Diane, the author of this article, has been hitchhiking for about 6 years, mostly alone. In that time, she has hitchhiked all over Europe, from Brazil, South America, and over 20 European countries. She has hitchhiked not only on the roads but also on the waterways – rivers, lakes, and oceans. She prefers to travel in remote and hard-to-reach areas. In total, she has traveled more than 150,000 kilometers by road. You will learn more about How to Hitchhike on Traveling for Hiking Tips by LCNOutdoors article.
You could fly from New York to Los Angeles – it would be fast and unadventurous. You could take a bus or train – it would take longer, but would be more fun. If you go hitchhiking, such a trip would certainly be a unique adventure.
Sometimes, “life forces” tourists to hitchhike, albeit for short distances. Therefore, the hitchhiking rules and tips described in this article may be useful to many travelers.
Hitchhiking is more than just getting from A to B for free by hitchhiking. It’s a special kind of travel – a kind of adventure travel.
When people talk about hitchhiking, they usually mean traveling by car or truck. However, hitchhiking includes almost any mode of transportation in which you can take a ride. It can be a cart pulled by an animal, a motorcycle, a train, a riverboat, and a sea boat – and then “hitchhiking” becomes “waterways” and even planes and helicopters become “air stops.
Fear And Deep Impression Of Hitchhiking
People who want to try hitchhiking are often prevented from doing so by a variety of stereotypes and fears. The following are the most common scenarios.
No one will take you for free
More likely to get lucky. Fortunately, there are many kind people in the world who are willing to not only take a free ride but offer them food and even spend the night in their homes. Their motivations vary. Some are bored with traveling alone and want to pass the time, some want an audience to talk about what’s on their mind, and some are just interested in conversations with the travelers. Some belief in karma or karma-like beliefs and believe that by helping others they increase their chances of success. Others want to help unconditionally simply because they want to and are able to do so.
You can get from anywhere to anywhere for free, regardless of the mode of transportation and road availability. You can even hitchhike to another continent. It all depends on the experience of the hitchhiker and the time available.
This means that “free with a taste” is not really “free”. It means that the passenger doesn’t pay the fare, but in return, they give the driver something else – attention, communication, their energy, of which hitchhiking is sometimes quite expensive.
Hitchhiking is scary. You can be robbed, raped, killed
Years of hitchhiking experience have shown that hostile or mentally unstable drivers and hitchhikers are very rare, almost non-existent. And the chances of encountering a mugger, lunatic, or murderer are close to zero. Hitchhikers are very unlikely to be robbed unless they are in a poor country, or in a crime zone in a major city, such as the favelas of Black Africa or Brazil. The chances of encountering dangerous wildlife or contracting a serious infectious disease are not low, but that doesn’t stop many tourists.
If you find it difficult to accept even small risks and overcome your fears, it is really more relaxing to hitchhike with two or even three other people. You don’t need to try to overwhelm yourself. Hitchhiking is all about the same important positive attitude and confidence in your adventure. At least, because otherwise, you won’t enjoy your ride.
Hitchhiking is not wandering. Of course, there are all types of travelers, and among hitchhikers, there are those who wander with absolutely no money, no purpose, no principles, and even without following basic rules of personal hygiene. But they are rare.
Hitchhikers come from all professions, incomes, and ages. Often they even have their own cars, and some even have their own businesses. A sense of adventure, a desire for adventure, and an interest in socializing are what drive people to hitchhike. It’s not even a matter of lack of money.
Hitchhiking Impossible Program
It all comes down to experience, including the art of hitchhiking. It’s fairly manageable and a fairly reliable way to get around. On average, you can travel 400-500 miles (650-800 km) or more on the highway in 10-12 hours. On secondary roads, it’s even less. It is possible to catch all the cars in a row and settle for very slow driving or short passes of 12-18 miles (20-30 km) – then it will take even more time. It is also possible to choose only those vehicles that drive fast and far at a time. In this case, you may have to wait longer to find the right side, but you can get to your destination faster.
No place to sleep, eat or wash up while hitchhiking
This is easy: there are motels and hotels on the mountain roads with roadside toilets and showers, or another option – sleep in a tent, bathe in rivers and lakes, and cook with a burning stick or campfire.
