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.

Tips

Useful stuff to carry

(I mentioned most of this stuff below, but I'll list it all in one place here)

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 several times!

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:

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:

Smile!

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 to talk.

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.

Trucks

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 places, yet):

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...

Other hitchhikers

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:

Spots

General advice

Picking a good spot is the essence of hitchhiking. The more of these characteristics a spot has, the better:

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.

Bayreuth, Germany

Bratislava, Slovakia

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.

Budapest, Hungary

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.

Hamburg, Germany

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 destinations.

Koeln, Germany

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.

Munich, Germany

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.

Rotterdam, Netherlands

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 on ramp.

Tilburg, Netherlands

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.

Utrecht, Netherlands

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'.

Vienna, Austria

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.
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