How to Successfully Hitchhike
||Knowing how to successfully hitchhike means
knowing how to find the
most favorable ride
with the minimum investment
of time, energy
In this field, a person is able to truly
learn only from its personal experience -
the more one hitchhikes the more accumulates
experience and the more knows how to successfully
hitchhike. With this I want to say that after
reading my tips You should not expect to
hit the road and be immediately good at doing
it - my hitchhiking tips, just like any other
good tips on hitchhiking, will only provide
You with knowledge that if put in practice
will accelerate the process of becoming effective
at hitchhiking. If You practice this extreme
sport for enough years You will be amazed
to see that learning, in this field, is a
process that never reaches an end.
Understanding how to successfully hitchhike is a process that develops in time and that goes hand in hand with the experience accumulated in this field - the more experience You as hitchhiker will accumulate, the more You will know how to successfully hitchhike. Briefly, what helps to travel by hitchhiking is:
Now I will explain in detail the meaning of each of the points I wrote above.
- Study your hitchhiking route before starting to hitchhike
- Hitchhike from where You think is a good spot, not from where others suggest
- Jump from a good hitchhiking spot to another good hitchhiking place
- To successfully hitchhike, have a friendly appearance
- Have a positive attitude and don't let anything destroy your good mood
- Use your common sense
- Use hitchhiking signs wisely
- Use appropriate outdoor equipment
- Carry luggage as small and light as possible
- Try different hitchhiking techniques
- Hitchhiking safety must not be taken for granted - prevent hitchhiking dangers
In this subchapter, part of my hitchhiking tips concerning how to successfully hitchhike, I am talking about the benefits of knowing in advance what your route offers You, such as where can You have
a warm shower, where can You stop for a break
in a petrol station or
bar to have a warm
drink and refill your bottle
where can You put your
tent to rest well
for the night or where
is the most convenient
place for You to buy food.
Study your hitchhiking route before starting to hitchhike
Hitchhiking, as sport,
can get so extreme
that You might even get
to the point to hate
being on that road in that
to help me, made me hate being there in that moment and myself for having decided to hitchhike in such adverse weather conditions. I almost thought to head back to Rzeszow and buy a plane ticket to fly directly home when on the opposite side of the road I saw a sign indicating that the closest Slovakian village was 2 km away. I decided to walk to that village on the side of the road through the snow hoping to find a bar, petrol station or coffee shop there to get warmer. That is when a Polish couple heading to Hungary stopped and saved me from the freezing cold of the winter.
In January 2014 I was hitchhiking in the southern part of Poland, towards Barwinek border crossing point with Slovakia.
I started at 5 o'clock in the morning hoping to catch a first class longer ride in a truck, it was still dark outside. The air temperature was -22°C; everything was frozen and covered by circa 1 m of snow. Nobody was driving around, the streets of the town were completely empty, the truck drivers were still sleeping and the only things that were attracting the attention of my eyes in the silent darkness of the early morning were the flashing yellow traffic lights at the crossroad where I was.
After about half an hour waiting my feet were freezing, so I decided to walk to the closest petrol station 15 minutes away to get warmer, then after about an hour I went back to the crossroad and finally the second truck that passed stopped and took me. Though there were only 90 km to the border, because of the adverse weather conditions it took almost three hours to Barwinek. The driver decided to stop for the long break, so I had to find another ride.
At the border it was windy, the blowing snow was reducing the visibility and it was really hard to walk on the side of the road in the deep snow. Many cars and trucks were passing, but nobody stopped and after circa 1h in the blowing snow I was so cold that I was feeling I could not take it anymore. The blowing snow, the freezing cold and the fact that nobody wanted to stop
Because it can get so extreme, every little comfort
that You can
benefit of while on the
road is important
for your health and good
mood. Without being
healthy and without good
mood is not possible
great location to engage folks in conversations,
have a break, and even put your tent to sleep
for the night.
Studying your route in advance allows
You to know where You can find rides easier.
For example, is always easier to find rides
engaging other wonderful citizens in conversations rather
than staying on the side of the road waiting
for somebody to notice You and be willing
to pick You up, so You might want to look
for spots along your route where automobilists stop to have a break or refuel, such as petrol
stations, or if You prefer to get rides in
trucks then You might want to go to parking
areas where truckers stop to sleep or have
the short breaks.