The Benefits Of Hitchhiking
Hitchhiking has many advantages over other modes of travel.
When traveling by car, “travel expenses” are usually kept to a minimum: you only need money to get around town, as well as to get out of town and onto the highway. Of course, other costs should not be overlooked – food, accommodation, etc. It does happen, however, that the driver does offer refreshments and even help with accommodation.
Dating interesting people
Often when hitchhiking, you meet some very special people who can change the way you see the world. Some hitchhikers form friendships that continue throughout the trip.
Sometimes introductions turn out to be not only pleasant and interesting but also useful for travelers because the driver can tell you valuable information about various places and give advice: where to sleep and eat, what to see, where to go, and where not to go.
“I met some very unusual people on my hitchhiking trips who had a unique knowledge of the areas I was traveling to. Old believers, writers, journalists, geologists, local historians, travelers – you can meet anyone on the road. Once I even managed to stop a film crew in the Roman countryside, meet a famous TV host, and watch a program being made about travel.
Immerse yourself in culture and life
Do you want to learn more about the way of life, lifestyle, and traditions of a particular country or region? If you have the opportunity, it is best to explore the area from the inside – talking to the residents and taking part in at least a small part of their daily life. For example, have dinner with the whole family. Hitchhiking offers endless opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture and the daily lives of the people.
Sometimes it happens that the driver not only offers the hitchhiker a ride but also provides them with a place to stay. In Chile, the driver offered to stay at his house. He explained how the people lived in his mountain village, showed them how he farmed, and then cooked traditional Chilean dinner.
Foreign language communication practice
Hitchhiking in foreign countries is a great way to improve your language skills. How else can you communicate with the driver! At first, it can be difficult and confusing. But if you stick with it and try to absorb it like a sponge, your French (Spanish, Turkish, etc.) will be much better after a few weeks.
Hitchhiking gives you a lot of room to improvise when planning your route. You can visit all the sights along the way and the driver will even offer to take you to some interesting places. You can drive on almost any road, including those where your car can’t handle it. You can also travel in places where there are no roads at all, but where there are rivers and streams for transportation.
Hitchhiking has its drawbacks or nuances. And you need to be prepared for those nuances.
Waiting for a long time for a ride
Sometimes you have to wait quite a long time for a ride, even on roads with good traffic conditions. But remember, if you really want to leave, you will leave.
Drivers who don’t want to talk
As it happens, drivers are not the most pleasant conversationalists: tired of negative monologues, complaining and moralizing, imposing political or religious views, making snarky remarks, and generally acting immorally. In this case, your options are – to tolerate and continue driving with him, or politely ask to get off at the nearest convenient stop.
Risk of encountering bad weather
Waiting for the hitchhiker in heavy rain, hail, cold, or unbearably hot sun – this is the set of weather conditions you need to be prepared for when hitchhiking. Hitchhikers must have a mackintosh or waterproof clothing in their arsenal, a poncho on their backpack, and a set of dry clothes. And to avoid heatstroke or stroke, you should equip yourself with a hat or wide-brimmed hat, one or two bottles of water, and if possible, choose a shady spot to thumb a ride in.
How To Plan A Hitchhiking Route
So you’ve decided to hitchhike. You’ve chosen the destination you want to go to. You’ve decided where you need to go to get to the site. For example, if you want to rest on Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal (which is the largest island in Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world), you have to go to Irkutsk and then head in the direction of Olkhon Island. Irkutsk is an important destination for your trip.
You have decided on a destination – now you need to plan a route, figure out which roads and towns it will take, and which towns it will pass through.
There are often several route options on different roads. You may find that the shortest route is not the best or fastest. In order to choose which road to take, it is advisable to read information about these roads: the quality of the road surface, the condition of the road, how much traffic there is, and whether there are obstacles.
For example, you are driving from IDAHO to Yellowstone National Park. The shortest and most direct route is via the Wyoming State Highway, and National Highway 15 is the way to go. If you want to divert, you need to do a 100 mile (160 km) diversion from one highway to another. But you won’t be lining up on the side roads and there will be no delays.
When choosing roads, we recommend sticking to highways whenever possible. They will allow you to travel long distances in a reasonable amount of time, especially in the central part of the United States.
