I’m sure that everybody knows what hitchhiking in Europe means, but many haven’t tried it. But why to hitch a ride? Well because it’s a great way to integrate with locals, get to know their culture, or just to share some stories.
Also, it should be written down to every adventurous wanderer bucket list, to try out that alternative way of traveling. Here is a Europe hitchhiking guide with some tips to know before traveling around with hitchhing a ride.
1. Show your honest eyes
Show your identity with a full face. Don’t cover it with sunglasses or a big hat. As a hitchhiker, you are trying to get in a stranger’s car by an external impression. In short, a car driver will choose to stop or not. Your looks play an important role here. Let’s make it clear. Showing your honest eyes will only raise your credibility to drivers’ eyes when hitchhiking in Europe.
2. Smile in the face
Let’s look at one scenario: “You have been backpacking in Italy for a couple of hours without any luck. You are tired. It isn’t pleasant to walk next to the road with your thumb up when nobody stops. The corners of the mouth start to fall. The only thought is that hitchhiking across Europe is crap.”
Now, decide to enjoy this experience and be happy with that. Even when there are these low points while you hitch a ride, then finding something positive from it is essential. Nobody wants to pick up a person with a grumpy face. It looks creepy and suspicious. When hitchhiking in Europe, keep smiling whatever the situation is.
3. If possible wear something bright
Wearing something bright will bring you out from the crowd. I don’t mean that the road is full of hitchhikers. Noo, you are alone. But if you are wearing military camouflaged clothes then no one sees you. It’s not necessary to wear something bright, but indeed you will be more seen with neon green than all black. Small hitchhiking in Europe TIP: don’t wear clown costumes or near to that, keep it casual. It also looks strange when travelers are fully in uncasual colors. You might get a lift from the cars who understand that humor, but most cars will pass by.
4. Sign with destinations name
A super helpful idea is to have a sign with a written destination. Imagine how fast you lose your smile when a car stops and you find out that the car goes the other way. It would be a big-time waster for the driver and also for you. Having a sign made from cardboard or thinking about the environment and having a multi usable board, will make a little effect to get cars stopped.
5. Cheer yourself up
Some days as a hitchhiker are just flying fast. People give you a lift. You get new connections and life seems like a dream. And then some days feel like years. Strolling next to road hours without any luck. As already previously mentioned that in these situations a smile on your face will save the day. Finding out something positive, like “I love to walk, it trains my legs” or “with walking I see more surroundings”. Learning how to cheer up in tough situations isn’t healthy only in hitchhiking in Europe, but in life overall. Enjoy the moment, cheer up, and be happy.
6. Pitch up everywhere
Hitching in Europe doesn’t exactly mean that you have to be next to the road with your thumb up. The ultimate shortcut and “cheating” will be pitching people face-to-face. When being next to the road, then the driver will make assumptions by the looks. But with an open approach, it’s better to make connections with verbal talking.
Keep in mind that you need to stay in a good mood, look decent, and have a clear approach. Chances to get a lift are much higher than hoping to be picked next to the road. Pitch up convenient places like gas stations or even in parking lots. It needs more courage to start a conversation, but I will repeat: “It’s easier to get a ride.”
7. Use common sense
Imagine if you were the driver. You see someone strange next to the road. He/she has a thumb up and hopes that somebody gives him/her a lift. Okay. Would you do it? Would you pick up a stranger who has a face covered or looks grumpy? Hitching in the curve or on the spot where there is high traffic without a place to stop? No way I’m going to stop.
You can get much more lifts when you think of a person behind a wheel. Just have to be in a good mood, looking decent, and choosing convenient spots to put your hitchhiking thumb up.
8. Avoid highways
When hitchhiking through Europe, you will get recommendations to try luck on highways. Well because there are many cars, driving far away and most of them are going to your desired destination.
But put yourself in the driver’s position again. Would you pick up someone next to the highway where there are high traffic and speeds? It’s dangerous and mostly forbidden to walk next to highways. The only options are when there is a gas station or pit stop, where cars are stopping. Or right before the highway on the smaller road with a convenient place to stop a car.
9. Have eye contact with passing drivers
Having eye contact doesn’t mean that you have to do staring contests. Showing your face to the cars is the way to identify yourself by external looks. It’s a lot easier to walk towards the road holding your thumb up in hope that somebody will stop. Easy to walk that way, but complicated to get a lift. Walk backward and show your face while cars are passing by. Walking that way and not stumbling behind some hole is also a skill that will be learned while hitchhiking in Europe.
10. Move out of the city
That’s a logical one but still needs to point it out. It doesn’t need to be a big city, a center of a bigger village isn’t also a good idea. Taking your sight to the destination and starting to show your hitchhiking thumb, where there is a high probability that drivers have the same destination. That is the place where you as a hitchhiker want and need to start.