The image shows what a huge service station
on a motorway looks like in satellite view
(click on it to see it better) - this is
Another aspect that can be of your interest as hitchhiker, is noticing where the bigger
cities are located in relation to your route and keep in mind that usually in the
mornings people will drive inbound those
bigger cities as they will go to work, while
in the late afternoon and early evenings
they will drive outbound bigger cities as
they will return to their homes from work.
One last thing that is relevant concerning
your route is the type of road that You will
take: is it a national road going mostly
through countryside (this usually translates
into shorter rides at slower speeds and more
time wasted in finding new ones, but the
benefits are that is possible to easily find
food and water in all the villages and towns
along the road and also to camp pretty much
anywhere), is it an express road or maybe
a motorway (this usually means longer rides
at higher speeds and less time wasted in
changing vehicles, but the disadvantage is
that is possible to find water and camp only
in gasoline stations and is necessary to
carry food in your backpack at least for
the next 24 hours until You reach a new supermarket
located in a good location close to another
In some countries the hitchhiking laws forbid
to hitchhike on motorways, so when choosing
a route is wise to ask yourself "Is hitchhiking illegal on motorways in this country?"; also, on motorways is forbidden
to walk so the access to pedestrians is restricted.
Knowing this type of information when You
intend to hitchhike allows You to better
prepare yourself in advance and to better
estimate the time that will take You to cover
a certain distance.
When making an estimation about the distance
that is possible to cover in circa 12 hours,
with consideration to all hitchhiking parameters
that can occur in a day, my experience suggests
that the average speed reduces to as low
as 55 km/h; this means that in circa 12 hours
is possible to cover circa 660 km. Generally
speaking, based on my personal experience
I can say that hitchhiking alone is always
faster than with a hitchhiking companion.
Are parts of your route going through desert or through the
mountains? Knowing this in advance You will
be able to take with You clothes that are
more appropriate for the temperatures and
weather that You will face and will allow
You to make better decisions about where
to stop to sleep for the night. There is
a saying about weather which is absolutely
true when it comes to hitchhiking: "there
is no such thing as bad weather, only bad
Knowing in advance if there are any dangerous predators (like bears for example) in any of the areas cut by your route can prove useful as this way You will be able to make wiser decisions about where to sleep when hitchhiking and backpacking in that specific area.
The study of your route is easy to do using services which provide updated maps and sattelite images, like Google Maps for example.
In this subchapter, part of my tips for hitchhiking concerning how to successfully hitchhike, I am explaining the importance of sticking to your route.
Hitchhike from where You think is a good spot, not from where others suggest
Often, some men and women that will see You on the
street or some of those that will give You rides will recommend
You to go or to take You
to certain places as in their opinion that
is where will be
easy for You to find the
next ride. These folks want to help You.
The problem is that,
unless they have concrete
personal experience in travelling by hitchhiking, the spots they recommend
are no good and in most of
the cases these places
will only translate
into a waste of time, energy
for You. You should not
go to these spots.
Once You study your route You
should know more or less
where You have to
go to find the type of
rides You are interested
in. Go to the spots that You
think are good ones, not
to those recommended
by people who even if they
want to help You
they have no idea what are the requirements for a place in order to be good for finding rides.
In the process of learning how to successfully hitchhike, understanding this hitchhiking technique will save You a lot of time, energy
Jump from a good hitchhiking spot to another good hitchhiking place
Someone who is first time hitchhiking usually
goes to the exit of the city and waits on
the side of the road until gets picked, then
once in a car asks the chauffeur to take
him/her to the center of the next town, then
gets out of the car and repeats the loop
until arrives at his/her destination. On
the other hand, experienced hitchhikers what
usually do is this: first study the route
on which intend to travel and the area from
where intend to start to hitchhike with the
purpose to discover a great location to find
rides, then from that location they find
a specific type of ride that will drop them
to another good hitchhiking spot from where
can easily continue until arrive at destination.
