Should You Go Hitchhiking?...
The advantages are obvious, it’s the cheapest way to get around, but the disadvantages are obvious too, in that it’s unpredictable and can be dangerous. When you’re in luck, it’s sunny and lifts come easy, when you’re not then you can be stuck waiting for hours to get a lift, and its raining or snowing and it can be a miserable experience. In my college days I hitched for thousands of miles across the states, sleeping wherever I could find or even under the stars, and I loved it. However, except for emergencies, I would never use it as my first choice for traveling any more.
I still occasionally hitch it, the last time was in the Swiss Alps. My girlfriend and I were on a skiing holiday, hopping from one resort to another. We missed the connection to the next port of call and it was getting late so we tried for a hitch.
Just 4 cars past us, then a truck stopped, a local farmer, while it wasn’t first class travel in the back with a couple of crates of chickens as neighbors, we got to the next resort in just an hour, and the driver refused any money and we showed our appreciation with a big slab of duty free chocolate.
When hitching in other countries try and find out from asking the locals what to expect. It’s surprising that it can be easy in one part of the country, but for some reason difficult in another. It is customary in most countries though to offer some payment depending on how far you have been taken.
Hitching Across the USA.
The dangers of hitchhiking are pretty obvious and it’s difficult to get a lift nowadays. But it’s still legal in most states, except for hitching on freeways. It’s a debatable point where the line is drawn on the ramp way, and decided by the officer who can give you a ticket.
Urban myths abound about hitchhikers getting into horrendous situations. It happens, but it’s rare. I waited hours for a lift in Montana one time, eventually I was picked up by a friendly couple who explained that just such a myth was circulating in this particular area. Whether it was true or not – it killed the lifts.
You can imagine the reluctance of drivers to give a lift when there is a news report of some psychopath hitch hiker, now released because he is ‘reformed’. And here lies a lesson, try and look clean and well presented, and not like a psycho-killer! (Difficult, I know, for some of my friends : )
If you hit the trails backpacking frequently, you can often find that you’re a long way from your car at the end of the trail, there may not be buses or any transport and hitching may be your only option.
You’re not likely to encounter any trouble in these circumstances. It’s in the National Parks that you hitchhiking is still pretty common, and people are much more likely to give you a lift when you’re just a normal backpacker.
Using Your Instincts.
Just use normal common sense and be prepared in advance for situations you are bound to encounter. Of course, make sure you are well prepared for any adverse weather conditions you could encounter. Bring water-proofs and warm clothes if the weather is cold. Make sure you have water and food, in case you have a long wait for a lift. And last but not least, you need a good highway map to plan your route, and know where you are.
Use plenty of ‘common’, and develop your instincts, it comes with practice. Don’t ever hesitate to refuse a ride if things don’t feel right, don’t just carry on hoping for the best, that’s the surest way to head for trouble. There’s always a risk, but the nightmare scenarios are few and far between. The odds go up the more you hitchhike of course, so try and use it for emergencies only or in and area, such as National Parks, where the danger is miniscule.