Hitchhiking is a tremendously fun, adventurous, pure and cheap way to get from A to B. However always keep in mind that hitchhiking is never a 100% safe, in some countries it is not recommended. It asks a lot of patience. But it`s all worth it when it comes to gaining unforgettable experiences and making friends for life. For those planning on putting some thumbs up on the sight of the road, here some tips and tricks to get your little adventures started.
1.Country, check! Region, check! Latest news, check!
Before you go out in the open, check with other travelers and locals if the current situation is safe. In some countries, hitchhiking is an absolute no go! In some countries foreigners are equal to dollars and if they`ll haven`t robbed you before you reached your final destination, they`ll demand you to pay. When the country/region you`re traveling in is considered `safe` for hitchhikers, always check the latest news. If robberies or human trafficking have been occurred in the last couple of weeks, it might be wise to spend some extra dollars on a bus.
2. Find yourself a `partner in crime`
Hitchhiking is a lot safer and more fun when you`re not alone. Especially female travelers (I`m sorry `feministas`, but it`s simply true) should think twice before they`ll go hitchhiking alone. Even besides safety, waiting 7 hours in the middle of nowhere is a lot more enjoyable when you have more than your backpack to talk to.
3. Go to the right spot
Ask around where the traffic is leaving in the right direction. Best spots are outside of town, before the onramp, roundabout or at a parking spot (the maximum speed of the traffic should be maximum 60km/h).
Be visible, nobody will see you if you stand behind a turn or a traffic sign. The sooner they see you, the more time they have to think about taking you, the more likely you`ll be picked up.
Check on the map, if there is any on- or off-ramps close by, you want to filter out as much traffic as possible. So it might be worth it to walk the extra kilometers instead of missing out on a lot of cars entering the route a bit further. Make sure your potential transport has space to pull over the car safely behind you.
For long distances: main service stations are also a good way to go. Ask what time the truck drivers are leaving. Make friends, ask around and off you go!
5. You can only make a first impression once
Alright, you`re traveling, not the best time to spend some energy on personal hygiene and looks. However, you can only make a first impression once. It will be hard to find somebody who is willing to take you when you smell like you-know-what. You don`t have to prom-ready, but make sure you got yourself freshened up, you`re cloths and backpack are free of mud and dirt from that last hike and put on a smile. Nobody likes a grumpy face, even if you`ve been waiting for 7 hours. Every car passing is a new change.
6.A sign or not?
When one thinks of a hitchhikers, one thinks `thumbs up` and a typical carbon sign with a some marker or pen scribbling with the next destination on it. However a sign is not always beneficial. Especially traveling long distances, every couple of kilometers is something. Especially when you`ll pass some onramps, the change will be bigger somebody will pass that can bring you to the same destination. Just practice and see what works best for you in which situation.
7. Be patient
You`ll never know when a car will stop, where it will take you and who you`re going to meet. This is the fun of hitchhiking. Just be patience, enjoy the scenery, do some meditation, play a game of `celebrity heads` or `I spy with my little eye`.
Sometimes a hundred cars will pass, before you`ll be picked up. Don`t lose hope, keep the good vibes and make the best of the moment.
8. You`re never obliged to get in a car!
You found yourself a car that is willing to take you, but the moment he/she lowers the window, flashbacks from Cruella Devil, `I know what you did last summer` and `saw` are popping up in your head. Stay polite, ask the person where he/she is going and thank him/her for the offer. Decline `as you`re going the other way` or `looking for a ride that can bring you further`. Never feel obliged to get in the car, your safety is more important than a potential insult. The person will get over it and you`ll will find yourself somebody else to take you.
If you followed my advice and got yourself a body, make up a code word. In case one of you don`t trust the person, just say the magic word and keep on looking further.
9. Get dropped off at a good spot
In case a car can`t bring you to your final destination, make sure you get dropped off at a spot where you`ll be able to hitchhike further. Abandoned cross points with one car passing every two hours, is probably not the best situation to be in.
10. Make friends by being one
Your backpacks are in the trunk, you parked your butt on the backseat and off you go! For some hitchhikers this is the moment to catch up with some sleep, finally prepare lunch or open up a beer to celebrate. No! No! No! You`re driver is not a bus company. Remember you are a guest, so behave like one. Start a conversation, show some interest and make friends. Offer some of your biscuits. If you`re really hungry, ask if it is ok for them if you eat or drink something and always offer them a bit of your food or drink. Keep the car or truck as clean as possible. Don`t worry, if you`re hitchhike is for multiple hours, you don`t have to be a fulltime entertainment and with some you`ll be able to fit a little power nap. But always try to make the hitchhike a nice experience for everybody.
11. The hitchhiker`s code
You got up early, walked 3 kilometers from the other side of town to get to `that perfect roundabout` and there you see them: Another couple (of friends) trying to get a ride. Don`t be grumpy, they`re fellow travelers. Just pass, say hello, ask how they`re doing and maybe share some food and drinks. Always walk a bit further up the road to make it clear you`re not traveling together. If a car passes you`re early bird friends and stops for you. Explain that they were first. Maybe there is even space for all 4 of you. If the car doesn`t want to take them for whatever reason, just shout an apology and that you tried to give them the ride. Never, ever, `steal` a ride from somebody else. You`re in this together.
In case you are the early bird and a car stops for you, check if there might be space for your new friends as well. Create good karma, create good vibes. It will always come back to you one way or the other.
Alright you`re ready for take-off! Enjoy the ride. Stay safe and make lots of friends. Hitchhiking will make the travel sometimes even more memorable than the destination. What is your next stop gonna be?
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into one year and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto