Basic course for strategic hitchhiking

Facing the rising prices for traintickets and gasoline, many people who lack the money or consciously live a self-organized life without a job, the question for alternative options for a comfotable and successful method of traveling arises. One of these possibilities is hitchhiking, i.e. hitchhiking with people who have a car or not fully untapped weekend-ticket for Deutsche Bahn. Good preparation, friendly behaviour and improvisation skills – this is important in addition to serendipities, so hitchhiking can be successful and fun.

This text concludes experiences, tips and ideas to pass on to all who want to bring hitchhiking to perfection or even consider to begin with. These are based on lessons learned and a keyword collection of a hitchhiking workshops at the Jugendumweltkongress (youth environmental conference) in Magdeburg, which have since been extended.

Planing and strategy

Of course you can also just go and hope that it’ll work out somehow. However, it is likely to be much more relaxing if your journey is supported by good planning in advance. On the highway it is more difficult to find out train connections or good spots to get out of the car. The following are some aspects of good preparation.

The ideal way of transport

During the week, hitchhiking by car is of course unbeatable – weekends can be okay, but often less business and more families with cars are going and mostly packed. Therefore, it’s worth to consider whether it is easier to hitchhike the railway because many people use the weekend-ticket (valid for up to 5 people and rail transport: RB, RE, etc.). Particularly popular weekend-ticket routes (e.g. Frankfurt- Berlin) offer Saturday and Sunday best driving opportunities. Additionally, it can be helpful to find a suitable ride on a carpool (e.g. , to pass a difficult section (e.g. to a motorway service station which is otherwise hard to reach) or all the way to travel quickly and without change. Sometimes a mix of rail hitchhiking, public transport and hitchhiking help out.

It is always important to make yourself aware of these possibilities to decide flexible and spontaneously. The best planning does not replace improvisation and situational action – and vice versa!

The correct start and end point for car hitchhikers

Particularly suitable as a starting point are medium to large motorway service areas with a gas station. Where there is a gas station, car drivers can be addressed directly. Pure rest areas are not optimal, since many people pause there longer and mostly families stop. Also not recommended are service areas which are not even on the highway. In some cities, there are also good experiences with filling stations on main roads towards the motorway – with the advantage that it does not lie outside the city.

For cross-border Hitchhiking, it may be worthwhile to take differences in gasoline prices into account. With the appropriate price gap, filling stations at national borders are well frequented by people who have long distances to go. In some larger cities, gas stations are in the immediate vicinity of the desired motorway.

The path to the starting point

Both the start and end points are very important for a successful hitchhiking tour. Therefore, a strategic preplanning for your trip is recommended – so you get comfortable and without too much stress from A to B! This means finding out especially if start and end points are connected to public transport, etc. Many motorway service stations are accessible via public transportation (bus, train, tram, etc.) or are near villages accessible by public transport .

The journey to the service station in a train, bus and / or walking is not that difficult to plan: In the usual online mapping services, there are very accurate maps with motorway service stations. With enlargement of details, you can find out which places, streets, railway stations or other interesting places are nearby. The connecting information at can also specify streets as endpoints. With a little patience and effort, you can almost always find the right connections.

It makes sense to collect the gathered information and to make appropriate notes on the compulsory road map. And of course it would be great if you post your knowledge in the Hitchhiker Wiki where an open list with good tramp digits plus journey way arises. And probably you find yourselve also information that will help you and save you the trouble to find out everything new.

The optimal equipment

The standard equipment includes a good map with service areas, gas stations and own notes, and provides documentation to the start and end points, and how you can move on from there. If you really want to use tags, you should carry cardboard, masking tape and a pen with you.

It is important to be prepared so that no dependencies can arise – this also includes enough money (if it ever goes no further and do you want to switch to public transport), food and drinks, and warm clothing. An address book can help if you want to stay somewhere at a place to sleep and hang.

For longer trips, it may be useful to bring equipment for camping. When traveling out of Germany, of course, foreign language skills are very useful.

“ Are you going random from …“ Or: How do I become get picked up?

Hitchhiking on motorway service stations and gas stations

Supposedly bright clothing to be good – but logically, acting in complete black outfit not necessarily arouses the trust of others. But you don’t need to screw yourself for pleasing others. More important than appearance is to appear confident, friendly and communicative act. Those who start the conversation with an unusual entry or leave a „no“ with a funny-friendly comment, increase the chances of being taken away. A confident, cheeky appearance is also a preventive protection (of course, not an absolute !) from hit-ons on or assaults.

However, the first impression is important for your driver to form good a picture of you in a few seconds. The most optimal case is to ask directly at the gas station all sorts of people. Those who use signs or stand somewhere on a driveway, only reach the people who persist or inquire by themselves and thus assigns possibilities to get the communication from yourself. The direct question is perhaps uncomfortable in the first moment, but more promising than just the hope that someone would stop for you. Here are a few quick tips:

  • It is good to ask already during the filling process. Your enemy then has more time to think or to re-pack luggage. It happens not infrequently that from „Hmmm, do not know“ nor a „Yes“.
  • There’s the opposite case, too. Unfortunately. But just keep asking until your actual departure, instead of getting angry afterwards because someone has changed his mind.
  • Licence plates must mean nothing – it can never actually hurt to ask all the people and not to limit yourself. If you find someone goofy, you can still choose to not ride with him.
  • If you don’t have no success to find people for your real goal: simply ask for short distances (e.g. for the next gas station) to increase the entrainment chance.
  • Who looks like a „classic“ couple (requires not to be real) has supposedly higher chances to get taken.
  • If you really want to use signs: must be precise and easily recognizable, might be creative
Before departure

Basically, you should always have a good idea which points like gas stations and service areas are on the way and do not hope that the drivers somehow doing their job. To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is useful to communicate before departure precise about exactly where the breaks hit. Sometimes it arises that the person stops to early or changes the direction. Because navigational systems are spread more and more, drivers are unable to predict accurately the distance or the route to their destination.

While driving

Sure, sometimes you do not feel like talking. But basically, the advantage of a conversation is not only the pure pastime, also conversations with „weird“ or established people can be exciting, especially because for a short time very different lifes are running into each other. Often talking also give new possibilities for action, for example, that you’ll entrained further than initially agreed, or you can find a place to sleep in a different city, etc.

But it is important to insist on your own plan how you move on. You decide what is appropriate in order to reach your goal.

Hitchhiking at railway stations

Basically, Hitchhiking railways is easier because trains are much more open and anonymous as a car and therefore the threshold is lower to take others. If you want to hitchhike by train, you should just ask at the track whether people are traveling with weekend ticket. If conductors are present there, the effort of unobtrusiveness can help because there are some who will be stressful afterwards and do not accept the shared ride. If you have long waiting time and it is not too early, it may be useful to ask in front of the station if anyone offers you a no longer used weekend-ticket.

Organize the exchange of experience!

All these tips reflect only a portion of hitchhiking experiences that have been collected and analyzed. Much can be improved, some maybe tomorrow occur as nonsense. Therefore, it is important to organize a continuous exchange of experience, independent of personal networks that only allow limited transparency.

One component is this text – another one is the Hitchhikers Wiki ( On that website, all people can enter their information about good start and end points for hitchhiking, and describe how these can be reached by public transport or other means of locomotion.


To: ESPI, 2. version, March 11, 2006. This text is „copyleft“ and is subject to a Creative Commons License. Parts and the entire text may be freely copied, used, and modified under the following conditions: All works based on it must be free in this sense, and will also be published under this License. In addition, a source should not be missed . The license is gleanable at