A Rough Guide to Hitchhiking Part 3

Friday, September 23, 2011  at 6:58 AM
Written by Chris Coulon.

Here is the final installment of our tips for hitchhiking on the open road.  This last article combines two of my most interesting hobbies, the thrill of international travel and the frugality of hitching.  For those of you that missed the last article it can be found at Part 2 and to anyone looking to start the whole thing from scratch here is Part 1.

Outside the European 
Parliment
We managed to find European Parliament during Strasbourg Round 2 on our way back into France


Hitching in the USA vs. International:

In the United States, we long distance hitchers are blessed.  The US has one of the most extensive road infrastructures in the world.  There is literally a grid of major highways that spans all over the country and through every state.  Even Hawaii has Interstate highways.  This expansive network of vehicular arteries is also complimented by the fact that we as a people share the strong propensity to reach almost every destination via automobile—much to the chagrin of nearly anyone who is in any way environmentally conscious.  In addition to a great set of roads, many highways in the US also have not only free but decent rest stops for anyone to use.  Additionally, in the great state of Washington most of these stops serve free coffee and cookies (although donations are highly encouraged). 

Hitchhiking in Foreign countries is much the same as it is in the United States, with a few slight differences.  The most important of which is, unlike the US, most countries (and this includes all of Europe) do not have straight running highways, but rather their purpose is simply to connect major cities.  As a result of this, it is very advisable to have some sort of map with you and a route planned out.  You should always watch for road-signs and know where you are in case there is a need to jump out at a specific intersection. 

In addition to labyrinthine road systems, many European highways are more commercialized than American counterparts.  This can be observed at their rest stops, which often have fully serviced restaurants and stores.  At these places you might be hassled if you are discovered to be approaching their customers and asking for rides.  It is at these locations that signs can be most useful.  Simply stand by the parking area or by the doors of the building with a sign so that you are clearly seen as someone looking for a ride. 

Do not forget that many countries around the world do not speak the same language as you.  It always pays to have a phrase book with a few basic directional phrases memorized.  However, don’t let this hold you back, often just repeating the name of the destination can be enough to get a good idea of their direction.

Finally make sure that you are following commonly practiced customs in whatever country you are in.  For example, while the thumb out it a fairly internationally recognized symbol for hitchhikers it is not exclusive.  Some countries may have different methods for showing your intent on the side of a road. 

Legalities of Hitchhiking:

Hitchhiking is legal in nearly all countries but certain regulations for it may apply; most common of which are restrictions for pedestrians on major motorways.  This can be circumvented by hitching at on-ramps and/or rest stops.  For country-specific detailed information I usually check-out HitchWiki.   This website provides information, including legalities, customs and statistics, on most countries around the world.  The website even provides great hitching locations and tips for specific cities. 

Arriving in Gavarnie
Danalynn arriving in the small mountain town of Gavarnie after a successful hitch, Pyrenees

We hope that this guide has been helpful, or at least entertaining, and the next time you happen to see travelers on the side of the road think to offer them a ride, at the least you will be guaranteed a more interesting drive. 

To anyone else who may have additional advice, tips, links or questions please shoot us a comment.
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