When it comes to how you look when hitchhiking, beyond all the tips and tricks, there are really just three simple rules.

With the world in a state of fear at, seemingly, all times – people have forgotten how to have a little faith in those around them. “A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet” may sound naive, but there’s a definite truth to it when you break down the barriers we’ve all learnt to so expertly build. When hitchhiking, you’re relying on the strangers you’ve been taught to beware of and, more importantly, they’re trusting you. 

Because of these barriers, people may be initially reluctant to pick us up. The sad case with hitchhiking is that the hitcher is scared of the driver, and the driver is scared of the hitcher. “They just want to murder me” is the singular thought in anyone’s head.

Additionally, for the society in which we live, we are an odd mix of both lucky and unlucky. Whilst the way things are mean that we are wholly more at risk than a man would be, we can also use that fact to our advantage – we’ll often be picked up simply because that person wants to ‘protect’ us. It’s a small, twisted upside to an otherwise unequal slice of culture.

A much bigger piece of luck is being white, young, healthy and native English speakers – there’s no denying the fact that these things play to our advantage in the USA (as they would in the UK, and many other places too).

When you add in the fact that drivers do not have long to make a decision to pick you up – sometimes split seconds if you can’t find a hugely visible pick up point – you have very little time to make a vivid good impression. So you need to make that first sight count.

So how do two women look presentable whilst able to live comfortably on the road, approachable but not vulnerable, ordinary but still with a sense of intrigue for a driver bored on a long journey? These are questions we hope to find answers to quickly on the road, but no matter who you are there are just three simple rules to follow in the end:

  1. Look clean
    Something like this should go without saying, but it often does need to be said: no driver wants you in their car if you look like you haven’t washed in a week. Besides the fact they won’t want to clean their car once you’ve left, they’ll be wondering why you don’t care that you’re dirty and what sort of person that makes you…too late. They’ve driven off.
  2. Look happy
    Most drivers pick you up because they’re bored on a long journey, or they at least think you’ll be interesting to have in the car. That thought disappears if you look miserable. Think customer service – you get the best out of people when there’s a smile on your face. In addition to this, look drivers in the eye and don’t be seen studying a map. Looking confident in where you are and where you’re going is safer than looking lost and dejected, and drivers feel like you’ve got a plan so they won’t be stuck with you until their end destination. (Unless they want it that way!)
  3. Look normal
    Yeah, okay – normal is a hugely relative term! What this effectively means is look how people would expect you to look if you weren’t hitchhiking. Bright colours work best for attracting drivers and give a positive vibe, something similar to the current fashion of the country where you’re hitching (no, this doesn’t mean national dress.) helps you fit in and no big dark overcoats so you don’t look like you’re hiding something.

There’s lots of tips and tricks that can make a good hitchhiking experience great, but following these three rules will have you well on your way.

Got any other advice you’ve found to be useful in your experience, or have a question? Comment below!

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