A forgotten art...

Pieces about the art and science of hitchhiking.

In 1999 alone, I hitchhiked at least 10.000 kilometers around Europe.

I am not talking about hitching home after you missed the last train; I am referring to serious, long-distance hitchhiking. I am not speaking of waiting long hours for a ride — when I say hitching, I mean high-speed hitchhiking.

With the method I developed, hitching can make you go nearly as fast as driving your own car, and is usually more comfortable. At any rate, you can typically top the speed of a comparable train journey.

Rule 1.

The key is to talk to people. If you just stand there, you can indeed wait hours. If you approach people (best when they fill up gas) you may need only 1-3 attempts to get a lift.

From here on, the probability of getting a lift depends simply on the probability that somebody goes the same way as you.

Difficult circumstances are when everybody goes a different way, or people don't have space in their cars. when there's a holiday and

Which leads to rule 2 and rule 3.

Rule 2.

Never drop off at a bad spot. You'll be sorry for it.

Rule 3.

Go with the flow. Sometimes detours can be faster.

You choose the people, not they choose you.


Pick fast cars. Don't pick lorries.

Business men have best self-confidence and are most interesting conversation partners.

Here's a "historic" document where I describe how to hitchhike over the French British channel. Yes, this involves a ferry :-)

Newsgroups:  uk.rec.climbing
Subject: Re: does anybody know about hitching to fontainbleau
References:  <8339k8$193$1@neptunium.btinternet.com>

On Mon, 13 Dec 1999 17:13:30 -0000, pete theobald wrote:
>I'm planning to go to font at easter. Has anyone successfully hitched across
>the channel. I'm either going from southampton or starting in sheffield.
>Also does anyone know how to cross the channel without paying (Anyone who
>suggests swimming will have vicious rumours written about them - be warned).

Hi Pete,

last year I lived in Sheffield for 8 months. During that time I hitched from/to
Germany several times. I did not hitch to Font from there, but I did hitch to
Font from my place several times though.

It is not a big deal.

First I thought I'd just post somewhat lengthy instructions here, but I'm not sure what kind of massive hitching rush such detailed information could cause. So send me an email if you are intested (but anyone else too!).


In general: Since you're mentioning it, I have stopped asking truck drivers at
all because usually they do never give me a lift. Most of them are just not
allowed to. I ask car drivers, all sorts of people, once you have lost most of
the anxiety of approaching people it is very very easy.

I always (if possible at all) hitch from one petrol station to the next,
because of the opportunity to ask people. Hitching with your thumb is far too
inefficient. A good free map where you can see most of the stations last year
was the one that you could get from the Safeway petrol stations. Hardest part
is to get around London, just because people you meet there are going in all
sorts of directions and from the one station at the M1 junction to the orbital.
I always had to use a sign at that point and wait some time.

Regarding the channel: Best connection (even hourly at night) is Dover-Calais.
All tickets that are sold (apart from the foot passenger tickets) are for TWO
persons ore more. In other words, the price for two persons and a car is the
same as for one person and a car. This means that every single person who
crosses the channel with his car can take you with him/her without any more
costs. Just wait in front of the ticket office for someone who is going to buy
a ticket, because the ticket will have to be written for two persons then

Although, one night in Dover the 'policemen' were quite keen an keeping us away
from the customers, telling us it is forbidden to hitchhike there. But we still
managed to get a lift for free. As a last resort you can always buy the foot
passenger ticket. One time, there was a special offer for short trips to France
which was something like xy pounds for one night and 1 pound for each
additional person. The three people I hitched with changed their ticket to four
persons and I happily gave them the pound :-)

You can hitch with the Eurostar the same way! Tickets are more or less the

If you reach Calais at night, be sure to use the time on the ferry to get your
next lift, because Calais at night is not a too good place to find one, because
cars drive out of the ferry on different lanes more or less directly onto the

The next step is just to get to Paris which is really really easy because
everybody is going there. Don't try to hitch to Fontainebleau directly, that
must be quite difficult to get around Paris while all people go into it.

There are trains to Font up to 10 p.m. (definitely) or 11 p.m. (maybe) in the
night. The price is very cheap, something around 5 pounds. Hitch to the other
side of Fontainebleau with some other people who get off the train, and hitch
the few kilometers on the N7. There you are!

Way back home: No problem in Calais with asking people, no annoying guardians
there. Go to the most-used ticket office (one of those square white boxes), I
can't remember the name of the company. Just forget about the hovercraft thing,
it's less traffic there.

Good Luck!


Never lost my friends | Peter Poeml
Never lost my hope | poeml@uni-muenster.de
Never lost my courage |
...hope I never loose my WALLET! |