Is it better to use hitchhiking signs or just put your thumb up? Read these hitchhiking tips to hitchhike more effectively.
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Hitchhiking Signs: When to Use Them

Is it better to use hitchhiking signs or just put your thumb up? Read these hitchhiking tips to hitchhike more effectively.

You should use hitchhiking signs wisely. Using a sign when hitchhiking can help You get faster where You want to go only if where You are there are drivers going where You go. Otherwise signs will work against You as only a small percentage of people will stop to tell You that they are headed your way but not reaching your destination while the majority after reading your sign will tell You that they are not going there or ignore You completely.

If You have a sign with a destination written on it and drivers are not going precisely there, the majority of people will not realize immediately that even some kilometers towards your destination can make a difference for You as hitchhiker so they will continue driving without stopping.

Based on my hitchhiking experience accumulated during the years, generally speaking putting your thumb up instead of using a sign will sooner or later make someone stop to pick You up. This because staying on the side of the road with the thumb up is seen in most of the countries as "looking for a ride".

If You have little or no hitchhiking experience, is always better to use only your thumb to get rides, or when able approach people and speak to them directly. In time, as You will accumulate experience, You will be able to understand better when You should use a sign and when not use a sign when hitchhiking.

In places where there are drivers stopped to have a break, or to refuel, like in petrol stations, rest areas or parking lots, my experience recommends that to hitchhike effectively is always better to approach the drivers and speak to them politely. In this case smiling and being friendly is crucial.

If You are having a break in a bar or restaurant that is along your route and You are sure that drivers going where You go stop there for a coffee or lunch break as well, make your sign visible next to You while You enjoy your break so that people going where You go and willing to offer rides to hitchhikers can come to You to offer You a ride.

Engaging drivers directly is active hitchhiking. Waiting for someone to notice and stop to pick You up is passive hitchhiking. Active hitchhiking is always more effective than passive hitchhiking. Because speaking to someone gives to that
Hitchhiking signs: when to use them
person the opportunity to see that You are friendly and a good person. While in passive hitchhiking is possible to convey this only little and a major factor is played by your appearance. So if the location where You are allows it, always opt for active hitchhiking. When You are doing active hitchhiking, making a sign with your destination written on it will always increase your chances to find a ride. From a technical point of view, what You are supposed to do is to first write your destination on a sign and then walk around to drivers to speak with them showing them your sign in case they do not understand You clearly. Here is a true story that happened to me which shows the effectiveness of this hitchhiking technique:
In January 2015 I was hitchhiking towards Poland and I was in the petrol station Murska Sobota on the motorway in Slovenia, which was a main stopping point for truck drivers headed towards Poland coming from Spain, France, Italy and other cities in Slovenia. As soon as I got there I made a sign with my next destination point on my hitchhiking route written on it. I then started to walk around the petrol station looking for drivers to engage in conversation while I was holding the sign in one of my hands so that people could read it while I was walking around. As I was walking between the lots where the trucks were parked, a truck driver that was there for the short 45' break after reading my sign rolled down the window and said to me "Hey You! Come here!". I went to him and he told me that he was going to Czech Republic and that I could go with him since my next point on my hitchhiking route was also on his driving route. I gladly accepted his offer.

When writing your destination on your hitchhiking sign, make sure that the letters are equidistant and that what You write is clearly readable from 20-30 meters. The purpose of hitchhiking signs is to convey in the shortest possible time where the hitchhiker wants to go. Nothing else. So keep your sign simple and avoid adding drawings, decorations or anything else that would only create confusion in who tries to read your sign. The optimum size of each letter on your sign is the size of the letters that You see on the registration plates of the majority of vehicles in your country.

In countries in which on the vehicle registration plates are indicated the province codes where the vehicle was registered, is possible to write these province codes on your hitchhiking sign instead of the full name of the city where You are going. However, based on my personal experience I can say that sometimes, especially in countries that are big and have lots of such provinces, writing the code of your destination city instead of its full explicit name can create confusion in the drivers reading your sign, so generally speaking is always more effective to write the full name of where You want to go instead of the province code. You should use the province codes only when You are 100% sure that their meaning is crystal clear to the majority of the people who drive around the country where You are. Hitchhiking signs that create confusion are not only useless, but often counterproductive as well, so if You decide that is better for You to use a sign, then keep it simple, keep it clear.

When You are doing passive hitchhiking, whether You are using a sign or just your thumb, over the years I noticed that better results are obtained when greeting the driver with your free hand while using your thumb or holding the sign in your other hand. It happened quite often to me that drivers when first saw me did not stop but stopped 50-100 meters behind me and when I asked them what made them change their mind they answered "I liked that You greeted me - it gave me the feeling that You are a respectful person".

When You are doing active hitchhiking remember to always say "Thank You" and greet the driver. Sometimes it happened to me that first when I engaged in conversation drivers that were parked for a short break their answer was "No" and then when they were about to leave they came to me to invite me to go with them as they changed their mind because at the end of the conversation I showed respect by politely thanking for their attention and then greeting them as "goodbye".

Sometimes You will find people that are in bad mood or xenophobic and they will have a negative attitude towards You, like insulting You without any reason - also in this case You should smile and say "Thank You" and then leave. Never lose your patience or allow anybody to destroy your good mood because your mood has a direct effect on your attitude and your attitude is one of the three key elements which determine your success or failure in getting rides.

Written by Claudio Adriano Dobre, 2017

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See also

      > How to Hitchhike Safely Preventing Common Dangers

      > Where to Sleep When Hitchhiking & Backpacking

      > How to Hitchhike Effectively No Matter Where You Are

      > The Importance of Smiling in Communication

      > Things to Carry While Hitchhiking & Backpacking

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Hitchhiker and adventurer from Europe Adriano: welcome to my website dedicated to the art of hitchhiking
My name is Claudio Adriano Dobre - hitchhikers from Europe know me simply as "Adriano".
Started to hitchhike in 2004 and every year I hitchhike around ten thousand kilometers.
Welcome to my website.
Learn how to hitchhike safely and effectively with my tips and insights based on my personal experience accumulated during the years practicing this sport.

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