The Pros and Cons of hitchhiking around the World
Ahoy pirates! Many of you are always asking us for more articles about travelling on the cheap so today, drum roll please, we are going to look into the pros and cons of hitchhiking.Content
- Hitchhiking in the UK
- Tips for successful hitchhiking adventures
- The Pros and Cons of hitchhiking
- Hitchhiking information online
Hitchhiking is a truly awesome way to get around and one of the oldest modes of backpacker transport in the book! There is something truly liberating about turning up to a lay-by, sticking out your thumb and not knowing where you shall end up!
Hitchhiking in the UK is a great place to start, drivers are often surprised to see a british hitchhiker but you won't be waiting for long as you normally get picked up very quickly! I have hitched a lot of short distances throughout Asia on the back of motorbikes and in trucks but I have also taken part in a few epic hitchhiking adventures across Europe; once hitching from the UK all the way to Romania (via France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungry) over a month. I knew I wanted to explore Europe but funds were tight so I bought a tent, signed up to Couchsurfing and hit the road with a few maps and plenty of cardboard and pens for signs!
Whilst on the road, I have come up with a few tips to help you guys have your own successful hitching adventures! The most important one is to be happy! Be happy, be flexible! Hitching is a brilliant way to save some cash and have some adventures but you need to realise you may end up waiting a while to get picked up! If you look approachable and happy, your more likely to get picked up by a cool driver.
When it comes to signs, I am a fan of big, simple signs (usually with just one word such as ‘South’ or a road code like M6) when hitchhiking. You can often find cardboard on the road, that's not a problem, but for the love of god take a couple of sharpies! There is nothing worse than trying to write a sign out with a frozen biro!
One really important thing to consider is that if your hitching any real distance you MUST be prepared to sleep out if necessary, whenever I hitchhike I always take a tent! Sometimes drivers will offer you a place to stay in their house but you cannot rely on this, take camping gear and make sure you have lots of warm gear as well as a good map so you can work out where the hell you are!
Pick your hitching spot carefully, I personally prefer service stations or lay-bys on long, straight roads with a speed limit - that way drivers aren't going 100 miles an hour and they have time to actually see you. Once you do get a ride, be polite, friendly and above all - talkative! Most of the time drivers have stopped because they are a tad curious and a tad bored, they often want to have a conversation!
Do not do anything in the car, e.g. eating, smoking, rolling down the windows, without first asking the drivers opinion; remember you are a guest! Try to negotiate where you will be dropped off before you arrive, you do not want to end up in a dodgy area or the middle of a big town when you could have found yourself on a nice straight road instead.
When hitchhiking, especially when hitchhiking in the UK, dress to impress, you don't want to look too scruffy. I know a couple of guys who have hitchhiked around the world in brightly coloured silk suits they bought on the cheap in Vietnam, they never have to wait long for a lift! Lots of innovative adventurers still take to the roads today, cardboard under one arm, tent under another, to try something really ambitious - I have met people who have hitchhiked from the UK to Australia and back, I've met hitchhikers who have crossed Afghanistan on foot, been stranded in Chinese deserts for days on end and slept in a Mongolian yurt after being picked up by a friendly group of locals on horseback! If you want a real adventure, hitchhiking around the world might just be the thing for you!
Hitchhiking is perfect for those of you seeking something special, looking for a cheap and unique way to get around and keen on pushing the boundaries of adventure travel! Hitchhiking is a great way to meet amazing people, make lasting friendships and become part of a really wonderful community (check out some of the annual hitchhiking festivals in Europe!). You will be welcomed into peoples home, piled high with numerous cups of coffee at petrol stations and, in general, be treated really kindly by the people who pick you up.
The cons are pretty obvious; at some point, your going to end up waiting a while for a lift, you are probably going to get rained upon, you may struggle to find a good place to sleep or get somewhat stranded. Crucially, your driver might not be a particularly good driver - numerous empty beer cans are a good warning sign! If you are sensible however, choose your drivers wisely and take the right equipment (a waterproof jacket plus pens, pens and more pens!) you shouldn't have too many problems. Go for it, travel is an adventure after all!
There is a huge amount of information online on hitching with the best site of all being Hitchwiki.org - check it out and start planning your own adventure today! Other great places to get information are Digihitch and on the Couchsurfing Hitchhikers forum.
As always, be sure to check in here at Holiday Pirates for the best flight deals, package holidays and travel tips - perhaps you could even score a cheap one way flight to a faraway land and then hitch back, it would certainly make for an incredible story!