||Excluding boats, aircraft and trains from
these hitchhiking tips, an ideal place to
find rides is where many cars and trucks
going in your direction stop for limited
time, there is a facility there that offers
some sort of
area in between that otherwise would take
a lot more time to cover. Example: lets say that your route crosses
three or more countries and You are at a
border crossing point on an important road
where lots of cars and trucks drive slowly or stop for a short time and they are headed to the next country where
You are also headed - the "jumping" hitchhiking technique in this case consists in finding
one specific direct ride that will take You
from this border crossing point to just before
the next border crossing point, crossing
the entire country in one ride and saving
a lot of time and resources doing so, instead
of taking any ride and going through many
towns and cities.
comfort and the staff working there is friendly (an example of such good hitchhiking
be a service station located
on an important
road that has a big parking
area and a bar,
restaurant or motel where
is possible to
get water and food, stay
warm, use the toilet
services for free and offers
an open unrestricted
wi-fi Internet connection
as well; another
example can be a border
If You are in a place like this then likely
You are in an ideal location to find rides. This hitchhiking technique consists in getting
a ride from a place like this to another
place like this, "jumping" over the geographic
In this subchapter, part of my hitchhiking tips concerning how to successfully hitchhike, I am explaining in which ways a friendly appearance increases your chances in getting rides.
To successfully hitchhike, have a friendly appearance
Hitchhiking depends a lot on how friendly
the hitchhiker is and your appearance as
hitchhiker is one of the major factors which
determine your success or failure in finding
rides. The friendlier and better You look,
the more citizens will be willing to give
You a ride. Appearance is so relevant that
for two different persons who hitchhike on
the same route in the same day the outcome
can be very different.
There is no second chance to make a good first impression. Before starting to hitchhike,
make sure that You are clean and don't look
like anything that can be associated to a
dangerous person in the area where You intend
When approaching people to ask for a ride, smile. As I explained in the "Importance of Smiling in Communication", a smile on your face while You approach
a person to engage him/her
will help You appear more
To engage in conversation someone that stands next to its parked car - just like is common to see in gasoline stations or rest areas - is enough to walk towards the person and stop at circa 2 meters in front of him/her, smile or try to appear friendly when the person sees You, then greet politely and say directly
"Hello :) Are You going to(wards) XXXXX?"
where "XXXXX" is the next point on your route where You want to get (usually a gas station, a border crossing point, an important road junction or simply the name of a city, town or village). If the answer is "Yes", then the next thing to say is as straight forward and clear as the first
"Can I come with You to XXXXX? :)"
and if its answer is "Yes" again then You are ready to go.
Often, folks have little time available, so being straight forward and clear is important.
If who You are approaching sees You while You are walking towards him/her from a distance where You are too far to speak, is important to greet him/her with your hand - this way You will convey that You are friendly and avoid being perceived as a potential danger. You absolutely don't want the person You are approaching to think "Who is this walking towards me and what does it want from me?!". You want to be perceived as a friendly person. Do your best and You will be rewarded with a ride! ;)
In this subchapter, part of my hitchhiking tips concerning how to successfully hitchhike, You will learn why preserving your good mood while hitchhiking makes a big difference.
Have a positive attitude and don't let anything destroy your good mood
Whether You are hitchhiking alone or You
have a travel buddy, sometimes will happen
to get stuck, or You will not have any food
with You left until the next day, or You
will miss an exit on the motorway because
your pronunciation is not that good and your
chauffeur misunderstood You, and many other
unpleasant events can happen which can negatively
influence your mood. Whatever happens, You
should always react in a positive way and
don't let your emotions have a negative impact
on You. Sometimes You will find people that
are in bad mood or xenophobic and they will
have a negative attitude towards You, like
giving You a rude answer when You approach
them to talk or even 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 impact on your attitude
and your attitude is one of the three key
elements which determine your success or
failure in getting rides; always remain calm
and try to preserve your good mood. Our energy
is perceived by who is around us; if You
let your good mood to be destroyed, the next
folks You will approach to ask for a ride
will perceive your negative energy, and guess
what, they will not pick You up.
No matter if You are now reading my hitchhiking website because You are trying to figure out how to successfully hitchhike in Africa, in Australia, or how to hitchhike in Europe, wherever You will find yourself and whatever You will be doing your common sense will always help You avoid most
of the dangers and problems of any sort that could arise
in any of your trips, hitchhiking and backpacking
included. Everything You do, do it with common
Use your common sense
In these hitchhiking tips concerning how to successfully hitchhike by day and at night I am explaining when the use of hitchhiking signs is more effective and when simply puting your thumb up is more effective.
