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Welcome to www.hitch-hiking.org

Social, Economic, Ecologic   

 

deutsche version

Frequently asked Questions for beginners
all about Hitchhiking

 

flexible hitchhiker

  

Questions:


Are today's hitchhiker only smelling tramps?
Is hitching illegal?
How do I hitchhike?
How many guys can hitchhike at the same time?
How do I hitchhike in urban areas?
How do I hitchhike in bigger cities?
How do I hitchhike at the motorway?
Is it really legal to hitchhike at German service stations?
Do I need a road map?
How can I protect myself from dangerous drivers?
How should I act while traveling in a stranger's car?
Who stops for me?
Am I insured as a hitchhiker?
Is hitchhiking dangerous?
Can I try to stop lorries?
How do I hitch abroad?
Is it legal to hitchhike in the US?
Can I hitchhike at night?
Is it possible to hitchhike as a woman?
Am I authorized to hitchhike in Germany as a minor?
What should I do, if I stuck?
Where can I stay on my trips?
Is wild camping prohibited in Germany?
Can I camp on service stations?
Why is hitchhiking out of fashion?
I would like to give hitchhikers a lift but how can I find them?
From where does the “thumbing gesture“ originate from?
In what situations should I avoid hitchhiking?

If you miss a question, just ask the:

 

Are today's hitchhiker only smelling tramps?

Definitely not! Why should we guys differ from others just because of our passion to have a nice conversation between strangers? That's the reason why I subtitled this site "Social, Economic, Ecologic".

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Is hitching illegal?

No. Hitching in Germany is legal. In other countries different laws may exist. For more information see Questions of Law.

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How do I hitchhike?

In principle, you have three possibilities:

1. The classic one
You simply place yourself at a favorable point by the roadside. Look against the driving direction and put up the right arm, while you spread the thumb upwards. You don't need to fluctuate with the arm like me on the home page. (That's only a gag of mine.) Otherwise it falls up in a short time. A friendly expression always helps.

2. With a sign
You need a bold felt pen, some pieces of A4 paper, scotch tape and a carton (for protection against wind). Just stick a piece of paper on the carton and write as big as possible your destination or your direction on it. If your destination changes, you only have to change the sheet of paper not the whole carton. I often use my road map instead of a carton so I have the map always handy. The scotch tape is easily removable.
Afterwards you place yourself by the roadside and hold the sign well visible for the drivers. In addition you can make the classic hitching gesture with your other arm. This variation is particularly recommended if your street or slip road leads into many different directions.

3. Asking drivers
You place yourself at a gas station, resting place, etc or also at traffic lights and ask the drivers kindly, whether they drive into your direction. Even if it costs a little willpower at first, it's clearly the most effective way. The reason for this is probably that drivers have a chance to get a brief idea of you in the small dialog. This decreases the fear compared to the anonymous hitchhiker on the roadside. It just depends on you to convince the drivers how friendly and harmless you are. Another reason could be that many people have just concerns to say "No" into someone's face. Just passing by someone is much easier.
Good enough for hitchhiker's amusement are the many flimsy excuses witch you will hear from time to time. Just grin, don't give up and continue asking.
Especially on motorways is asking the drivers refueling their cars the best and quickest choice.

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How many guys can hitchhike at the same time?

As less people, as faster it goes. Best is alone, two guys are also all right and three are possible in some cases but expect long waiting hours. Couples also have quite good chances. With large groups it's recommended to hitch separated. On long routes I personally like to be alone.

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How do I hitchhike in urban areas?

It's best to walk to the edge out of town and begin to hitchhike on the street that leads you to your destination. Please don't be one of these fools who stand in the middle of a town center and nobody knows where they want to go.

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How do I hitchhike in bigger cities?

In principle, you can say: As bigger the city, as difficult to hitchhike. In bigger cities it makes sense to take a bus or tram to the outside districts and to walk from there to the right outward bound street or motorway slip road. A fussy hitch spot selection can spare immense waits. The Hitch Spot Database is from enormous help. It's a great internet side where hitchhikers exchange the best hitch spots in the most German and European cities.