Regional roads are secondary roads on which conditions can be much worse than on the highway. These highways can have poor pavement, major road maintenance, and weak traffic flow.
Conditions on local roads are even more difficult. Often only a few vehicles pass on these roads in a day. Sometimes it happens that there is a road on the map and it is even-numbered, but in reality, it is not suitable for most vehicles and can be used only by off-road vehicles at best.
For example, you need to go to the village of Tinguur in the Altai Mountains, where the hiking and horseback riding trails start at the foot of the Beruha Mountains. The navigator can suggest short routes through the villages of Inegan and Unguday. However, these roads are impassable for cars, although the Inegni-Tingul trail is serially numbered. Please note: the only route accessible by car is through Ust-Koksa.
So, you have chosen a route. It should be roughly divided into several parts, and you need to figure out where to spend the night and what sights you can see along the way.
For example, if you go to Grand Canyon National Park. the vast majority of visitors go to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, drive Highway 93 south to Highway 40, turn east to Williams (Exit 165) to Highway 64 north, and continue exercising for 90 miles to reach the south entrance of South Rim. Personally, I would recommend entering through the east entrance of the park, driving from Highway 40 all the way to Highway 89, then north, turning to Highway 64 west. If you take the time, you can visit the picturesque national park on a walk from the road.
In Which Position Thumb A Ride
In hitchhiking, there is a concept of “location”, i.e. a place on the road that is convenient for you to thumb a ride. You should choose a location where you can be seen from a distance and where the driver can comfortably stop and put you in the car.
The wait time for a ride depends a lot on the location you choose. A good location may get you out in a few minutes, but a bad location can leave you stranded for a long time, even in heavy traffic.
If you stand in one location for a long time – half an hour, an hour – and none of the dozens of cars passing by stop, then you need to change that location – walk to the nearest good location.
Tip: Choose a hitchhiking location that makes it easy and safe for the driver to stop and put you in the car. If necessary, walk some distance until you find a good thumb ride location.
How to choose a hitchhiking location
- When choosing a location, the most important thing is to not cause an emergency on the road. Do not stand in stop sign areas, on highways, on bridges, in tunnels, on the downhill and uphill grades, before sharp turns, at road branches and intersections.
- On hilly roads that alternate between downhill and uphill, stand on top of hills. Do not stand on uphill, downhill, or low-lying areas between hills where passing traffic has the highest speed.
- On two-lane roads with heavy traffic, narrow curbs, or no curbs, you need to find a pocket or road widening where drivers can stop comfortably.
- Don’t step onto the carriageway. Stay on the side of the road and do not impede traffic.
- A comfortable position is to make a gentle left turn. However, in winter, you should not stand on the bend: this may cause an accident due to slippery roads or miniature tracks.
- Hitchhiking in the countryside can be difficult and unsafe. This is unsafe because it is not always possible to park on the side of the road at convenient locations in towns and villages. If you get off in the middle of a small town, village, or hamlet, you should go to the exit of that place or to the nearest bus stop and stand behind it if possible. You can also stand at the bus stop itself, but if there are people already waiting there, you may not be seen or may be mistaken for a local who is also waiting for a bus.
- Hitchhiking is good for places where drivers slow down: intersections and turnouts, railroad crossings, toll booths on toll roads, traffic police and border posts, and emergency areas, such as a stretch of road with peeling asphalt. You need to stop after these places, about 65-100 feet (20-30 meters) away.
- On highways, not only is thumb a ride officially forbidden but pedestrians are not allowed there at all. You can only stand at the exit of a gas station or parking lot. If a driver is heading to a populated area away from the freeway, you do not have to get off at a curve or off-ramp in the freeway, but at the gas station or parking lot closest to the curve.
- If you are thumb a ride in the dark, choose a location with lights. Your clothes should be bright – not dark! – If you thumb a ride in the dark, choose a location with lights.
- You should be especially careful on the road in the winter. Ice, snowstorms, and snow ruts on the road can create emergency situations. They should be positioned so that the driver can stop safely and the rider can pop off the road if threatened. Don’t stand on curves – even gentle left turns, high-speed sections of track, narrow roads.
