Photo by Kris Kemp
Hitchhiking is probably the cheapest way of travelling, and it used to be a very popular way for young people to get around Europe, though because of safety fears it is much less popular in today’s world. However, if you are brave enough then there is much to be said about it, and here are a few tips that should help you on your way.
Hitchhiking can be frustrating and dangerous, and it can be a lot of fun and a great way to meet new people. It is also much more difficult to get a lift than it used to be as drivers tend to be very cautious about picking up hitchhikers; however those that do pick them up are generally very friendly, though a very small minority can be dangerous so you need to be prepared.
The first thing you need to ensure is that you stick to local rules and regulations; these vary across different countries, regions and locations so make sure that you do the necessary research or you lift could be by a police car to the nearest cash point for an on-the-spot fine.
You must also be prepared for days when you don’t get a single lift, so be prepared to spend whole days walking. Good maps are essential, and always check that any lifts you are offered will take you in the right direction and to a location where you stand a chance of getting another lift rather than isolated countryside.
You should also ensure that you are carrying plentiful supplies of food and drink. You can lose a great deal of water when hiking in hot weather, so make sure that you keep hydrated. It is important to have a number of alternatives for sleeping, such as youth hostels and couch-surfing contacts, and it is always worthwhile carrying a light weight tent and sleeping bag.
When choosing a place to hitch a ride from, you should ensure that you are visible to drivers and that they have plenty of time and space to slow down and stop. If possible there should be a reasonable amount of traffic, but not too much. Avoid town centres; they are very difficult to get out of. Always ask to be dropped off on or close to highways.
Service stations can be good places to get a lift and anywhere where traffic is forced to stop, for instance international border crossings, but cross the border first. Very few drivers are willing to transport hitchhikers across borders for obvious reasons. Hitchhiking at night is very difficult; generally it is better to sleep and resume you journey in the morning.
Hitchhiking can be a great was to travel Europe, and you can always combine hitchhiking with other ways of getting around, for instance for some legs of your journey you may need to travel by coach or even train. Finally, stick to your hunches. If the offer of a lift doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t – so don’t be scared to decline it.
This is a guest post by Claire Chat a new Londoner, travel passionate and animal lover. She blogs about Pets and Travelling in Europe. If you want Claire to write you specific content, you can find email her here or contact her on Twitter (Claire_Chat).