It was a long time ago when I decided to try hitchhiking. I was young and crazy and inspired by my friends who did it. A lot. I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience all parts of getting to the destination. Of course, as a young student, I haven't had enough money for airplane tickets and expensive stuff so, I went for it. Talked my best friend into it, read few travel blogs, covered some security methods and went to our first trip, pretty local one, from Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to Rijeka (Croatia). From then on I hitchhiked a lot, both locally and through Europe but that trip was the one when I learned the most. And of course, it's the most memorable one.
It takes time to become good at hitchhiking and positive attitude and spontaneous spirit have key roles in achieving it. In this post, I will try to summarize the most important things you HAVE to know before starting your first trip as a hitchhiker. It's cheap and fun, so, those with itchy feet, let's go for it!
Choose a good company
Let's start with this one! I strongly advise you to find a hitchhiking partner. I don't believe it's safe enough to do it by yourself. Choosing the person you will be hitchhiking with is very very important. I know that most of you are planning to travel with your good friend or love interest, but please, think twice. Hitchhiking is a team job. While one sleeps on the back seat, other talks to the driver. It's not a taxi. One person is always more cautious and another a bit more reckless, one is spontaneous and on is not and so on... It can get really hard. So you need to think what do you need in those situations. Once, somewhere in Czech Republik, my friend and I were walking through the mud in the pouring rain, trying to find the place for hitchhiking. None speaking Czech. Imagine we were both panicking...
Avoid tight deadlines
Okay, everybody likes to make plans. Especially when you're visiting many locations and have a destination point. But, that's hard when it comes to hitchhiking. It's impossible to predict how many rides it will take you from Berlin to Amsterdam. It can be one, but you can also end up somewhere in the Netherlands, 45min till Amsterdam, with no ride for two hours while it's getting really dark. Always make more plans. If the weather is good, always carry a sleeping bag or tent and world is your home, but if it's rainy, be sure to check with the community on Couchsurfing.com or find a cheap hostel. It makes it much easier and more comfortable to travel with back up plan.
Find a good spot
When it comes to choosing the right place to start, one thing you need to know is that you CAN'T hitchhike from everywhere. The first rule is that cars don't that fast – in that case, they can't stop. And you want them to stop. So, try finding a place that is visible from distance and it's also wide so the car or truck can stop to pick you up. If you are not sure about this, try asking locals if they've seen any hitchhikers around or if you're changing rides, ask the driver for the best place to move in. In my experience, this is the best way. Especially, if you're nice to them, they will even change their course to leave you at the best possible place. Great spots for hitchhiking are gas stations where you can actually talk to people when they stop and ask them for a ride, bus stations or any other widening of the road, crossroads, borders and so on... In any case, don't walk. You will change nothing. Stick to your location!
Find a good map
We live in times of Google maps and all other apps but keep in mind that when you're on the road for some time, your battery can die and you can feel a little bit helpless. That's why you always have to write all the important addresses and other data in your notebook! This is a must! And you have to provide yourself with a good map of the region you're traveling to. When choosing the route, stick to the one that is used the most. Don't mind if it's longer for a few kilometers or more, it will pay back to you! The worst thing on the road is no traffic. When there are cars, somebody will stop. The problem is when there are no cars.
Sign & Clothes
One of the most important things is to show the drivers where you're headed to! That is also one of the indicators you're traveling for a longer time. So, pack a few cardboard pieces and a marker and always write the name of the city you're going to. Make it big and clear. Reuse the paper. Be kind to the environment. In my talks to drivers that gave me rides, I found out how they (mostly) choose whether they will stop or not. Of course, they would always pick girls rather than boys because they found us less possibly dangerous. Also, drivers pick up travelers so make sure your backpack is showing. Stay clean as much as possible. Don't hitchhike while raining if it's possible. People don't like dirt in their cars. Always smile and show a positive attitude. Remember, somebody gave you a ride for free! Thank them by being a great travel company. Share your stories, listen to theirs! There is nothing better!