons!
👍 The most
Hitchhiking on the highway is surely the easiest and fastest way to get to your destination. In addition, it is an opportunity to cover long distances quickly, and moreover, to have more time to interact with drivers.
👎 The minuses
The framework of the trip obviously. It’s much less fun to stay on straight and monotonous lines rather than going through the national and other small roads.
Can we hitchhike on the highway?
It is forbidden. At least in most European countries but tolerated depending on where you stand. Sometimes you will have to play cat and mouse. Of course, here I will talk about the stop on the ramps and at the toll, but not on the road, which is dangerous for the hitchhiker and for motorists. It is to be banned.
Hitchhike on freeway ramps
Not always easy but very practical if the conditions are met for motorists to stop. Make sure there is enough space, not too much traffic and never stop in turns (frequent on ramps). This technique can be as good as bad depending on the layout. The strong point is that all users go in your direction.
Hitchhike at tolls
Definitely the best place to be caught on the highway. People slow down at your level so they have no choice but to see you. Some go to the nerve by placing themselves just behind the barriers, at the level of the payment terminals to ask drivers directly when they lower the window. Personally, I don’t do it that way.
● My technique
I place myself well before these terminals, between two lanes and I extend my thumb. People are at my level if they really want to stop. The plus is that in this way we have the cars of both lanes at the same time rather than one. The sign with the words “direction” is very useful in this circumstance. It directly sorts people who go in one direction or the other.
● Toll security
Toll security is cool and tolerant most of the time. But sometimes they will kindly tell you to get out. Just hitchhike a little before the toll but it is much less convenient. The real problem is the police! They are rarer but when they cross you, there is more too average in general. So we wait further and we sneak back a little later.
Hitchhike at petrol stations
There, it can play totally in your favor as quite the opposite. The stations necessarily have much less crowds than the tolls. Several times drivers have dropped me off in these places thinking they are doing the right thing, but this is where I was often hitchhiked in the middle of a race, no pun intended. If the station is not busy, we do not move forward.
● Ask drivers directly
As many do, there is the option to ask people directly. But here too I rarely do it, even if it is a very effective way to quickly get back on the road. Some people might say yes because they don’t dare to say no. I prefer that the person’s desire to take a stranger comes of his own free will.
But it can also be the opposite case, for a person who does not dare to stop for hitchhikers as normal to seize the opportunity by meeting them beforehand. It’s up to you to judge!
How to get out of a lost place?
Ah, the vagaries of hitchhiking. Everything flows beautifully at a fast and constant pace, when suddenly we find ourselves in the Nothingness : a lost corner, more cars and the few that stop do not go in your direction at all. If you have ever experienced hitchhiking, you know that these situations can sometimes last for hours. If not, take the lesson.
Short and very valuable advice
If you find yourself in this situation and a car stops, even if it goes in the opposite direction: take it! Even if it means retracing your steps, the driver will probably drop you off on a busier road.
Déjà vu hitchhiking
Several times, I have experienced this scenario (and not only me): the famous car that stops, that goes in the wrong direction and that I refuse. Several times I bit my fingers because there were none at all afterwards.
The good old and ultimate method
And well, my friend! As some say: “if you don’t have a head, you still have your legs”. Sometimes moving a few hundred meters makes all the difference, sometimes there are details that we do not always pay attention to when hitchhiking but that can give a reason to the driver not to stop. If the case of a few meters does not match, let’s go for a bit of hiking. That’s also the hitchhike.
Tips and tricks
Hitchhiking in COVID time
Not the best time to hitchhike, unfortunately. Nevertheless, wear a Mask On the chin looks much better. It gives a side perhaps more serious but conversely, do not wear it completely. People need to see your face.
Hitchhiking with others peoples
Hitchhiking in a group can be penalizing and single people will be less likely to take you. The chances are reduced… If you are not two women! I already hitchhiked with two friends, it was funny but much longer. Our technique was to do the antics on the side of the road.
A priori, it works much better to pass for happy fools than 3 pegs at the side of the road with thumbs up.
If you are a man, hitchhiking with a woman Multiply your chances. Having also experienced it several times, it is really obvious. Many feel more reassured to see a female presence and therefore stop more easily.
