THE LEGENDARY GUIDE TO HITCHHIKING
This epic guide to hitchhiking anywhere around the world will provide you with all the necessary knowledge, information, and tips on how to successfully and efficiently hitchhike in any country in the world. After treading and understanding this ultimate hitchhiking guide, you won't need to buy a book on hitchhiking or spend countless hours on the roads to gain the experience I am giving to you in this blog post.
I will skip detailed explanations regarding the benefits and advantages of hitchhiking. Shortly, hitchhiking is one of the most awesome things I have ever done in my life. You get to know new people, learn a lot about foreign cultures, understand local people, and get free meals and home stays while hitchhiking.
It might seem that hitchhiking is very easy and simple. Just stay on a road, raise your hands, and wait until someone picks you up to your next destination. In reality, hitchhiking is far more complicated than that. Keep reading this blog post till the end and you will see that the art of hitchhiking is filled with loads of intricacies, tricks, and details.
LEARN YOUR FUTURE REGION BEFOREHAND
Before you start hitchhiking in a particular country, you should always collect all the available information regarding the present situation in the country, its national mentality, prevalent religion, and the situation with hitchhiking. After understanding the art of hitchhiking, you will need to read more about hitchhiking to specific destinations. This knowledge will provide you with a deeper understanding of hitchhiking.
On ProBackpacker, you can find a lot of useful information on the hitchhiking situation in different parts of the world. Plus, you can always personally contact me and ask for hitchhiking advice. My articles are updated every year. If a condition with hitchhiking in a specific country changes, you will shortly get an update on my blog.
Most of us have some time to watch YouTube, have fun on TikTok, browse photographs on Instagram, and do other social media-related activities. What if you spent this time learning more about hitchhiking in your future destination. Visit travel forums, read hitchhiking reviews, ask questions, learn more about the culture of people whom you will meet, and do other research.
MENTAL PREPARATION FOR HITCHHIKING
Mental preparation is one of the most important aspects of successful hitchhiking. People who aren't mentally prepared to hitchhike, usually, give up hitchhiking and start using public transportation. This is a mental game. It is a game of patience and confidence. In this section, I will provide you with all the crucial information on how to efficiently prepare yourself for hitchhiking.
BELIEVE IN SUCCESSFUL HITCHHIKING
If you go on the road and you think that hitchhiking in that particular place is either weak, nonworking, or dead, then you have a weak chance to successfully hitchhike from that place. Confidence will give you patience, and patience is the most important quality in the art of hitchhiking.
We all have different barriers in our minds that prevent us from hitchhiking like real probackpackers. Here I will mention and describe some of them. I will also give you powerful tips on how to get rid of mental barriers that spoil the quality of your hitchhiking.
I DON'T LOOK LIKABLE AND BEAUTIFUL
Some beginner hitchhikers think that they aren't likable and beautiful enough to hitchhike. Men and woman travelers who aren't confident in their own likability will usually skip hitchhiking. These people think that looks play a grand role in hitchhiking.
Hitchhiking is a filter that let's you meet only the best people
Appearances definitely matter. You should look clean and friendly, but beauty isn't a quality required for successful hitchhiking. You should understand that hitchhiking is a test of people's humanity. While hitchhiking you get yourself long-distance and free transportation. At the same time, hitchhiking is one of the most important elements of true travel and backpacking. This activity lets you learn and examine the level of humanity in particular regions of the world.
Hitchhiking isn't a visit to a nightclub where everyone judges you by your looks, clothes, watch, jewelry, and other things. In my hitchhiking history, I have been given a ride by hundreds of cars in different parts of the world. The only people who stop and give you a ride are good people who are less prone to cynicism, showing off, and superficiality. These drivers don't stop for you because you look beautiful.
Hence, it doesn't really matter whether you are beautiful or not. Good people will stop and give you a ride regardless of your looks. Giving a hitchhiker a ride is a gesture of mercy and responsiveness.
NOBODY WILL STOP FOR ME
Very often, beginner and even very experienced hitchhikers have this thought in their minds. Sometimes, while on the road, we tell ourselves that nobody will stop for us. This inner voice is the biggest enemy of hitchhiking. An unresponsive national mentality of locals, dangerous political situation, rise in petroleum prices, and many other factors can negatively impact the efficiency of hitchhiking in a particular country or city. However, nothing harms your hitchhiking progress more than your pessimistic inner voice that keeps persuading you that nobody will stop for you.
