9 Safety Tips When Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is one of those things you hear about your parents doing when they were younger and not something you hear much about today. In Canada when I think of hitchhikers, it’s generally not in a very positive way; you’re told something bad will happen to you and that it’s dangerous. But this isn’t always true. I’ve hitchhiked over 1300 kilometers across an entire country (two islands) and I’ve even picked up one or two people when I’ve been driving.

I find most people picking up hitchhikers are those who have hitched themselves. You will meet the most interesting and amazing people and sometimes, they’ll even offer to buy you lunch or take you sightseeing along the way to your destination. The trick is to be smart about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

We got a ride in the back of a pickup truck with an amazing view, and we also had tea with the man who picked us up.

We got a ride in the back of a pickup truck with an amazing view, and we also had tea with the man who picked us up.

Below, I’ve outlined a few tips and guidelines to keep in mind if, when, and where you decide to hitchhike.

1. Pick Your Country or Place to Hitchhike Accordingly

I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking in certain countries. I personally wouldn’t hitchhike in most Southeast Asian countries, but I definitely felt safe when I was hitchhiking in New Zealand and the few pickups I hopped in when i was in El Salvador. New Zealand was a smaller country, most people drove vehicles that could carry both me and my backpack easily, and I just felt safe as I physically fit in there, I looked like I could be a local (physically you couldn’t tell if I was Kiwi or not until you heard my accent).  I also knew and understood their Westernized culture and customs.

2. Know where you’re going, both on the road and at your next destination

Make sure you have a rough idea of what highways and roads you need to take to get where you’re going and where you need to go once you get into your destination. This is mainly for safety as it’s important to know if you’re driver decides to take a detour he or she didn’t tell you about.

3. Make a Sign

A sign tells the drivers passing by exactly where you want to go and they’ll know right away if it’s on their route or not. A sign also shows you put some thought into where you need to go and you’re not just aimlessly wandering.

Catching a ride to go catch waves in Raglan, New Zealand.

Catching a ride to go catch waves in Raglan, New Zealand.

4. Where to Locate Yourself

Stand a couple hundred feet back from an approach so if a vehicle does stop, they have time and space to pull over safely. Make sure you’re clearly visible and not hidden behind a sign or set of trees. The outskirts of a town, near a busy intersection, and on a popular road are also good places to stand and wait. And the earlier you start, the quicker you can make it to your destination.

5. If Wary, Say No

Don’t feel guilty about saying no to a driver or vehicle if you feel it isn’t safe. Some easy excuses are to say you were hoping for a female driver or a young adult to pick you up. You could also say they’re not going far enough or that you’re looking for someone to take you right to your destination.  Be smart and speak up if you don’t feel comfortable getting in with the driver.

6. Dress Appropriately

I am more inclined to pick up hitchhikers that look clean, neat, and well-kept. If you look respectable, the chances of being picked up are much greater than you if look sloppy and disarrayed.

Dressing neatly will encourage more people to stop and give you a lift.

Dressing neatly will encourage more people to stop and give you a lift.

7. Let the driver know you’re texting a friend their license plate number

Concerned about safety? Just let the driver know you’re texting a friend their license plate number. This way it lets them know someone else knows what you’re doing and where you are in case something were to ever happen to you.

8. Try to avoid hitching into major cities

Often you’re not allowed to pull over on major motorways to pick someone up, so it’s illegal to hitchhike too close to major cities. It’s also difficult to know where you get dropped off by the driver. Unless they take you right to the hostel or hotel you’re staying in, you’ll have to sort out public transportation which can sometimes be very tricky and frustrating depending on where you’re dropped off in the city. You could take a cab, but it’s probably more expensive than the bus ride you opted out on to hitchhike into the city in the first place.

Stu and I hitchhiked together across most of New Zealand.

Stu and I hitchhiked together across most of New Zealand.

9. Hitchhike with another person for safety

When I did all my hitchhiking, I didn’t do it alone. My male travel companion was with me and I felt much safer having him along. I feel like as a couple we got picked up more than he would have on his own, and maybe even quicker than if I was on my own. It’s pretty gutsy for a young woman to hitchhike by herself (but awesome if you have the guts to!).

And finally, just be aware that getting into and out of towns and cities isn’t always the easiest, and you may have to do a lot of walking before you get to a spot where you can wait for someone to pick you up. A ride always came along quickly while I was hitchhiking, but also be prepared to wait for a while. If you follow these guidelines and your own intuition, hitchhiking is fun and safe and you’ll get to meet some really awesome people along the way.

