A hitchhiker’s guide to Europe

 One of the cheapest ways to travel is hitchhiking, which is also used by AEGEEans, with some locals even organising hitchhiking competitions. Still though, many people haven’t tried it before and might even be scared to try. Are you one of them? Don’t worry! The AEGEEan has written a short hitchhiking course to help you out!

How to prepare?

Before you go to your final destination, it’s a good idea to look at the map and see what cities are on the way. It’s not very likely that you will get one straight ride to your final destination, so you will have to hitchhike from city to city until you reach your destination. Write down which cities are along the way and make different signs for those cities (use the front and back to save the trees) so you just have to use the signs in the right order. While making the signs, make sure that the letters are at least as big as those on a number plate so people can read it. It can also be a good idea to make a “fun” sign with for example smiley faces or ‘free hugs’ to make people smile (which gives you a better chance of getting a ride). Last but not least, save the telephone numbers of your lift partner and a friend at home who knows about your plans so you know who to call if you lose each other or a problem occurs.

Where to stand?

When you are looking for a place to get a ride, it is best to go for a place where drivers are able to stop or have to stop anyway. Good examples are gas stations, (just after) traffic lights, special hitchhiking spots and parking places along the road. Wherever you decide to stand, make sure that the drivers passing by can read your sign, and they have the ability to (safely!) stop to pick you up.

How to act?

In general, it’s most important that you behave like the kind of person you would give a ride. This means that you will have to smile, be polite and friendly when you ask for a ride and in general give of a positive vibe. Some people are scared to take people, so show them that you are nothing to be scared of and change their mind about hitchhiking. It can and will be done! Also, be prepared to wait for fifteen to sixty minutes, since hitchhiking sadly is not the fastest way of transport.

You found a ride!

Great!! Do remember that you are not obligated to accept any rides, so if you don’t trust someone, just (politely) reject them and search for another ride. Also make sure that you remember the number plate of the car or even write it down, so you can text it to your friend in the (hopefully unlikely) case something goes wrong. To keep you from forgetting your personal belongings (backpack, coat, etc.) it’s best to keep them on your lap or on the seat next to you and not in the trunk. You would be very lucky to get a ride straight to your final destination, so if this isn’t the case, ask the driver to drop you off at a gas station or hitchhiking spot so you can easily get your next ride. Once you are in the city center it’s often hard to get away, so try to avoid this!

And, remember: have fun!

Written by Svenja van der Tol, AEGEE-Nijmegen