Use hitchhiking signs wisely
You should use hitchhiking
Using a sign when hitchhiking to get faster where You want to go helps You only if where
You are there are citizens 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
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 persons are not going precisely
there, the majority of men and women 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.
In time, as You will accumulate experience,
You will be able to understand better in
which cases use a sign to find rides and
in which use only your thumb.
Over the years I noticed that generally 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
If You are a beginner hitchhiker, is always
better to use only your thumb to get rides,
or when able approach folks and speak to
In places where there are motorists stopped
to have a break, or to refuel, like in petrol
stations, rest areas or parking lots, my
experience recommends that to successfully hitchhike is always better to approach the people 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 located on your route and You are sure
that persons 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 citizens going where You
go and willing to offer rides to hitchhikers
can come to You to offer You a ride.
Engaging people 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 person the possibility to see that You are friendly and a good human being. 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 approaching people and engaging them in conversation.
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 the parking lot to people to speak with them showing
them your sign in order to avoid misunderstandings. This hitchhiking technique will do also another job for You: everybody who will read from a distance your hitchhiking sign while You are walking around the parking lot will know where You are headed and if people are headed your way they may come to You to offer You a ride.
Here is a true story that happened
to me which shows the effectiveness of this technique:
In January 2015 I was headed towards the north-eastern regions of Europe, I was in the petrol station Murska
Sobota on the motorway in Slovenia, which
was a main stopping point for truckers headed
towards the north-eastern parts of Europe 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 route written on
it. I then started to walk around the service
station looking for people 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
trucker that was there for the short 45 minutes
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 route was also on his driving route. I
gladly accepted his offer.
When writing your destination on your 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 the country in which You are.
in which on the vehicle registration
plate is indicated the province code where
was registered, is possible to
this province code on your hitchhiking
instead of the full name of the city
You are going. However, based on my
experience I can say that sometimes,
in countries that are big and
lots of such provinces, writing the
of your destination city instead of
explicit name can create confusion, so generally
is always more effective to write
name of where You want to go instead
province code. You should use the
codes only when You are 100% sure
their meaning is crystal clear to the
of the people who drive around the
where You are. Hitchhiking signs
create confusion are not only useless,
counterproductive as well, so if
that is better for You to use
then keep it simple, keep it clear.
You are doing passive hitchhiking, whether
using a sign or just your thumb,
the years I noticed that better results
when greeting the driver with
free hand while using your thumb or
the sign in your other hand. It happened
often to me that people when first
did not stop but stopped 50-100 meters
me and when I asked them what made
change their mind they answered "I
that You greeted me - it gave me the
that You are a respectful person".
When You are doing active hitchhiking, remember
say "Thank You" and greet
Sometimes it happened to me that
when I engaged in conversation drivers that were parked for a short break their
answer was "No" and then
they were about to leave they came to
invite me to go with them as they changed
mind because at the end of the conversation
respect by politely thanking for
attention and then greeting them as
Quoting a truck driver that I met two times
in two different countries in the same year,
"as hitchhiker You do lots of kilometers
on the right seat, but You do lots of kilometers
on foot as well". Is when You will have no
other choice but to walk that You will have
to be ready to deal with the burning sun
and showering rain in the summers and with
the blowing snow and icy cold in the winters. Even in common circumstances
sooner or later on your route is likely You
will have to walk off-road in order to save
time. Before getting on the road, I strongly
recommend buying a pair of good quality waterproof
hiking shoes and a good quality waterproof
Use appropriate outdoor equipment
In the winter, hitchhiking is not like going for a walk around town for few hours and then returning to your home and enjoying its warmth. Hitchhiking, You will be outdoors from morning until evening, and if among the things to carry while hitchhiking and backpacking You intend to take also a tent with You in order to save money on accommodation, then is likely You will be outdoors during
the night as well. In the
winter, for this
You will have to wear warmer
what You would normally
wear when going for
a walk around town.
In this subchapter, part of my tips about how to successfully hitchhike,
I am showing You the three ways in which
carrying a small and light luggage helps
You to find rides faster.
