I gathered some hitchhiking experience recently and I'll share things I
found out here - hope it helps you! You are free to link to this page as
you like, but I'd appreciate if you linked to the
top of my home page instead,
though (rest assured that I won't sue you or something for linking this
guide directly, though). If you do link (or merely like) it I'd be happy
if you emailed me, for I'm
curious about my audience ;-)
I'll give some general advice on best practise I found
to work well for me and list some good hitchhiking spots I encountered
on my way. Stay tuned for more.
Useful stuff to carry
(I mentioned most of this stuff below, but I'll list it all in one place
- A good map with all the motorways/major roads
- A notebook and some pens (one will eventually run out of ink)
- Black magic markers (at least two)
- Several pieces of cardboard for destination signs
- A tent, sleeping bag and foam mattress
- A flashlight
- Band-aids (best as part of a complete first-aid kit)/paper handkerchiefs
- String, duct tape, sewing kit (best with a strong, sharp leather
needle so you can easily sew several layers of fabric together) for all
sorts of patchup jobs
- A hat to protect your eyes from the sun (squinting because of the
sun isn't exactly helpful in smiling at potential rides - neither are
sunglasses because drivers can't see your eyes)
- A multi tool/swiss army knife
- A cellphone/cards or coins for public phones
- Rain gear (including waterproof pants and boots; I suffered the
weight penalty of carrying full leather gear and was pretty glad about
Have a notebook
Carrying a notebook and some pens proved invaluable on countless
occasions. Originally I brought it along to write my travel log. Apart
from that I used it to note down contact addresses and numbers (paper
doesn't run out of power as your mobile phone will eventually...),
reminders of things to do, useful expressions in several languages,
hitchhiking spots, the lyrics and guitar tabs for 'Molly Mallone' and
numerous other things. All the stuff I accumulated in there saved my ass
Get a good map
This shouldn't need to be mentioned, but as I met some hitchhikers
without one I'll mention it anyway. At the very least it should have all
the motorways and major roads. Rest areas/gas stations are a bonus, but
at that resolution you won't cover a big area (I got a map of Europe
that lists only motorways and major roads but no rest areas). Apart
from plotting your course it's also invaluable in communicating with
drivers who don't speak any of your languages. If you're in Germany you
can usually get a free directory of all the rest stops at any of them.
Be ready to hike
The 'hiking' in 'hitchhiking' is there for a reason. Occasionally you'll
have to cover quite a distance on foot (ending up in a bad spot,
getting lost on your way to a spot, getting dropped off in the outskirts
of a town), so be prepared:
travel light: Depending on your strength/stamina (and on
how much of a masochist you are) you shouldn't carry more than 30 kilos.
Even more important than lightweight baggage is proper distribution: If
you can fit everything in your (single!) backpack, by all means do! I
carried a carry bag (nothing else being available) as well as a second
backpack (having learned from the carry bag experience) slung over one
shoulder, and I cursed both for every single step I had to carry them
(the carry bag put lots of strain on the forearms/triceps/shoulders, the
slung backpack only strained the shoulders, but chafed like hell after
some time). Also getting in (on busy roads for example) and out (I hope
you never get into that kind of situation, though) of a car quickly is
greatly faciliated by light and compact baggage.
mind your feet: Wear proper, well fitting shoes, (hiking boots,
running shoes, combat boots if you really must - flip-flops are
definitely out of the question), preferably broken in already.
Apart from proper shoes you should definitely have some band-aids and
paper handkerchiefs for patching up sores and blisters (paper
handkerchiefs are sometimes absolutely sufficient, provide more padding
and don't leave sticky residue like band-aids). Even if you have good,
broken in shoes better take that stuff along, chances are your feet will
still get sore after extended periods of wandering!
water: Most hitchhiking takes place in summer, so - depending
on the region you're in, of course - you can usually expect a hot and
dry climate. If you do any serious walking under those conditions you
can expect to get thirsty real quick. Carry at least two liters of water
(definitely more if there's any chance you might have to hike for
extended periods of time) and refill at every opportunity (at least in
Europe you can ask everywhere for tap water, and usually it's
drinkable (it's heavily chlorinated in some places and/or might taste a
little foul, but that still beats dehydration) for you never know when
you can get another refill.
food: Definitely try to get some food (cookies, bread, dried
meat pretty much anything that will keep) before you head out. Having
something in your stomach definitely helps a lot in keeping you going,
while an empty stomach will make you feel weak and turn every step into
an effort after a while.
Don't hitchhike before motorway junctions
Try to hitch a ride that gets you onto the motorway in your direction.
That way you'll get all the traffic going your direction instead of just
the fraction that goes through the motorway leading up to the junction.
Use a sign
There's some purists out there who don't believe in signs, but your
chances on a ride will greatly increase if potential rides know in
advance if they can even help you by stopping for you. Write big, bold
letters, so it can easily be read from a distance (like a street sign).
