Hitchhiking (also called lifting or thumbing) is a form of transport, in which the traveller tries to get a lift (ride) from another traveller, usually a car or truck driver.
Contrary to popular opinion there are still a lot of hitchhikers, all over the world, even in the United States. If you've never hitchhiked before you might want to check out the article hitchhiking for the first time.
First time hitchhikingEdit
If you've never hitchhiked before, you have to get over your first time hitchhiking fear. Every hitchhiker went through this. The first time, standing on the side of the road, heart pounding.
To get over this, just do it!
Prepare yourself: buy a map, check out the Top Tips, other pages on this wiki, other hitchhiking websites. Make sure you know what a good spot means, and that you know some good spots on the trip you're making.
First time hitchhiking doesn't necessarily mean a short trip—but starting with a short trip might help you get used to the motions and what to expect. Take a day trip to the next town! This said, don't prepare too much. Decide where you're going, the best road to get there, walk a distance, and at a good spot face the traffic and stick up your thumb. You'll feel like the center of attention at first, but after a while you'll get used to it, and will become more concerned with trying to "win a ride" than your worries about what you're doing.
- I tried to hitchhike before, but those were complete failures, without a map, with no clue about hitchhiking. Then one moment, living in Paris, I found myself with 200 euros and the wish to go to Barcelona. So I tried again! It was great! I waited more than 2 hours in Paris and it took me a day and a half.
Future of hitchhikingEdit
On-demand car-pooling is expected to arise as a result of the location reporting capabilities that are to be incorporated in all new mobile phones by the end of 2005 according to the requirements for E911 services in the United States. Once users can expose their location to 3rd parties that coordinate ridesharing, the main restrictions on car-pooling – same time, same place pick-ups and drop-offs – may be removed. This will facilitate sharing of vehicles not only on commutes but also for trips of all kinds.
Drivers will be especially encouraged to participate in these programs by:
- cost sharing with electronic credits that are processed automatically by the ridesharing systems,
- the continued existence or expansion of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes,
- desire to socialize.
Abuses will be strongly discouraged by participant feedback and the identification and location reporting that is intrinsic to the system. Proof of insurance may be required by ridesharing agreements or provided as a rider benefit.
As with other form of social networking, riders and drivers will be matched according to personal criteria. While users may restrict matching criteria in order to exclude non-neighbors or according to other chosen factors, they may also broaden their matches in order to meet a more representative sample of the population. The resulting interactions could significantly increase the degree of social connectedness.
If the participant pools are not overly fragmented by an uncoordinated commercialization – a significant risk that ought to be eliminated by creation of open standards for matching subscribers to different services – riders in good standing should be able to travel wherever mobile phone service is available with much quicker pick-ups, faster connections and almost no stops as compared with mass transit, and at substantially lower cost than operating their own vehicles. Drivers who participate regularly and exhibit good driving skills should be able to offset a substantial fraction of their expenses. The result should be a marked and permanent increase in average vehicle occupancy.
Hitchhiking is usually very safe. The most encountered feelings of unsafety are probably concerning the driver's driving style.
Top tips for safetyEdit
- If you doubt about the ride offered, turn it down.
- Some say to note the registration number or vehicle model and colour (SMS this to a friend).
- Hitchhike with someone you know. On hitchhike forums (such as Hospitality Club ) you can find other hitchhikers.
- It's probably safest to accept a ride from a couple or a single driver.
- It's better to sit in the front of the vehicle.
- Keep your backpack close to you (i.e. on your lap), so you grab it if you need to get out quickly.
- Wear your most valuable stuff on your body: passport, money and mobile phone. This way you will keep these items in case you should abandon your bag.
It is preferable to choose your drivers. To hitchhike more effectively you can ask for rides at gas stations or truckstops. Briefly profile people by their appearance and talk to folks that seem safe/interesting. But always remember that appearances do not guarantee safety.
For women, hitchhiking can be a bit more risky. Here are some tips to consider:
- It is a good idea to get yourself some pepper spray, just in case, but beware that in some countries is illegal to use it.
- You can also check if the doors open from the inside by pretending not to have closed the door properly.
- It might be useful to send the license plate of your driver to a friend in a SMS.
- If there are other houses or people in sight, you can wave to them or pretend to say goodbye to a friend. The driver will think that somebody has seen you getting into their car.
Apart from being more dangerous, hitchhiking as a woman can be easier. Often, women stop for other women or girls. Even families (or other usually not hitch-hiker-friendly car owners) stop to "save" women from a situation in which they think she could be in danger.
