It’s usually those people who have never tried hitchhiking who will try telling you that you shouldn’t. While simply being a woman in this world calls for extra precautions, that doesn’t mean you should let anyone have a say in your choices. Like most things in the world of travel, hitchhiking is simply easier to understand with a guide… Like this one, a solo female traveler’s guide to hitchhiking.
Maybe after reading this guide and opening your mind to hitchhiking, you will even find that hitchhiking serves as a way to restore your faith in humanity. Ask anyone who’s done it before and they’ll be glad to let you know most people, no matter where you are, would love the opportunity to help. Especially a woman alone.
Ultimately, just like traveling alone would be, successfully hitchhiking as a female demands confidence, which comes from being prepared and aware. So, let’s go through some tips that will almost certainly guarantee your success.
Before even getting on the highway, get ready
GPS is nice, but a good roadway map won’t ever run out of battery or loose signal, so keep it with you at all times. Still, your phone should be fully charged and holding a list of emergency numbers.
Don’t hitchhike when you’re sleepy, in a hurry, or at night. Traveling like this usually takes longer than a one-way car ride would, so calculate in accordance and avoid stretching yourself through distances longer than 400 miles at once, unless you feel fully confident in the person you’re driving with.
When hitchhiking in mostly uninhabited areas, always bring a tent and enough food and water to last you 24 hours.
If you don’t know the local language try to memorize key phrases such as “Hello, where are you going?” “I’m going to…” “I’m a tourist/traveler”, “No thank you” and “Please let me out here”.
Be careful with weapons such as a knife or pepper spray, if you don’t know how to use them they could be used against you — they’re also illegal in some countries. Knowing some self-defense moves is a great confidence booster, so consider signing up for a class or at least practice through Youtube tutorials.
Ask locals what they recommend: Are there any cultural codes you should be particularly aware of? Places to avoid? Which highway exit should you go to? They’ll be able to provide some proper information, which can be complemented with what you find on the Internet: Visit the Hitchwiki, stay up to date on local news and search for travel bloggers that have already hitchhiked the area.
Know your own limits and safety measures
There are female hitchhikers who only travel with truck drivers and those who never jump into a truck. Some who only hitch to cars with female passengers, and others who don’t really care. While it may be best to steer away from cars with more than one man in it, only you know what you’re comfortable with and not. Decide what your limits are and stick to them.
Now get on the road!
First thing is to select a spot to start from: It should be a clear way to where you’re going, but also safe to stand at, so you’ll need to be out of the city/village, somewhere where cars are required to slow down and have ample space to brake and park.
Gas stations are a good start since you can approach the drivers personally, taking time to assess them before asking for a ride.
Wear bright clothes that are visible from a distance and avoid anything too revealing, form-fitting or ragged, you’ll want to look clean and non-threatening, but also like a backpacker. Keep your bag in clear sight and hold a sign with the name of your destination. Playing an instrument or juggling are good ways to catch attention if your ride is taking too long to arrive.
Once a vehicle pulls over, assess the situation: ask where they’re going, tell them you’re hitchhiking and where you want to go. In some places hitchhiking is so uncommon people that will want to charge for the ride or think you’re in trouble, so explain what you’re doing.
Ask to take a picture of their license plate so you can send it to someone — if they refuse, this isn’t your ride.
Don’t jump into any vehicle if the driver seems sleepy, drunk or intoxicated. Trust your instinct and if something feels off, say goodbye. Even after you’re already in the car, you’re not obliged to stay. If something makes you uncomfortable, keep calm and make up an excuse to get out. Say you need to use the washroom, or forgot your passport at the last stop. Just leave, and wait for another ride.
You’re in a car, now what?
Most solo drivers just want someone to talk to, so keep the conversation going and use it as a way to get real local insight about where you are and the people who call it home.
As always, be mindful of your safety. Keep your bag close to you and always carry your valuable documents in your body. Especially when you’re traveling with men, avoid getting too personal and stay clear from topics such as your physical appearance, sex, and dating.
In some countries and areas, like Turkey or north Brazil, prostitutes also hitchhike, so you need to always remind your driver you’re a traveler and nothing else — talk about the country, why you love to travel and how the experience has been, always reflecting confidence in your attitude and what you’re doing.
If you feel like you’re in danger, remember that as a passenger you have more control of the situation than the driver, since they have to keep their eyes on the road. If confidently talking your way out of the car by pretending to be sick, or like you really need to go back where you came from, isn’t working, wait for the vehicle to stop at a toll booth or gas station so you can take your stuff and get out.
Don’t make a fuss inside the car unless you have absolutely no choice, since this could only stress the driver further and get them to do something radical. Staying calm and in control will always be your best weapon.
Being a woman can be an advantage:
More often than not, the people stopping to pick up a woman on the road do so because they’re worried about her safety, so this actually works in your favor, as it’s easier to get “safer” rides with people who wouldn’t normally take a hitchhiker, such as women and families.
Hitchhiking alone as a woman also tends to take less time than when accompanied by a man, and since women aren’t generally seen as threats, you’ll find people depositing tremendous confidence and care in you, which can turn into getting a free lunch, tips on places to stay and other unexpected, but appreciated, invitations and aids.
While there’s always the chance to run into a creep, there aren’t any actual statistics out there that indicate hitchhiking is as dangerous as people seem to think it is.
Keeping these tips and common sense with you at all times will be the best way to ensure you experience the great truth every hitchhiker relies on: There will always be more people trying to help than to harm you.
Would you add any tips to our guide to hitchhiking solo? Tell us about your experience in the comments or on Twitter!