Even in cities with the kindest people in the world, you will have to wait sometime on a road until the right car picks you up. You shouldn't be worried about all the cars that skip you. Hitchhiking is a powerful filter. While hitchhiking, you filter and get rid of all the unresponsive and unfriendly people. These are the people who don't stop for you. They don't want you in their car, and you don't need them because you don't want to have a company of unfriendly people.
Drivers who will stop for you will be the kindest, helpful, and most responsive people you have ever met in your life. These are the qualities that made them stop for you. Otherwise, they wouldn't pay attention to a lonely hitchhiker on a road.
In my hitchhiking experience, I have never sat down in a vehicle of an unpleasant, angry, nervous, or unpolite driver. This is because hitchhiking filters people.
You should believe that there are loads of good people in the world. Hitchhiking is a belief in human kindness. If this belief doesn't exist in you, you should start cultivating and strengthening it.
HITCHHIKING IS DANGEROUS
The exaggerated danger of hitchhiking is one of those widely-spread mental barriers that prevent people from active hitchhiking. Yes, there have been cases of hitchhikers being killed by drivers. However, these cases are like a drop in an ocean compared to the number of people who were murdered by their friends, spouses, neighbors, brothers and sisters, cousins, colleagues, and other close people.
Unless you are scared that a driver will invite you to his house and prepare the most delicious meal in your life, hitchhiking isn't more dangerous than a walk to your nearest grocery store.
Do you think sitting in a stranger's car is dangerous? How about staying in a room with a group of your drunk friends. Are you sure that your party won't turn into a nightmare when someone insults someone, and then someone starts a fight that finally ends with someone either injured or killed? Bad things happen everywhere.
You might become a victim of your relatives or friends. This is why stranger drivers are no more dangerous than the closest people in your environment.
Fear of hitchhiking is one of the things that prevent people from practicing this amazing activity. As a Muslim, I believe in God's power. Everything is controlled by Him. Good and evil happen only with His permission. I also believe in destiny. If something is destined to happen to you, it will happen to you regardless of where you are.
HITCHHIKING TAKES A LOT OF TIME
The time it would take you to get from point A to point B is unpredictable if you hitchhike. If you have to urgently be somewhere, it is better to take a bus or a taxi. Hitchhiking is unpredictable. I slept in forests nearby to highways while hitchhiking. Dozens of times I had to find myself a place night's sleep because I was in the middle of nowhere in the evening or night.
If you have no time and you need to quickly travel to a certain destination, then you shouldn't hitchhike. It is better to use other types of more reliable transportation. One month ago, I was in Antalya whilst my plane would take off after two days in Istanbul? Do you think I hitchhiked from Antalya to Istanbul? No, I didn't. I spent 30$ on a bus because I had to be in a certain place at a certain time.
I don't need airport shuttles and taxis. I start hitchhiking immediately after exiting airports in my new destination countries.
On the other hand, if you aren't time-constrained, then you should hitchhike. Hitchhiking isn't as fast as a taxi, but it can be quite quick if you are lucky to catch the right vehicle. Hitchhiking doesn't take a lot of time. Sometimes, you will spend some time eating with drivers in cafes, visiting their homes, and staying there at night. But these things are the essence of adventurous travel.
If you crave predictability and you hate adventures, then hitchhiking isn't for you. One of the best things about hitchhiking is that it always leads to interesting meetings, encounters, and adventures. This is the main reason why I love hitchhiking.
These are some of the most common mental barriers that prevent people from hitchhiking. Being conscious of them is enough to start decreasing their impact on the quality of your hitchhiking activities.
PREPARE TO BE REJECTED WHILE HITCHHIKING
While hitchhiking, you will find 99% of vehicles ignore and skip you. An inexperienced hitchhiker will pay attention to each rejection. With time and more experience, you will stop treating this situation negatively. With time, hitchhiking gets fun. You go on the road, relax, and start hitchhiking. Regardless of whether vehicles stop for you or not, you will feel awesome.
Thus, if you are a very sensitive person with confidence and self-estimation problems, you will need to take control of your feelings. Hitchhiking should be treated as a funny game. It is all fun. Stand on a road, raise your hard, and have fun. The fact that you are hitchhiking instead of spending tons of money on buses and taxis means that you are smarter than 99% of travelers.
