I find hitchhiking in Europe really easy! I have hitchhiked over 6000 Km ( or 3800 miles), on my own, with 2 or with 3 people!
Next Friday I leave home for another adventure, Utrecht (near Amsterdam, Netherlands) to Munich (Germany), and back. A total of 1600 km to add on my list. But before I leave I will share my best hitchhiking tips with you!
I hitchhike not just to save money, but also because it is so much more fun! I can not stand stepping in a train or plane and having to wait and sit down for half a day.. Now I have interesting talks, I can practice my language skills and get to see the country!
Daniels Hitchhiking How-To for beginners, because hitchhiking is easy!
So, you decided that you want to go hitchhiking. Make sure you are able to spend the whole day on the trip. Even though the trip might be short, one 3h wait can completely ruin it. Don’t expect many of those, especially not any more when you are experienced, but if you are going to do many trips on places where you do not speak the same language, expect to have them.
The perfect hitchhiking time is on a vacation where you don’t really care when you arrive, and a nice hitchhiking distance would be 600km for a day. You can stretch it out to 800, but you increase the risks of having to hitchhike for over 12h too.. You never know for sure if you will be lucky or not!
My hitchhiking often starts with the ‘leave the city’ phase. This one is difficult if you do not know the city yet. You will have to find a great place to hitchhike near the entryway to the high way in the direction where you are going. Have a look at a city map and try to predict where people would leave the town to go in your direction. Ask around if there is a petrol station nearby!
Often I walk a lot, until I find the right spot to hitchhike. Better walk one hour more than to risk waiting for two hours with a sign on the wrong place. Only experience can tell if you are standing on the right place or if it is better to move. Often I have gotten instructions from locals, you will learn which ones you should follow and which ones you shouldn’t.
My crazy experience: One day I was trying to get out of a Spanish city Oviedo. I think I found the best spot (after a lot and a lot of walking), but after 3 hours I was still standing there. Until a women stopped her car on the other side of the road. She shouted at me to come, gave me 20 euros and ordered me to take the bus!
On the road
This is the easy and enjoyable phase! You cruise on the highway next to your unknown driver. You ask him to stop at the last petrol station on the highway before he leaves the road you are taking. Once you get there you ask anyone walks around where they are going.
Ask them: “Where are you going?” instead of “Are you going to ..?” because in the second they can easily answer with a no, but in the first they will feel tempted to name their real destination. If it matches with your direction they might feel awkward in saying no to your request if you can come with them.
Try to make sure you stay on the highway, as soon as you get off you might have a difficult time getting back on, depending where you are!
So, you made it to the city of destination! Don’t try to hitchhike in the city, you will most likely fail. I am okay with walking for 2 hours, searching for my location while getting the extreme tourist tour. You can also take a bus, you saved enough money on travel already!
My favorite place to sleep is at a couchsurf address, but a youth hostel or campsite will work too.
My longest stay in one car/truck was with a Spanish trucker who was drinking and blowing weed while driving. Often you meet scary and strange people, but so far I have not met any with bad intentions. The language barrier is most scary of all.
Whatever, I stayed in his truck for 27 hours, sleeping, eating, everything. We could hardly communicate as I did not speak Spanish at that time and he even less English, but as a thanks for my company he gave me a drawing of a horse he made.
- Smile! Really
- If you have to use a sign, make it readable from a distance!
- Plan extra time for crossing borders or getting around big cities!
- Get a map that shows the petrol stations!
- Wear walking shoes, you will be standing a lot.
- Put everything in one bag, mention the bag before you leave the car and preferably keep the passengers door open until you got your bag out of the car!
- Wear bright clothing, not only are you more easily seen but also you will look more reliable!
- In case of extreme emergency, pull the handbrake!
Hitchwiki – find tips per country (learn how to ask for a ride in any language too! My ownly fluent French sentence is “Est- ce que je peux aller avec vous?“)
Couchsurfing – find free places to sleep all around the world
Travelwiki – contains a good table to show hitchhiking difficulty per country ( my personal experience: Don’t try to cross Spain)
Please share your best hitchiking tips in the comments, ask questions or tell your stories!