How To Thumb A Ride When Hitchhiking
So, you’re on the track, you pick a spot, and you start thumb a ride. thumb a ride doesn’t just mean sticking your thumb up and raising your hand: you have to face the driver and look him in the eye when thumbing a ride. The mindset of success is important. If you are confident of success, excited, and eager to talk to new people, then you have the right attitude.
A thumb a ride is best done standing still rather than walking down the road.
The thumb a ride situation varies from country to country. In some countries, the straightened hand does not show the thumb, while in others, the open palm that is bent at the elbow is raised. In left-handed countries, people thumb a ride with their left hand, but the thumbs-up gesture is understood almost everywhere on the planet.
Drivers can respond to hitchhikers with a variety of hand gestures. If a driver shows you any hand gesture, it’s a good sign. It tells you that the hitchhiker is visible.
Gestures usually mean that the driver is unable to pick up the hitchhiker for some reason. For example, if his finger is pointing to the left or right, he is letting you know he is about to make a turn; if he is rotating his finger in the air, he is driving closer, over the terrain.
You can also negotiate with the driver on the move by communicating through hand gestures. For example, the driver indicates that he is prepared to take only one passenger – a “raise your index finger” gesture. If you and your companion want to drive separately and alone, you can also give the driver a “one” response with your index finger.
In some countries with lots of roads, turnpikes, and towns, hitchhikers use cardboard or paper signs when thumbing a ride. These placards identify the destination city or country with a bold marker. For example, they are often used when traveling in Europe.
In Europe and the CIS countries, placards are not usually used. They are only meaningful in certain situations.
Driving a long enough distance, for example from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, some signs are meaningless. This allows you to stand on the highway indefinitely, blocking out a large portion of the local car traffic. Most of these cars are for short trips, but they can still prove very useful to you.
Waiting for a car when hitchhiking
The amount of time you wait for a ride depends on many factors: country, region, city, type of road, time of day, weather, number of hitchhikers, location, traffic density, and even appearance and experience of the hitchhiker. You can even hitch a ride with your hand in the air. Or you can stand for two hours on a busy route and be in a good spot.
Don’t be discouraged, even if dozens of cars have already passed by. However, if there are so many cars that no one even responds to you, you need to change your position – move forward to the next appropriate point.
How To Talk To Drivers
The car has stopped – and that’s a success! If it hasn’t stopped very close, you should get there as soon as possible, preferably at a jog, so as not to keep the driver waiting. The next task is to start a conversation with the driver and determine whether you should go with him or wait for another vehicle.
First, try to look at the condition of the car – is it safe to drive it? Sometimes cars fall apart while driving and the driver inexplicably stops, but still picks up up voters.
In the first minute, you need to figure out how far the person is going, whether he will ask for a fare, and whether he is adequate and sober. Usually, these questions resolve themselves: the adequacy and sobriety of the driver can be sensed immediately – especially if you are an experienced hitchhiker and the driver informs at the beginning of the conversation that he wants to get money for the trip. It is necessary to state the distance of the trip because many times the driver only travels 3-6 miles (5-10 km). This distance will not do you any good; it will only make the hitchhiking worse if the new location proves unsuccessful.
- Hello! I’m on my way to San Diego, is it possible to drive with you for a while on the way?
- Hi! Can I join you in San Diego and how far is it?
Usually, the driver will tell you right away where he or she is going, and it is up to you to decide whether to take you that far. The driver also decides in a short conversation whether to take you or not.
If you are not satisfied with the driver, you can answer as follows
- Where are you going? …… I’m sorry, but I’m not feeling well and I’ll wait for another car. Thank you for your visit.
If there is any doubt about whether the driver is giving you a free ride, it is best to check directly.
- Hello! We are going to San Bernardino. will you take us for a ride, without money?
In Europe and the CIS countries, no fees are usually requested. In Central Asia and some poorer countries, you may be asked to pay. If you don’t make it clear that you are traveling for free before you get on the bus, you should do so as soon as possible so you don’t feel embarrassed at the end of your trip. However, if the driver does drop you off at your destination and asks.” What, you don’t want to pay anything at all?” – You have two choices: either inform the driver again that you are hitchhiking and have very limited financial resources, or pay him.
Tip: Hello! I want to go to Buenos Aires!” Where are you going? Can you accompany me there? The driver from Argentina not only drove me to Buenos Aires, but also treated me to traditional maté tea and Argentine food, told interesting stories, and listened with interest to my stories about Europe.
