Hitchhiking Tips And Tricks

Hitchhiking is one of my favourite ways of traveling. You meet heaps of people (most of them pretty interesting) and I’ve often found it to be faster than taking the bus. I’ve done a fair bit of it. From Cross-Canada and Europe trips to short little hops near my home. I don’t consider myself an expert but here are some ideas and tips to get you started.


-Try to look as neat and tidy as possible. I rock a shave before starting a hitchhiking trip and usually a clean shirt and pants. If it’s going to be a longer trip, pack some so you can freshen up daily.


-Your Gender and Group composition will greatly affect your hitchhiking experience.

-You will need to be much more careful if your female and hitch hiking by yourself.

-I think the ideal combination is one female and one male. It’s not too threatening to people picking you up but you still have each other for safety.

-If you have more than two people it’s going to take longer to get picked up.

-Drivers by themselves are less likely to pick up bigger groups of people.


-If it’s a long journey, you’ll probably want to get on the highway. An on-ramp near a busy rest stop is a good place as the cars will be going slower. Make sure that cars have plenty of time to see you and a safe place to pull over and pick you up. -Be careful, in some places it’s illegal to hitch-hike on the highways. If it’s a shorter journey, you can try a local road. Make sure it’s relatively busy.

-If your hitching out of a city, try to get to the outskirts (city bus, subway etc.) before starting to hitch hike.


-I’d highly recommend bringing along a good map. Don’t count on the people who pick you up to know the area and roads well.

-If your hitching in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language a map is even more important. I got from Paris to Barcelona mainly by showing my map, stating my destination, responding with “name of place c’est bon”, and then rocking out to whatever music they had on.

-Bringing along a simple phrase book so you can exchange pleasantries is a good idea as well!

To sign or not to sign:

-The hitch hikers I’ve met are of a divided opinion over whether or not to use a sign. The main arguments are:

To Sign:

-Let’s people know where your going, if they’re going there or close to there they are more likely to stop.

-If looking for a big long ride, hopefully eliminates people going shorter distances. 1 big ride is faster (but maybe not as interesting) as 10 smaller rides.

Not to Sign:

-If people aren’t going to the same place as you they may not stop (even if they are going the same route and a good distance)

-If they’re creeps, they already know where you are going and can claim that they are going there, or near there as well.

So the decision to sign or not is up to you. I usually use a sign for longer journeys where I’m hoping to score a big ride instead of a bunch of smaller ones. If the distance your going is short or there aren’t a lot of places people might turn off (Canadian Prairies) then a sign may not be necessary. Try both and see what works best for you. Make sure you’ve got a sharpie in your bag. The best signs are simple and easy to understand. I usually just print the name of my destination. For sign material, heavy cardboard is best, ask at a gas station or store for some cardboard (box tops work great).


-This is one of the most important parts of hitch hiking. Make sure to smile and look friendly. I’ve been picked up multiple times just because I was smiling (yes the drivers told me that).

- Oh, and also make sure you stick out your thumb. That will definitely help you get a ride!

The Pick Up:

-Someone’s stopped, sweet! Approach the car via the passenger side. If it’s just the driver, open the door and have a chat. This is your chance to decide whether to take a ride from this person or not. Find out where they’re going and if anything seems dodgy feel free to back out or make an excuse (I’ll wait for someone who’s going a farther distance etc.) I usually hop in, say “thanks for stopping” and go from there.

Friendly and Interested:

-People usually pick you up for a reason. Maybe they’ve hitch hiked in the past, or are bored and want someone to talk to. Make sure you are friendly (but not too friendly) and rock the conversation. If you can find out what they’re interested in you can get them talking for hours. Swap stories and make the ride less awkward for both of you. People will often be curious about where your going and where you’ve been.


-Every time you hitchhike you are taking a very small but potentially dangerous risk. You are getting picked up by strangers and it’s possible that one of them will want to hurt or endanger you.

I’ve been lucky while hitchhiking and have only been propositioned a handful of times (by gay men and older women). A polite refusal has generally been enough to stop them.

Nonetheless I still carry a in my pocket and know how to quickly open it. I never had to use it but knowing it was there made me feel safer.

If your a female, you should be much more careful (and prepared). I once got a ride from two girls (and their two pitbulls) who had done lots of hitchhiking and train hopping. They were pretty hardcore (at least to white suburban me) girls with lots of tats and a taste for heavy metal. This is what they packed for security.

Before hitching with a pitbull

-Knife -mace (pepper spray) -a teddy bear with a brick sewn into its head

After hitching with a pitbull (both dogs were very nice and friendly)

-Knife -mace (pepper spray) -a pitbull

I’d also suggest having a cell phone (even just a cheap 7/11 pay as you go one) so you can call 911 if anything happens.

Camping Out:

-Hitch hiking offers a great opportunity for some free accommodation. Make sure you pack a sleeping bag and a small tent, tarp, or bivvy sack,

- If your hitching through the countryside/wilderness there are many great places to sleep for the night. Walk away from the road a bit and into the bush. Scope out the area and if it looks safe then set up camp for the night. This lets you get a quick start on hitch hiking the next morning.

-If your in a city, check out the local public parks. If you can handle being a bit of a hobo then go for it. Make sure your discrete and that your in an area where help can be summoned (by shouting) if you need it. I’ve rocked many free nights in parks all over the place.

-Sometimes people who are giving you a ride will offer you a place to crash for the night. Deciding whether to take them up on it or not is up to you. You’ve sat in the car and talked to them so you should be able to decide whether it’s safe or not.

-If someone your riding with is just stopping for the night before carrying on in the morning then you can always find a place to pitch your tent and meet up with them again in the morning to continue your journey.

More Information:

If your looking for more info on hitchhiking, check out hitchwiki. It’s a community driven site with heaps of information.

For an entertaining book about hitchhiking check out “Round Ireland with a Fridge.”


Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now.

So get out there and give it a try.

Be careful, have fun, and don’t forget to smile!

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or more hitching tips and tricks please leave them in the comments!

Oh, and feel free to share my post using the links below!




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