For an fast and easy hitchhike trip you should follow a few useful hints before you start your journey. While hitchhiking, there are two fundamental locations, which are the most important ones on your trip: the city you will start in and the intermediate spots, which are most likely, at least in western Europe, petrol stations on the motorways. For both there are a few factors which you can influence to shorten your waiting time. Not only do you want to be fast to win the race, but you should also care about your safety! Read through carefully, some of those could be considered as golden rules or commandments!
If you want to dig further, internet offers plenty of information. Check out for example: Hitchwiki or Wikivoyage.
Choose your hitchhiking spot wisely
A good hitchhiking spot should have ideal circumstances for the driver to pull over, stop without holding up traffic. red traffic lights, bus stops or very wide shoulders are often very good and recommendable spots!
The traffic should be very relaxed and not hectic so that the driver does not only has to focus on the traffic but has the opportunity to see you waiting besides the road.
Help yourself locating your spot with internet
For almost every city in Europe other hitchhikers were previously searching for hitchhiking spots and shared their experiences on the Hitchwiki, where you can find descriptions and maps how to reach a hitchhiking spot by public transport or by foot. A more than useful resource that usually saves you a lot of waiting time and energy. If you’ve made your own research feel free to add spots and hints on the Hitchwiki. Check https://www.hitchwiki.org
Use a map service like Gmaps or OpenStreetMap or conventional atlases.
Orientate yourself on the road network and look for the big main roads where cars enter and leave a city. The more you get out of the inner-city, the bigger is the chance you filter off the local traffic. It’s worth to search for petrol stations close to the motorway or bigger roads on Gmaps or OpenStreetMap, because drivers tend to refill their cars before leaving a city and covering bigger distances. It’s usually a good opportunity to ask for a ride to the next bigger petrol station on the motorway and keep on hitchhiking from there.
Draw attention and be prepared
Draw attention! A sign with your best handwriting obviously helps, but small gimmicks for entertaining the people might become in very helpful! Get yourself, let’s say for example, play the guitar, bring your favorite teddy with you, a bubble gun or anything else which you think could help you to get a lift! Find the right balance and don’t over do it, otherwise people might think you just escaped from the closest asylum!
Talk to people at petrol stations
In general it is always better to talk to the potential lifts! A sign might also work at the petrol station but works much slower. Probably the easiest way to get in touch with the driver is, when he or she is filling up petrol! But it could also be on the way to the cashier, the only important thing is that you ASK, keep on ASKING and ask even more! Don’t be afraid! You might feel stupid and embarrassed to talk to strangers and sometimes even be rejected. But actually they can’t say more then “no”.
Once you got over your doubts and worries you will realize how much it can be to talk to the people at the petrol station and most of them are actually pretty friendly! It’s usually said asking divides waiting time by two compared to standing with a sign.
Tell them your story, don’t just ask for a lift! Tell them, who you are, where you are from and where you want to go. It gives the people a feeling of trust and often breaks the ice.
If not never ever, avoid as much as possible standing on the side of a road in darkness. Visibility for drivers is drastically reduced and it’s actually in this situation bad accidents are most likely to happen. At night, a driver sees a pedestrian at a distance of:
only 30 meters, if wearing dark clothes
50 meters, if dressed with light clothing
around 150 meters if equipped with retroreflective tapes
Remember that at a speed of already 70 km/h, a driver will need 100 meters or more to stop. If you don’t want to be game over:
go to big petrol stations which are usually well illuminated and where cars drive slowly
stay inside cities where the speed limit is most likely 50 km/h and stand on illuminated roads
wear a safety reflective vest or at least enough reflective tape.
FIRST TIME HITCHHIKING
Check and follow the tricks and tips above!
Hints about hitchhiking spots, petrol stations, equipment etc are always helpful for everyone and should be checked out prior to your first trip! Of course, you would eventually get to your desired aim without a road map, a recommended hitchhiking spot to start the journey and total lack of plan… but trust us- it is often more fun when you leave out unnecessary trouble :)
Hitchhike with a partner!
Life is more fun when you share! This of course also applies to hitchhiking. May it be the waiting besides the road, disappointments at the petrol stations or loss of motivation… It is always good to have someone around you in these times! It is simply more fun.
Know your distance!
If you don’t want to get stuck at a petrol station in the middle of the night, you should plan a manageable distance for each day. The distance depends very much on the country or even the region you hitchhike in, simply because one doesn’t drive as fast on a dirt road than on a bright new german motorway. And it relies also a bit on your lucky star ! You may easily manage 800 kms one day, and only 50 kms the next one…
An early start raises your chances to arrive at your destination before dusk. For most of Europe, in the early morning, the commuter traffic starts and between 7 and 9, it is rush hour traffic. A lot of business men have to drive to their meeting in an empty car, sometimes covering long distances. They are often more than happy to have some company. So catching the early worm could be worth it!
Although a general rule for every time, especially at the beginning it is important that you only get into cars, where you feel absolutely safe and secure. If there is only the slightest feeling of doubt or skepticism: DO NOT ENTER and turn down the ride politely! The next car will come, for sure. In case of doubt, it is better to wait a little longer than have an uncomfortable first experience.
Pack enough food and drinks!
Nearly all the petrol stations are rip-offs! So it might be worth to prepare some sandwiches back home and pack enough drinks such as water or coffee in you bag! This does not only safe you money but often also tastes much better!
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