Hitchhiker's compendium,  Sage advice

How to hitchhike – part 5: the finale

At this point you know almost all there is to know about hitchhiking, to an extend that is possible without having actually hitchhiked yourself. In this section I’m just going to explain several concerns and after that – let’s hit the road!


Do I hitchhike using a thumb or rather a board?

As mentioned before, preferably your speaking skills. If this is not possible, I generally opt for thumb, since the board limits the drivers’ imagination. For instance – driving from Brussels to Antwerp and passing a hitchhiker with an Amsterdam board, most people won’t even think that they could give the lift. On the other hand, a board draws more attention and often drivers slow down just to read what’s on it.

  • the sign on the board must be clear, legible and written with big, capital letters
  • instead of a city name, you can write the road number on the board
  • a thumb alone gives you a better possibility of interacting with the driver before getting on the vehicle. Sometimes it’s enough to exchange a couple of words to know if you have a good or bad feeling about this person.
  • word has it that a board saying “please” can work
I’m stuck in an idiotic place where no one will stop for me. What now?

Go straight ahead trying to hitchhike against all logic. Drivers stop for hitchhikers who apparently need help surprisingly often.

It started to rain – what do I do?

If it’s just spitting, take a raincoat and carry on, preferably in a place where your companions and backpacks can be safe and dry. If it’s pouring, don’t waste time and energy. The drivers can’t see further than their windscreen wipers anyhow.

It’s starting to get dark. What now?

It would be ideal to call it a day before dinner, so that you can find a camping spot for the night. Hitchhiking is unpredictable by its nature, so you need to be mentally prepared that your whole party may not manage to get to the same place. Thus, it’s better to divide the tents and sleeping bags beforehand, so that nobody is left cold and shelterless.

I don’t recommend hitchhiking after dusk, it can be dangerous and also rather pointless. For one thing, there will be less vehicles on the road than during the day, for the other, people tend to trust strangers less during the night, also, you’re not too visible. The only options here would be a petrol station or a ferry.

Types of vehicles:

There are only two types of vehicles that a hitchhiker can leave out of their “hunt”: two-seaters and taxis. Sometimes even by trying to hitch a bike you make a positive impression on the drivers passing by and, also, you simply have fun, because the cyclists have the most amusing reactions.

There are all sorts of vehicles that will stop for you. We took a rickety, 20-year-old crate that honked by playing “La cucaracha”, several pretty hot Mercedes (and a Bentley once), trucks (in Europe the driver can only take one person legally, sometimes they take two, though), a hearse (luckily we were the only passengers), a minibus with a very joyful renovation team, courier van (also not more than two people), numerous campervans (RVs), city buses, etc.

Travelling in a bigger group:

If your travel as a part of a bigger group, it’s best if you stay close. While it’s generally the easiest to hitchhike as a pair (sometimes three people), it never hurts to ask the driver if they have more room. My personal best is catching a ride for 8 J it was a minivan carrying just one passenger.

There’s no time for huge decision-making when the driver is already waiting, so get in the car quickly and follow these tips:

  • While dividing into smaller groups/ pairs, keep in mind that each should include somebody who’s comfortable chatting in a foreign language.
  • If you can, mix the girls with the boys. An all-guy group may find it harder to stop another ride.
  • If some of you have a naturally grim or potentially scary look on your faces, pair up with someone bright and cheerful, who inspires trust.
Does hitchhiking work everywhere?

Yes and no. In some countries (like Central Asia) the drivers will take you, but they’ll expect to get paid. Make sure what you’re getting into or it may get ugly.

Is there a place unreachable by hitchhiking?

From my experience so far – Monaco. But it’s a good thing I didn’t succeed then. Every hitchhiker needs to get the boot once in a while to raise their level of humility. What’s your experience?

Homework – hitchhike the next weekend and let me know how it went! See you on the road!

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