Hitchhiking is a powerful filter that gets all the unresponsive and mean drivers out of your way. At the end, you end up with the best people in your travel area.
Going to a bus station and buying a ticket to your destination point is very easy. Paying a fat bill to a taxi driver is even easier than that. Even small kids can do these things.
However, traveling 500 km, and riding dozens of cars, minivans, and trucks by hitchhiking is a very adventurous and funny challenge.
Finally, don't prepare to be rejected by 99% of drivers and treat these rejections as a funny game. Don't take it too seriously.
WEAR CLEAN BACKPACKING CLOTHES
Even though backpacking is a belief in human kindness and responsiveness, nobody wants to have a dirty and strange hitchhiker in their car. We instinctively feel repulsion towards people who are dirty or smelly in a bad way.
When you stay on the road, a driver has only a few seconds to look at you and evaluate your trustworthiness. The subconscious mind requires milliseconds to understand whether your clothes are clean or dirty. If you are dirty, then you have problems with hygiene that surely lead to bad health. Bad health, on the other hand, can be very contagious. This is why on an instinctive level we feel repulsion towards tramps, beggars, and homeless people (most of them are also dirty).
While hitchhiking, it is recommended to look like a real backpacker. Khaki cargo shorts or trousers, simple t-shirts of ordinary colors, a backpack, sunglasses on your head, a backpacking bottle, and other necessary backpacking accessories.
People not only give you a ride, but you also taste great food! A driver in Petra showed me his hospitality.
You shouldn't look like an ordinary person (not a traveler or tourist). Otherwise, it would look suspicious. What does a non-tourist or non-traveler do in the middle of nowhere?! It is weird. In this situation, your chances of catching a car will lower.
Having luggage or bags other than a backpack also doesn't add you points. If a person on a road has luggage or bags, it also looks weird. It means this person has some types of problems (financial problems, problems with accommodation, problems at home, etc.). Only travelers and backpackers hitchhike. Other people use regular transportation like buses and taxis. A person with a suitcase in the middle of nowhere looks very suspicious.
If your backpacking clothes are dirty, you should wash them before you start hitchhiking. If you can do it, that's great. If you can't do it due to specific circumstances, it isn't a big problem. You can also catch cars in dirty backpacking clothes. Don't be too discouraged.
AVOID WEARING SUNGLASSES WHILE HITCHHIKING
Sunglasses are a must-have item while backpacking. However, wearing sunglasses while hitchhiking isn't the best idea. Success in the art of hitchhiking majorly depends upon trust. Only drivers who trust you will stop for you. Thus, within those few seconds when a driver evaluates your trustworthiness, you need to do everything to look as honorable as possible.
Sunglasses make people more mysterious and hide their emotions. Also, it is said that The eyes are the mirror of the soul. You can understand a person's nature by looking into his/her eyes.
This is what people drivers do when you hitchhike. They look into your eyes. Hence, when you wear sunglasses, you don't give drivers a chance to start trusting you. Though eye contact is an important element of successful hitchhiking, you can still efficiently hitchhike even without establishing eye contact. The problem is that, in sunglasses, you become completely impenetrable.
I understand hitchhikers when there is a scorching hot sun and it is impossible to be without sunglasses. In this case, it is better to wear sunglasses, protect your eyes, and lose a car. Otherwise, if the sun isn't a problem, you should avoid wearing sunglasses while hitchhiking. Let people look into your eyes and understand that you are an innocent backpacker.
EYE CONTACT DURING HITCHHIKING
If you read about hitchhiking tips on the Internet, you will see loads of tips and recommendations regarding establishing eye contact during hitchhiking. Concerning this element of hitchhiking, I have a personal opinion.
First, whenever you hitchhike, you will instinctively and reflexively look into drivers' eyes. In case a driver isn't visible beyond dark car windows or sunshine, you will just look at the car. Thus, you don't have to intentionally establish eye contact with drivers while hitchhiking.
HITCHHIKING WORKS WELL EVEN WITHOUT EYE CONTACT
In my personal experience of catching hundreds if not thousands of cars, I can confidently tell you that hitchhiking works well even without eye contact.
Sometimes, you just stay on a road, and you see five cars coming. You start hitchhiking and have no idea which among these cars is more likely to stop for you. Looking into drivers' eyes isn't your priority. Then, suddenly, one of the cars stops for you. Did you establish eye contact with this driver? No! This man just saw you without you seeing him, and he decided to give you a ride.
