How to plan and where to stand
Since hitchhiking really only requires you to stand at the side of the road with an arm out, its possible to hitchhike from anywhere. However, by planning a little and finding a good spot, you highly increase the chances of being picked up.
Hitchhiking is never fun if you are stressing, so don’t have a timeframe, or at least plan with a lot of buffer time. Its more fun if you can enjoy being stranded at random places, and say yes when people offer to show you’re their town or invite you for a meal (yes this actually happens, and more often than you would think).
A word to the wise: like all other plans, it’s quite likely that your plans will fall through so be flexible and adapt along the way.
Step nr. 1: Planning the route
Sometimes I don’t have specific places I want to go, but rather a “North to south” or “East to West” plan in my mind and then I see where I end up. Other times, I specifically need to go from city A to city B. Regardless I always start by checking out if the city I’m in is featured on hitchwiki. This sit is good for gaining info on where to go and stand in places you aren’t familiar with. In addition, I plot in my route on google maps (if I don’t have a specific destination in mind, I find a city that is in the general direction). Once it has given me a route, I look at the area around the end of the city and see if there are any good spots around there (see step nr. 2). I take note of which cities/towns are on the way, and use them as reference points once I’m on my way.
Note!! One thing I have learned through the years: Its better to take the most used road, as opposed to the shortest way. This however is hard to know beforehand, especially if you are in unknown territory. The best way to figure this out is by speaking to the locals. Sometimes tollbooths can mean that people take a different way that is a bit longer, but free.
Step nr. 2: How to find a good spot
Finding a good spot for hitchhiking makes it both easier and safer. However, it’s not always easy to find said spot, especially when traveling to new places.
The general characteristics of a good spot is that a lot of cars pass at a relatively slow speed, that you are visible from far away and that the cars can pull over and stop without any danger to them or other cars. If you follow this advice, you should be all right. Below I have chosen to focus on the most common places you will be hitchhiking and what I normally do in those situations.
Important! The drivers will most likely give you advice on where you should continue hitchhiking from, even if they have zero knowledge of hitchhiking. So listen to their advice with caution, listen to your intuition, learn from your mistakes and then make your own decision.
If I’m leaving a big city
Find the last exit point of the city (obviously in the direction in going) and look for a place where a lot of roads meet up or a petrol station, as this will increase the amount of people passing. Try and speak with a local about how it actually looks there. If they speed past it wont be a good spot, but if there is a lot of traffic lights it will mean they go slower and you have longer to seduce them. To get there I normally take a local bus.
If I’m at a petrol station
If there are many cars, I just go around asking if anybody is going in my direction. It can be a bit much in the start, but you quickly get used to it. Just make sure to ask in a polite way. I always have good luck at petrol stations as I can speak to people, and they can see that I’m not totally crazy.
Some petrol stations won’t allow you to go around the cars. In that case, walk a couple of meters to the exit and throw out that thump
If I’m on the highway
Honestly, as far as it is possible I try and go from petrol station to petrol station. Even if the petrol station is before their exit, its more likely to get a ride onward from there, than from their town/city. If they take me towards their city/town, I tend to stay at the entrance to the highway, waiting for new cars. Sometimes you will have to walk to get there. If standing at the entrance (or the ramp) make sure that the car can pull over safely and that other cars can still pass without problems.
If I’m on a normal road
If the cars go slowly past and if I’m visible, I tend to stay where I am. If they can’t stop where I am, I tend to start walking until I find a suitable spot.
If your spot isn’t working, look at your map (try and bring a map) and see if there are any cities, petrol stations, tollbooths or rest stops nearby and head there by foot. Sometimes you will have to walk for a long time so make sure to have water with you (obviously)
If I’m in a small city
Walk or take a bus to the end of the city and find a place there the drivers can see me, where they can stop safely and where there is something to eat in case I get stuck.
Step nr.3: I'm standing at a good spot, what now?
Well now the most important part begins. Start by putting your arm out and throw your thump in the air. Some people wave the thump around, others told it out casually, you will figure out your own technique with time. A good idea is to make eye contact with the drivers, as this will appeal more to them.
Above all else, stay positive and smile. This can become hard if you wait for a long time, but it really helps. People rather pick up someone smiling than a sour puss.Try and look somewhat presentable. People judge you within a split second so look as good, clean and happy as possible.
Some people prefer to use a sign with the name of where they are going, or some fun quote. It can be good, because people will know where you are going. However, people going the same direction, but necessarily that far might not stop because they think it wont be a help to you. Personally I don’t use it. Figure out if it works for you.
Step nr. 4: A car stopped, what now?
More often than not, the driver wont be going to the exact same place as you, but they might be able to drop you off at a closer point, or a place where the chances of a ride is higher than where you currently are. Maybe the next town/city, the next petrol station or something like that. Here a map is golden, as communication can be hard in foreign countries where you don’t speak the language and don’t know the towns. If they agree to take you get in and enjoy the fruit of your labour.
If you just sit there without saying anything it becomes like a very long elevator ride, so try and make conversation. Even if you don’t speak the language well, try a little and above all be polite. People love that shit.
A couple of no no’s: Don’t fall a sleep and don’t sit with headphones on. People dont like that shit.
Be sure to get out at the right place. Sometimes people forget where you are going, so be a bit aware of how far you are