How To Hitchhike Safely

Whether you're hitchhiking across Europe or just trying to hitch a ride, there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it. It is not just as easy as standing by the side of the road with your arm outstretched and your thumb pointing towards the sky.

You are putting your trust (and often your safety) in the hands of stranger. However, it can be a great way to meet a local and get a free ride to your destination. 

It's a lot easier to hitchhike during the summer season, or the tourist season of your next destination. 

During the winter season in some parts of Europe, tourism shuts down so it can be hard to get to some tourist attractions. Hitchhiking is a great way to get to destinations that would be impossible to get to without your own transport.

We got stuck at the Greek-Macedonian border when the people we hitching a ride with, were stopped by customs. It took us another 4 hours before someone else would take us to the next town. 

Before You Hit The Road

In some countries, hitchhiking is an normal form of travel that locals use. In others, it may be seen as something very bizarre. It always pays to find out some information before you hit the road. 

  • Find out if hitchhiking is legal in the country you are traveling in and consider whether it is the best mode of transport for you.
  • Find out the accepted signal for hitching in the country you are in.
  • Find out if payment is expected in return for giving you a ride.
  • Learn some of the local language - it's hard to get a lift if drivers can't understand your pronunciation.

Getting A Ride

Getting a ride can be the most challenging (and boring) parts of hitchhiking - use these tips to maximise your chances of getting a lift. 

  • Try to wait in a place where drivers can see you from a long way off, and can pull off the road easily.
  • It's a lot easier to hitchhike on the entry to a highway than from the middle of a town or city (but first you must make your way to the highway entry)
  • A great place to hitchhike is just after somewhere that the traffic has to stop (e.g. a toll booth or border crossing).
  • If you are in a public area (e.g. a petrol station) don't be afraid to ask! The worst that will happen is you will be told "no".
  • Wear light colours - it makes it easier to see you.
  • Don't smoke while hitching - this may turn drivers off.

Hitchhiking Safety

While choosing to hitchhike is regarded by some as a risky way to travel, it can be fun, rewarding and very cheap! The safety of hitching depends on many factors, and it is up to you to assess the risks and decide if the experience and free ride are worth it.

  • Hitching alone is more hazardous than with a friend.
  • Carry a working mobile phone.
  • Get the make, model and number plate of the vehicle before you get in.
  • Check that the child lock is off on the back doors if you are getting in the back seat.
  • Hitching at night is not advisable.
  • Make sure you have a plan in case something goes wrong (e.g. carry two wallets in case you get robbed).
  • Above all, trust your instincts. If a ride does not feel safe, do not get in the vehicle. You will get another ride (eventually)...

Finally, try to make it a good experience for everyone involved. Always be happy and polite, and try to bring something you can give the driver (e.g. share some chocolate). 

Hitchhiking is not for everybody, but remember to also consider your safety first. Read more essential travel safety advice here, or read more about different travel styles that may suit you better. 

› Hitchhiking Safely

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