I recommend not emphasizing too much attention and effort upon establishing eye contact with drivers. In some cases, it can even harm the efficiency of hitchhiking. Just be relaxed, stay calm, have a positive mindset, and everything will be fine.
DON'T WEAR ANYTHING ON YOUR HEAD
Unless it is a very rainy, snowy, or cold day, you shouldn't wear anything on your head. Don't put on hoods, hats, caps, and any other things on your head. Your head should be open and make sure your hair looks tidy.
Sometimes, when the sun is scorching hot, you should break this rule and wear a headwear!
Just like in the case of sunglasses, headwear partially changes a person's appearance. You start looking less recognizable. The best thing to hide your real appearance without a mask and makeup is to wear sunglasses and a cap. This will let you hide 80% of your face.
While hitchhiking, you should look more recognizable and open. Your face, your eyes, and your gestures must be open. Headwear, on the opposite side, close your head, forehead, and eyebrows.
STAY AWAY FROM CITIES
Whenever I sit down in a person's car and talk to him, I tell a driver not to drop me in the city center. I always ask drivers to drop me in deserted places, outside of cities. The best of the worst scenarios is to be dropped near the entrance of a city. In this case, you can at least continue hitchhiking.
If a driver dropped you inside a city, you will have to get out of the city to enable hitchhiking. The reason to stay away from cities is that vehicles don't stop for hitchhikers in cities. In towns, there are usually some types of public transportation. Thus, a hitchhiker isn't in a desperate situation. This is how drivers think when they see you asking for a ride in a city.
In a deserted place surrounded by either forests, mountains, or plains, hitchhikers look more vulnerable. There is no public transportation. Therefore, hitchhiking works in such locations. In cities, hitchhiking is dead.
As a professional backpacker with years of hitchhiking experience, I can tell you that one of the worst things about hitchhiking is being dropped inside a populous city. When this happens, your progress stalls and you can't hitchhike anymore. The only way to enable hitchhiking is to get away from the city. In this situation, you will need to either walk or take public transportation to at least get to the end of the town.
Once you are out of the city, find an uninhabited place, and then start hitchhiking. Now, drivers will start stopping for you.
Every time I was dropped inside cities, I had to get away from them. Most of the time, I had to ride a bus and pay for it. Paying for a ride isn't something backpackers and hitchhikers like. We prefer a free ride. Thus, stay away from cities. Before you are dropped off by your current driver, you should inform him to drop you in a deserted place outside cities.
DON'T HITCHHIKE IN THE EVENINGS AND NIGHTS
If you are traveling long distances, probably, it will take you several days to reach your destination point. Thus, you will have a limited period of time during the daytime to hitchhike. When the sun starts going down, your chances of catching a car will lower.
You need to stop hitchhiking when it is already darkening. There are three reasons why you should avoid hitchhiking in the evenings and nights.
First, hitchhiking in the dark is mostly pointless because drivers are scared of taking hitchhikers at night. A bad hitchhiker can attack, injure, or even kill a driver. The problem is that there is more anonymity at night and almost no visibility. Thus, criminals can carry out their business without any witnesses.
The second reason why you shouldn't hitchhike in the evenings and nights is that it isn't safe for you. You have no idea what type of driver will stop for you. Hitchhiking at night is simply dangerous for you.
Lastly, you need to have good sleep while backpacking and hitchhiking. Sleep is tremendously important for your health, wellbeing, daily mood, and energy. Therefore, you should stop all physical and mental activities at night.
SLEEP WHILE HITCHHIKING
On a multi-day hitchhiking trip, you will need to have places to sleep. These places might be hotels, guest houses, hostels, camping sites, mosques and churches, mountains and forests, and any other available places where you can either use your tent or just a sleeping pad and bag.
While hitchhiking I never plan where I will sleep. I don't even know where I will end up by the end of the day while hitchhiking. Unpredictability is one of the best parts of hitchhiking experience. This is my personal preference. I have slept in mosques, forests, mountains, deserts near highways, 5-star hotels, and many other places while hitchhiking.
My advice is to go with the flow. Let everything go as it goes. By the end of the day, you will always end up in places convenient for sleep. While backpacking and hitchhiking, you need to be very flexible.
