Hitchhiking (also known as thumbing or hitching) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people, usually strangers, for a ride in their automobile or other vehicle. A ride is usually, but not always, free.

Itinerants have also used hitchhiking as a primary mode of travel for the better part of the last century, and continue to do so today.

A significant number of people using this type of travel, hitchhiking is perceived as an art or sport, the success of which depends on many factors and skills, such as the ability to communicate with people, choosing the right place for voting and disembarking from a vehicle, appropriate clothing, foreign ownership languages, etc. Also, a significant role is played by sex and the number of hitch-hikers – drivers are usually more willing to take women than men. In most countries, hitchhiking implies that the driver does not pay money to the driver. If the driver plans to take money from the traveler, then this moment is usually negotiated before landing.

The principles of hitchhiking
Hitchhiker does not just use the service. The main principle of hitchhiking is mutual benefit (realized or not) of the participants. As a rule, the main benefit that a driver derives from a hitch-hiker is communication. On the long route – communication, eliminating the monotony of the road and allowing you not to fall asleep.
Informality is one of the important aspects of hitchhiking. There are known facts when drivers of paid toll buses, connected by strict rules, pick up a hitch-hiker just for the sake of informal communication. “Passengers are for money. You are for the soul. ” That is why the passage of a passing ship with the inclusion of a hitchhiking in the ship’s role is usually not considered, since in this case certain formal relations are created.
Trust. The driver allows the hitchhiker in a very narrow, almost personal space.

Types of hitchhiking
Moving on passing cars and trucks, buses and other land non-rail vehicles.
Moving on by-passing railway trains, more often in locomotives.
“Hydrostop” or “aqua-stop” – movement on passing ships, boats, ferries and other water vehicles.
Moving on by-passing airplanes, helicopters and other air vehicles.

Signaling method
The hand signals hitchhikers’ use to signaling to drivers that they need a ride differ around the world.

Indicators can be physical gestures or displays including written signs. In North America, the United Kingdom, and in most of Europe, most hitchhikers stand with their back facing the direction of travel facing oncoming vehicles. The hitchhiker typically extends the arm towards the road with the thumb of the closed hand pointing upward or in the direction of vehicle travel.

In some African countries, the hitchhiker’s hand is held with the palm facing upwards. In other parts of the world, such as Australia, it is more common to use the index finger to point at the road.

In 1971, during the Vietnam war, drivers invented methods to communicate various messages to hitchhikers (frequently soldiers in those areas of the U.S. near military bases). To indicate to a hitchhiking soldier that their vehicle has no additional space to accommodate them, a driver could indicate this by tapping on the vehicle roofs.

Another common message that drivers could signal to hitchhikers–who usually sought to travel long distances, distances too far to walk in a reasonable of time–was that the driver’s destinations were located nearby–and of little use to the hitchhiker–by pointing at the ground for a few seconds.

A hitchhiker can have several reasons to travel that way, including:

Economic: can not pay another form of transportation; This situation can be permanent (poverty) or circumstantial.
Related to the public transport service: there is no service at any time or there is not at the time when the hitchhiker wants to travel, either because the service is interrupted at a certain time of day or because the frequency of service is very low.
Environmental or political: hitchhiking reduces vehicular traffic rates and consumption of fossil fuels by people transported.
For the sense of adventure: to challenge yourself to travel with few resources, to meet new and unexpected people, not knowing where you will be at the end of the day.
Drivers can also have several reasons to pick up hitchhikers, for example:

They want company when traveling;
For a sense of social responsibility: they have traveled previously like them and are aware of the difficulty of doing so;
Many drivers who have been stranded, or people without money or means of transport themselves, often resort to ask for a lift, others do it out of passion and even as a sport.

Appearance of a hitchhiker
One of the main distinguishing features of a hitch-hiker is a backpack. The volumes and types of backpacks vary greatly from the distances and style of movement planned by the hitchhiker. As a rule, hitchhikers are dressed in bright clothes, mainly yellow, orange, “acid” color. Bright colors of clothes allow to reduce the danger of being knocked down by an inattentive driver, especially in the dark, as well as reduce the average waiting time of the car and increase the average speed of the ride. Often for night movement Hitch use reflective strips on clothing and backpacks, reflectors, headlamp flashlights. Also, a hitch-hiker may have a sign with the indication of the destination or the number of the road along which the route of the trip lies.