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How do I hitchhike at the motorway?

Hitchhiking directly at motorways is illegal in Germany. You therefore must proceed as follows: You place yourself on the slip road going to the motorway (before the motorway sign) and look for a good bay were you can spread your thumb. If the driveway leads to a crossing or into several directions, is a sign with highway name and direction helpful. It is almost better to walk to a close service point or gas station because hitching is most difficult at motorway slip roads. Even long walks can be advisable because you can stand forever at bad places. If you are once on the highway, everything goes strait but you have to be very cautious. From now on you have to jump from service station to service station. Before you enter the car always talk to the drivers about where they drop you of. You should never go out of your house without a good road map where service stations are marked. Ask the drivers whether a service station comes before he leaves the motorway. Before your lift leaves the highway or goes on a crossing in another direction you should get out at the service station before. From there you can hitchhike further. Act strictly after this pattern even if some drivers want to tell you the opposite. Going three meters to far can mean hours of lost time. The described sign is recommended before crosses and junctions. When you arrive at your motorway exit you should ask the driver kindly whether he could take the exit to drop you of. In principle hitching on motorways is fast and effective even some experience is necessary.

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Is it really legal to hitchhike at German service stations?

It’s a well spread urban legend in Germany: Pedestrians are not allowed to enter the motorway. (cf. §18 (9) StVO) -> Service stations are usually part of the motorway -> hitchhiking is forbidden at service stations.
That’s nonsense, of course. If that were true, it would be illegal to fill up the car at the service station because you are pedestrian in the moment you left your car.
For Service stations apply special rules. It’s literally purpose of those facilities to do things which are usually prohibited on motorways: It’s legal to stop, to turn, to reverse at parking slots and of course, entering as Pedestrian is allowed too.
No matter of this, every service station operator has his householder’s right. It’s up to him what’s allowed on his ground and which persons are tolerated. It’s therefore his choice whether hitchhiking is allowed on his property or not. He can also dismiss people as he pleases. Of course, you should respect this. Actually, I never experienced situations like those.

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Do I need a road map?

You are stranded without a proper roadmap on longer trips especially on the motorway.
You shouldn’t count on the knowledge of the drivers. It’s important that the map includes all service stations. Otherwise you easily miss the correct point of dropping off. The map should be bounded because the huge folding maps easily burry the half of the windscreen behind it. My favorites are the atlases from publisher Kunth. In Germany I travel exclusively with the TRAVELMAG-Reiseatlas Deutschland. A little less detailed is the TRAVELMAG-Großer Autoatlas Europa which covers whole Europe. For extensive travels around one country I suggest to buy a regional country map.

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How can I protect myself from dangerous drivers?

There are very few people in the world who plan to do bad things. Also speeders can cause problems for hitchhikers. Never enter a car of someone who appears dangerously to you. However, I don't recommend damning alternatively appearing people immediately. Eyes tell you the character of people, not the clothing. Very often exactly those people who seem to be odd are the nicest and most helpful ones. After some time you get routine in the judgment of people. If you get any problems after you already entered a car, use the next opportunity to get out. You can say you have changed your plan and would like to go out exactly where you are. You can also wave to strangers and say this are your friends and you would like to meet them spontaneously. Don't hesitate when you have doubts and deal courageously. Probably you will condemn the driver without a reason and you will hurt him because of that but that has to be worth your security. I've got a lift from several hundred strangers and haven't had any serious difficulties. However, this doesn't mean that there isn't a little risk.

Beginning

How should I act while traveling in a stranger's car?

In my opinion, you can't give any exact guidelines. Behave just naturally, politely and avoid conflicts in the conversation. The many different conversations and contacts with drivers are one of the most fascinating sides of hitchhiking. Just give yourself time to let the conversation develop. Some drivers want to be entertained, the next one enjoys silence and others just need a good listener. I promise you that you will experience many exciting meetings and maybe you can also find a friend forever. If the driver likes you, he is maybe willing to drive a few extra kilometers for you. You also help all further hitchhikers through a positive impression.

