Your safety on the road is your responsibility, no one else’s, don’t compromise it for any reason. No matter how long you have been waiting by the road, if that ride doesn’t feel right, don’t get in.

The fear surrounding hitchhiking is incredible, the amount of times people have told me I’m crazy, that I’ll die, I’ll be raped, no one will pick me up, it can’t be done. The strangest part of these comments is that they all come from people who have never hitchhiked, yet they’re so certain they know more than me about it. Don’t listen to the weak, they’re free to live their second rate lives and you are free to live yours.

Hitchhiking has the potential to be dangerous only to the degree you let your guard down.

There are many steps a hitchhiker can take to maximise their safety. First and foremost is knowing what you are capable of. I do not carry weapons as I see them as escalating or attracting a negative situation. My most powerful weapon is my mind and how I use it. Always remember, the way you think, speak and act is more powerful than carrying a weapon.

The risks and how to minimise them:

  • Getting robbed by a driver:

It’s possible that someone could view you as a soft target and try and take advantage of this. Ways to prevent this are hitchhiking at petrol stations so that you are visible to others and are able to choose who you want to ride with. Carry yourself with extreme confidence, shoulders back chest out, tall and strong. Don’t act like you owe them anything, act as if you are doing them a favour. Fair chance if you look like a soft target then desperate people will treat you accordingly. Carry a minimum amount of cash in your wallet and no important documents or money in your bag. I like to travel with a small backpack that has everything I could possibly need in it, if things get sticky all I have to do is grab that and run, forget the other stuff. I keep money dispersed throughout my body. Something I picked up from my time in Brazil is putting money in my sock or underwear.

It’s important to remember that if you know a driver has malicious intentions and they won’t let you out, you do have options. A friend of mine told me about how she dealt with a taxi driver trying to rape her in Mexico. She covered his eyes so that he had to slow down the car so not to crash, also think about gauging the eyes or a hard punch to the throat or balls, know peoples weak spots. People’s instinct when they can’t see is to hit the brakes. As she covered his eyes and he braked she hit the gears out and pulled on the handbrake (once slowed enough) allowing her to jump out of the car screaming for help. Your voice is very useful.

Getting out of the ride is your first priority. The driver has to drive, they don’t want to die, so you are at an advantage.

  • Sexually amorous drivers:

Many people believe this only applies to women, but this is not the case. While the vast majority of these incidents are directed towards females, men do also get targeted. One of the scariest experiences I’ve had hitchhiking was in Thailand when the driver tried to have his way with me. That was one moment I ignored my intuition.

No matter how desperate you are for a ride, make sure your safety is your first priority, nothing else is as important.

The best way to deter unwanted sexual advances if you are a female hitchhiker is to hitch in pairs or with a guy. Don’t dress too sexually and never get into a vehicle that has more than one occupant.

Two incredible eighteen year old Polish girls I met hitchhiking at a truck stop in Spain had made it across Europe this way. They figured if there were two of them and only one driver then they would be able to handle any situation. They did have an unfortunate experience with a Turkish man in the Netherlands who pulled out his penis while driving. When they asked him what the fuck he was doing (not as polite as that) he apologised and took them to where they needed to go.

Be strong, confident and don’t take shit. Just because they have given you a lift doesn’t mean they have the right to force you to do anything you don’t want to.

If all else fails go crazy, everybody’s scared of crazy. Scream, kick, punch, bite, scratch, throw things, slam the window, punch seats. Go caveman on those pricks and make them have no choice but to leave you alone and get the hell out of your way.

Here is where one weapon, a can of mace, can come in handy.

  • Drunk Drivers

These are all too common. The best way to avoid them is to have a quick scan of both the driver and the interior of the vehicle before accepting the ride. Open the door and ask them where they are going, this gives you an opportunity to check things out. If you are hit in the face by a strong odour of liquor then it’s a pretty safe guess that they have been drinking, the same goes with marijuana, though other drugs are harder to smell.

Look at the driver, do they look like they are on something, are they sweating like a priest in a preschool, or have a constant twitch and scratch their needle scarred arm?

Don’t get in the ride.

If you are already in the ride – which was the case on my very first hitchhiking experience with a truckie crossing the Canadian Rockies – and they begin drinking it’s a good idea to ask politely to be let off at the next petrol station. You don’t have to carry on with the ride for the sake of niceties, I unfortunately did.

Be smart, travel in pairs if you feel you’re too vulnerable by yourself. Assess the driver before approaching (families and woman are good starts) don’t get into rides with more than one male, be prepared to stop the ride if you feel it’s going wrong. Most importantly listen to your intuition. It will always look after you. Never be afraid of turning down a ride if it doesn’t feel right.

Often drivers will offer you food or drinks or even accommodation. Be mindful of these things, judge their intentions. Ninety nine percent will be pure.

When hitching solo you tend to get invited home more frequently, this was the room I was given for the night with the people who picked me up outside of Osaka.
When hitching solo you tend to get invited home more frequently, this was the room I was given for the night with the people who picked me up outside of Osaka.

Staying with someone I have hitched with is one of the most rewarding experiences of hitchhiking. Human beings are incredibly generous and charming creatures, they love that they have the ability to help out another being. Hitchhikers are providing a good karma service, in that we give people the opportunity to do a good deed for another and add to the bountiful reservoir of good in this universe. So don’t be ashamed of accepting a helping hand, just don’t take advantage of this hand. There is a fine line between a welcome guest in someone’s home and a leech on their generosity, it’s generally about three days. Once your novelty has worn off then you have definitely overstayed your welcome.

Safety Summary:

  • Hitch in pairs
  • Keep your bag with you
  • Only one occupant
  • Use mace if you really must carry a weapon
  • Know where you are
  • Adapt and change with the terrain, people and culture
  • Divide and hide many small portions of money on your body
  • Keep valuables with you
  • Awareness is key
  • Don’t hitch by the road at night
  • Take a good look at the driver and interior before accepting ride (look for alcohol, weapons, drugs etc.)
  • Discuss drivers wife/family and your imagined or real boyfriend/girlfriend
  • If necessary attack driver by covering eyes and hitting weak spots (eyes, ears, throat, groin)
  • Use peoples natural reaction to slow down when under stress
  • Hit out gears and pull handbrake
  • Scream and shout, let it be known what’s going on
  • Forget your belongings and run