Hitchhiker's compendium,  Sage advice

How to hitchhike – part 2

Today is all about not getting run over by passing cars and making sure that once the driver has stopped for us, they will not screech away before we get into the car.

Choosing a good spot

– The driver must have a safe space to pull over. Some of the most typical places for stopping cars are bus stops, traffic islands, hard shoulder.

Car parks and petrol stations are fantastic places. The greater the interaction with the driver, the better. You may approach with a friendly smile and ask whether they are going in said direction.

– A ferry is an ideal place. As a matter of fact, when on one, you should bend over backwards to find a ride, because once you’re off the ferry, you land in the harbour – a place with periodic inflow of new vehicles. You could spend many unproductive hours waiting for the next car-carrying ferry.

– Trying to hitchhike in a city centre is usually pointless, as people tend to drive within the borders of the city. Thus, it is a better idea to walk or take a bus down to the road that will take us further directly (this does not apply to Turkey)

– It is possible to hitchhike at the traffic lights. I don’t like it, but it’s doable.

– It’s worth to ask around about a good spot. If you’re going to do this, let the locals know about your destination. Be prepared that many will just give you directions to the train or bus station.

– In many countries it’s illegal to hitchhike on a highway. In every country it’s dangerous to hitchhike on a highway.

– The faster the cars are driving on a particular road, the more space they need to stop.

– Very important! If you’re not getting immediately to your destination with one ride, it is crucial to tell your driver exactly what your expectations are. Drivers often do more harm than good by giving the travellers a ride to city centre. Then you need an hour to get out of there. Therefore, you need to state clearly where you’d like to get off, e.g. a petrol station, bus stop, or just at an intersection. On the other hand, if you are already in a car, it is worth specifying what your final destination is. Very often, especially in developed countries, drivers will happily make a detour to deliver you where you prefer.

Behaviour while travelling

– The mere fact that someone stopped for you does not necessarily mean that they will let you into their vehicle. A few seconds is plenty of time to form an opinion about someone, so use these few seconds well. Have a positive attitude (even if you’re tired, soaked or cold), smile, be nice and open.

– When approaching the car that stopped for you, don’t grab the handle immediately. If the driver doesn’t open the door or the window, use body language to make sure it’s ok to open the door. You don’t want to intrude.

– It’s always a nice gesture to say “hello” in the local language and ask if the driver speaks English or any other language that you may have in common.

– Say a very pretty thank you for stopping and ask where the driver is heading. There is quite a chance you won’t have a clue where the place is, so have your map ready and figure out whether you’re both going in the same direction.

– If you’re not, and you have been standing in the same place for quite a while now, ask if the driver could just drop you in a better place with more traffic.

– If yes, just ask if they can take more people and whether it’s ok to put the backpacks into the trunk and get inside.

– If yes, but the driver can only take you a little further and you are standing in a great place with lots of cars passing by, maybe it’s worth declining and waiting for a better opportunity? Real life example: standing on the Polish-German border and heading to France, I gave up on a ride to Dresden (110km) and was offered one to Stuttgart (620km) only a while later.

– If the front seat is free, it should be taken by a person who feels comfortable talking to strangers (in a foreign language). Drivers stop for many reasons, the most common of which is the willingness to interact with people and learn something about the travellers.

– Conversation brings you closer to the driver, the more you bond the more likely they will be to actually care about your wellbeing and you might get a ride further than originally agreed.

– You cannot underestimate the importance of interaction. Do all it takes not to let the driver regret taking you. Show empathy and work out what to talk about and whether to talk at all.

Don’t fall asleep in the car. If you must, make sure that your companion(s) are awake.

Well, unless you’re on the road together for a day or two…

– When determining the drop off place, you should never entirely depend on the driver. As mentioned before, always make it very clear what your further plans are. You are the one who knows what a good hitchhiking spot looks like and not necessarily the driver. Their tips may not be valuable for you in this matter, keep that in mind and know how to be assertive.

– While you’re on the way, one person should be keeping trace of the route – not just to control the driver. Some people have a terrible sense of direction and may need help.

– Make sure your luggage is compact. Avoid carrying any additional bags or unpacking in the car, it’s surprisingly easy to forget stuff while you’re getting off. It did happen to me.

– It works the other way round as well. When getting off, take a look at what you are holding in your hands, because this could be the driver’s sweater or shopping bag that they put next to you. This happened to me as well.

– If for some reason you got lost or went the opposite direction, don’t panic. Figure out where you are and inform the others in your party that you might have to change the meeting place.

Drop by again soon for more hints!

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