So, you’re settled in your car and you’ve started your journey. You should check straight away where you will be dropped off: from your new location to thumb a ride, whether you will be comfortable and whether you will be driven to town or left on a detour.
The best option is to introduce yourself, identify yourself as a traveler, and say a few words about the purpose of your trip. For example.
- I’m Annie and this is Gary. we’re from Saratov and we’re traveling to LA.
Next, you need to catch the driver in the mood and find out if he or she is ready to talk. While most hitchhikers hitchhike for the sake of conversation, not all drivers want to talk. Some prefer to be quiet and listen to music. In this case, you should not force a conversation.
However, if you are taken in a car at night or in the dark, be prepared to talk and drive the driver to sleep.
It is ideal if the hitchhiker encourages the driver to talk, that is, to ask questions unobtrusively and politely, asking about his personality, while the driver does the talking.
You can talk about anything: the weather, nature, fishing, the driver’s hometown, whether he often give rides to hitchhikers, etc. Don’t forget to ask what you want to know about local attractions, the area, roads, and detours.
It is advisable to be cautious about religious and political topics, and if they do come up, you should respect the driver’s point of view.
There is no need to brag about your success and profits, expensive equipment, and the latest technology. The owner is unlikely to rob the braggart, but it is likely to leave him with an unpleasant residue and a tainted mood.
If the driver takes a call on his cell phone, be quiet while he’s talking, especially if you’re a girl. His wife may have called him and she may have misunderstood.
Tip: If you see that the driver needs your help, such as changing a wheel or looking for something in the compartment or glove box, don’t hesitate to offer your help. You can also offer to help the driver if you have a tasty snack.
Danger On The Road
The main danger when hitchhiking is an accident. Here are some precautions to take to help reduce the risk of an accident or minimize the consequences
- Always wear your seat belt in the car, even if the driver allows you not to, and resent the “Don’t you trust me!” This phrase.
- When in the car, do not distract the driver from the road and do not obscure the rearview mirror with your actions.
- Even though you are a passenger, stay alert on the road just like the driver. You are a navigator, which is an important role. It would be ideal if the navigator knew the traffic rules and signs.
- Don’t put pressure on the driver to go faster. But if you feel intimidated and uncomfortable with his driving style, let him know. If the driver ignores your words and continues to make unsafe movements on the road, ask him to stop and catch another car.
Probability of being robbed
The driver himself can be a source of danger. This rarely happens. But just like encountering a bear while camping, be prepared when hitchhiking.
The surest way to immediately screen for danger is to refuse to drive with a suspicious person the moment you stop and make a deal. If you feel the driver is drunk, unfit, or threatening in any way, you should not go with him. Even if no one stops, you will not be able to leave for long.
If you realize you are about to be robbed, try to negotiate – calmly and without panic. If that doesn’t work, take action: yell, open the door, call for help. Just don’t jump out of the car while you’re walking! If you have pepper spray, use it to scare the driver and show that you are willing to spray the gas. Be careful: A confused driver may fly into the oncoming lane and have a head-on collision.
Tip: “I once had an accident in Ecuador. I was mugged by a local guy who gave me a ride in his car. This was because I lost my guard and drove into a remote mountain road in the dark. The driver offered to solve the problem peacefully – leave my valuables in the car and get out. He showed me a knife and reassured me. I knew it was useless to scream for help, and in this case, it was best to get out of the car as he asked. My life and health were more precious than the contents of my backpack. The driver took no action and just drove away.
When hitchhiking with women, especially when alone, the driver may show sexual interest in the female companion. This is fairly rare, but you should be prepared. To keep yourself as safe as possible, follow these guidelines
- Clothing should be modest and flattering: athletic or hiking-style pants, loose-fitting T-shirts or shirts, and cover your shoulders. Do not wear tight tops with deep collars, skirts, or shorts. Also do not use flashy makeup or long, loose hair.
- Explain to the driver from the beginning that you are a traveler and not looking for romance or sexual adventure. If the driver starts to “test the waters” by asking suspicious questions that imply intimacy, then answer with a firm, assertive no.
- It’s best not to hitchhike in the dark. If you find yourself on the road at night, stop for the trucker. It’s safer to drive with them. Although they don’t usually drive at night and spend the night in a parking lot, chances are the trucker has a couple of hundred miles to go.
During the conversation, the driver may start asking uncomfortable and shocking questions. For example, how the hitchhiking girls clean themselves on the road, how they spend long periods of time without a man on the trip, whether anyone offers to pay for the trip in “kind,” etc. The driver may also bring up the topic of sex, tell a bedtime story, give a comical complement, or simply ask, “Would you like to take a break?”
Don’t be intimidated by all of these conversations and questions – you need to confidently state that you are traveling and nothing more.
If the unpleasant subject continues, gently ask the driver to stop and get out of the car. Save your nerves – find another hitchhiker.
If the driver directly offers sex, firmly tell him you will not sleep with him, you will not sleep with anyone at all.
If the driver starts to get physical, you must firmly counter by asking him to stop and get out of the car, even if he promises “not to do it again”.
Tip: “In my first few days of traveling through Turkey, I met a number of drivers who offered me Turkish love and presented themselves as dreamy Turkish princes. Some of these ‘princes’ did not understand this rejection and were very indignant, one of them even behaved in a very unqualified way. The secret of a peaceful ride turned out to be simple: I didn’t need to tell the driver that I was from America”.
When you are on the road or in the village, you also run the risk of encountering belligerent locals. These are usually people of low social status and are usually drunk. Once drunk, they are looking for some entertainment and a hitchhiker on the way is a great way to dispel boredom. For fun, they may beat you up or rob you.
However, most of these people can still be contacted and can be dealt with by talking to them. If you have already had a conversation that resulted in the unpleasant person leaving, it is still a good idea to leave the place.
When hitchhiking in some remote areas of Europe, it is possible to encounter wildlife on the road. The most common danger is caused by bears. In Spain, Italy, the Alps, and elsewhere, bears can be found on the roads. Often, these animals are sheltered and they will go on the road in search of food.
When hitchhiking in some remote areas of Europe, it is possible to encounter wild animals on the road.
In such potentially dangerous areas, you should choose a location close to gas stations, cafes, and populated areas. Staying near garbage cans and piles of food waste is dangerous because bears will go to the garbage cans to find food. Having a hunter’s signal or dummy flare on hand can be very useful.
Another danger of hitchhiking near populated areas is stray dogs. A sure remedy for these animals is pepper spray. Dogs are very sensitive to tear gas. Aggressive mutts may also be deterred by a hunter’s signal.
Hygiene And Clothing When Hitchhiking
I don’t need to tell you how important it is to maintain hygiene while hitchhiking – it goes without saying. When you hitchhike, make sure your body, clothes, shoes, and backpack are clean and don’t give off any unpleasant odors. Take special care to be clean and fresh in hot weather. If your feet tend to sweat and stink, stock up on a bottle of face wash, wet tissues, antiperspirant, and shoe deodorant. Always have clean socks on hand: Some truckers require you to take off your shoes in their trucks.
It is best to wear brightly colored clothes for hitchhiking, preferably with reflective stripes. This “bow” makes the hitchhiker visible on the road not only at night but also on cloudy days. Clothes should be convenient and comfortable for the conditions you are traveling in heat, cold, rain, snow, mud, dust, wind.
For example, for hitchhiking in very hot weather, loose-fitting clothes made of natural linen or cotton and a hat, Panam, or cap are a must.
Hitchhiking In The Country And Abroad
Hitchhiking is done differently in different parts of Europe. For example, in the Caucasus or the North, contrary to the stereotype, it is very easy and safe. The people of the Caucasus and the inhabitants of the North are generally very friendly and hospitable.
In the Far East, hitchhiking is also good: locals are very willing to give rides to travelers. The fewer cars on the road, the more likely you are to be picked up by the first driver.
On some roads there is very little traffic – in Chukotka, for example, there is one car every few days. In such places, it is better to find a driver in advance. For example, go to the office of the transport company, the port, or maybe even the town or village administration and ask if there is information about hitchhiking.
Most of the hitchhiking methods and rules that work well in Europe apply abroad as well – in almost every country in the world. Each country has its own nuances, and it is impossible to describe them all in one article. However, let’s briefly outline some of the peculiarities of traveling abroad.