For most people like tourists and others, we are too risky and crazy people. Indeed, hitchhiking is unpredictable. Thus, if you value predictability and can't feel comfortable without it, then hitchhiking isn't for you. You will need to either stop hitchhiking or change your attitude towards this adventurous activity.
ACCEPT INVITATIONS FROM LOCALS
Depending on where you travel, hospitable people will always invite you to their homes for a night's sleep. You shouldn't refute these invitations. If you see and feel that your driver is a friendly, honest, and trustworthy person, then you should surely accept his invitation. On the other hand, if you don't like a driver who invites you to his house, you should politely refuse.
BE OPEN AND TALKATIVE
When you sit down in a car, introduce yourself to a driver. Inform him about your nationality, country, and destination point. It is good if you know the local knowledge. In this case, you can start conversations with drivers and discuss different topics about their country, food, traditions, and economics.
Even if you don't know local knowledge, you should at least learn some local words and sentences. Most people around the world, at least slightly, understand English. Thus, you can always say some common phrases in English like "Good", "Cool", "Okay", "Fine", etc.
If you feel like all conversation topics are exhausted, you can stay silent and it is normal. Otherwise, a silent and mysterious hitchhiker is a bad thing. Drivers won't enjoy your company if you don't open up to them. Loads of drivers are driving long distances and most of them are bored on road. Introspecia and self-dialog bother them. This is one of the reasons why they pick up hitchhikers. An interesting conversation is a good time-killer.
DON'T SELECT VEHICLES WHILE HITCHHIKING
A truck that picks you up in point A and brings you directly to your destination point is the best option for you. At the same time, you might not be as lucky as you want to be. In this situation, you will catch dozens of vehicles until you reach your destination point.
You shouldn't select vehicles. Hitchhike every single vehicle that passes you. Whether it is a huge truck, a luxurious Mersedez, a white minivan, or an old Fiat, you should show the hitchhiking sign to every passing vehicle. You never know which of the cars will stop for you. Sometimes, the oldest cars have the best drivers. Your ultimate goal is to get to your destination point as fast as possible, and it doesn't matter what type of car will bring you there.
DON'T LOOK LIKE A RICH TRAVELER
Looking like a rich traveler is one of the worst things you can do to yourself while hitchhiking and backpacking. Leave your jewelry, expensive apparel, diamonds, and gold at home. There is no need to look luxurious while backpacking and hitchhiking.
If you don't want to attract bad attention on the roads, you should look just like an ordinary backpacker: a little bit tired, a little bit dusty, simple but sturdy clothes and a backpack, no jewelry, a nice G-Shock watch, hiking shoes, and sunglasses.
CARRY A KNIFE IN YOUR POCKET
Even though the world of travel blogging is filled with joyous and adventurous stories related to hitchhiking, the reality of this world is tough. Even though most of our life is filled with positive experiences and events, bad things happen from time to time.
No matter in what country you hitchhike, all places in the world have good and bad people. If you are unlucky enough to get into a bad guy's car, be ready to defend yourself in the situation of emergency. Having a knife in your pocket is a very wise idea.
Being aggressive in case of self-defense is an absolutely normal reaction. What is more, you absolutely need to be aggressive in case someone threatens your health or life. Stabbing a bad guy who wants to either kill or rob you is a must-do thing. What is more, you have to defend yourself in case someone attacks you.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a fellow backpacker. We discussed the topic of carrying a knife for self-defense. He said that it is easier to run away in case of danger. I agree that in case you are threatened by a group of men while camping in a forest, it is easier and wiser to run away. However, if you are locked in a car with a bad man who wants to harm you, using a knife is an absolute must.
Buy a small knife and carry it in your pocket. I guess you will use the knife only to cut some food and other items. Hopefully, you won't have to defend yourself. In my hitchhiking experience, thanks to Allah, I have never met a bad driver and I did not need to use force or defend myself. At the same time, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Hitchhiking is an amazing experience that can completely change your life. You will meet different people, hear various stories, get invited to local houses, and have a lot of adventures while hitchhiking. With more time and experience, hitchhiking will become your strongest backpacking skill.
Getting out of your comfort zone and embracing risks and unpredictability is the most important thing to start hitchhiking. Memories of your past successful hitchhiking experience will always encourage you while you are hitchhiking on different roads around the world.
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