Today’s challenge is to teach you guys how to do something. I thought that I would teach you how to hitchhike.
I won’t lie, there is something both awkward and terrifying about standing on a roadside by yourself with your thumb out, hoping for a complete stranger to give you a ride, but I do love hitchhiking.
Now, before we get into this tutorial, I would like to add that I am not advocating hitchhiking in every location and circumstance (I hitchhiked in New Zealand where hitchhiking is common place and arguably safer than other countries.) There is always the danger that something will go wrong every time you get into a car, and I completely understand why many people don’t want to take that risk and don’t like encouraging others to embark on a hitchhiking adventure.
However, how I hitchhike and how I try to minimize the dangers are questions that people always ask me. Especially because I am a young woman travelling alone.
So, here are the basics:
1. Prepare your route. Know the various routes to your destination and familiarise yourself with the towns that are on the way. Much of the time you will have to take multiple rides, and when someone says that they can take you as far as X, you need to know where X is.
2. Carry a map with you. Keep it in your hand. Know where you are going! Also, sometimes the driver isn’t sure if they can drop you near your destination and will need to look at the map.
3. Set off early in the morning. When it comes to hitchhiking, the earlier you leave the better. Your transport is unreliable and your arrival time is far from set. Plus, when you leave midday the traffic is usually slowing, making it harder to get a ride.
4. Find yourself a good spot:
- Where the traffic is slow (e.g. stand in the 60km/hr zone and not the 80km/hr zone.)
- A nice straight stretch of road where it is easy for the driver to spot you. Make sure they have plenty of room to slow down and there is a place for them to pull over.
- In cities, this may mean getting yourself out onto the outskirts. Be prepared to walk.
- When in doubt, as in a hostel or information centre where a good hitchiking spot is.
5. Make a sign. This is optional, but a sign stating where you are going can make a big difference. Make sure the letters are big and bold – the driver needs to be able to read them from a distance.
6. Stick out your thumb (and/or hold your sign.)
7. Smile! Coming across as friendly and approachable goes a long way in getting a ride. At the end of the day, it is as much a risk for the driver to give you a ride as it is for you to take it.
8. Try to limit yourself to one bag. If you have multiple bags, not only are you making your journey even tougher when you have to walk, but you are also putting off potential rides as many cars just won’t have room!
9. Try not sit down. It’s always tempting to sit down on your bag, but try and resist. It doesn’t give the best impression to drivers and it makes it harder for them to see you clearly.
1. Tell someone where you are going. If you don’t contact them by a certain time they can raise an alarm.
2. Note down the licence plate number and text it to a friend. I don’t do this, but if you are really worried it can be a good precaution. If the driver says anything, just give a roll of the eyes and say, “My mum/dad/partner/friend is super paranoid and wants me to take the licence plate numbers of the cars I get into just in case. Crazy, I know.” In my experience, most drivers wouldn’t judge you – they would actually praise you for being sensible, especially if you’re a woman. And if they do make a fuss, it’s actually a very good sign to not get in the car.
3. Keep a phone with you in your hand so that you can make a quick phone call if necessary.
4. Take photos of the view. If you have an android phone, make sure the GPS is on and take photos along the way. Post them on your social media sites. The images will be embedded with your location, making your location easy to track. Even if your phone died later (thus turning off the GPS tracker people use to track the phone when their phones are stolen), you will still have left a trail of breadcrumbs. (Let someone know that this is the intention of the photos.)
5. If you don’t like the look of a ride, don’t get in. Usually women are worried about taking rides with men. If it’s a male driver, just say, “Sorry, I only take rides with women.”
6. Only take rides with female drivers.
7. Don’t hitchhike after dark. Drivers find it hard to spot you and you’re more vulnerable.
8. Find a hitchhiking buddy. Two heads are always better than one!
Most importantly, NEVER forget: if you don’t feel safe hitchhiking, don’t do it! It’s OK to not feel safe and it’s better to take a bus than sit in a state of constant anxiety. You may also find that you feel safer on some routes than others, so you can maybe just hitchhike on shorter journeys and take buses on longer ones.
As I said, there is always a risk involved.
However, I love hitchhiking and it was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. I hope my guide helps!