Hitchhiking can be as simple as standing at the side of the road and holding up your thumb. Anyone can do it, but there are definitely ways to increase your chances of catching a ride. Follow these five tips to have a successful trip.
1. Choose the right spot to catch a ride
There are good places and bad places to try to hitch a ride. For safety and to improve your chances, find a spot where you’ll be visible to passing cars and that allows them enough time to stop. Straightaways with good visibility are best. You also want to find a spot with a wide enough shoulder to allow a car to safely pull off the road. This isn’t always possible on rural highways, but it’s important to consider.
If you’re in a city it’s best to get yourself at least to the edge if not a few miles beyond city limits. If you’re within the boundaries you’re going to catch people running errands or on their way to work. They could be going anywhere and aren’t likely to take the time to stop.
Go where the cars are. Gas station exits (outside of town) are great places to catch a ride. Cars are going slowly enough to see you and stop. They can also get a better look at your smiling face, which will make them want to help you.
Photo by Dino Reichmuth
2. Look positive
Speaking of smiling faces, it’s important to look friendly and patient. The inside of a car is a small space. No one wants to share it with someone who’s in a bad mood. Do what you can to show the driver that you’re a pleasant, well-adjusted traveler and they’re much more likely to stop.
No one is entitled to a ride, and hitchhiking takes a lot of patience. If you’re getting frustrated because no one is stopping it’s going to show in your expression and body language. Take a break, calm down, and resume your spot once you’re feeling relaxed and patient.
3. Right time of day
During rush hour there are loads of cars on the road but it’s actually not a great time to catch a ride. People are in a hurry and stressed out by traffic. It can be difficult for drivers to pull over and get back into traffic. It’s a high pressure situation for many and best to avoid it.
That said, daylight is certainly better than after dark. People feel less secure at night and less likely to take the (perceived) risk. It’s also less safe for you to be standing at the side of the road in the dark.
4. Be prepared to talk to your lift
A lot of people who pick up hitchhikers do so because they’re bored and want someone to talk to. If you get in and immediately fall asleep or stare out the window in silence your lift might decide to drop you off sooner. Instead, be prepared to chat. Ask them about themselves and be willing to share. They’re probably going to want to hear about your travels and you should have plenty of hitchhiking stories to share. Having a stimulating conversation will make the miles fly by and you’ll be at your destination before you or your lift know it.
5. Ask the server
If you find yourself at a truck stop with a restaurant go in and have a coffee or meal. Strike up conversation with your server and let them know you’re looking for a ride. They likely know drivers and might be willing to help you ask them for a lift. If you’re spending money at the restaurant they’re not going to hassle you about hitchhiking.
Of course, be polite and never demanding. Again, no one is entitled to a ride. If the server decides to help you out, thank them and leave a generous tip.
There are more tips and tricks that have worked for seasoned hitchhikers. With practice and experience you’ll develop your own style and approach. These tips should give you a good foundation to start your hitchhiking adventure.