Three important factors for safe travel while hitchhiking are road safety, awareness and communication:
The #1 danger to a hitchhiker is not violence; it is traffic accidents. As a result, hitchhikers should make sure they are standing along a safe portion of road, as far back from the traveled portion of the road as possible (on the unimproved portion of the road shoulder). Make sure that you are visible to drivers from a good distance (100 meters or more) to allow them time to safely pull to the side of the road.
Awareness on the part of a hitchhiker will keep him or her from accepting dangerous rides- for example, a driver traveling under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Examine the driver and vehicle. If there are signs of intoxication (slurred or erratic speech, no eye contact, open alcohol containers) do NOT get in the vehicle. Refuse the ride.
Communication is essential to make sure the ride offered is one that the hitchhiker would like to take, and that it will end at a safe spot to stop. Ask the driver before getting in his/her car: Where are you going? Can you drop me off at a service area or other safe place near your destination? Trust your instincts! If you do not feel comfortable accepting the ride, thank the driver and say no. Walk away.
Hitchhiking a boatEdit
Hitchhiking a boat is a bit like hitchhiking a plane. There are not so many boats...
Your best chances are to become part of the crew.
In the Caribbean it's not too hard to find sail boats that need an extra hand on deck.
If you want to hitch on a boat, you will find a way if you try hard enough, but it will take you a lot of time. You can try hanging out at the harbor for a week, talking to almost anyone, possibly finding a pub where sailors tend to drink their beer.
You will be wise to read this beforehand, from a boat owner: http://www.yachtmollymawk.com/2011/03/hich-hiking-across-the-atlantic/
Hitchhiking a planeEdit
Sometimes hitchhiking on a plane is possible. However, most of the stories are about tiny far-off airports.
Nowadays it seems very unlikely you will be able to hitch a fly on the oversecured airports of today.
You might have more luck hitchhiking a boat.
Especially in Eastern European countries hitchhiking clubs are popular.Hitch-hiking clubs bring hitchhikers together, organize various competitions, meetings, etc.
- L'Auto-Stop Participatif - No more activity
- abgefahren e.V - The first German Autostop Society founded in 2006.
- Kaunas Hitch-Hiking Club "KELIAIvis" is the second largest hitchhiking community in Lithuania. See their blog here or join their Yahoo group here (both in Lith. only)
- Vilnius Hitch-hiking Club is one of the leading hitchhiking organizations in Europe. They have often organized the International Hitch-hiking Conference and have a prominent web presence at autostop.lt.
- Academy of Free Travel (Moscow)
- Hitch-hikers of Ural
- Saint Petersburg Autostop Guild
- Saint Petersburg Autostop League
Hitchhiking in moviesEdit
Hitchhiking in movies:
- Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
- The Hitcher
- Knife in the Water
- Sweet Movie
- Turkish Delight
Hitchhiking in the mediaEdit
Some links to hitchhiking in the media. See Google News for some current news items.
- Hitchhiking My Way Around Cuba: Cubans are required to pick up hitchhikers, August 31, 2006
- What killed hitchhiking?, date unknown
- High-tech pioneers go hitchhiking across America, August 27, 2006
- Hitchhiking All 50 States, October 10, 2006
- Pros and cons for paid hitchhiking, no more "paid hitchhiking" in Nanjing
- Student hitches his way around nation to prove it's friendly, September 25, 2006
- Hitchhiking travel in Russia, October 5, 2006.
How to face trafficEdit
Facing traffic the right way is one of the most important things for good hitchhiking. Be sure to face the possible ride. Smile widely, but not ridiculously so. Remove any sunglasses or other things that may cover your eyes. This is really important. The driver must see your eyes. Seeing your eyes might be the difference between being offered a ride or not. Don't get frustrated when many cars pass you, as will invariably happen most of the time. If someone flips you off, don't flip them off back, just ignore them and keep your attention on the oncoming cars.
If the driver does stop, move quickly, but not too fast. If they stopped far ahead, run to the car, but otherwise stay calm. Keep smiling. You don't want to make the driver feel like their time is being wasted, but you also want to give yourself time to judge the car and the driver, and to decide if you want to take the ride. It's your call... use your instincts. This is something that you will quickly develop with a little bit of experience!
- Some people like to ask the driver where they are going first. If you get a bad feeling about the lift, it is easy to say 'no' by simply saying that you want to go in another direction.
- Otherwise, specify where you are going. Maybe tell the driver where you're from, or your purpose. Sometimes it helps to explain how you got where you are.
Remember to be friendly and be safe. Trust your instincts.
Finding accommodation is usually easy if you don't mind spending a lot of money. But most hitchhikers don't have a lot of money, so then there are several other options:
On your hitchhiking packing list you can include your tent and sleeping bag and you'll basically be free to sleep anywhere. Beware that in most countries is illegal to put up your tent anywhere. It is generally legal in Scandinavia, Finland, Scotland and Ireland, though.