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Who stops for me?

This can't be said so exactly. In principle, people of all ages, all classes and both sexes stop for you in different frequency. From the student over the grandma up to the businessman all stopped for me. Only one can be said: Most people who stop for you are alone in the car. Many of them have their fun picking up hitchhikers because there are bored and look out for some interesting conversation. Especially on highways many people are glad about some company.

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Am I insured as a hitchhiker?

In principle, everyone who inflicts damage on you is liable. For further information see Questions of Law.

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`

Is hitchhiking dangerous?

Everything is dangerous.
To comment on this issue it’s useful to have a look at the statistics of cause of death:

  • According to the Federal Office of Statistics of Germany* In 2007, 827,155 people died in total in Germany,
  • 30.650 of them because of non natural causes (3.71%) and
  • 5.170 of the non natural causes because of accidents of transportation (0.63%),
  • 12,652 because of other accidents (1.53%),
  • 9,402 because of suicide (1,14%) and
  • 451 because of assaults (0.06%).

Let’s have a closer look at the in proportion small number of 451 cases of death because of assaults. The statistical chance to die in Germany because of assaults is 0.06% and 1.47% of the non natural deaths are caused by assaults. If we consider which disappearing percentage of this figure will concern hitchhikers or is to blame on hitchhikers, we will get a figure which nearly carries no weight. Therefore you don’t lower the risk of dying a non natural death in a crucial way if you omit to hitchhike or stop giving a lift to hitchhiker.

Of course, I don’t want to say that hitchhiking is free of risks but it doesn’t carry weight compared to other life risks (e.g. participation in road traffic).

*Figures from "Todesursachen in Deutschland  (Causes of death in Germany) - Fachserie 12 Reihe 4 – 2007", Publisher: Statistisches Bundesamt (Federal Office of Statistics of Germany)

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Can I try to stop lorries?

Trucks rarely stop at full speed because they need a long time for accelerating. Also, many employers prohibit picking up hitchhikers. Some truck drivers seem to be quite odd. East European drivers are an exception. They are friendly and stop for you frequently. But there are communication problems. You don't set speed records in a truck either. According to my mood I hitchhike at trucks or not. You should find out by yourself.

Beginning

How do I hitch abroad?

Each country and sometimes even each federal state has its own laws. Before each departure it's necessary to investigate exactly how the legal side looks like and how hitchhiking is accepted there. Use the internet or some travel guides for that. The travelling-wiki "Wikitravel" for example gives a brief overview about legality and spreading for some dozen countries. The Guidebook "lonely planet" also handles the hitching matter briefly.
The communication is always a problem of course. It's useful to be familiar at least with the basic phrases and the names of the cities in the national language. Use the Hitchhiking Dictionary! Otherwise, you come along with English and some creativity.

Is it legal to hitchhike in the US?

Usually, it's not illegal at least. Hitching on freeway is frequently prohibited. However, the law varies from state to state. Just visit http://www.digihitch.com/usa-map.html. You can find the law for any state. Just hit the shortcut on the map.

Can I hitchhike at night?

Of course, but you need double the time or longer because many drivers are afraid at night time. Try to stand at a well lighted place and be careful that your group is not too big. The company of a woman can take the fear of the drivers.

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Is it possible to hitchhike as a woman?

Women get at least five times faster a lift than men but the risk is fairly higher as well. Fearful women should travel in male company.

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Am I authorized to hitchhike in Germany as a minor?

Hitchhiking isn’t mentioned in German law. Therefore it isn’t illegal. This also fit with minors. However, parents can judge over the whereabouts of their Kids (BGB § 1631(1). Therefore, you need the admission of your parents. Usually police gets skeptically when they see hitchhiking kids. It’s of use to carry a written admission signed by a legal guardian. A telephone number can be useful if the police want to verify the admission. I recommend youth to undertake only short trips at daytime (e.g. into the next city), if they can’t avoid it in general.

Beginning

 

What should I do, if I stuck?

