How to Hitchhike Across the United States Safe
There is a belief that hitchhiking across the United States is dangerous and nobody picks hitchhikers up anymore. But this is not true. If you've always wanted to start hitchhiking but don't know what to begin with and how to do it to stay safe, below are the tips that will help you hitchhike smart.
Make an eye-contact with the drivers in a friendly way and smile. You may wave hello and look expectantly at them. Time is crucial for you as you have a second or two to make a positive impression. People will judge you just by your eyes, appearance, and body language. Of course, smiling for hours whatever the weather is hard, but youíll get used to it. It is important to remain confident as a nervous or scared hitchhiker may attract the wrong type of people.
Make sure your clothing is clean and neat. You had better wear light or bright clothes rather than black, travel backpack must have reflective elements. Avoid wearing sunglasses as drivers should see your eyes. Keep your hands out of your pockets, don't smoke, drink, or sit down on the side of the road.
Choose the Right Spot
Remember that the spot should be safe for the car to stop. The most convenient are interstate on-ramps with the cars moving slowly and plenty of room to pull over. Other great spots to hitchhike are intersections with stoplights or a stop sign and gas stations. Check out Google Maps for the best on-ramps.
Hitchhiking out of big cities can present a real challenge. So you may even need to use public transportation to get to the outskirts first. Other areas where getting a ride is practically impossible are locations near prisons, sensitive government facilities, or neighborhoods with high crime rates.
People may pick up hitchhikers as they are bored and look for company on the road. Socializing and having a good conversation is your way of saying thank you to these people. A good chat can also lead to a free lunch or drink, often followed by an offer to host you for the night.
Make sure you have plenty of food and drink to last for a day. You will need a filtered water bottle, warm clothes, a rain jacket, dark-colored permanent markers to draw signs, some sunscreen and, of course, a first aid kit. Consider packing a USB car charger and external battery for your mobile phone so that you could check Google Maps, listen to music, or call for help. A lightweight camping hammock or bivy sack will provide you with a comfortable place to sleep when camping in the woods on the side of the road or behind churches.
A Simple Cardboard Sign Will Help
Make a cardboard sign and write on it a town in the vicinity. Make sure you write in large capital letters as it should be easy to read at a distance from a fast-moving car. Consider writing destinations that are not very far away (within 20Ė50 miles) to increase your chances of getting a ride. Once you are in the car you may ask for a longer one. A good idea is to use funny signs like: "Free Cookies", "Wonít Kill You", and "Rabies-Free Since June".
Choose Your Ride Carefully Be careful when it comes to choosing your ride. Consider whether the driver is in a good mood, looking you in the eyes, sober, as well as how many people are in the car. Rely on your gut feelings. If you have doubts thank the driver and reject the offer. You can make up an excuse or pretend to be sick.
Use Common Sense
For safety precautions make sure you always wear your seatbelt. In case you don't feel comfortable about how the person drives the car or behaves, stay calm and polite but ask to stop the car at the nearest pullover place. Never hitchhike at night as after dark it will be difficult for the driver to see you on the road and there is a higher risk of getting into trouble.
It is not easy to stay in public while doing something that is not mainstream. Hitchhiking is a mental challenge as some people may react in a negative way. Be prepared that people may laugh or yell at you.
Stay in Control
You should dress conservatively and avoid sexual topics. Stay confident and make it clear that you just need to get to your destination.
Try to keep the most valuable things on your body just in case you will have to escape in a hurry. Never put your bag in the trunk to prevent the driver from taking off with all your belongings. Use your phone to make a quick photo of the back of the car before getting in, and then send it to a friend or your Twitter account. When in the car, call a friend and tell them where you are and what is your destination so the driver could hear it.
Refrain from discussing politics, religion, race, or other controversial subjects with your driver, at least until you figure out his attitude about the issue. You donít need to get the driver angry or too emotional while behind the wheel. If the driver does start a conversation like that try to change the subject and if you fail just kind of nod along and let him talk.
Hitchhike with a†Friend
If you are going to hitchhike for the first time do it with someone who's experienced at it. Even though it might be more difficult to get a ride, it will be definitely much safer.
Be Prepared to Wait
You never know how long you will have to wait until someone stops to pick you up. It may take from 1 to 3 hours depending on your luck and location. So be prepared to wait in one spot for some time. However, sometimes it might take days to get picked up. In this case you can either keep on waiting or walk a few miles or catch a taxi to get to a better location.
Using a sort of weapon as a self-defense is, of course, the last resort, but you had better pack it and have with you just in case. You may bring pepper spray along with you. Even a simple pen stuck into the ear or eyes can work fine. Using a knife can be really dangerous as it can be used against you. Keep in mind that using a weapon is justifiable only when communication doesnít help and there is a threat to your life.
Is Hitchhiking Safe?
These days hitchhiking has become more rare than several decades ago. Many people consider it to be dangerous but those who are engaged in this activity say that they mostly met friendly people. Based on peopleís hitchhiking stories, we can say that some weirdos can pick you up, but a really dangerous situation is not likely to happen.
Still you had better be prepared for worst-case scenarios. Even though hitchhiking is not as dangerous as it is supposed to be, there is some risk involved. If you decide to go hitchhiking it means that you agree to accept all the risks associated with it.
If you feel threatened when inside the car, ask the driver to stop at the next exit or gas station for you to get out. If the driver refuses to stop, tell him that you sent a photo of the car with plate number to friends. If that doesnít work grab the steering wheel or hand brake and make a small accident. But do remember that even a small accident can lead to serious injury.
In the U. S. hitchhiking is legal. Standing right on the road is illegal, but it's not prohibited to stand on the side of the road, the shoulder, or a sidewalk. The laws concerning hitchhiking vary from state to state, but some states like New York, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming specifically ban this activity. Even if you were caught hitchhiking in these states it doesnít mean youíll be imprisoned. Police officers may just give you a warning, or fine you.