Hitchhiking may be risky and even frowned upon in some countries but for the aficionados, it is an exciting, adrenaline-fueled way to travel the world and make new friends. And what’s more, it costs absolutely nothing!
Back to reality, hitching free rides may not be as easy as it was in the good old days as people have grown increasingly paranoid about strangers.
However, if you’re addicted to the uncertainty and feeling of adventure that hitchhiking offers or if you are a newbie looking towards your first hitch, here are 7 hitchhiking tips to get you started:
7 Hitchhiking Tips for Beginners
1. Watch Your Dress Code and Appearance
Remember, you will be exclusively dealing with strangers when traveling. They don’t know you nor your personality or circumstances. And they are probably scared like hell of being carjacked too.
So, the first thing you need to do when going for a hitchhiking expedition is to spruce up yourself to look decent and trustworthy.
For men, ditch your long, shaggy beard and ragged jeans if you don’t want to wait forever on the highway. Nobody will stop, and allow a scruffy looking guy in their car. Get a shave and wear your best clothes and lady luck will smile at you.
For women, you will be more successful if you dress simple and decently, without looking provocative as it could send the wrong signals.
2. Scrap Your Plans and Lower Your Expectations
Hitchhiking is like gambling – there is an equal probability of everything turning out okay as there is of everything getting messed up.
It won’t do you any good psychologically to plan everything in detail only to get disappointed and have to change your plans. Hence, set out with your expectations as low as possible and just live in the moment.
That way, everything you do or experience will be exciting and adventurous which is what hitchhiking is all about.
3. Keep it Two
A lot of people prefer going on a hitchhike alone, but some like it in pairs. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking your hitchhiker friends with you but avoid going in big groups (more than 2) if you want to reduce your waiting time.
See, a lone figure signaling for a lift on a deserted highway looks more amiable than, say a group of 3 guys. A pair of friends, whether mixed or two women together, also look relatively harmless and are likely to get a lift faster than say, a group of men or even 3 or more women.
And it’s not just about perceptions. Some small cars may also not be in a position to take in more than two travelers, so there’s that too.
4. Take Some Hitchhiking Safety Measures
As said earlier, hitchhiking involves trusting strangers to take you wherever you want to go for little to no money. Hitchhiking safety is, therefore, a major concern, especially for lone or female hikers.
For your safety, consider asking for lifts at petrol stations as opposed to highways. There, you have enough time to look at drivers and determine if they seem trustworthy before you make your approach.
It is also easier to talk to people and explain yourself when they’re on a stop, and you can always offer to help pay for the gas to gain their attention.
Above all, always trust your instincts and avoid hitchhiking at night.
Not everyone will be willing to stop and pick up a stranger just like that, no matter how appealing their dressing is. Of course, your appearance matters a lot, but it goes beyond that.
You need to look happy and fun to be around. When waving down a car, try to smile and put some enthusiasm behind your waving.
Lone drivers who may be in need of some company will be tempted to pick you up. On the other hand, you’ll scare them away if you look grumpy and angry.
For this reason, we recommend bringing along your best buddy so you can cheer each other up and share your thoughts.
6. Pick Slow Moving Spots
To increase your chances, pick a spot where cars are moving slow, such as the top of a hill or an uphill slope.
When cars are moving slow, you have more time to check them out and identify one to stop based on your judgment.
The driver too has ample time to check you out and decide if they want to stop and, if they have company, they have enough time for consultations and decision-making.
7. Location Matters
It is essential to choose a good location for your hitches if you don’t want to end up frustrated.
Avoid hitchhiking in city centers and within urban areas as most of the drivers you’ll find will be on their daily commutes to or from work or just running errands. Also, urban areas have higher crime rates, and people are extremely suspicious of strangers.
The best locations are in the city outskirts, particularly on roadside gas and food stations, weigh bridges or roadblocks.
These locations give you multiple options where you can stop incoming traffic or just approach any of the parked vehicles around.
Adventure, risk, hope, fear, and unpredictability are some of the things that define hitchhiking at varying levels.
With cars becoming increasingly affordable and public transport remaining dirt cheap, the number of hitchhikers has considerably gone down over the years compared to what it was in the last century.
Nonetheless, hitchhiking is still a useful skill which everyone should learn, and we believe our seven tips for hitchhiking will set you on the right path.
About The Author
Scott Pine is a team building coach in the social marketing sphere, expert in life insurance company, traveler and car lover. Scott also works on several own projects, including AutoExpertGuides.