- When hitchhiking in a particular country, it is very useful to learn the language of the majority of the country’s inhabitants. It is important to have at least a basic set of words and phrases to explain who you are, where you are going, what you do in life, etc. This isn’t difficult and doesn’t take as much time as you might think. And it’s not always convenient or safe to use a translator on your smartphone when hitchhiking.
- Travel from one country to another, including across to Mexico, can only be done through official international border crossings. You should know about them in advance. Please note: In addition to international border crossings, there are local border crossings that are only open to citizens of two neighboring countries. And for some neighboring countries, the border is even closed and there are no official border crossings. Usually, there are conflicts between these neighboring countries.
- Hitchhiking is not recommended for single girls in Muslim countries (Turkey, Morocco) and Islamic Republics in Europe; it can be unsafe. In addition, you will have to answer many unpleasant questions every day. It is better to hitchhike in a pair, a boy and a girl.
- The road network in Europe is very extensive, with a large number of freeways. Pedestrians are not allowed on these roads, so hitchhiking in European countries is strictly between cities, gas stations, and parking lots. Since Europe is densely populated, it is easier to drive with a sign indicating the city or country you are going to.
- If you end up on a highway, the police will arrive in 10-15 minutes to take you to the nearest town. You may be fined for this.
- Hitchhiking is illegal in some states and in some states in the US. You may not be picked up by the police, but the locals are not likely to put you in their car either.
- There is no charge for hitchhiking, but in some poorer countries it is common for drivers to ask you for money and refuse to give you a ride for free. Be prepared for this when traveling to such places.
Useful Information For Hitchhiking
Here are some tips that beginners definitely need when traveling.
Hitchhiking related websites and information
Useful information on Google for travel tells you how to travel by car, train, locomotive, bus, and motorboat in Europe and abroad without spending money and without cheating anyone. How to find free accommodation in towns and villages, hotels and monasteries, how to prepare for your trip, and what to pack for your trip.
The Google site provides a lot of useful information about various cities and regions in Europe, the CIS, and Europe. For example, about the peculiarities of hitchhiking in this or that region, about border crossing points, roads, etc.
Google provides detailed information on how to get to freeways from major cities, including useful links, reports, and stories, as well as information about border crossings: customs conditions, checkpoint numbers, etc.
Finding hitchhiking companions
If you really want to try hitchhiking, but you are afraid to go alone and can’t find fellow travelers among your friends or acquaintances, you can look for companions on social networks. For example, there are themed communities and publishers on Facebook sites where travelers look for travel companions. Topics for finding companions can be found in hitchhiking and travel communities, for example here.
If more than one person responds to your request, it is worth meeting with each of them individually if possible. Ideally, arrange a short hitchhiking trip together to a nearby town, or each person can go camping alone for a few days.
Hitchhiking with a large backpack and equipment
It’s best to carry a lightweight backpack with no more than 13 gals (50 liters) when hitchhiking. However, if your backpack turns out to be quite heavy – for example, if you’re going camping – that’s okay: if the driver wants to take you, he’ll take you even with a large bag. Therefore, a large backpack doesn’t hinder travel.
The disadvantage of a large bag is that it is difficult to lift it into the cab of the truck, and the driver will probably need help to unload it from the truck to the ground.
Not only can you hitchhike with a large backpack, but you can also bring oversized sports equipment such as mountain skis, bikes, or even kayaks. Drivers of trucks, vans, minibusses, antelopes, or van bodies don’t mind taking tourists even with this much luggage. But be prepared to spend a fair amount of time on the road waiting for a ride.
Where to eat when hitchhiking
Eating and drinking on hitchhiking trips can be done in the following ways
- At many roadside dining places: Good cafes and eateries are easily identified by the number of trucks parked next to them. If a cafe regularly has truckers coming in for lunch, then it is usually an established establishment.
- Cook your own food on the burner.
- Cook with the truckers.
- Buy baked goods and other snacks ahead of time so you can always have a quick meal.
Where to wash up when hitchhiking
Hygiene is the most pressing issue for new hitchhikers. Especially if the trip is during a hot period. There are several options for staying clean.
- Roadside showers: available in most large parking lots, roadside hotels or cafes, and campgrounds. A trip to a roadside shower usually costs a few dollars or so.