8 thoughts on “9 Safety Tips When Hitchhiking

  1. Great tips Ashlyn! Safety is of course an important consideration of the female solo traveler.

    As a female solo traveler of many years myself, and a womens self defense instructor I’d like to share a safety tip of my own which I hope you and your female readers will read, remember, and share with many other women and girls far and wide.

    I have been teaching Krav Maga to women and girls for over five years and we teach a very effective technique which I feel should should be in every woman and girls arsenal. We are a women only event, run by women, for women, and there is an extremely effective technique what we teach to women of all ages, which I feel we should all share as far and wide with as many others as possible.

    The technique is the “groin grab” self defense technique which is to be used against a male attacker, which is now taught in many womens self defense classes, and there is actually a little trick to it…

    To execute this technique, you’re going to take your hand and quickly grasp between the attackers thighs underhand. Its going to feel like you’re “cradling” the testicles. Quickly grab hold of, or snatch the testicles and dig your fingertips into the fragile skin BEHIND the scrotum. Then, once you have a good grip, you turn your hand into a vice, with your fingers digging inwards, around the back and over the top of the testicles. If you do it right, you should feel the testes INSIDE your hand which is holding the scrotum. You want, whenever possible, to hook your fingers over and around at least one testicle. One of them is enough.

    Then, with your hands in a claw and your fingertips latched around the testes, you turn your hand sharply, as though you were turning a doorknob. Simultaneously, squeeze hard and pull the testicles away from his body as fast and as hard as you can. DO NOT LET GO OF THEM. This is very important. What happens then, is that your assailant usually screams out in pain and then tries to grab the wrist of your hand holding him in a futile attempt to try to get you to release him. DON’T. He then quickly loses one of the natural advantages he usually has over us (his strength) within a matter of seconds. Vomiting, curling over, collapsing and convulsing is common. Shock and unconsciousness can set in within 8 seconds. If he initially starts to fight back then you tuck your head in and keep squeezing his testicles until he faints. This only takes a matter of seconds. When he collapses, which he will, you get away to safety as quickly as possible and call for help. I’ve heard of two older women who dragged their attackers to a place of safety while holding them by the testicles. It may sound odd but testicles are so vulnerable and sensitive that this technique also works very well for women. I also like to share the story of the woman who was threatened with the words “do as I say or else…” by the younger man who attacked her, but she turned the situation around and he eventually ended up collapsing and begging her to phone the police while she maintained a tight grip on his testicles.

    It’s never too late to perform this technique at any stage of an attack, and that even includes the option of reaching down if he’s on top of you, but it is easiest to do when the testicles are exposed and closest to you where you can grab hold of them. I’ve actually met several women in my life who have fought off their attackers in this way and one did it when her attacker was on top of her and raping her at the point he lost control. Don’t ever hold back. Some women scream while they are doing this, and some women think of a loved one being harmed to help overcome any bad feelings of hurting someone else even if they are being hurt themselves. Do whatever you have to do if you feel it helps.

    If done properly, and done with enough force, this technique can even lead to the testicles rupturing. It’s actually easier to do than most women believe, and just about all of us have the capability to injure an attackers testicles in this way – whether we are young girls still of school age, or whether we are great grandmothers. We, as women have no part of our bodies as vulnerable as a mans testicles. After all, if you think about it testicles are just small objects of extreme vulnerability to pain squishiness wrapped in a delicate layer of skin which offers them no protection at all from this kind of counterattack by a woman. Most importantly, this fact holds true no matter what size your attacker is, nor how strong he is. And no matter how angry he is, and how much he’s threatened what he’s going to do to you, he’s going to drop. Don’t let anyone (usually men who are very uncomfortable with thoughts of women beating them in combat) try to convince you otherwise.

    I once worked with a group of Somali women who informed me that grandmothers, mothers, and daughters between generations shared this powerful method of fighting off men. They even have a name for it in Somalia and they call the move “Qworegoys”. They were surprised that women in the West didn’t seem to share this information as much as they expected them to, and even more surprised that most women didn’t even seem aware of this technique.

    I know that this advice would have been a difficult read for many women, but our lives are worth far more than a rapists testicles and we should be prepared to do whatever it takes to get away to safety. Please help to share this advice with as many other women and girls as far and wide as possible in any way you can help. It could one day be a life saver.

    1. Thank you for these helpful tips and advice – I’m so impressed you teach and train other women in Krav Maga! This is very informative in the event I’m ever in a terrible situation and need to defend myself. Thanks for taking the time to write it all out HAB!

  2. As much as I appreciate your guide (seriously, it’s helpful and you seem super-nice)–how are you hitching with all that stuff? Like, really. You have a ton of bags.

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