Carry luggage as small and light as possible
First, there are persons who have little
space in their vehicles (for example those
who drive sport cars) and carrying a big
luggage would make it not possible for those
persons to take You even if they want to.
she came to me and
said "I would
love to help You but your
backpack is too big
for my car." To
which I replied "Is
not so big, I can
keep it on my lap
- I think I fit on the
front seat together
with my backpack on my
lap". She said
"Sorry, that would
not be safe"
and then she went inside
the petrol station
to pay for the fuel. When
she came out, she
came to me again and said
try". My backpack was
38 liters and I barely
fit on the front seat
of her sportcar keeping
it on my lap. It
was a 100 km ride
and I was glad of having
found it, but that
was not a comfortable
because of other
the driver has only
few seconds available
to pick You up or
drop You and carrying
and big luggage would
make it difficult
You to get in/out
the vehicle in just
seconds. Third, hitchhiking
until evening is
already enough tiring,
big and heavy luggage
would make it exhausting.
I remember that in June 2013 when I was hitchhiking
in Armenia I was
in a small petrol station
and an old lady stopped
to refuel. She was
driving a Mazda MX5
- a two seats sportcar.
As soon as she saw
Moral of the story: a smaller luggage is
better - You will enjoy your trip more and
You will find rides faster.
As luggage, is way
more practical to carry
a backpack instead
of a trolley or a bag.
Also, to successfully hitchhike You should
always have your hands free, and carrying
a backpack instead of a trolley or a bag
helps in this as well. Remember that hitchhiking
means also walking a lot.
If You travel by hitchhiking and You get
stuck, based on my personal experience, I
can say that there is always a reason why
it happened - it could be the location, the
people living in that place, the time, or
You. After a while, if You see that what
You have been doing since You got to that
place didn't get You any ride, then don't
insist in doing the same thing thinking that
a miracle will happen, because it won't happen
and You will only waste your time, your energy
and your resources. Instead, stop doing it,
observe and analyze what is going on, the
actions and their effects, and then, with
common sense try a new hitchhiking technique
by doing something different than what You
did up to that moment.
Try different hitchhiking techniques
If You are not hitchhiking alone but have a travel buddy who is more experienced than You, inform your partner of how You perceive
the environment and let him/her make
the decisions about what to do.
Someone once said that "only idiots
expect different results doing the same thing",
which put in other words means that when
we pursue a goal many times we have to try
different ways to achieve it. When something
goes not as we want it to go, to get a different
result we must do something different than
what we did up to that point.
In this subchapter I am talking about hitchhiking safety and how to successfully hitchhike preventing the most common hitchhiking dangers.
Hitchhiking safety must not be taken for granted - prevent hitchhiking dangers
Many people who never hitchhiked in their life often think that a concrete hitchhiking danger consists in getting in the car with a deranged person. This is unlikely to happen. To obtain the driving license people are required to successfully pass also a medical exam which certifies that they are mentally sane. During the years I was picked by thousands of people and none of them to me seemed having mental problems of any sort. The few unpleasant hitchhiking experiences I had were caused by people who were mentally sane and aware of their own actions - they were simply bad intentioned.
I am an adventurer and hitchhiker who spent a lot of time outdoors on the roads of many countries of different cultures hitchhiking by day and at night in any season. Based on my experience the most relevant hitchhiking dangers are:
Now I will go into detail explaining how to successfully hitchhike preventing each of these hitchhiking dangers.
- being robbed
- become subject to sexual harassment, abuse or assault
- have a car accident
Being robbed happens rarely and between the
three hitchhiking dangers mentioned above
is the most common. As hitchhiking danger
can be easily avoided given that when it
happens is usually because the hitchhiker
didn't take enough measures to prevent
Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of being robbed
The most common way to be robbed as hitchhiker
is to leave your luggage in the trunk of
the vehicle You are riding instead of keeping
it with You in the car. Just as You read
in my hitchhiking tips that I previously wrote, carrying luggage as small and light as
possible is important as, besides other benefits,
will also allow You to hitchhike more safely
as You will be able to keep it on your lap.
When You get into someone's vehicle, I strongly recommend to always keep your luggage with You and not put it in the trunk of the vehicle. If your driver insists that You put it in the truck, my experience recommends that You refuse that ride as likely You will get into some sort of trouble or dangerous situation.
