Hitchhiking: Where Is It Legal And Would You Do It?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

We've all seen them (or been them).

The scruffy looking traveller, overstuffed pack on their back, a bandana either on their head or around their neck, thumb out, and holding a sign to try and entice you to pull over and give them a ride.  

You can't deny that hitchhiking is an incredibly affordable, unique and adventurous way to travel. You meet some VERY interesting people, and end up in places that you have never even dreamed of heading before.

But you also can't deny that this form of travel comes with some pretty high risks.

I have only hitchhiked once (and I don't know that it even really counts as hitchhiking), in a small town just outside of Paris. My friend and I had just gotten off the train and were trying to get to her cousin's house, where we were going to crash for the night, and we approached a young looking couple loading things into their car for directions. Taking pity on the two of us (we were pretty scruffy looking at that point), they offered to take us to our destination. So, we jumped into the back of their large, windowless unmarked van (in retrospect, maybe not the smartest vehicle to catch a ride in) and hoped that they were actually taking us to our destination.

Luckily we trusted the right people and got there safely, but, after watching one too many crime shows where the hitchhiker turns out to be an axe murderer — or the person who picks up the hitchhiker keeps them captive in their basement for ten years — I was more than a little nervous! 

I have recently been following the progress of fellow travel blogger, the Expert Vagabond, who has been hitchhiking across the United States, documenting his travels (and all the creative signs that he used to snag a ride).

Where I live, picking up hitchhikers is illegal, and watching his progress has got me wondering where it is actually legal to embark on this form of travel. 

RABIES FREE (Since June)
— a sign held by the Expert Vegabond while hitchhiking in the USA

After a bit of quick research, I have discovered that in MOST of the world (other than North America) hitchhiking from the side of the road is not only legal, it's encouraged! Some countries (like the Netherlands) even have designated areas at the side of the road for hitchhikers to wait at.  

Being female, I would still be wary to jump into a car with a stranger unless I had a travel buddy with me, and the same goes for picking someone up. 

What do you think? Would you hitchhike? Would you pick up a hitchhiker? 

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