Thursday, May 2, 2013

10 Essential Tips to Improve Your Hitchhiking Game

Exactly 3 years and 11 months ago I posted this in my facebook page. At the time I was only hitchhiking in Guatemala where most of these rules don't apply. Just put your shit in front of you to look like a traveler, ok you are traveler so just put your shit in front of you and people will stop. I mean don't imagine that you will have 10 cars queueing to pick you up but cars will stop... eventually. Although it doesn't work as well as you could wish for, specially when it's raining. Once I was hitchhiking to Lake Atitlan with my friend Frida (Swedish and blonde) and we ended up taking the chicken bus because it was raining and no one picked us up.

Back to the point of this post. As much as I would like to say that I came up with this list, I didn't. I took it from somewhere else, maybe someone posted it in the HHers forum, or maybe from Autostop Argentina?  Maybe not this one, I copied the list in English and this website is in Spanish.'

Anyways, if you're starting to hitchhike and want some tips or just want to improve your chances in getting a ride you might find these tips helpful.

Safe and fast rides!

#1: Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Clean shaven, clean clothes, and no traces of blood (yes, really) or sweat on your skin. I suppose lack of facial hair is open to debate, but I have a suspicion drivers are more likely to pick up men who look like they’re on their way to officer training school rather than those who emulate ZZ Top.
Not entirely agree with the beard part of this one. Why? Not sure if you know but I've been wearing a beard since 2008. True, I tried to keep it neat and trimmed. Also I have a few piercing in my face. And when I hitchhiked with Joachim to Turkey, he looked like one of the guys from ZZTop.
#2: Lose the Sunglasses
Whether you’re sporting a cheap pair of frames you purchased an hour ago from a shady character downtown or a trendy set of Oakleys, it’s best to set them aside and let motorists see your face.
I wear prescription glasses but in Latin America when it's so fucking sunny it's valid. I've done it.

#3: Be Neighborly
This tip depends on the living situation, of course, but if you happen to be residing and hitchhiking in the same area, take heed of your presence in the community. Do you ever go for walks or runs in the morning or evening? Wave at motorists as they pass; perhaps they’ll remember you if you need a ride to the bus station later on.

#4: Limit One Bag Per Person
Try not to carry more than one piece of luggage. If you can’t travel without a full 60L backpack so be it, but the ideal hitchhiker is supporting a simple day pack, or none at all. Saves the driver the hassle of clearing out the back seat or popping the trunk – you can just rest it on your knees.
I always travel with two backpacks, unfortunately. The big one with all my shit and the small one, my important backpack as I call it with all my important stuff.
#5: Have a Creative Approach
I’ve seen all kinds here – people wearing fake casts on their arms and legs; dressing up in costume; girls showing off their legs (classic); some physical gimmick like chasing after cars that hesitate or performing some gymnastic stunts. If you think anything will help you to stand out, even the absurd, then go for it.
Not long ago with Katrin we were dancing tango when we were trying to get a ride in a service station in Austria. I carriedy her on my shoulder. Another time I used a sign "no mordemos" (we don't bite) when I hitchhiked with Tine in Spain; also used the german version in Austria.

#6: Choose Your Location Wisely
If you need to start your journey from a major metropolitan area, consider walking or arranging transportation for the first 20-30 kilometers, ensuring you’re delivered in a rural area and less likely to catch people running errands and going to work.
Motorists need room to pull over; don’t assume they’ll just stop in their lane and halt incoming traffic to pick you up.
Check local hitchhiking laws. For instance, it’s illegal to hitchhike on the motorways of New Zealand (though not highly enforced).
Very true. I always check hitchwiki before leaving. Once I was leaving Gent going to Brussel and I was following hitchwiki's advice but I saw a sign in one corner. I decided to  follow it... bad decision. Not only I walked a lot, the place was terrible. Had to walk back and went to where the website said, within 10 min I found a ride.
#7: Make a Sign
Fifty-fifty shot here. Carrying a cardboard sign with your destination written in sharp bold letters might make it easier to find one driver willing to take you the full distance, but could also discourage those going only a few kilometers from making the effort to stop.
If you’re traveling in a foreign country where English is not the native language, it would definitely be a good idea to write “I can speak ____” in the local tongue. Drivers might want more than simply “Roma? Ok, ok … (3 hours later) here … bye bye.”
This depends on my mood. Sometimes I feel like using a sign, sometimes I don't. If I'm using one and I'm not getting anywhere I stop using it, or viceversa. In Latin America I think I've only used a sign three or four times, in Panama and Colombia.

#8: Consider the Time of Day
Rush hour traffic (7-9 AM, 4-6 PM) can leave you aggravated even if you’re not stuck behind two hundred cars and a construction zone. A parent who might enjoy conversation with a traveler in the middle of the day is less likely to let a stranger enter her car with her 10-year-old son, fresh from school. Blue and white collar workers usually want to get home and chill immediately following a long day of stress.

#9: Looking Pathetic Helps
Somewhat of an exception to the luggage and cleanliness rules is playing the proper role of a hitchhiker – a traveler displaced and alone in this uncertain world of ours. Now imagine such a character in the pouring rain. Along a rural highway in the dead of night. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts when the outside temperature reaches zero degrees Celsius. A combination of the three would be ideal. Pity rides are all too common in the world of hitchhiking.
It was raining and I indeed looked like I was having a rough day but it worked the first time I hitchhiked from Berlin.
#10: You Are Not Special
Finally - never, never assume you are entitled to a ride. I know it can be frustrating to sit outside for hours in the rain or glaring sun watching car after car after truck … after horse-drawn carriage pass you by. However, if you start thinking “Why didn’t she pick me up? She’s going the same direction, and her passenger seat was empty,” then that resentment will simply build until you lose hope of making it to your destination, stop wearing a smile, and only stick out your thumb at every fifth vehicle. Strangers grant you a privilege by taking the time out of their busy day and escorting you further down the open road. Don’t forget it.
But sometimes you cannot help it, specially when you've been stuck for hours. 

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