Zoey and I love to hitchhike and have hitchhiked in the U.K, U.S.A, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Japan, and South Korea so I’d say we’re hitchhiking professionals. Many people are scared of hitchhiking, which is silly, you shouldn’t be scared of hitchhiking. As long as you are smart about it, you’ll realize that people are just trying to help. So if you’re considering sticking your thumb out on the side of the road, here is some advice on how to make sure you hitch a ride.
Consider where you are: I think the most important thing to note is safety. Hitchhiking can be dangerous so take into considering where you are. We hitchhiked 37 times in Japan and safety was never an issue. Japan is one of the safest cities in the world. We also hitchhiked in many first world countries which tend to be safer as well. If you’re in a third world country, just make sure you’re more cautious. We’d also suggest to avoid hitchhiking in countries that are known for high crime rates against tourists or sexual assault. Again, just be smart and consider your surroundings.
Consider who you’re with: We never hitchhike alone. Zoey and I always hitchhike with each other or with friends. Hitchhiking can be especially dangerous for girls so we have to be more careful when taking a ride. So remember, always hitchhike with a buddy.
Consider the time of day and your destination: If you’re traveling long distances, make sure you set off early in the morning. You never know how many times you’ll have to switch rides or the route the person will take to get you from point A to point B. In Japan, Zoey and I had to hitchhike four times to get from Himeji to Okayama, which should only take about 2 hours, but it took us about 7 hours. After that experience, we always made sure to set off early in the morning no matter how close our destination was. You don’t want to find yourself hitchhiking in the dark, people might get the wrong idea if you know what I mean.
Make a sign: This is crucial to getting a ride. Always get a local to write the name of your destination on a large piece of paper or cardboard, this will help drivers know where you’re trying to go. If you just stick your thumb out, the drivers are less likely to stop because most people don’t want to change their route for a hitchhiker. If you have a large sign written in the local dialect, people are more likely to stop for you.
Map your route: This is also very important to keep in mind when trying to hitch a ride. Make sure that you google map direction from your location to your destination. There are two reason why I ALWAYS do this. First, for your own safety. You’ll be able to follow the route on your iPhone as you’re in the car, so you’ll always know exactly where you are. Second, your hitchhiking location is very important to successfully and quickly catch a ride, mapping your route will help you out with this. Find the main road on the map and make sure you stand on the side of the road that leads to your destination. Basically, don’t just hitchhike on any road, be strategic.
While you’re on the road trying to hitchhike:
Make sure you stand somewhere visible to drivers. So avoid large trees, parked cars, bus stops, large signs, bushes, or really anything that would block them from seeing you.
Make sure to stand somewhere where the driver can easily pull over and stop. Make it easy for them to stop and they will. So basically, you don’t want to hitchhike on a highway or somewhere where cars are going really fast and have no time or space to stop. Aim for turning lanes, curbs, or emergency lanes, cars can easy stop in those areas.
Make sure to look friendly and approachable. Smiling always helps with this one. Whether you’re a guy, a girl, a couple, or a group of friends, always look harmless and friendly. Obviously, people want to feel safe when they pick up a stranger as much as you want to feel safe when you get in the car with a stranger. A friendly face always helps so avoid wearing sunglasses or anything that will hide your face.
Make eye contact with drivers. This sounds a little weird, I know, but it really does help. I think it makes it a little more personal if you make eye contact and smile. They will see that you’re not harmful, that you’re friendly, and that you really just need a ride.
Put your thumb out and wait for someone to stop.
When someone stops, verify that they know your destination. Before you get into the car, make sure they know where you want to go. Sometimes people can only take you half way so make sure you’re both on the same page. Verify again when you get into the car. Be clear and show them the location on a map if you can.
While you’re in the car:
Make sure to say thank you to the driver for stopping and giving you a ride. It’ll start things off on a great note!
Make conversation. Don’t just sit in the back seat and wait to arrive at your destination. Talk to the driver and see if you have anything in common. Make them laugh, ask them questions, or tell them some of your travel stories. If you can’t figure out what to talk about, talk about food, everyone loves food!
If you know the local dialect, speak them in their language. Most of the time, locals love it when foreigners try to speak their language. Even if you just know a few words, share your knowledge with them, they tend to find it funny and endearing.
If they don’t speak English and you don’t speak their language, find other ways to connect. If you’re gonna be in a car with someone for a long time, you want to have something to talk about. In Korea, we talk about K-pop and sing along to famous songs with the drivers. It’s actually really fun. In Japan, we often used music to connect to people as well. You’ll be surprised how much music brings people together.
If you follow these tips, not only will you get a ride but you’ll have a great time doing it! We love hitchhiking everywhere we go and if you’re up for it, you should try it too! Good luck!