Often there is an opinion that hitchhiking is completely safe, as is said in some books and films about hitchhiking. A study of the safety of a hitchhiking was conducted in which 80 people from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus participated, according to its results, every third hitch-driver became a victim of a crime or an accident.

There are a lot of different currents and clubs of the hitchhiking theme, and their attitude to security is completely different: from complete freedom and irresponsibility to lengthy training courses.

Legal status
Hitchhiking is a historically common (autonomous) practice worldwide and hence there are very few places in the world where laws exist to restrict it. However, a minority of countries have laws that restrict hitchhiking at certain locations. In the United States, for example, some local governments have laws outlawing hitchhiking, on the basis of drivers’ and hitchhikers’ safety. In 1946, New Jersey arrested and imprisoned a hitchhiker, leading to intervention by the American Civil Liberties Union. In Canada, several highways have restrictions on hitchhiking, particularly in British Columbia and the 400-series highways in Ontario. In all countries in Europe, it is legal to hitchhike, and in some places even encouraged. However, worldwide, even where hitchhiking is permitted, laws forbid hitchhiking where pedestrians are banned, such as the Autobahn (Germany), Autostrade (Italy), motorways (United Kingdom and continental Europe), or interstate highways (United States), although hitchhikers often obtain rides at entrances and truck stops where it is legal at least throughout Europe with the exception of Italy.

In 2011, Freakonomics Radio reviewed sparse data about hitchhiking, and identified a decline in hitchhiking in the USA since the 1970s, which it attributed to a number of factors, including lower air travel costs due to deregulation, the presence of more money in the economy to pay for travel, more numerous and more reliable cars, and a lack of trust of strangers. Fear of hitchhiking is thought to have been spurred by movies such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and a few real stories of imperiled passengers, notably the kidnapping of Colleen Stan in California. See § Safety, below.

Julian Portis points out that the rise of faster highways, such as freeways, motorways, and expressways, has made hitchhiking more difficult. He adds:

The real danger of hitchhiking has most likely remained relatively constant, but the general perception of this danger has increased…. ur national tolerance for danger has gone down: things that we previously saw as reasonably safe suddenly appeared imminently threatening. This trend is not just isolated to the world of hitchhiking; it has become a pernicious artifact throughout the American cultural conscience.

Some British researchers discuss reasons for hitchhiking’s decline in the UK, and possible means of reviving it in safer and more-organized forms.

In recent years, hitchhikers themselves have started efforts to strengthen their community. One example is the annual Hitchgathering, an event organized by the hitchhikers, for the hitchhikers. Websites such as hitchwiki and hitchbase are platforms for hitchhikers to share tips and provide a way of looking up good hitchhiking spots around the world.

Limited data is available regarding the safety of hitchhiking. Compiling good safety data requires counting hitchhikers, counting rides, and counting problems: a difficult task.

Two studies on the topic include a 1974 California Highway Patrol study and a 1989 German federal police study. The California study found that hitchhikers were not disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. The German study concluded that the actual risk is much lower than the publicly-perceived risk; the authors did not advise against hitchhiking in general. They found that in some cases there were verbal disputes or inappropriate comments, but physical attacks were very rare.

Recommended safety practices include:

Asking for rides at gas stations instead of signaling at the roadside.
Refusing rides from impaired drivers.
Hitchhiking during daylight hours.
Trusting one’s instincts. (See also The Gift of Fear.)
Traveling with another hitchhiker. This measure decreases the likelihood of harm by a factor of six.

Around the world

In Cuba, picking up hitchhikers is mandatory for government vehicles, if passenger space is available. Hitchhiking is encouraged, as Cuba has few cars, and hitch hikers use designated spots. Drivers pick up waiting riders on a first come, first served basis.

Main article: Hitchhiking in Israel
In Israel, hitchhiking is commonplace at designated locations called trempiyadas (טרמפיאדה‬ in Hebrew, derived from the “German” trampen). Travelers soliciting rides, called trempists, wait at trempiyadas, typically junctions of highways or main roads outside of a city.

In Nepal, hitchhiking is very common in rural areas. Many do not own cars so hitchhiking is a common practice especially in and around villages.

In the Netherlands, hitchhiking is legal and official signs indicate where one may wait for a ride. These designated hitchhiking locations are called liftershalte or liftplaats in Dutch, and they are particularly common in university towns.

