Finding a good hitchhiking spot is an art. It could be the difference between a smooth hitchhiking day and a long one. Getting out of cities are often the most difficult part of hitchhiking, and this article is here to help you to find the perfect hitchhiking spot !
The concept is to find a spot with enough space for drivers to stop safely, and a spot where most cars will go in the same direction as you.
Imagine yourself hitchhiking in the middle of the city center of Paris near the Eiffel Tower. People are likely to go in any direction, and maybe sometimes just a couple of kilometers farther, but if you stand at the entrance of the highway in direction of the north, drivers are quite likely to go for a longer distance towards the north.
Therefore the key to getting out of a city is to find a spot where you optimize your chances without losing too much time or money to get to that spot.
There are three ways to find a good hitchhiking spot :
- Use Hitchwiki (Easy to advanced level)
- Use Google Maps (Medium to advanced level)
- Walk towards the end of the city (Traveling without a phone level)
Use Hitchwiki to find a hitchhiking spot
Hitchwiki is a collaborative website where anyone can share information on hitchhiking.
You can type the name of the city you’re trying to leave, and if someone shared a spot before, you will find information to get out of the city.
Let’s take an example with a city near my hometown :
As you can see, there are 3 possible directions. You have to choose which way you’re going, and then you will find the most suitable spot. You just have to follow the instructions and you will get to this hitchhiking spot.
Hitchwiki works very well in Europe and North America. Feel free to update the site with your experience.
Use Google Maps to find a hitchhiking spot
As you can see, it’s relatively straightforward to use Hitchwiki, but sometimes you might not find any tips if the city you’re leaving from is less touristic. It doesn’t mean that there’s no decent spot to start, no, rather than no-one updated the website before.
First, open Google Maps and locate the city you’re currently in
What you should do is to go on Google Maps, find where is the highway and look out for entrances (on-ramp).
We’ll use the city of Kyoto (Japan) as an example, because we were in that situation not so long ago. We even made a complete guide to hitchhike in Japan.
Look for an on-ramp in the direction you’re going
If you’re going to the West, it doesn’t make sense to go to the Eastern part of the city to find an on-ramp. The optimal solution would be better to find an on-ramp located on the West part of the city.
There I could find two on-ramps, located not too far from the city, and on the Western part of the city.
Don’t lose too much time with public transport
If you’re currently located on the Eastern part of the city, it will make sense to look for an on-ramp on the East side, even if you’re going West. Simply because crossing the whole city with public transport might take you a while. Sometimes it might be faster to cross the city with the highway.
In our example it was very straightforward. We were located very near to the “Oyamazaki IC” and we just had to walk for an hour to get there.
Use Google Street View to see where to start
Once you located an on-ramp, you have to make sure that cars can actually stop. Drivers need sufficient space to pull-over as they won’t be keen on taking risks and blocking the traffic just for you.
Thankfully, Google has a useful feature named Street View. Use it beforehand to have a better understanding of the situation. In this case this is how it looks :
As you can see it is not the best spot, because there’s not much space for cars to stop but…
Just a few hundred meters before the on-ramp, I spotted a convenience store (konbini), that is a perfect place to ask people if they are going on the highway. There are also a few trucks on the parking lot. Trucks are a good sign, because they are usually likely to go farther than a car.
Street View can be a powerful tool for a hitchhiker. Don’t forget to use it, compare multiple possibilities and find the most suitable one.
Walk towards the end of the city to find a hitchhiking spot
At some point, I had no phone nor computer. Therefore I had no way to use Hitchwiki or Google Maps. If that’s the case for you, you should follow the main road in the direction you’re planning to go to. Eventually you’ll reach the outskirts of the city and you can improvise.
Sometimes, especially in Western Europe, you won’t be able to find a decent spot that way. I believe you should try to ask people in gas stations whenever you see one in the city. You’ll surely find someone who can bring you at least on the highway.
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