Have a backup plan
Be prepared for problems that might crop up:
rain: you might have rain gear, but do you have a transparent
plastic sheath for your sign? If not get one, otherwise it will get soggy
and unreadable in no time; also markers will hardly write on even
slightly wet cardboard, so try to keep it dry and find some cover while
writing. Duct tape will help in a pinch to waterproof cardboard, but
prepare it in a dry place as markers will write as well on wet duct
tape as they do on wet cardboard: not at all.
destination sign materials: Always carry two markers,
eventually one will run out, and you don't want that to happen to you in
a spot where you can't get a fresh one; also have several pieces of
cardboard, in case there's more hops than you originally planned)
tent: If you have room to spare in your pack definitely get a
tent. If you get stuck somewhere along the way and need a place to sleep
you'll be glad you brought it. Maybe you can get away with sleeping out
in the open, but it might rain. If you want to sleep out in the open
it's probably a good idea to get a military issue sleeping bag that's rated
for cold temperatures.
Use Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club (for this
one you should register way before you start out, new applications are
processed by volunteers and can take a long time to get approved)
to find people along the route who might be able to host you if you get
stuck. I usually try to find some phone numbers that way, as you tend to
arrive in town on pretty short notice when hitchhiking, and email
usually takes to long to be noticed in time (unless you're willing to
spend several hours and lots of money in an internet cafe). If you can
afford a hostel definitely try to look up directions/phone number in
Try to look friendly and cheerful; smile at drivers passing by, even if
you've been waiting for a while already. More often than not potential
lifts expect to have an interesting conversation with you and scowling
at them won't exactly give them the impression of somebody in the mood
Travel in small hops
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is writing a faraway
destination on your sign. That way you'll get lots of sympathetic shrugs
but hardly anyone able to take you along all the way. If you know
there's another good spot some (not too great) distance away, definitely
try to hitch a ride there and use it as your next stepping stone.
Depending on where you are 50 to 100Km should be ok. If there's few
junctions/major cities along the road to your eventual destination you
can probably double that distance.
Hitching rides with trucks is mainly useful if you're travelling alone
(usually there's only one seat available). If you meet that criterion it
can be a great way to cover great distances. There's some things that
will make it a lot easier to hitch rides with trucks (some of these
might be specific to Europe, I don't have any experience with other
timing: Truckers have to pause for an hour for every four
hours of driving. After ten hours they have to sleep for eight hours
before they can set out again. Therefore 0500 to 0600 in the morning is
usually a pretty good time to hitch rides with truckers as they'll set
out as early as possible after their mandatory rest period. Accordingly
later than 1800 is an extraordinarily bad time to hitch rides with
trucks, as most drivers who pull into a rest stop at that time will stay
there for the night.
strike up conversations: Truckers who aren't going your
direction might still be able to help you out with their radio (asking
fellow truckers still out on the motorway if they'd pull into the rest
stop to pick you up), tips (which roads to take, what to write on your
destination sign), maps or simply encouragement and sympathy (very
helpful if you've been waiting for some time already...)
Weekends: Lots of trucks are going back home on weekends. So if
you can figure out the location of their home base somehow (license
plates, contact information on the side of the truck) chances are
they'll be going there.
Plot a course before you hit the road
Maybe not much in the hitchhiking spirit, but I got pretty burned in
Budapest by hitching a ride to an on ramp that was closed due to
construction. Try to find out about these kinds of things before you
move out and try to find an alternative route. Also trying to find out
about good hitchhiking spots along the way (ask locals, google for them,
use Hitchbase) and noting down
their location helps a lot. If you don't scout for a good spot in
advance you can easily spend several hours looking, all the while
carrying your (probably heavy) pack. And each of those hours will get
you closer to that magical nightfall boundary...
Occasionally you might meet other hitchhikers along the way. They might
be able help you out with tips, maps or encouragement, but nonetheless
you are usually competitors, so you might want to keep a few things in mind
in the interest of good relations:
- If you arrived later stand in line/pick a spot further
downstream. You might still get a lift earlier if you look nicer :-)
- Whatever you do, don't stay too close. In the eyes of passing cars
this will seem like a (larger) group of hitchhikers and this will
decrease both your chances of getting a lift
- If you are in a rest area maybe you can try to come to an agreement
on who gets to look for lifts in which parts of the rest area
Picking a good spot is the essence of hitchhiking. The more of these
characteristics a spot has, the better:
- Lots of traffic
- Slow traffic (highway rest areas are particulary good in that
regard, usually cars will not go much faster than walking speed
- Ease of stopping (hard shoulder, stopping bay, wide tributary with
negligible traffic, wide inlet, parking spots)
- Good visibility (no trees/boulders/whatever keeping drivers from
seeing you), a long, straight stretch of road so drivers see you from a
- Located in a populated, built-up area (it's harder to get a lift out
in the sticks, drivers will wonder exactly why you ended up in
a deserted place like that)
List of spots
I'll only list fairly good spots here. I used several others not listed
here, but in retrospect I think that I only got lucky there, so I won't
bother with those.