- In foreign countries, such as in some European countries, showers, washers, and dryers are also available at major gas stations.
- Bodies of water: There are usually many rivers and lakes for bathing near mountain roads.
- It is useful to have 0.4-0.5 gals (1.5-2 liters) of water and a pack of wet tissues to quickly refresh yourself and clean up anywhere near the trail.
Where to sleep when hitchhiking
If you are traveling from one big city to another, there are many options for overnight stays: hostels, rental apartments, condos, hotels, guesthouses.
If you need to spend the night hitchhiking on the highway, you can have the following ideas
- motels and roadside hotels. There are quite a few of them on the road, especially in the central part of Europe. Such hotels for RV travelers usually have different classes of rooms, from budget to luxury. Often, however, in remote areas of the country, the deluxe rooms in motels are more like economy rooms, and most are already occupied by nightfall.
- Tents. If you travel in a tent, you can camp almost anywhere on the mountain roads. For example, you can camp in the woods 330-500 feet (100-153 meters) from the road, on the banks of a stream. Or you can even camp on the lawn of a gas station. You should set up your campsite so that you don’t disturb anyone in the morning or evening, and so that you don’t obstruct entrances or exits.
You should not camp on private property without being asked to do so. It is also unsafe to pitch your tent in small communities because you may attract unhealthy interest from locals.
- Sleep in a truck. If you are traveling with a truck driver, he may offer you a place to sleep in his vehicle, on the top floor. You can sleep two people up there, but it will be crowded.
- Local residents. You may have been driven to a village, hamlet, or suburb with a private sector presence. If you want to socialize with the locals, you can try asking them for a place to spend the night. You approach the gate, greet the owner, explain your situation, tell him you are going there, and ask if you can pitch your tent on his land. It may take some time to get a response, but once you have made contact with the local and established his interest and trust, you are likely to be successful. Most likely the person will even offer to stay in their home. The practice has shown that this approach does not always work in Europe, but abroad it is a very interesting and quite viable option for overnight stays.
Note: If your landlord seems unpleasant and suspicious if he is drunk or in an unfriendly mood, it is best to apologize and leave the place.
Tip: “In South America and Europe, I often stop at drivers who give me rides. They usually ask me, “What part of N-town do you want to stop at?” I reply that I don’t have any ideas yet, and then they tell me “I have a guest room at home and I’d be happy to have you stay with me.”
If I found myself in a town or village on the highway, I would simply walk up to a local’s house, introduce myself, tell them a little about me, and ask them if I could pitch a tent next to their house. That’s roughly how my presentation went.
- Hi, my name is Diane and I’m from the United States. I’m hitchhiking and found myself in your city on the way. I have my own tent, would you allow me to pitch it in your garden? I promise to be clean and organized, and I can help you with your chores if you need them.
More often than not, I was invited to spend the night at home. There were even times when friends and neighbors invited me to their homes to spend a pleasant evening and talk with female travelers from Europe.
- In exceptional cases, if you are stuck on the highway at night, near traffic, police, or customs posts, you can ask to spend the night with them and explain the situation.
- If you realize you have to spend the night in the countryside by the roadside, you can also spend the night in the village school, hospital, library, etc.
There is a very interesting accommodation option in the city – Couch Surfing. This is a global hotel site where people from many cities around the world offer travelers a free stay at home. However, couch surfing is not like a free hotel. First of all, it’s an exchange of experiences and information with the people who shelter you. It’s like an automatic stop. If you’re not ready to share your free time with someone you barely know, it’s best to opt for rented accommodation or a hotel.
Hitchhiking is a great tool for creating the most colorful and incredible trips. The possibilities are endless and it’s a great way to see the world from a different perspective.
Remember, hitchhiking is not “hitchhiking”. The traveler does not pay for the trip, but in exchange for the trip, he gives the driver his energy, attention, knowledge, experience. The neater the traveler’s thoughts and feelings are, the more positive his attitude is, the more confidence and goodwill he exudes, and the stronger the success that awaits him on the road.
Therefore, when hitchhiking, keep your mind clear and adjust only to get the best out of it, while not forgetting your safety.
A rocky road, comrades, and a very pleasant adventure!