Ever considered hitchhiking abroad? It’s true that it can be a very fun and cost-effective way of getting around. But how does it really work and is it safe? Read on to find out!

My experiences of hitchhiking all took place during my 6-week visit to Canada this summer. In Quebec, which is the province on the east coast of Canada, it is very normal to see people hitchhiking to get from A to B. As the country is so huge, the only real way to get around is by car, but this can prove very expensive, and public transport is rarely seen in any region, mainly reserved for the larger cities. I stayed in an incredibly remote part of the country, a 7-hour drive from the nearest city, however, there was a lot to see and do, it was just a question of getting there…

Also Read: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to India and Nepal – Part 1

Hitchhiking in Canada versus the UK

hitchhiking in canada
Image Source: Lauren Hemmings

To Canadians, the thought of hitchhiking was completely normal. To them, it was like getting a bus or a train. However, to me, as a socially awkward Brit who has been brought up with the knowledge of ‘stranger danger’, the thought of hopping into some random person’s car was extremely daunting.

In the UK, this is not the done thing; just standing on the side of the road waiting for a stranger to stop. If you do this, you are automatically labelled as a crazy person who “no doubt is stood there because they are a dangerous human being and we must NOT let them in our car!!!!!” Having hitchhiked now, I look back on the times I passed a hitchhiker in the UK and wondered why I just assumed they were an axe murderer… I mean, they just need a lift – right?  

Who actually stops for hitchhikers?

Whether you choose to stop or not is completely your choice, and as I learnt the hard way in Canada, not that many people do. It can be tough especially when people have a car full already, and these tend to be the people who would have stopped, had their car not been completely occupied. They give you a look of ‘aww I’m so sorry!’ and gesture to all the occupied seats in the car. No worries, you think to yourself, another station wagon or van will come along. The problem is, they rarely do.

hitchhiking in canada
Image Source: Lauren Hemmings

All the people who could stop for a hitchhiker are the ones who don’t. for example, the couple who are driving a 7-seater vehicle and are doing a huge road trip without the kids. They have FIVE spare seats, but do they stop? No, they don’t. Ludicrous behaviour. Which vehicles can you guarantee will stop? VW van drivers- 99% of the time are cool hippie travellers like yourself and will take pity on you. The rest of the time though, it is pure luck. There are however many ways of making yourself look less threatening and increase your chances of getting picked up.

How to increase your chances

Okay, this first point is going to seem sexist, but the best luck I had when I was hitchhiking was when I was with a girl. We were a team of 2 girls, and it went swimmingly. When I was with a boy it was slooowwww moving. And I have heard that a team of 2 boys is almost impossible. So, my advice is, if you’re a boy try and stick with a girl, it will improve your chances. Sorry. 

The second point, smile! Never look grumpy. If you look grumpy you look scary, and people don’t want scary strangers in their cars, that’s a general rule of humanity. You can, however, look desperate, which leads to my third point…

hitchhiking in canada
Image Source: Lauren Hemmings

Looking like you’ve given up and it’s the end has helped me in the past. A lady stopped for us in Canada and said that it was the ‘prayer hands’ which made her pull over. So maybe give that one a try. 

My fourth point is the reverse, which is to look extremely happy and friendly and enthusiastic. A couple stopped for us once and they said they loved the ‘heart formation we made with our arms’. As you can probably guess, it’s always worth asking what compelled them to stop, so you know what works and what doesn’t. 

Prospective hitchhiker, you must know that not all methods work for everyone, and you will probably come up with your own along the way. It is all a question of trial and error. An important thing to remember is, when people do stop, to be very grateful and let them know that you appreciate the lift. Maybe give them something if you can, we always gave our drives a bottle of beer or two!

A few safety tips: 

  • Always travel in groups of at least two people
  • Take sleeping provisions with you (just in case)
  • Make sure you have access to a phone
  • Take snacks!
  • If you are not sure about a vehicle, do not get in!
  • Always wear your seatbelt

Also Read: Driving On THE OTHER SIDE

Big travel love 😊

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