Posts Hitchhiker's Guide (To Australia And New Zealand)

Hitchhiker's Guide (To Australia And New Zealand)

TL;DR: Basically, hitchhiking brings out the best in mankind, and we should all do it.

I’ve recently traveled to New Zealand and Australia and wanted to share an aspect of my experience as it was a) somewhat life changing and b) could benefit others. The means of transportation I used in my travels was hitchhiking.

Now, I can already imagine the reaction some, and probably most readers have to the previous statement which is probably something like: “this guy is crazy, i’m out”. I can imagine it since it was my initial reaction when the idea was suggested to me. In fact, I only tried it since I HAD to (I lost my car at some point in NZ). But! I can assure you that once you try it, you won’t regret it.

Lets start off by discrediting some popular beliefs regarding hitch hiking:

  • Not all hitchhikers are weirdos \ criminally insane.
  • Not all people who pick up hitchhikers are weirdos \ criminally insane.

In fact, the hitchhikers I met were generally kind, friendly, interesting people who do it mostly because they want to meet the people who inhabit the country they are traveling in and get to know the spirit of the nation.

The financial aspect is NOT the only reason they do it, in fact in some cases they would prefer a ride with a local to having a car for free (thats how it was for me at some point).

The people who pick up hitchhikers are generally generous, kind-hearted people, who believe in doing good onto others and helping whoever they can. Some of them were hitchhikers in their past and are sympathetic to the cause. They will many times offer you further assistance and even invite you to they’re homes to stay - expecting nothing in return.

What I’m trying to say with these two arguments, is that basically, hitchhiking brings out the best in people and demonstrates the goodness in mankind. So we should all do it! :)

Having that said, we still live in the real world, and naturally people are sometimes suspicious and won’t always stop for a hiker. However, there are rules you can follow to help them come to the decision to stop and pick you up. Here are a few guidelines i established during my hitchhiking and it got me where i wanted to go in no time (and also helped me meet incredible people):

  • First and foremost: Be Careful. When someone stops for you, it's very legitimate to talk to them for a bit before getting on. Ask a few questions, take a look at the car and its inhabitants and follow your instincts. If you're not feeling it - smile politely, say thank you and goodbye. Having said that, 95% of my rides were legit.
  • Try to be a girl. If you can't be a girl, try to have a girl with you. Sorry guys, this is one field where the ladies have a clear advantage. Girls get more rides. Don't discourage though! Boy & girl combinations work great, and i managed to get quite a few rides all by myself.
  • Hitchhiker composition favorability (in order from most to least): One girl, Two girls, Boy & Girl, {One Boy | Two Boys}. The last category contains both options simply since i didn't have enough experience to judge whether its better to be one guy hitching a ride or having a guy friend with you. Regarding the most favorable category: I've met girls who hitchhiked alone safely, but they usually had prior experience doing it with a friend and were good judges of character. If you choose to do that, please take extra caution, ask more questions and be safe.
  • Don't just stick your thumb out! Smile! wave at the occasional car. Even wave to the cars going in the other direction! you never know who's coming back. We actually had cars turn around and pick us up! What comes around goes around.
  • Have a big big backpack. It makes you look legit and makes the people in the cars feel sorry for you. You don't have to have it on all the time (although that helps), but make sure its in sight when you hitch a ride.
  • Allow the drivers time to see you and make a decision. Don't stand after a curve or behind a sign. Allow the drivers ample time to see you and make up their minds if they want to pick you up. You won't get rides by jumping out at the last second. However! standing at traffic lights or other places where cars come to a stop has an advantage. The longer they look at you and see you are not threatening \ feel sorry for you, the better chance you have for a ride!
  • Be non-threatening. Make sure the driver can clearly see your face and your eyes. No hats, No sunglasses, No bandana. Scary beards are ill-advised. Don't look too fancy but also don't look like a homeless person. Find the balance.
  • If you don't mind approaching strangers (in NZ and Aussie almost everyone is friendly, so you shouldn't), you can ask around at gas stations \ car parks \ etc. to see if someone's heading out in your direction. Be polite and nice, ask them for their help, and remember - they don't owe you anything.
  • Get out of the city. Hitchhiking in the middle of a city is bad. The bigger the city, the less likely you'll get a ride. If you're in a city, try and get to the outskirts. The more desolate the place - the better. My theories for explaining this: a) people in the city are less nice b) people assume you have public transportation and don't really need a ride. c) people have less of a place to stop.
  • Don't disturb traffic. Don't hitch rides in places that are unsafe for you \ the driver. Make sure you are allowed to hitchhike there (nothing worse than getting a ride from the police featuring a nice hefty fine. However! nothing better than getting a free ride in a police car! that happens!). Allow the driver a safe stopping distance where they don't disturb traffic. Otherwise they simply won't stop.
  • Its OK to be a bit pushy. Don't be passive and apathetic, be proactive. You will encounter situation where a bit of persuasion is needed. Its OK to be a bit pushy. If they're on the fence - pull them to your side.
  • Entertain the driver. This your duty as a hitchhiker. The driver provides transportation, you provide entertainment. Be friendly and polite. Ask the driver about themselves and take interest. This is how you'll get to know the people of the country you're traveling in and meet some very interesting people who you may end up forming connections for life.
  • Looking for a place to stay? If you don't have accommodation at your destination, ask your ride about it. They usually have great tips on good places to stay and if they like you - they'll even offer their place (feel free to say no if the feeling is not mutual).
  • Its (not) a numbers game. Counter-intuitively, a bunch of cars is much worse than a single car. Why? lets take a tour of the state of mind in a convoy of cars coming down the road seeing a hitchhiker: Car #1: "Oh, should i stop? nah, one of the cars behind me will pick them up". Car #2: "Well, if the first car didn't stop, why should i stop for them?". Car #3: "Two cars didn't stop for these guys! something's fishy, i'm out" etc.
  • Don't get discouraged! It sometimes takes a while to get a ride. Whatever you do, don't give up! the ride will come! In my experience - the more you wait - the sweeter the ride you'll eventually get.

So that about wraps it up, i’ll try and add more as they come to mind. Remember - these thumb rules have been formulated in New Zealand & Australia only, but i’ll keep testing them in other countries as i get the chance. All feedback is welcome!</br> Happy and safe hitchhiking!

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.