Hitchhiking can be an enjoyable way to travel if you are not pressed for time. It is the least expensive method of travel, as no payment is expected around much of the world. Many drivers pick up hitchhikers for good conversation along a stretch of highway that would otherwise be quite boring. This page will cover the basics of hitchhiking, as well as how to improve your odds of a lift.

Hitchhiking in New Zealand

Hitchhiking in New Zealand

Hitchhiking, in its simplest sense, means standing on the side of the road and hoping someone picks you up. The universal sign of hitchhiking is sticking your arm out with your thumb up.

Many Americans believe that hitchhiking is dangerous, but as with everything, if you take the proper precautions it can become quite safe. Remember you can always decline a ride. If you feel uneasy about a situation, you are not obligated to get into a vehicle. It is usually safer to hitch a ride with one or two other people rather than a nearly full car. If you do choose to take the ride, take note of the license plate number. You can always message it to a friend while getting in as an extra precaution. Keep your bag close by while in the car so you can access it easily. If you do not feel safe hitchhiking by yourself, then do it with a friend.

Mount Cook 4WD

One of my rides in the mountains of New Zealand turned into an unexpected off-roading adventure!

At times while hitchhiking, I have been invited to travel with someone for several days, and other times I have been invited over for dinner. Although these occurrences are quite rare, they can make for fun adventures. Driving through the Australian Outback, I picked up a hitchhiker who rode with me for several days, and my trip was much more interesting than it would have been driving through the desert alone. Another plus was that he acted as a DJ, playing some great tunes when radio reception was scare.

Tips for Success

In some places, hitchhiking can be so easy that you are picked up immediately, while in other areas you could be waiting a long time fro a ride. Here are some tips that will increase your chances of success:

  1. Don’t try to hitchhike from the city center. Most people driving around in a city are locals and are not going far. Walk or take a bus to the outskirts of the city to increase your chances of a ride. Hitchwiki has a good compilation of hitchhiking spots on the edge of different cities.
  2. Pick a spot on the highway with visibility from a long way off and, preferably, low speed limits. Also be in a spot where there is room for a car to pull off to the side and pick you up.
  3. Look well kept and use a medium-sized erasable whiteboard if you will be hitchhiking often. I have gotten quite a few comments about the whiteboard while hitchhiking mentioning it is so “high tech” versus using conventional cardboard.
  4. It is easier for women to hitchhike than men, but it is also more dangerous. In addition, it is easier for single travelers or pairs to hitchhike than larger groups. If you are a solo female traveler, take additional precautions while hitchhiking.
  5. If you speak the local language, indicate so on a sign, as it may increase your chances of getting picked up. It is possible to hitchhike even when you do not know the language, it just takes a lot of gesturing- a truly international mode of communication!
  6. Check the legality of hitchhiking in your area to avoid confrontations with the police! Hitchhiking is legal throughout most of the world, but there are certain areas, especially within the United States, where it is not. Do your research.
  7. Remember that hitchhiking is weather dependent. It will be hard to find a ride in a downpour, as nobody wants to pick up a soaked hitchhiker. Surprisingly, one of the hardest times I had hitchhiking was in the blazing heat, maybe because nobody wanted to open their doors and let the AC out of the car.

I hope the information here helps those who are getting started with hitchhiking, and if you have additional tips from personal experience please feel free to leave them in the comments below!


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