It's possible to sleep in a bush near a gas station, you will have to hide somewhat but most of the time the drivers and police won't even notice you. This is a good way to train your survival instincts and a wonderful way to get rid of most fears you will have on your trip. Don't be ashamed, just remember that the next morning you will be gone from that place anyway!
It can happen that your driver offers you a place at his or her house to put up your tent. It can also happen that you get a place offered inside. A truck driver usually has another sleeping place, and in case you made a good impression, it's possible that you can sleep in his truck. This can be very dangerous.
Hospitality exchange networksEdit
Hospitality exchange networks require a bit more planning, but are very valuable tools for traveling. Sometimes there are meetings and gatherings of tens, or even hundreds of hospitality exchange members. If you go there you'll surely get a place to sleep!
- CouchSurfing (CS), 100000+ members, managed in a collective way, slightly North American-centric but growing rapidly.
- Hospitality Club (HC), 170000+ members, managed in a dictatorial way, slightly Euro-centric because it was started there.
- Global Freeloaders doesn't have a fancy website, but it's easy to send out a lot of messages at once, and members contact you directly over email, which makes it a lot faster to use, probably convenient for finding last-minute places. Though the lack of handy profiles and the direct communication over email definitely make this site less secure.
Where to hitchhikeEdit
A good hitchhiking spot makes hitchhiking safer and easier. Finding a good spot might be tricky, and sometimes knowing the area is an advantage. If you know your route, you might check the best places on this wiki or from the internet, before heading to the road. Asking locals about good places, such as from your driver before she drops you off, might be a good idea as well, as locals often have an idea about good hitchhiking spots - though sometimes the advice is bad, so use your own judgement - it's your call.
There are some generic hitchhiking places, like gas stations, bus stops etc. This page attempts to provide an understanding about where you should hitchhike.
Bus stops are in some cases the only place to hitchhike legally. This is the case when a driver drops you off in a crossection of a highway.
- It is a safe place to stand
- It is a safe place for the drivers to stop
- The drivers might think you are waiting for a bus
Gas stations are good places to ask for a ride, especially while hitchhiking along a highway.
- Safe place
- You can and should ask for a ride from drivers.
- Be friendly, and always say thanks and so on, even if the driver is going the right direction but doesn't want to take you. If you get annoyed because someone says no, the next person you ask will notice your annoyance and will be less eager to take you.
- Thumbing is easy, as the cars drive slowly
- Possibly warm
- You miss the cars passing the station.
On ramps to freeways and interstates are prime realty as long as the driver has room to pull over. A good spot to stand usually is beside the no pedestrians sign.
In many places in the United States, onramps are the ONLY legal option for places to thumb. This includes the entire state of Tennessee.
Outside of townEdit
Before or after a town is a good place to hitch. Usually where the speed limit changes or main area of businesses and housing ends.
Anywhere cars can pull over safelyEdit
- huge parking spaces
Books about hitchhiking are plenty.
In Russian there are a lot of books about hitchhiking, Praktika Volnyh Puteshestvyi by Anton Krotov being the most famous and according to many essential reading material for hitchhiking in Russia - if you read Russian that is.
Hitchhike food consists of cookies, crackers, granola bars, etc.; anything that will give you energy, while at the same time being small, and not too prone to being smashed in your pack (such as potato chips).
If your budget is not so tight you will probably eat a lot at gas stations. Some of them can pleasantly surprise you, for example some gas stations in Finland that serve fries and self-service salad for only 2 euros. Avoid gas stations in France at all costs, unless you consider 3-4 euros a good deal for a bag of chips and a 33ml carton of orange juice. In Poland, fast food like hot dog can cost only about 3 PLN (1 EUR = 4,10 PLN).
Free food is plentiful in much of Europe. Try sandwich shops, bakeries, patisseries and other places like that around closing time. Often you get enough bocadillos to last for a few days!
On the back of receipts at all Burger King restaurants in the U.S., there is a toll-free phone number and a blank coupon. Call the number and you will be connected to an automated customer satisfaction poll. At the end of the poll, you will be given a code to enter into the blank spot on the coupon on the back of your receipt. The coupon is good for a free chicken sandwich or small whopper with purchase of a drink or fries. At some Burger King's, your meal is free if they don't give you a receipt (there's no way you can lose!).
other cheap hitch-hiking food is tortillas, bread, pb +j. don't't forget to bring a spreading knife
Looks are important when hitchhiking.
As a guy, try to shave before you hit the road. It'll reduce your waiting time. When hitchhiking in foreign countries it might pay off to look like a foreigner. In South America people are much more eager to pick up Europeans than locals, though it might also increase the chance of getting robbed.