11. Hitch a ride on the right side of the road
Another logical and kind of a dummy point. Maybe you are smart enough to stand on the right side of the road. But is it the best and smartest place to hitchhike? Right before the intersection isn’t also a good spot to start with. Because cars can go either way to the left or right, but you need to go right. So in conclusion it’s better to move forward a bit, take a turn to the right on foot. Then choose a spot where it is comfortable to stop a car.
12. Be creative when you don´t speak the local language
It can happen that there will be a language barrier between a wanderer and a locals. Luckily thumb up is an international sign that everybody knows why hitchhikers wanted to stop a car and get a lift. The real hassle starts when the first words are shared. Saying out the desired destination spot with wrong pronunciation and you get confused looks from the driver.
It’s better to write down the destination name or be smart enough and show it on the mobile at Google Maps. Then they can show where he/she is heading and you can point out the place where you want to hop out. Also it will make things easier when knowing some local phrases related to hitching. Like “Where are you heading?”, I am heading to…” and some basic greetings. There are many useful backpacking apps for learning foreign languages.
13. Use smaller roads with a bit less traffic
Why use smaller roads, when there is less traffic? First of all, it’s much easier to stop a car, without blocking the traffic. It’s more amusing because then you see more country life, fewer roads, and cars, more landscape. In short, there will be more places to see. Also, it can lead to unexpected experiences like being invited to a village party or get a couch for the night. To conclude everything, it’s a more adventurous and fun way of hitchhiking through Europe.
14. Ask drivers were to put up thumb next, tips for next rides
When getting to know drivers who picked you up and asking why they stopped. Some of them would say that they also have done hitchhiking in Europe before. During the ride you hear their crazy stories, get to know some useful tips. Most importantly they are locals and they know the area better than wandering adventurers. Maybe they can drop you off at the gas station or some road that is better to continue hitchhiking through Europe.
15. Use Facebook group: Hitchhiking in Europe to get a lift
There aren’t any proper hitchhiking apps. However, on Facebook, there is a big community with over 50 000 members called Hitchhiking Europe. A group where you can get some live additional travel tips in the exact countries. It’s like a hitchhiking app but works on Facebook. People are sharing their stories, want to meet with other like-minded people or somebody offers a lift for travelers. Whenever you have some additional questions about hitchhiking Europe tips, then it’s a good idea to try your luck there.
16. Use Hitchwiki for local Hitchhiking guides
Hitchwiki is the biggest community related to hitchhiking worldwide. From there it will be found a map, where are better spots to put the thumb up. Hitching tips in an exact location. There will be tons of information about that way of traveling by other crazy people, who have shared their tips and stories. Hitchhiking website, that will be useful to use during adventurous travel.
17. Be in a good mood and do something fun
Hitchhiking in Europe isn’t the fastest nor smoothest transportation option to travel. It can take a whole day to move to the next spot. Maybe the weather is bad, nothing to see around or legs hurt. These days may also occur. But it was your choice and you have to be proud of it. Smiling, keeping in mind positive thoughts, and doing fun things are essential to be in a good mood while hitchhiking Europe. Good for mental health and hitchhikers look better in the driver’s eyes. Doing fun things like singing, stand-up comedy for yourself, or anything else that will raise your mood.
18. Take every ride, even if it would take one kilometer away
Every smaller ride takes hitchhikers closer to the goal destination, saves legs, and raises the mood. Maybe you get a good connection with a person behind a wheel and wants to take you even further. Also, the next destination can be a better spot for new ride. Thinking of that maybe if I wait in that position for another car that drives further, it’s not a good idea. Going to regret that decision after waiting for the perfect car for an hour. Every ride is granted and should be accepted.
19. Use gut feeling
How to know if it’s the right place, ride, or time to hitchhike? There aren’t any laws or rules to measure that. There is only you and your gut feeling. Do the car and driver look safe to travel with? Many questions can arise when hitchhiking in Europe. Every situation, place, or ride is a bit different. The only thing to relate to in different situations is your gut feeling.
20. Have food and water
The mood can change fast when to hitchhike across Europe with an idea that it’s an easy task. A small preparation would be beneficial, like having enough food and at least one water bottle for a couple of hours. As previously said, that way of traveling can also leave you next to the road for hours or even the whole day. An empty stomach will drain energy, mood and after all, isn’t healthy too.
21. Just in case have a camping gear
Hitchhiking in Europe tip for an extreme adventurer who doesn’t mind if not getting to the desired destination on the current day. Of course, there is an option to hitchhike in the night as well, but it’s not that safe from either traveler’s and driver’s point of view. Having a backpacking gear and doing some wild camping in a comfortable sleeping bag. After that you can continue adventures with a fresh face. What a story to tell to grandkids.
Last words about hitchhiking across europe
When hitchhiking in Europe you might hear some thoughts from veteran hitchhikers. They probably say that at their time (years ago) it was much easier to get a lift everywhere, but now they think it’s so complicated. I don’t know how the hitchhike across Europe was back in those days, but it’s still possible to travel like this. Try it out, it will be fun!
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