- North (Leipzig, Berlin): Try to get to the truck stop
Himmelkron, if possible (it's about 15Km North of Bayreuth, on the A9).
It's probably best to use the on ramp Bayreuth Sued (42). The on ramp
itself is pretty busy and there's no good spot to stop, but there should
be a suitable spot somewhere between the University and the on ramp.
Sorry for the vagueness, but I didn't try to hitchhike from there,
- South (Nuernberg, Regensburg, Munich): There's lots of
local traffic going to Nuernberg, so your best bet is probably hitching
a ride from Bayreuth Sued to Nuernberg and move on from there.
- Southeast (mainly Weiden): Take the Bus (or walk) to Aichig
and walk a little past the crossing Kemnather Strasse and
Frankenwaldstrasse. There's a broad side street leading up to a bunch
of houses. It's a good spot to stop (dead end, so hardly any traffic
coming out; good visibility), but you might be in for quite a wait as
there's not much traffic passing that way outside the rush hour.
Budapest: Try to get to the Hungarian border (A friend from
Bratislava took me there, so unfortunately I can't help you with
directions) and stand directly behind the border. It's probably better
to try and get to the Hungarian side instead of standing in the no man's
land right behind the Slovakian border post like I did.
Brno, Czech Republic
Bratislava: Get out to the Ikea (there's a free bus line going
that way) and walk to the Roundabout. You can either stand at the
roundabout or directly ask for a lift at the adjacent truck stop.
Balaton, Vienna: Go to the Kelenföld train station. Use the
underpass to cross to the eastern side of the tracks. Head straight
until you hit the big main road. Walk along that road in the inner city
direction and use the overpass to cross it. Walk back on the other side
until you get to the gas station.
All directions: Try to get to the rest stop Stillhorn. Best way
to do it is probably to go to Wilhelmsburg by S-Bahn (line S3) and take the
bus from there (don't know the bus line, but the bus stop is called
"Kirchdorf Sued"). There's a rest stop on both sides of the Autobahn and
an underpass to cross safely. Use the one on the west side for southern
destinations, and the one on the east side for northern
South (Frankfurt): Take the U-Bahn U9 to the last stop
(Koenigsforst), exit the train on the starboard side, and turn right
into the street leading out of town (Heumarer Mauspfad). Walk along the
road till you get to a T-junction, where you turn left. This street
leads to the on ramp and there's a stopping bay along it where you can
stand. While you might not get a ride to Frankfurt, getting one to the
next big rest stop (Siegburg) shouldn't be too difficult.
North (Berlin, Nuernberg): Take the U-Bahn line U6 to the
station Studentenstadt. Exit the station through the east exit
(Ungererstraße) and turn left. Walk straight across the big
intersection, after 100m you will get to the A9 on ramp.
Prague, Czech republic
Brno, Bratislava: Take the Metro line C to Chodov station.
Exit the station through the main entrance, turn left and down the
embankment. There's a rather quiet tributary (so it's easy to stop
there) merging into the motorway. At the time I was there, there was
construction going on and the motorway was reduced to one lane. Thus
traffic was going pretty slow. That's probably temporary, though.
Utrecht: Try to get to the A20 exit 14. It's a walk of about 2
hours or a tram ride on line 5 to either 'Abraham Kuyperlaan' or
'Schieweg' from the center. There's a hard shoulder/stopping bay on the
Eindhoven: Use the A58 exit 10 (Hilvarenbeek). There's enough
space to stop directly on the on ramp. Don't even think about using exit
11 (Goirle). There's nowhere to stop and it's incredibly busy. I cannot
really provide you with directions as I'd picked exit 11 at first and
walked roughly along the motorway to exit 10 on discovering that exit 11
was not viable. You don't really want to do that, it's at least 2 hours
of walking. There's a bus stop pretty close to exit 10, so you can
probably easily get there by bus.
Den Haag: There's an official hitchhiking spot (Liftensplaats)
for destinations on the A12 down in the Southeast. I walked there (about
two hours from the center), but there's a bus from the Central Station
as well, the bus stop is called 'Stadion Galgewaard'.
Linz, Salzburg: Take the Metro line U4 to the last stop
(Hütteldorf) exit the station on the port side, turn left at the
exit (Keißlergasse) walk for 200 meters and use the underpass to
cross under the tracks. Walk left, cross the bridge and turn left. Walk
for 2km until you get to the overpass across the motorway. Cross it, and
set up at the gas station 100m to the right.