Though it might not be the most efficient form of travel it is definitely one of the most rewarding. Hitchhiking is an art and there are many tips and tricks that can help you hitch rides successfully. The question I get asked the most by people wanting to hitchhike is whether it is better to use a hitchhiker sign or to just thumb it when seeking a ride from strangers.
There is no right answer to this question. It all depends on the situation. In some circumstances, using a hitchhiker sign can be a life saver; in others it can actually be a burden.
First of all, your decision to use a hitchhiker sign or not depends on whether you need or want to reach a specific destination. If you’re just going with the flow and have lots of time on your hands, thumbing it could be the better option because it can increase your chances of being picked up. After all, one of the downsides of using a hitchhiker sign is that sometimes, people who would be willing to pick you up might just drive past you because they are not going to your exact destination, even if they are still going the same way and could help you down the road.
Whenever I did have a hitchhiker sign, I worried that some people going my direction wouldn’t stop because they would automatically think I’m not going there”. It’s impossible to know how people will react and it likely differs from country to country. I have heard of people who hitchhiked in Asia and were waved at by drivers who didn’t understand what the hitchhikers meant by sticking out their thumb.
Despite this, a hitchhiker sign can still be very useful, especially if there is a specific place you want to get to. Sometimes it’s worth waiting an extra hour to get a direct ride to where you’re headed. After all, people will often stop if they’re going the same direction as you, even if they’re not going directly to your destination.
Thumbing it can also be negative because you could end up being picked up multiple times and taken just short distances. I’ve also found that having a hitchhiker sign can often be helpful because it makes you more relateable as a hitchhiker. Small things can make a big difference when hitchhiking.
The best way to go about it is to create multiple signs for the major cities on route to your destination. This way you can alternate between them if you’re unlucky with one of them.
When I hitchhiked from Slovenia to Croatia, I stubbornly stuck to my hitchhiker sign for over three hours. In the last moment I got a direct rode to Zagreb. Considering there are no major cities between Ljubljana and Zagreb, it is safe to assume that most cars were travelling towards or via Zagreb. Ditching my sign probably wouldn’t have helped.
At the end of the day, using a hitchhiker sign can definitely pay off!