How to get people to pick you up when hithhiking is all about position. This is how to do it.
Hitchhiking is one of the prime ways to cover vast areas of geography quickly and cheaply. Wherever there are cars on the road the possibility to hitch a ride exists. Though some countries are better than others, I have not yet been to a place where the people never pick up a traveler asking for a ride on the side of the road.
In some places hitchhiking is very common — sometimes it is the only way to get from town to town — and there is a set culture around picking up rides. Often times in these places some form of payment is expected. While in other countries hitchhiking is a very uncommon activity that is only engaged upon by foreigners looking for adventure. In both instances, and all of those in between, there are certain tactics and strategies to use to better optimize your chances of getting a lift, and I will outline some below.
Tips for hitchhiking
Make sure that you are presentable. Standing on the side of the road with your shirt half unbuttoned, wild haired, unshaven, and snarling is not going to get you as many rides as if you are neatly trimmed, clean, and seem to have a pleasant disposition. For ladies, finding rides is almost always going to be easier for you than your male counterparts, but, likewise, standing on the side of the highway looking like a beat up lot lizard is not going to help your case — make sure you look presentable, but not so overtly feminine that you appear defenseless.
Cultivate a good road side disposition
Be aware of your disposition. Always keep a happy go lucky look on your face and in your gait, even if you have been standing on the side of a polluted highway in the hot sun for five hours. Try to make eye contact and smile at every driver that passes, as you never know who may possibly slam on their brakes at the last moment to give you a lift. Keep in mind that it is very common for drivers to pass by a hitchhiker once or twice to check them out before stopping, so even if a car passes do not act pissed, because they may turn around and return. Trying to seem like a friendly and goofy character often works, and odd things like dancing or other actions designed to make the people in the passing cars laugh sometimes are good hitchhiking strategies.
Know how to hitchhike in the country you are in
Know the proper culture for hitchhiking in the country you are in, it is not the same everywhere. In the USA, sticking out your thumb is a common way to signal that you would like a ride, but in some other places this gesture is taken solely as a “thumbs up,” and many drivers will just repay the gesture laughing hysterically. There are various signs for hitchhiking around the world, and whether it is an outstretched arm with a hand held palm down moving up and down or two arms flaying madly over your head, it is best to inquire what is the proper protocol for hitchhiking in whatever country you are in.
Know where to stand
Generally, if you are standing on the side of the road, it is possible to hitchhike. But there is a higher rate of success if study your surroundings and find the best place possible.
What makes a good place for hitchhiking?
- Cars need to be able to pull of the road and stop to pick you up, so make sure that your hitchhiking spot is a place where you can be picked up. Hitching from the side of a busy road should be avoided at all costs.
- Make sure traffic is not going too fast. Vehicles in fast moving traffic often will not stop for hitchhikers, so hitch from a location where it seems easy for drivers to slow down to pick you up.
- Be sure that you are in the most visible location possible. You want drivers to get the best look at you possible.
- If you find yourself in a bad place for hitchhiking without a better place in sight, flag down a bus or taxi and get to a better position.
- If possible, try not to hitchhike in the middle of a roadside. Intersections, stop lights, gas stations, any “place” is often better than the middle of nowhere. Simply put, you want to drivers to be able to logically determine how you ended up where you are, and someone walking along the side of a road in the middle of nowhere looks very odd. Stay at intersections, stop lights, gas stations, border crossings — even if you have been waiting there a long time. Very often, a driver will take responsibility for dropping you off at a “place,” and very rarely will you be told to get out in the middle of some random road.
- Try to hitch near stoplights or stop signs. You want the driver to be able to get a good look at you, and, very often, if you can make lasting eye contact you can up the chances of getting a ride. Hitching from places where cars stop is a good move.
- Try to avoid hitchhiking into or out of major cities. Ironically, where people congregate in highest quantities hitchhiking is often at its worst. Unless offered a direct ride, take public transport into and out of cities.
Know how to say “hitchhiking” in a local language
I have found it immensely useful to know the local word for hitchhiking in countries where the practice is not too common. Sometimes local people will be confused by you hanging out on the roadside and may think that you are in trouble and direct you to the nearest bus or train station. In point, it sometimes takes a firm stance to make locals understand that you are hitchhiking by choice and that you know what you are doing and are not lost and helpless. Saying the local word for hitchhiking often makes this drastically easier.
What follows is an ever growing list of the word hitchhiking translated into various languages. If you know of any not included here, please send them to me through the comment form at the bottom of the page.
Spanish- Pidiendo a ride (Ride is in English, seriously, this is what people say), Pedir Aventón, or Hacer Autostop, or Pedir Cola, or even, “Ir a Dedo. These are all local variations used variously throughout Spanish speaking countries. Find out what the most common word is where you are hitching or try them all.
Chinese- 搭便车 (print this out and show on paper if you can’t speak Chinese) or if you know Pin Yin it is ” Da1 Bien4 Che1.”
Arabic- ركوب السيارات
Vietnamese- Quá giang xe
More languages to come soon.
Country specific hitchhiking information
Links to hitchhiking resources
- Digihitch– The ultimate web resource for hitch hiking.
- Africa Four Corners– A bet that lead to a journey across Africa without paying for transport. The story of a great hitch-hiker.
- Ride Check– A site which matches riders with drivers. Don’t know if you have to pay for the rides. Could be a good resource.
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