Hitchhiking is one of those things you are advised against, but as a digital nomad you are probably going to experience it. There is no denial it’s a stressful and dangerous experience, so you need to know everything about it, so here is your hitchhiking guide. And yes, you do need to bring a towel 🙂
First thing first: is it legal?
There are many countries where hitchhiking is illegal, so you need to inform yourself before doing it. Now, there are rules meant to be broken. This means in some countries hitchhiking is accepted by the police, in others you will get in trouble if they spot you doing it. Another detail about illegal hitchhiking is that many countries forbid pedestrians from being on highways, which is highly dangerous. So, if you are couple of miles away from the highway, you can hitchhike legally.
How to hitchhike
We’re talking about hitchhiking, but do you really know how to do it? The best way is to use a card and write your destination, plus something interesting, such as “Just showered” or “I have good stories”. If you are traveling in a country where English is not the first language, it helps to write that you can talk the native language.
Make sure the sign is easy to read from afar, so drivers have enough time to stop after reading it.
You can also skip the sign and use the thumb, but most drivers like to know if you are doing further than they are.
Another type of creative approach is using props; wearing a fake cast or costume, dancing, etc, can help in some cases.
Where to hitch-hike
Generally, the highway is not advised, because it’s a dangerous place. Instead, choose an area near a highway entrance, where cars can see you, they have enough space to stop and police won’t mind. Another bad place for hitchhiking are intersections, because the cars can’t stop to pick you up. However, couple of meters away from the intersection might be the best spot.
Hitchhiking in a city is definitely a bad idea, so just pick the bus. The same goes for hitchhiking in an airport. The place is full of people and no one is going to stop, especially because there is a lot of police around.
If you come across a spot where there are a lot of hitchhikers, you have to be polite and make sure you stay beyond them, especially if there are multiple people going in the same direction you are.
Useful tips on hitchhiking
There are two types of hitchhikers: those who manage to secure a ride and those who don’t. What makes the difference between the two categories is mostly how they look, as this is how they leave a first impression on the drivers, convincing them to pick them up or not.
Wear clean, nice clothes
Few people are keen to pick up a fellow who looks dirty, so make sure you look clean. And that your clothes don’t have traces of blood, nor are orange. This is not a joke! When it comes to facial hair, it’s best to look as groomed as possible.
Don’t be a human Christmas tree of bags
What drivers hate most is picking up someone who has a lot of bags. This means time lost making room for all the luggage, which is not fun. In many cases, drivers can’t even accommodate your bags. Bottom all, try to travel light. A backpack or two bags are just enough luggage for a digital nomad hitchhiker.
Show your face to the world – no sunglasses, hats or other items which hide your face.
Wearing a big smile always helps, as it gives confidence to people.
The time of the day is very important
Hitchhiking successfully depends on the time of the day as well. Just think about it: would you pick someone off the road when you are coming back from work and rush home to eat and sleep? Or when you have your kid with you?
No, you wouldn’t! So, rush hours must be avoided and in most parts of the world they occur between 7-9AM and 4-6PM.
In emergency… DROP ALL RULES!
In emergency case, drop all the above rules and play the role of the desperate hitchhiker. Just don’t be too desperate. Pity always works in the amazing world of hitchhiking.
Who would leave a poor human dressed in a shirt and shorts out in the freezing rain when the sun is going down?
Hitchhiking safety tips
Hitchhiking can be dangerous, there is no denial about that, so you need to be alert and take all the precautions when it comes to safety. Here are some useful tips.
Always have a charged phone with you
A phone can help you a lot when you are in trouble. You can call or text someone, send your location, photo the license plate and do whatever it takes if you stumble upon a bad driver.
It’s great to have a partner
Especially for girls, it’s better to have a hitchhiking partner. You can share the fun and help each other if something goes wrong. A hitchhiking duo is great, a trio decreases your chances to get a car, while a foursome needs to be divided into two teams of two.
Gamble it on your own intuition
In the end, you need to trust your own intuition when you are hitchhiking. If your gut is telling you to refuse a driver or ask him to stop, do it. It’s always difficult to say something to a driver, but your intuition won’t lie.
Is it good to have a weapon?
This is a delicate question. Some hitchhikers choose to have a sort of weapon with them, while others choose to rely on their own intuition and faith. If you do feel the need to have a weapon, make sure it’s one which won’t affect you as well. For example, a pepper spray would affect you as well, when used in a car.
Hitchhiking can be fun and can teach you a lot about locals and life. It can also teach you a lot about yourself. Depending how you look at it, hitchhiking can be an amazing opportunity.