On my way home from bluff I was picked up by a guy who was a seasoned hitch hiker and we got talking. New Zealand is a great country for hitching and as long as you aren’t to pressed for time it is a very inexpensive way to travel. So here are some tips from a seasoned pro.
1. Location location
Early bird gets the worm
Most people traveling long distances will leave early. So being out early gives you the best chance of getting there in one hit.
Last road out of town
Keeping your destination in mind you are looking for the road where cars wanting to go the same way will travel. It’s an odds game and you want to stack as many things in your favor as possible.
10 seconds of visibility
People driving don’t expect to see hitch hikers around every corner. And 10 seconds from the time they first see you to when the car reaches you is generally enough time for a person to make up there mind. So count aloud 10 seconds from when the car appears to account for their speed.
Enough room to pull over
This can be difficult on some roads but having a space that a driver can clearly see they can safely pull into is really important. It can make or brake the decision to pull over.
Don’t bring too much baggage
Try to have a single bag no more then 20 litres Another reason to not pull over is baggage. Make sure what you carry can fit on your lap if need be and you increase your appeal to offer a ride.
Know where you are heading
At the very least know the name of your destination. The better you know the lay of the land the easier it is to communicate possible routes. Some people may only go a short way or pull you on a slightly different route. The game you are playing is all about odds so try to stick to busy roads.
3. Helpful stuff
Smile and have a tidy appearance. I totally used to carry props like guitars and signs saying ‘I have chocolate’ but I really don’t know if they actually helped. But being friendly in appearance really helps so no hockey masks.
Be friendly and polite they are giving you a ride after all.
Small talk can go a long way when sitting in a car with a stranger.
Yes there is an element of risk when hitch hiking (some people are scary drivers) so if you aren’t feeling comfortable it’s ok to turn down or ask to be dropped early. Hitching isn’t for everyone and if you do feel unsafe I wouldn’t recommend it. However as a Male, with kung fu skills and owning nothing worth stealing I have never felt at risk. In general I have been picked up by people who used to hitch themselves like some kind of unspoken code of the traveller.