Not just for hippies, ski bums, and axe murders, hitchhiking is one of the easiest ways to see the world on a budget, and make a few new friends in the process. All you need is a little etiquette, some common sense, and an opposable thumb (unless you're traipsing through Thailand or the Middle East, in which case, do NOT stick your thumb up and out. Just don't). Assuming you have said thumb, though, along with a little common sense, here are the rules of the road.
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Rules of the road
The old hitchhiking adage, “cash, grass, or ass” still applies, at least in principle. Though it’s not mandatory to give your driver anything -- especially your finest donkey -- it is good practice to offer to pitch in on gas if you can afford it.
The best way to stay safe while hitching is to plan properly, and give yourself options. Don’t depend entirely on anyone for anything: hitchhiking is something to do for its own sake because you're, like, totally a free spirit and need rad stories to tell your friends back home, not something you have to do because you’re out of money and time.
Best countries to hitch in
Despite the scary things you’ve heard about thumbing a ride in the US, hitching abroad is safe in many countries and, in some places, even encouraged. That said, don't be a damn fool -- you're still getting in a stranger's car. Stay alert, buckle up, and, if at any time they pop One Direction into the tape deck, immediately jump and roll.
The Land of the Long White Cloud is also the land of absolutely stunning road trips, and -- if you've ever met anyone from New Zealand -- the land of friendly folks happy to pick you up specifically to talk about last night's rugby match. It’s a no-no to walk on motorways and on-ramps, but hitching elsewhere is perfectly legal, relatively safe, and common.
Despite the strained relationship between the US and Cuba, Castro's country is one of the best spots for snagging rides. Government vehicles and private cars are mandated (and encouraged) to pick up hikers, though you may be asked to pay a small fee of roughly 20 pesos to get from one city to another. As would be expected, you’ll increase your chances of catching a ride if you can speak some Spanish without the use of a translation app.
Hitchhiking in the free-spirited Netherlands couldn’t be any easier -- designated signs called “liftershalte” or “liftplaats” (in Dutch) tell hikers where to wait for a ride. Don’t see a sign? Don't fret. Bumming rides is legal across the country (save for the expressways), so stick that bad digit out and see what comes along.
Germany is a large country, and hitchhiking is a great way to see it. Also, zee Germans are remarkably (and kind of uncharacteristically) cool about picking up strangers. Who'd've thunk that? Thumbing a ride directly on the autobahn (main highways) is illegal, but you're free to show some leg from the on-ramps, service stations, or within towns.
Hitching a ride in Israel is easy thanks to designated hitchhiking spots called “trempiyadas”, located at almost every intersection. While pretty common across the country, they can be hard to find in and around Tel Aviv. Many trempiyadas are also bus stops, so if you don’t get picked up by a driver, you've got a ready-made backup plan lined up.
Obvious tip you should know but probably don't always follow when traveling: If you want to increase your chances of being picked up (on the road or at the bar), be sure to shower and dress like someone you’d want to sleep ride with; no one wants to do someone a favor when it means stinking up their car.