In May 2013 I was hitchhiking in Poland on the national road 45 that connects Opole with Wielun.
Inside my backpack the only object more valuable was my laptop computer and the previous night after I found a place where to sleep in my tent I changed my clothes putting the dirty ones in a plastic bag inside my backpack on top of everything with the purpose to wash them once arrived in the area of Wielun.
It was a sunny afternoon. At a gas station near Opole a man of about 30 years old offered to give me a ride in his city car as was headed in my same direction. At first sight he seemed okay so I accepted. Before getting into his car he opened the trunk and suggested that I placed my backpack in it. I insisted to keep it with me and after he agreed I got into his car and sat on the front seat keeping my backpack on my lap. After few kilometers our interaction evolved like this:
Driver: What do you have in your backpack?
Me: Nothing special, only food, water and clothes.
Driver: I am black belt in karate, as job I am cop and now I have my gun with me. No smartphone, no computer? I want to see what do you have in your backpack. Open your backpack!
Me: [I didn't say anything and while my instinct told me that he intended to steal my computer I opened the top of my backpack and the plastic bag with dirty clothes to show him while trying to keep hidden my computer that was at the bottom. Immediately, the bad smell of my dirty socks and clothes that were in the plastic bag flooded the ambient.]
Driver [while sensing the bad smell]: Oh! Close it immediately!
Me [with half smile on my face]: [I closed my backpack, waited about 5 minutes until he reached the first village on our way and then got out of the car]
What I learned about hitchhiking safety from this unpleasant experience is that if You have dirty clothes with You, it can be a good idea to put them on top of your other things inside your backpack until You wash them as when You will open your backpack their bad smell may discourage some thieves, just as it happened to me in the experience You read above.
Concerning hitchhiking safety, a general rule that is wise to follow to successfully hitchhike is this: never wear
objects or clothes which
can attract unwanted
attention upon yourself.
On September 17th,
2009 I wanted to go from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria.
I was aware of
this rule but I did not
respect it. On my
right hand I was wearing
two silver rings
- their value was less
than 10 EUR put together,
That day after three hours waiting for a ride I wasn't so full of enthusiasm anymore and I ignored what my instincts were telling me. I got into the car and sat on the back seat.
Around eight o'clock in the morning I was on the side of the road in Sofia trying to get a ride towards Veliko Tarnovo. I was smiling and full of enthusiasm. The spot was not ideal but okay, yet in almost three hours I was there nobody stopped.
After three hours, somebody finally stopped. Two men, around thirty years old, looking pretty badly and not speaking a word of English. When I saw them, the first thing that crossed my mind was "Adriano, don't get into this car or You might get into a dangerous situation".
After about twenty minutes driving, one of the two men asked: "Passport?"
For hitchhiking safety reasons or simply curiosity, is absolutely normal that a driver wants to see your passport before accepting or refusing to take You in the vehicle that he/she is driving, especially when is You to approach him/her to start the conversation, as hitchhiking is also about mutual trust - the driver trusts the hitchhiker and the hitchhiker trusts the driver.
This time it was not like this - the driver wanted to see my passport after twenty minutes I was in his car and this seemed really weird to me. When I heard his question I immediately understood something was wrong.
I took out my passport and handed it to him. He browsed it and noticed that I was living in a country of the European Union. Then he handed it back to me. After about five minutes he said: "EVRO?", while making the gesture with his fingers indicating money. He wanted me to give him some money. I replied "Nimam evro", which means "I do not have euros". Then he said: "Phone?" - since I had no money, he wanted to have my phone. I said: "No phone", while gesturing with my hands that I did not have any.
Then he kept driving and after about ten minutes, as I was keeping my hands on the upper side of the front seats, he had a quick look at my two silver rings and said: "Rings, beautiful" and indicated with his hands he wanted to have a closer look at my rings. I removed one of my rings and handed it to him. He looked at it and handed it back to me. He kept driving and after another ten minutes he pointed again at my rings making me understand he wanted to have another look at them. I removed my rings and handed them to him. He stopped the car, the other guy got off and opened my door, took my backpack that was next to me and threw it out on the ground and gestured that I should step out of the car. I got out and then they left.
They took my rings. I wasn't upset - I was aware that it was my fault because I did not respect one of the main hitchhiking safety rules and I also did not listen to my instincts which clearly told me not to get into this car.
