How to Be a Good Hitchhiker – 6 Rules to Follow

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Up until recently I always viewed hitchhiking as something that no-one seriously does (except in films or for charity events).

That was until I met Dan; a young fellow who manage to hitchhike from Bristol to New Quay (around 170 miles of winding roads) in less than a day.

I was amazed at how easy he perceived hitchhiking to be, and how much he seemed to enjoy it. We were supposed to be meeting up in New Quay on a particular day, and such was his confidence in his hitchhiking ability that he decided to hitchhike when he could have easily gotten the train instead.

The truth with hitchhiking is that some people are better at it than others.

Fortunately (as with many things in life) the things that make a good hitchhiker can be taught and are fairly simple.

Upon meeting Dan I got him to teach me the ways of hitchhiking, which I will now impart upon you

Rule 1 – Find a Good Location

Major metropolitan areas that are congested with traffic are bad places to pick up lifts, as most people are late or won’t consider stopping.

Upside down hitchhikerInstead, try your luck outside of such areas, where people are likely to be traveling longer distances and will have time to stop for a friendly hitchhiker.

In addition to this, put yourself in the mindset of the driver. If they see someone hitchhiking and they want to pick them up, they’ll need a large enough distance to be able to safely stop.

Whilst driving to my cousin’s house a few months ago I was coming off the motorway and spotted two hitchhikers clearly doing a charity hitchhike (where they earn a certain amount of sponsorship money for every mile they travel). I wanted to stop and pick them up, but as they were positioned right on the corner of the exit there was no way anyone could stop there.

Rule 2 – Make Yourself a Sign

Without a sign you’re just a person standing at the side of the road with your thumb in the air. Carrying a sign instantly tells people you’re a hitchhiker as well as telling them where you’re going.

The sign you make doesn’t have to be extravagant – a simple piece of cardboard with clear black letters written on it in market pen is fine.

“Travel is not about getting from point A to point B. At best that’s tourism–at worst transportation–across a more or less sterile landscape. Real travel is about soaking up the local flavor, getting a sense of other people’s lives, and their history.”

Rule 3 – Avoid Looking Like a Hobo

Before setting off on a hitchhike (is that the word for it?) try to smarten yourself up as much as you can, take a shower and shave (if necessary).

You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but avoid wearing ripped clothes and make sure they’re clean.

Think about it from the driver’s perspective: Would you want a dirty looking, smelly person getting in your car? Or would you prefer someone who looks clean and well-groomed?

As well as looking reasonably smart, make some attempt to look nice and friendly. Avoid wearing sunglasses and all black clothes.

Rule 4 – Limit Yourself to One Bag Per Person

As a general rule, try not to carry with you more than one large item of luggage (which will usually be your backpack). Anymore and you might find that your luggage won’t fit in the vehicle that’s stopped.

hitchhiker's guide bookAgain, you don’t want to make it seem like stopping to pick you up is going to be a lot of bother. Why would a driver who doesn’t know you stop and clear out their back seat just so you’ve got somewhere to put the 5 bags you shouldn’t have brought with yoU?

Rule 5 – Limit the Amount of People Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking on your own is fine. Two people together is fine (in fact, I’ve found that two people hitchhiking together have a much better chance of getting cars to stop, as for some reason two people seem a lot less threatening than one).

Anymore and you’re asking for trouble, as very few people will have the required amount of room.

Rule 6 – Pick the Optimal Time of Day

As it happens, rush hour is frequently the WORST time to hitchhike, as most people driving at that time are either going to work (and don’t want to be late) or going home (in which case they want to get home as quickly as possible after a stressful day).

In my experience, the middle of the day (after 9am and before 4:30pm) is the best time to hitchhike, as it’s still light outside (meaning people can see you easily).

Most people on long-distance journeys will avoid rush hours also (especially if they’re passing through cities).

Remember that every state/country has their own hitchhiking laws, and that in some areas it is ILLEGAL, so make sure to check the local laws of the land before setting off.

Related posts:

  1. How to Be a Good Traveler
  2. Solo Travel – Five Rules to Live By

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