Hitchhikers often debate about weather using hitchhiking signs or not. If you decide to use one there are several important things:
- Think well about what place or text to put on it: take well known places, sometimes also road names can be used or more humoristic phrases ("I don't stink").
- Use the same font as the route directions
- Use contrasting colors: black on brown cardboard is not very good readable for passing drivers, black on white is far more readable
Tip: Make a sign of a large sheet of brightly colored paper glued to a sheet of cardboard. Cover this with self-adhesive transparent book wrap. Now you made yourself a re-usable sign wich you can use with a whiteboard marker and clean again with a small towel.
Another good invention are transparent, water-proof document-bags. There you can store a many sheets of paper and signs you can reuse. Nothing falls out, you can hang them somewhere and you can use both sides. Ortlieb is one company that produces good ones.
When not to useEdit
Some hitchhikers think it could be better not to use signs at big crowded gas stations where it's up to you to ask people, like in Germany on highway gas stations (and speaking fluent German). It's not very likely that holding a sign will actually be helping if you can already clearly state where you want to go and that you are hitchhiking.
Others always have a sign. To show it to people while their still in the car and then ask them if they pass by to pay for their gas. If they don't understand what's written on it they also ask. And I already have it with me when getting out of a car, so people sometimes ask me right away if they can take me... So it's definitely good to have it. It doesn't have any negative effects so why not using it?
Things to carry when hitchhikingEdit
Most hitchhikers carry a backpack with them wherever they go. The backpack should be sturdy, yet comfortable. First of all, you need as little as possible! The longer you travel, the less you want in your bag!
In order of importance:
- A big black marker.
- Sharpies work best. Eddings are also good, just make sure you have one with a broad end. That's easier to write with. Possibly some other colors.
- An A4 transparent plastic map and some spare A4 papers, or a piece of cardboard
- You'll often be able to find cardboard and paper on your way - just ask at shops or gas stations.
- A map of the area you plan to travel in.
- Preferably showing gas stations and tollway stations.
Quickly accessible during ridesEdit
It's also good to make things you might need on the road easily accessible:
- all possible maps you might need
- clothes in case of rain or sudden chill (like when going a tunnel when you're in the back of a van).
Then, if you expect to be on the road for more longer time:
- A large towel (doubles as a blanket, shawl or pillow).
- Hygienic products such as:
- toothbrush - even better in your pocket!
- A small bottle of liquid peppermint soap—the kind which can be used as toothpaste or mouthwash as well. Try to stay reasonably clean.
- Toilet paper or tissues. Don't ask why, just do it.
- A stick of deodorant and/or spray bottle of cologne.
- A sleeping bag.
- An extra set of clothing, at the minimum, 2 extra pairs of socks and underwear, and an extra T-shirt.
- A nice warm jacket.
- Something to drink, food, fruit, nuts. You don't want your food and drinks to be all over your stuff, so make sure that this is carefully packed.
- Reading material, for waits and quiet rides. (such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac)
- A small sewing kit is crucial for longer trips (especially if you have only one pair of pants - hitchhiking with a hole in your crotch is quite difficult) Recommended: at least one pair pants and one shorts.
- A journal is always a good choice to keep track of where you've been and who you've met, and to later add useful information to this wiki!
- Some basic tools to make jewelry with, or other such, will keep you in pocket change and give you something to do on lazy afternoons in the park, and will provide you with an answer if the police ask what you're doing in town. Also good for starting conversations.
- A harmonica, pennywhistle, kalimba or the like is also nice.
- If it makes you feel safer: a film-canister full of pepper—kept in your most accessible pocket. You probably won't need to use it, but you should have it handy to be able to pop the lid and toss it in the face of an attacker.
If you decide on camping you of course need some more stuff:
- A tent (or at least a couple of large, sturdy leaf bags, one opened at the bottom and duct-taped to the other to make a 6' long waterproof bag to sleep in)
- A pad to sleep on (1" foam rubber x 2' wide by 5' long, for example)
- A metal cup big enough to hold a can of Sterno (packing space is at a premium) and a can of Sterno
- Matches or lighter
- A boy-scout type fork, spoon, knife set
- A sharp pocket knife, preferably a tool-kit type with screwdrivers, etc.
- A length of coat-hanger type wire and a length of sturdy cord or string
- A canteen or plastic water bottle (glass WILL break!)
- Your clothes, stuffed into your backpack, make a good pillow and make it much less likely someone will steal your backpack while you are sleeping on it, particularly if you keep an arm through the straps while asleep.
- Most bridges have a flat, dry space underneath which is excellent.