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The Hitchhiker’s Guide

By Mark Johnson

Posted: 11th September 2012 10:56

Hitchhiking is not only an inexpensive way to get around but is also the most social one.  It’s a unique opportunity to meet a range of new people, which can vary from anything like the C.E.O of a company to a grandmother.  Hitchhiking also means “Giving” and “Taking” to many people.  There are risks with this unique and fun form of transportation, which you may have heard of, so here’s some tips of ways to get the best out hitchhiking whilst being safe. 


Before you start hitching a ride there’s a few things you need to prepare.  Buy a map of the area - they can usually be purchased from a local shop or information centre.  This will give you and the better driver better awareness of how to get to your destination.  Plus it’s really handy if you get lost. 

Along with your valuables there are a few other basic things worth taking, a: hat, torch, pocketknife, sun-screen and blanket.  It’s best to be prepared and these items don’t cost or weigh much.  Pack some food, preferably with disposable packaging as you could be in for an adventure and you don’t want to go hungry.  Depending on the length of your trip it might be wise to bring a towel. 

Learn the language.  This can help improve your communication skills and is great to have a conversation with other passengers, especially if the journey is long.  Learning the language also shows that you care therefore the passengers are much more likely to be friendly to you.  The intimate atmosphere in the vehicle means there’s always room for a friendly conversation.  Have a look at the hitchhiking dictionary for a quick and basic language guide.   

Check out the laws of where you are hitchhiking as it may be illegal in some countries and roads.  It doesn’t take much time to do a quick internet search, or you could ask the locals.  After all, this quick investigation could save you money and time in prison. 

Staying Safe

Although hitchhiking can be fun, inexpensive and adventurous, you need to keep safe.  If in doubt about anything in the car including passengers, turn down the ride (it’s not being rude), or ask the driver where they’re going and tell them you’re heading in the other direction. 

Before jumping into the car, make a note of the vehicle’s registration with its make, model and colour; if you have a mobile phone, text this information to a friend.  Likewise take a description of the drivers and other passengers, if there are any.  Regardless on the driver’s appearance and car, choose wisely to avoid serious danger. 

If possible, sit in the passenger seat.  Rear doors can have child locks on them and be less easy to get out of in an emergency.  If you have to sit in the back then check the child lock is off.  Always keep your belongings on you and not elsewhere in the car. 

While pedestrians may have the right to walk along most roads, doing so in some places can get you

arrested, cited, ticketed, or verbally warned.  Find out about which roads you can and cannot walk along either online or by asking the locals.  As a general rule try and avoid very busy roads and those without a (clear) footpath.  In some areas where it is legal to walk on busy roads, it may be wiser and safer to stay on the on-ramp anyway, based on the infrastructure of the road, like bollards and billboards.

Alternatively you can book a ride in advance online through companies such as Road Sharingalthough this will cost you some money it could save you lots of time.  If you choose to do this, then still follow the above precautions.  Request the driver’s ID when you meet; most will understand this precaution.  Using a digital system is good for safety as it provides a record of communication between driver and passenger.

Attracting a ride

Obviously getting a ride is the most important part of hitchhiking.  Wearing bright clothes can get you spotted more easily.  Always try and wear a smile, even if people are nasty because you never know what adventure you could be in for.  This will make you more approachable. 

Two is a magic number.  Hitchhiking with a friend is much safer than jumping into a car on your own.  If possible, travel as a boy and girl pair because this gives you a higher chance of getting a lift.  A couple or group of girls are more vulnerable and are therefore more likely to be preyed on.  Likewise a couple or group of boys can often make the driver feel intimidated.  Likewise, travelling in large groups often limits your options to people carriers and coaches. 

Choosing A Ride

Needless to say, make a good judgement about the car.  A Mercedes Benz it much more likely to survive the journey than Del-Boy’s Reliant Robin.  Sometimes you get an offer that brings you a little way in the right direction.  This can be okay but if you’re in a place where lots of cars stop, it could be better to wait for an offer that takes you a lot further.  If not then you can ask to be dropped in a well lit and frequented spot to hitch your next ride, like; a supermarket, toll place or petrol/ gas station.  When possible, try to agree about where to be dropped off so you don't end up in the middle of nowhere.

Some drivers may ask a fee for your journey so it’s worth asking in advance and being prepared rather than having this sprung on you.  Usually the cost just covers their gas/ petrol expenses.

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