Matt Forney
Spread the Word!

Where Do You Go Hitchhiking?

go hitchhiking

This is an excerpt from my book The Hitchhiking Crash Course.

Before you set out, you need to look at a road map and figure out where you’re going and what you want to do. You want to plot out a route that will get you to your destination with a minimum of fuss and wasted time. While the particulars of your trip prevent me from giving specific advice for your situation, here are some general tips for deciding where to go.

1. The further away you are from cities, the better.

Hitchhiking in urban centers is a waste of time because few people will want to pick you up, and of those few, most are not going very far. There are some exceptions to this rule, mainly on the West Coast, but in most cases you’re better off taking public transportation (or walking) to the edge of town before you stick out your hand.

2. Know the law.

While knowing the municipal vehicle codes of every county, town or village you might pass through is impossible, there are some areas where you can safely assume you won’t be allowed to hitch. For example, toll highways such as the New York State Thruway and the Ohio Turnpike explicitly ban hitchhiking on their premises. If a certain area disallows hitching, you’re best off planning an alternate route.

3. The shortest route to a destination is not always the best one.

In order to hitchhike, you need to be on roads that have a significant amount of traffic. No cars means no rides, so a shortcut away from the highways will do you no good if no one uses it. This is more of an issue out West, where the road network is less developed and the population is smaller. For example, if you’re in Wyoming or Montana, hitching on side roads is a dangerous proposition because the states are so sparsely populated that you can go half a day before another car drives by.

4. If you’re going to be hitching on Interstates, make note of the on-ramps.

In most cases, Interstates and limited-access highways are the best places to catch a ride, but the design of the on-ramps can hinder this. On-ramps with skinny shoulders, for example, are bad bets because there’s nowhere for drivers to pull over and pick you up. Preferably, you want to hitch at on-ramps with wide shoulders and that force drivers to stop (either at a stop sign or traffic light), as this affords you the greatest chance to get a ride. Google Maps is perfect for this.

5. Note down where gas stations and truck stops are located.

Not all highway exits are created equal; getting dropped off at one that has no traffic can be worse than not being able to get a ride at all. For example, most of the exits along I-94 in North Dakota or I-90 in Montana have signs stating “No Services,” as they exist only to make it more convenient for farmers or ranchers to get to and from town. On the other hand, if an exit has a gas station or a truck stop, you can be assured that it gets at least some traffic.

6. Know the weather.

If it’s going to rain or snow, you might want to postpone your trip. While it is possible to get rides more easily in inclement weather, standing around and getting soaked is not anyone’s definition of fun.

7. Estimate how much time you need to go places.

Hitchhiking is not a method of transportation for those obsessed with punctuality, but you should still take into consideration how long you’ll be on the road. There are a multitude of variables—where you are, what time of the year it is, what you look like etc.—that will affect how long it will take you to get from point A to point B.

Read Next: Why You Should Go Hitchhiking

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If you liked this post then you’ll like The Hitchhiking Crash Course, my 94-page book that teaches you how to hitchhike around the world easily and safely. It contains tips on what to bring, where to go and how to get rides easily as well as providing tactics for protecting yourself and dealing with police. Click here to learn more.