Watch on your luggage
It never happened to me but I have already heard this story from another hitchhiker: at the moment of being dropped, he closed the door and the car and she left with her bag in the trunk.
It was not a question of theft, but the driver may have forgotten. For the trick I apply, it’s simple: I put my bag in the back seat when possible and I warn that I have to get my bag back.
● In case of shady driver
I also have a handy tip. In fact, I leave the front door wide open when I go out to retrieve my belongings, then close it when I have collected my package. It just prevents the driver from starting when closing the door!
● Keep your important stuff with you
Always keep your money, ID and phone in your pockets. If unfortunately your bag left with a car, you will at least have these things with you.
What should I do if a car left with my bag?
The first thing to do is to take a photo or video of the vehicle’s immaculation plate, in which case you will be able to find the driver. If it wasn’t a flight, that also applies but wait in the same place. There is a good chance that your driver will face U-turn when he realizes that your bag is in his car.
No more battery
The battery on the phone hitchhiking is quite important. On the one hand for its safety in case of glitch but especially to check the card. Not all cars have a USB port.
You will quickly notice that hitchhiking, when you really need battery, it is always the people who move you over small distances who have a USB socket and those who keep you with them for a long time who do not. That’s how it is, just to add an extra level of difficulty!
Bring an adapter USB/cigarette lighter can therefore be very convenient.
Hitchhiking at night
The rules of the previous section “position yourself well” apply particularly at this time, with more attention: your visibility must be perfect.
Use a yellow vest
The yellow vest is very useful in this situation. It is almost indispensable.
And quite daring to tell the truth: that of taking the appearance of policemen. Well, this one is a last option.
Once with a friend, we had an appointment at a specific point the next morning. It was winter and we were still far from the goal. We both had our yellow vests and my friend had a cap. Posted at a safe distance after a turn at the exit of a highway, people braked immediately when they saw us. It made us laugh a lot so we added the gestures.
They thought we were all policemans. It’s not the kind of technique we normally use, but we were on the run so we played it to be able to take off faster.
If drivers are often used to having far-fetched ideas about hitchhikers, it is the latter who should be the most worried. On the road, you can come across anyone. But hey, hitchhiking is generally not dangerous.
Listen to your intuition
This is most important if you doubt a driver. Bumping into someone who is drunk or driving like crazy may be the most likely but it’s still occasional. You have to listen to yourself and see if you don’t have a bad feeling before getting in a car.
● If you doubt the driver at first glance
To take precautions, ask where the motorist is going. Before even that he doesn’t ask you the question. If you do not feel it, you can therefore pretend that it is not in your direction, even if the right one.
● If you hitchhike in an unsafe place
Store your personal belongings well, especially your money if you have a lot of cash or your bank card. Hide them in your shoes, inside your socks. You can easily find on the internet belts with a hiding place to put tickets.
♀️ Hitchhiking as a woman
For women, it is best to learn about the codes and customs depending on the country you are traveling to. Indeed, some require for example to cover the body. If a driver makes inappropriate comments or is too insistent, make sure to put the dots on the i’s quickly enough.
1. If it seems to go wrong
Again, cases are rare. But if you feel that the situation can get out of hand, you could for example start a Facebook live discreetly.
Even if you can’t see anything going on in the car, you’ll be able to swipe key words out loud while talking to your driver to let your friends know the situation you’re in, your location, and other important details. When the live is interrupted, he will always be available to listen to it again:
● “I was just hitchhiking, I didn’t want to go in that direction” (the situation)
● “But, it’s Chamonix here, why are we going there?” (Your location)
● ” Can I get off the Clio please” (The model of the car)
2. Be localized
The Snapchat application allows you to be located at the precise place where you are in real time. If you use it, don’t forget to turn on location on your phone. If you can, share your location in a Facebook status.
Europe is generally safe to hitchhike but again, depending on the country, travelers should keep themselves informed about the safety and situation in the areas they pass through. No one wants to be hitchhiked by a militia or a group of rebels.
Hitchhiking has some labels and misconceptions that stick to his skin, but there are few bad adventures. So give your thumbs!
I hitchhike in most of the countries I visit. Here are some destinations that Spirit Travelers talks about it :
I forgot something ?
Do not hesitate to ask your question
in the comments space
so that I complete the article.