Hitchhiking in Poland has a long history and is still popular. It was legalised and formalised in 1957 so hitchhikers could buy booklets including coupons from travel agencies. These coupons were given to drivers who took hitchhikers. By the end of each season drivers who collected the highest number of coupons could exchange them for prizes, and others took part in a lottery. This so-called “Akcja Autostop” was popular till the end of the 1970s, but the sale of the booklet was discontinued in 1995.

Hitchhiking in Ireland is legal, unless it takes place on motorways. A backpacker will most likely still get a lift if the car has enough space to park. Local police (Gardai) usually let backpackers get away with a verbal warning.

United States
Hitchhiking became a common method of traveling during the Great Depression.

Warnings of the potential dangers of picking up hitchhikers were publicized to drivers, who were advised that some hitchhikers would rob drivers and, in some cases, sexually assault or murder them. Other warnings were publicized to the hitchhikers themselves, alerting them to the same types of crimes being carried out by drivers. Still, hitchhiking was part of the American psyche and many people continued to stick out their thumbs, even in states where the practice had been outlawed.

Today, hitchhiking is legal in 44 of the 50 states, provided that the hitchhiker is not standing in the roadway or otherwise hindering the normal flow of traffic. Even in states where hitchhiking is illegal, hitchhikers are rarely ticketed. For example, the Wyoming Highway Patrol approached 524 hitchhikers in 2010, but only eight of them were cited (hitchhiking was subsequently legalized in Wyoming in 2013).

In several urban areas, a variation of hitchhiking called slugging occurs, motivated by HOV lanes.

Notable hitchhikers

Joe Bennett – New Zealand newspaper columnist and author; hitchhiked around the world for 10 years
Ilmar Island (Saar) – the last and only hitchhiker recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for hitching between Key West, Florida and Fairbanks, Alaska (5 days, 20 hours and 52 minutes); the category only appeared once.
André Brugiroux – from France; hitchhiked all around the world for 18 years, from 1955 to 1973
Alan Carter – last hitchhiker recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the Land’s End to John O’Groats to Land’s End round-trip (39 hours 28 minutes)
David Choe – painter, muralist, graffiti artist and graphic novelist
Martin Clark and Graham Beynon – last hitchhikers recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the Land’s End to John O’Groats trip (17 hours 8 minutes)
W. H. Davies – Welsh poet and tramp, who hitchhiked America during the early 20th century
hitchBOT – Canadian hitchhiking robot
Ludovic Hubler – French hitchhiker who toured the world entirely by hitchhiking from 1 January 2003 to 1 January 2008; wrote a book called Le Monde en stop, which was awarded the best travel book of the year in 2009 in France
Steve Jobs – American technology entrepreneur, the co-founder of Apple Inc.; mentioned hitchhiking in his Stanford commencement speech in 2005
Jack Kerouac – Beat Generation author, hitchhiked in America and wrote many books about his experience
Chris McCandless – subject of the book Into the Wild; hitchhiked throughout the western region of North America in the early 1990s
Jim Morrison – musician of The Doors; depicted hitchhiking in his movie HWY: An American Pastoral
Robert Prins – last hitchhiker recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the 24-hour hitchhiking record (2,318.4 km)
Stephan Schlei – from Ratingen, Germany; hitchhiked more than 621,371 mi (1,000,000 km); the Guinness Book of Records, before all hitchhiking records were removed, once said that he was the World’s No. 1 Hitchhiker
Devon Smith – listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for most cumulative miles hitchhiked (1973 to 1985), over 290,988 mi (468,300 km); held the record for hitchhiking all 48 contiguous US states in 33 days during 1957
Andrzej Stasiuk – writer, journalist and literary critic
John Waters – filmmaker, writer, actor and artist; author of Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America
Nedd Willard – writer, artist and journalist

Fictional characters

Ford Prefect – a space-hitchhiking travel writer in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Hitchhiker – a hitchhiking lunatic killer played by actor Edwin Neal in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre film (1974)
The Hitcher – a green cockney man who was featured in The Mighty Boosh
Neil Josten – character created by Nora Sakavic, hitchhiked from Columbia back to South Carolina in the first book of All For The Game trilogy
Phineas, Ezra and Gus – the Hitchhiking Ghosts from the Haunted Mansion attraction. They are also seen in other media, like Disney’s House of Mouse, The Haunted Mansion movie, and official merchandise, as they’re considered the Haunted Mansion’s mascots.

Source from Wikipedia