It’s getting dark, the traffic is declining and you stay lonely and abandoned at the street. This experience has made almost every Hitchhiker. In this case you have 2 options:
1. Just wait and an exercise yourself in patience, nerve strength and stamina. If you are at a service station which is frequented even on nighttime, just try to continue hitchhiking.
2. If all chances compromise you can walk into the countryside to rest over night and try it the next day again (see: Is wild camping prohibited in Germany?). In this case you should have some equipment with you. Fortunately, this never happened to me so far.

Beginning

 

Where can I stay on my trips?

There are a lot of possibilities. It entirely depends on your taste and your financial resources:
If the daily travel stages aren’t too long and you reach a city in the evening you can stay in hostels, youth hostels, at campsites or in the hotel.
If you plan a little further in advance you can also check out a free private accommodation at Hospitality Club.
If you don’t want to plan anything, pack you camping facilities and rest under the open sky (see: Is wild camping prohibited in Germany?).

Beginning

 

Is wild camping prohibited in Germany?

Camping in Germany is prohibited outside of marked campsites. A violation is an administrative offence which leads to a from state to state different fine.
Authorities often desist from fines, if you do not make fire, don’t leave garbage and show yourself insightful. It should be self-evident that the nature and property of others are respected and no one after your departure can recognize that you have camped there.
If you want to be on the safe side you can obtain approval by the land owner (individual, municipality, etc.).
You can bypass the ban, if you “rest” by a maximum of one night. That means not using a tent but resting with a blanket, sleeping bag or hammock possibly under a bivouac sack or umbrella. This is with exception of some protected areas not prohibited.

Beginning

 

Can I camp on service stations?

No. Operators of service stations don’t usually tolerate this. It depends on the station, whether you can leave the usually fenced area. Almost always you can leave the station by the supply lane which leads to almost every station. There are usually meadows, fields and forests around. Walk a little bit out of sight and note the advice under „Is wild camping prohibited in Germany?”.

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Why is hitchhiking out of fashion?

Dear, dear. The years are gone where masses of hitchhiker joined at the side of the roads.
We could ponder for hours about the reasons.
For one thing, also young people have achieved wealth and most of them have their own car in the age of 18. The other ones have enough money for railway and low cost airlines. The car sharing agencies also celebrate their triumphal procession. The world has been becoming busier in our cultural circle. Everybody wants to get as quick as possible from A to B and the time between is seen as necessary evil. Only a few appreciate the way as the goal and enjoy the many experiences, impressions and meetings on the way.
Another common explanation for the decrease is that the world has become more dangerous and its people much more evil. That’s a deception, actually. Only a couple of decades ago there has been two TV canals and a limited amount of newspapers in Germany. The media at that time not even had the capacity to report about all tragedies, evil deeds and cruelties of the daily business. Today a whole media empire lives on satisfying the sensation seeking of its consumers and helps itself out by cannibalize singular instances with luridness beyond all bearings.

Beginning

 

I would like to give hitchhikers a lift but how can I find them?

The number of hitchhiker has decreased significantly over the last decades but you can still find them if you have a closer look. While you could see hordes of hitchhikers on slip roads in former days hitchhikers today prefer to go directly to the service station to talk directly to the drivers. If you would like to give hitchhikers a lift just drive through the gas stations and you will find someone asking for a lift.

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From where does the "thumbing gesture" originate from?

Actually, this topic hasn’t been studied scientifically. However, we declare it our self as following:
The thumb symbolizes an arrow which shows from a frontal point of view in that direction in which the hitchhiker want to go. On advertisings which want to say us for example “Just 1 km straight ahead to the next Mc. Donalds” is also very often an upwards arrow which looks in the view of the car driver within the 2 dimensions like pointing straight ahead.
By the way, the “Thumbing up” isn’t international. In many parts of the world it’s common to wave with the flat and outstretched hand up and down to ask the drivers to stop.

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In what situations should I avoid hitchhiking?

Um... er... well, such instances should happen sometimes. For example in this situation:

Prison Hitchhikers

;-) Picture shot in Colorado / USA

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