How to hitchhike, a 5 step hitchhikers guide to anywhere

5 step guide on how to hitchhike

Hitchhiking is great! I love it! I can go on and on about why it's great, tell you stories about my past travels and the great people I've met, but I won't. Not in this post at least. For this post, I decided to make a simple 'how to' on hitchhiking, a hitchhiking for dummies if you want, because I believe that many people are either misinformed or uncertain about hitchhiking.

Hitchhiking may seem scary, dangerous, awkward or cumbersome to some, but I don't believe it is. That is, if you prepare and always put your own safety first. In my previous post on the subject, I answered some of the most frequently asked questions that I encounter when I tell people I love to hitchhike. 

In this post, I have put together a short 5 step plan to keep in mind when on the road, considering you have already taken the proper preparations (e.g. packed your backpack, dressed well, pre-determined the route, etc.). Though probably not a guide to the Galaxy, sticking to this hitchhiking guide will most certainly get you places here on earth.

Step 1: Pick a spot to start hitchhiking

Picking the right spot is the most important step when you start hitchhiking. Don't just be okay with where you happen to be, think about what spots will be most likely to lead to success and consequently your destination. Below are a few of the most important things to consider when picking a spot.

Are there any crossroads up ahead?

If so, this may drastically decrease your chances of getting a ride. Your spot may confuse oncoming drivers as they may not be sure which way you are heading. As a result, they may not pick you up. As long as it's safe, I recommend to move past the crossroad and onto the road by which you wish to continue.

Are you clearly visible?

If not, move on! Being visible increases your chances of being seen and will give drivers more time to decide whether they wish to give you a ride or whether they think you're a creep. When given too little time to decide, you will be less likely to be taken as the driver has already passed before he or she has made up their mind.

Also think of safety. On some roads, cars will be passing you with 100 kilometres an hour. You don't want those to get spooked by the sudden hitchhiker and dodge into the oncoming traffic.

Increase your visibility by, for instance, picking a straight piece of road to stand on, avoid dark and shadowy spots and stand on the upward slope of a hill rather than the downward. Try to avoid hitchhiking at night, not only does this decrease visibility, but chances are also slim that someone will take you.

Are drivers able to stop safely?

After making up their mind on whether or not to take you, the driver has to be able to stop. Make sure to provide them with a place where they can safely stop and pick you up without risking a collision or hindering other traffic. Think of parking spots, emergency stops, small side-streets or driveways. Just make sure it is safe to stop and they have enough time to decide where to stop.

Step 2: Stick your thumb up!

Make clear your intentions! Don't just stand there looking cute, stick up your thumb as the universal symbol of 'I need a ride'. If you have a cardboard sign, great, but still stick up your thumb as well or risk being seen as just a weird guy holding up a sign that - depending on your handwriting - may be difficult to read. 

Look nice and approachable, dress well, smile, and make sure your backpack is visible too. Many people have told me that they only take travellers, as local hitchhikers were often either creeps or robbers.

Step 3: talk to the driver

Someone stopped! Success! But wait, hold your horses. Before getting in or throwing your bags in their car, talk to the driver. Where are they going? How far can they take you? Where do they want you to put your bag? Do they mind that your boots are muddy and will cover the entire footwell with dirt? 
Look at it, 2 kilograms of pure 

Discussing these things will prevent that you hop in the car just to find out he/she is going in a different direction or that you open their trunk and release their highly aggressive Chihuahua... Ugly little monsters!

This is also the moment in which you can get your first impression of the driver and decide whether you want to take this ride. If you don't trust the situation, don't get in! Don't feel like you have to take this ride because he stopped. It's better to stand for another few hours and be safe than end up as... I don't know, there are some crazy people in the world.

Step 4: Get in the car

Is the car going in the right direction and do you trust the situation? By all means, get in! This is the moment you have been waiting for. You are in the car, it's driving, your destination is getting closer, great and strange sceneries come and go. 

But wait, there is more, there is a stranger sitting next to you, what now? Do I talk? Do I wait for him or her to start talking? Yes to both! Nothing is as awkward as having to drive 200 kilometres in an awkward silence, especially since every kilometre feels like five when you're feeling awkward. 

Don't feel anxious about this part. Talking comes natural in most cases, even for an unsocial hitchhiker like me. Most of the people that take you are in for a chat, so it won't be too hard to start the conversation. As long as they do not start talking, that is. 

What to talk about?

I often start with a simple 'thanks for picking me up', which is often all you need for a small chitchat about where you're from, where you're headed, why you're going there, etc. The driver is a person as well, so where is he going, why, what has he been up to, does he take hitchhikers often, etc. There are so many subjects to talk about and - on some rides - just too little time to address all of them. Whatever happens, stay polite and be grateful they picked you up.

Step 5: Getting out

When you're in the car, make sure to discuss your destination and, when it is your final destination, what and where you are going. Locals will probably know the best spot to drop you off and some will even be so nice to take you there even though it is not on their route. If they let you pick your own spot along the road you're driving, keep in mind the points of step 1 and pick a spot that is both safe to stop and great for you to continue hitchhiking.

Don't ever forget that you can get out whenever you want. If you feel unsafe, don't like the driver's driving style or see something along the way you want to check out, politely ask the driver to stop and let you get out.

Step 6: Repeat

Have you reached your destination, great! See, it wasn't scary at all. Not there yet, then repeat these steps until you are.

Keep these five steps in mind and you'll get places. Enjoy this amazing way of travelling and the great (deep) conversations you'll have along the way! Listen, learn and share, who knows where it may lead to. And remember, safety always comes first!

Are you planning a hitchhiking adventure yourself? Pin one of the images below for later re-reading. Do you have any further questions, check out my post on frequently asked questions about hitchhiking or ask them in the comments section.

5 step guide on how to hitchhike
A 5 step plan that shows you how to hitchhike

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