What You just read is a true story about one of the common hitchhiking dangers: the possibility of being robbed. This negative experience that happened to me in 2009 teaches two important hitchhiking safety rules:
Between these two hitchhiking safety tips,
trusting your instincts
is the absolute most
important. Don't misunderstand
objects or clothes which
can attract unwanted
attention upon yourself
has the potential
to get You killed in some
areas of our planet.
There are people who died
because of this.
But trusting your instincts,
not only about
people but about everything
You will deal
with in your journey, and
using your common
sense in everything You
do will allow You
to hitchhike safely most
of the times and
have mostly great positive
- always trust your instincts
- never wear objects or clothes which can attract unwanted attention upon yourself
Sexual harassment, abuse
or assault happens
more rarely and as hitchhiking
less common than being
Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of becoming subject to sexual harassment, abuse or assault
Both male and female hitchhikers are sometimes subjects to sexual harassment, abuse or assault and hitchhiking is equally safe or dangerous for both men and women.
To increase your safety, no matter if You are man or woman, if You carry a smartphone with You, taking a photo of the vehicle registration plate and letting your driver know just after getting into his/her vehicle that You are now sending it to your family to keep them informed about where You are and what You are doing will contribute in discouraging your driver from doing anything bad to You.
As a woman, to increase your safety, saying that You are married and telling a story which conveys how your husband (real or fictional) is waiting for You in a specific city can help You evade unwanted proposals. Some men think that when women dress sexy is because in that moment they are looking for sex and dressing sexy is their way of conveying this message; to hitchhike safely as a woman, not dressing sexy and keeping yourself more covered while hitchhiking will help You avoid attracting unwanted attention. In some Muslim countries women who are hitchhiking alone are seen as women who are looking for easy sex; if You backpack through Muslim countries, to hitchhike safely as a woman some women recommend to always wear a period pad whether You are menstruating or not because once sexually assaulted the period pad may save You as many Muslims hold back from intercourse during women's period.
Using your common sense and trusting what
your instinct tells You, You will be able
to avoid most of the dangerous situations.
However, there may be times when it will
actually happen to meet someone that will
make You feel uncomfortable through words
or behavior - in that situation You will
have to decide if is the case to leave the
vehicle or not. Trusting your instinct, also
in this case, You will know what to do.
Here is something that once happened to me:
In June 2015 I was in an Iranian truck wishing to get to a city which was at about 200 kilometers from where I was. The driver was an Iranian man of about 65 years old. Inside the truck's deck, between my seat and driver's seat there was almost 1.5 meters of space. Almost immediately after I got in the truck deck, this is what followed:
Driver: Are You married?
Me: Not yet; but I have a girlfriend.
Driver: [shows me the wedding ring on his finger] I am married; but I like sex with both women and men.
Me: Me no. I like only women.
Driver: Why don't you like sex with men?
Sex with men is as nice as it is with women.
Would you like that we have sex? I can stop
the truck, pull the curtains and we can have
Me: No. I like only women. I don't like men.
Driver: [smiles] Your arms have beautiful skin. Do you have hair on your chest?
Me: I am not answering to this kind of questions. Only my girlfriend has the right to know this.
Driver: [smiles] Ah, please, show me your chest. I think you have beautiful chest.
Driver: [while keeping his left hand on the driving wheel, with his right hand tries to grab my shirt to pull it upwards to uncover my chest]
Me: [while still on my seat I try to avoid
it by moving away towards the door and put
my fingers on the door opener ready to open
it to get out] Hey! If You continue I get
out of your truck!
Driver: [puts his arms up in the air like apologizing] Ok kolega! No problem.
Afterwards he continued driving without manifesting other sexual intentions.
For me this was an experience in which I felt uncomfortable and I was ready to get out of the truck if the driver continued to show signs of sexual interest.
In this subchapter about hitchhiking safety, part of my tips about how to successfully hitchhike, I am talking about the prevention of car accidents, one of the most common hitchhiking dangers.
Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of having a car accident
Most of the hitchhikers I spoke with, agree that to hitchhike is equally safe or dangerous as is to walk on the street. While hitchhiking, a car accident can obviously happen mostly in two circumstances: when You are walking or standing on a road and when You are in someone's vehicle.
