Here are 7 rules of thumb that make hitching a ride easier and more fun. They are based on our experience of hitchhiking in Honduras, from Portugal to Germany and from Berlin to India. If you have ever hitched a ride and have additional rules, please add them in the comments.
So here we go with the 7 rules of hitching a ride:
- Rule of small steps: If someone only takes you 50 kilometers, but you will end up at a better spot along the highway, take it. Small steps will also get you ahead. It doesn't make sense to wait for the ride that will take you the next thousand kilometers in Western Europe. So you go by the rule of small steps. That said, it does make sense in vast countries like Kazakhstan to wait for long rides, since you don't want to get kicked out of a ride in the middle of a desert.
- Approach people: The best hitchhiking spots are those, where you can directly approach people and nicely ask them for a ride. This gives them the opportunity to make a positive first impression and increases your chances of catching a ride. If you can't approach people because you are not standing at a gas station or a parking area, it makes sense to hitchhike from places where people go slow enough to actually stop for you.
- Give something back: Hitchhiking is as much about giving as it is about taking. A lot of drivers want some company. So it makes sense to share your story, play some music or contribute in some way to make the ride more fun.
- Have a clue where you want to go: Knowing where you want to go and where you want to get out, helps you to not be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, where it is hard to find the next ride. For us, here maps (http://here.com/) has proven extremly helpful because their offline maps showed us exactly where the next gas station was and our exact position on the road.
- Be at the right spot: As said above, you want to approach people. So gas stations that are well frequented are good places to start. However, it is at least as important, to stand at the right road. If you stand at the wrong place, you will never find people that go into the direction that you want to head in. Hitchhiking from Portugal to Cologne in 2011, I experiences this with a friend, when we waited for 14 hours for a ride in the wrong location outside of Madrid and finally decided to switch spots.
- Hitchhiking as speed dating: Watch your appearance. Make a good impression. I think it helps enormously if you look clean and fresh and not as if you had slept outside for the last week. Of course your appearance doesnt have to say anything about your character and your inner values but a nice appearance does help.
- Manage your sleep: Especially when you are travelling alone, I find it important to manage my sleep. If I get into a ride and I am super tired, it is hard to make good conversation with a driver, keep an overview over where you have to get off etc.
I think that hitchhiking is an interesting, cheap and adventurous way of traveling. It is good to meet people. Of course there is always a certain risk, if you get into a car with strangers, especially for women travelling alone. But if you are careful, dont travel alone and get into cars of people that seem trustworthy, it seems relatively safe to me.