Knowing how to successfully hitchhike means knowing how to find the most favorable ride with the minimum investment of time, energy and resources. Here are explained hitchhiking techniques, rules, tips about hitchhiking safety and hitchhiking equipment.
  .: Website's Homepage / Hitchhiking Tips & Rules / How to Successfully Hitchhike

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 and resources.

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:
  1. Study your hitchhiking route before starting to hitchhike
  2. Hitchhike from where You think is a good spot, not from where others suggest
  3. Jump from a good hitchhiking spot to another good hitchhiking place
  4. To successfully hitchhike, have a friendly appearance
  5. Have a positive attitude and don't let anything destroy your good mood
  6. Use your common sense
  7. Use hitchhiking signs wisely
  8. Use appropriate outdoor equipment
  9. Carry luggage as small and light as possible
  10. Try different hitchhiking techniques
  11. Hitchhiking safety must not be taken for granted - prevent hitchhiking dangers
Now I will explain in detail the meaning of each of the points I wrote above.

(Subchapter 1)

Study your hitchhiking route before starting to hitchhike

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 with water, where can You put your tent to rest well for the night or where is the most convenient place for You to buy food.

Hitchhiking, as sport, can get so extreme that You might even get to the point to hate being on that road in that moment.
How to successfully hitchhike: use appropriate outdoor equipment 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 -22C; 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
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.
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 to hitchhike.

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 a
How to successfully hitchhike: study your route before getting on the road
great location to engage folks in conversations, have a break, and even put your tent to sleep for the night.

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 gas station).

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 clothing".

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.

(Subchapter 2)

Hitchhike from where You think is a good spot, not from where others suggest

In this subchapter, part of my tips for hitchhiking concerning how to successfully hitchhike, I am explaining the importance of sticking to your route.

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 and resources 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.

(Subchapter 3)

Jump from a good hitchhiking spot to another good hitchhiking place

In the process of learning how to successfully hitchhike, understanding this hitchhiking technique will save You a lot of time, energy and resources.

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.

How to successfully hitchhike: on motorway, jump from a petrol station to another petrol station 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

comfort and the staff working there is friendly (an example of such good hitchhiking spot can 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 crossing point).

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
How to successfully hitchhike: in places where many cars and trucks going in your direction stop for a limited time is easy to find rides
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.

(Subchapter 4)

To successfully hitchhike, have a friendly appearance

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.

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 to hitchhike.

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 in conversation will help You appear more friendly.

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! ;)

(Subchapter 5)

Have a positive attitude and don't let anything destroy your good mood

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.

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.

(Subchapter 6)

Use your common sense

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 sense.

(Subchapter 7)

Use hitchhiking signs wisely

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.

How to successfully hitchhike: use hitchhiking signs wisely You should use hitchhiking signs wisely. 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 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 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.

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 a ride".

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 them directly.
How to successfully hitchhike: generally, putting your thumb up will sooner or later make someone stop to pick You up
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.

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.
How to successfully hitchhike: when having a break You can use a hitchhiking sign so people can come to You to offer You a ride

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 countries in which on the vehicle registration plate is indicated the province code where the vehicle was registered, is possible to write this province code 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, 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 people 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".

(Subchapter 8)

Use appropriate outdoor equipment

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 rain jacket.

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 clothes than what You would normally wear when going for a walk around town.

(Subchapter 9)

Carry luggage as small and light as possible

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.

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.

Second, sometimes because of other traffic the driver has only few seconds available to pick You up or drop You and carrying heavy and big luggage would make it difficult for You to get in/out the vehicle in just few seconds. Third, hitchhiking from morning until evening is already enough tiring, carrying 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 me
How to successfully hitchhike: carry a small and light backpack as possible
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 "Okay, lets 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 one.
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.

(Subchapter 10)

Try different hitchhiking techniques

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.

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.

(Subchapter 11)

Hitchhiking safety must not be taken for granted - prevent hitchhiking dangers

In this subchapter I am talking about hitchhiking safety and how to successfully hitchhike preventing the most common 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:
  • being robbed
  • become subject to sexual harassment, abuse or assault
  • have a car accident
Now I will go into detail explaining how to successfully hitchhike preventing each of these hitchhiking dangers.

Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of being robbed

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 it.

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, almost nothing.

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".
How to successfully hitchhike: be visible from far enough to prevent the danger of being invested by other vehicles
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.
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:
  • always trust your instincts
  • never wear objects or clothes which can attract unwanted attention upon yourself
Between these two hitchhiking safety tips, trusting your instincts is the absolute most important. Don't misunderstand me: wearing 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 travel experiences.

Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of becoming subject to sexual harassment, abuse or assault

Sexual harassment, abuse or assault happens more rarely and as hitchhiking danger is less common than being robbed.

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 sex.
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.

Hitchhiking safety tips about preventing the danger of having a car accident

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.

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.

How to successfully hitchhike: use high visibility reflective stickers 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
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.
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

Share on Reddit

See also

      > Where to Sleep When Hitchhiking & Backpacking

      > The Importance of Smiling in Communication

      > How Appearance Affects Perceptions of One Another

      > Things to Carry While Hitchhiking & Backpacking

  Hitchhiking Tips & Rules
  Inspiring Experiences
  Thoughts on Travelling
  Inspirational Quotes
  Educational Travel Photos

Learn how to successfully hitchhike and safely with my hitchhiking tips that I share on my website.
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 successfully hitchhike and safely with my tips and insights based on my personal experience accumulated during the years practicing this sport.

About Me | Hitchhiking Websites | Contact Me