I have seen many car accidents on the roads on which I hitchhiked, and some of these happened to the vehicles that were just in front of the vehicle in which I was. Up to a certain speed, it is proved that wearing the seat belt decreases the chance of dying in a car accident; so wearing the seat belt of the vehicle You are riding no matter if You are staying on the front seat or on the back seat may make a big difference.
Being visible from enough distance is important
for your safety as hitchhiker and in the
same time gives people the few seconds they
need to decide if they want to take You or
not. When walking or standing on a road by
daytime is a good idea to wear a high visibility
vest, while when hitchhiking at night I strongly
recommend to have also lights and make sure
that people see You from enough distance
to be able to avoid You.
vehicles that drive too close to the side of the road. Never walk or stand on the side of the road when hitchhiking at night without having lights on You because to most of the drivers You will be invisible and the space and time needed to avoid You in relation to the speed and weight of their vehicle will be insufficient. There were hitchhikers who died like this. Having a headlamp with You among the things to bring while hitchhiking and backpacking will allow You to hitchhike at night more safely and more effectively. If You use a mobile device please notice that its built in led light is not powerful enough to replace a headlamp; is also not practical: You should always have your hands free ready to use them. I strongly recommend to buy a quality headlamp before starting to hitchhike.
Preparing your hitchhiking backpack before the trip by attaching high visibility reflective stickers to it will increase the chances to be seen by other people when hitchhiking at night and increase your safety as well. Top quality high visibility stickers can be bought from stores which sell truck parts and accessories.
When walking on the side of the road is strongly recommended to walk facing oncoming traffic in order to be able to prevent accidents by avoiding those
Walking on the side of the road at night is extremely dangerous and You should not do it unless You have no other option.
To prevent car accidents when hitchhiking at night, instead of standing on the side of the road is more effective and more safe to hitchhike using the "jumping" technique that I described, going from a place where there are people always working and lights (such as a service station that has a built in restaurant as well) to another similar place where there are lights and people working.
Your personal safety is your number one priority when You travel. No matter what happens, through your body language You should never convey vulnerability and in the same time You should always prevent and avoid conflicts and dangerous situations. Is unlikely to meet bad intentioned people as long as You use your common sense and try to keep yourself out of troubles. You should not carry any weapon with You when You travel by hitchhiking or just as backpacker, simply using your common sense and trusting your instincts is enough to avoid troubles and prevent dangerous situations in the majority of the areas of our planet. Another aspect is this: avoiding arguing over a topic because of different opinions is a good way to avoid conflicts - if your driver says something that You disagree with, is not necessary to contradict him/her, is enough to answer with a simple "I understand" and nothing more. To hitchhike safely always use your common sense and trust your instincts.
When You are backpacking or travelling by hitchhiking your family and the people who care about You will be worried about your safety. Is not possible to stop them from worrying. If who loves You would not be worried about You, then his/her/their would not be love. If You love yourself then is likely that You naturally take good care of yourself. Convey to who loves You that You are able to take care of yourself and their mind will be more at ease with You being far away from them.
Learning how to successfully hitchhike no matter where You are, no matter if is summer or winter, sunny or snowy, by day or at night, takes years of practice, yet is rewarding and most of the times entertaining. Slowly, while practicing this sport, You will develop also other skills that will prove useful in your everyday life, such as organizational and planning skills, prioritization, decision making, survival and problem solving. As is based on the interaction with other people, You will meet all sorts of people and You will have great positive experiences. There are lots of really good, wonderful people all around the world. However, based on how I experienced this sport during the years, I feel is my duty to bring to your attention also that hitchhiking is not a joke and You should be careful every time You intend to hitchhike and You should always treat it as seriously as possible. What You read here on my hitchhiking website, my tips about how to successfully hitchhike are based on my personal experience accumulated during the years practicing this sport and are designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. As author, I disclaim any liability in connection with the use of the information I provided. No matter if You are preparing for your first hitchhiking trip or You are an advanced hitchhiker, whether You will be hitchhiking alone or with a companion, You are the only one responsible for yourself, for your decisions and for your actions. Every time You intend to travel by hitchhiking, do it responsibly.
Written by Claudio Adriano Dobre; first in
2017, last updated in 2019. © 2017-2019