Our adventure began with an incredibly silly mistake on our part. We had just spent a wonderful week visiting friends and experiencing the Edinburgh Fringe and were all checked in and waiting at the gate for our flight home to Frankfurt. And that's as far as we got...
For some unknown reason we sat and talked our way through the boarding and closing of our flight. After pleading with the staff and being given a resounding 'no' we sat and came to terms with our dilemma. Either we could pay over €100 each for a new flight in two days time or find another way home. Buses and trains were extremely long and expensive so we opted for the cheapest way we could think of: hitchhiking.
Neither of us had really hitchhiked before and didn't know a lot about it but after some reading up, route planning and sign making we were ready to hit the road! We weren't expecting to get very far but set our sights on London where we could easily find another way home. But we were so overwhelmed by the generosity and friendliness of British drivers that we continued our adventure across the channel and into Europe.
Time: Four days
Average wait time: 30mins
Money spent: €85 (food and accommodation)
Longest ride: Dover to Holland
Highlight: Hitchhiking out of the centre of London because we didn't want to pay the ridiculous public transport prices.
Lowlight: Being dropped in a small Dutch town after dark and having to find affordable accommodation for the night.
Everyone we rode with, from a friendly Scottish salesman to family of Iranian women who spoke no English, was just a kind person heading in the same direction. One man drove us from Belgium to Germany because it was his day off and he had some spare time! At no point did we feel threatened or in danger. We never needed to wait long and managed to visit some friends along the way as well as making new ones. Definitely a mode of transport I would use again!
Tips for Hitchhiking in the UK and Europe
Travel in twos. This is a basic safety tip but also makes you seem more sociable and approachable to potential rides.
Travel light. It much easier to fit in a car or jump in quickly if you only have small bags. Lots of people will drive past if you have lots of gear as they can't be bothered with the hassle of packing the car.
Have a sign. We held up a sign with the name of the next town or just the direction we were heading. This got drivers attention and meant they knew straight away if they could help or not.
Stand in a logical place. Stand so drivers have enough time to see you, read your sign and pull over. Standing near a corner or where there is no possibility to pull in will mean you won't get anywhere far!
Have a map. Obviously not a literal one but at least an app you can rely on if someone drops you in the middle of nowhere and you need to see how far it is to the next town.
Be flexible. The great thing about our trip was that we were in no hurry to get home so were happy to travel in short bursts. Because of the nature of hitchhiking you can never plan how long it will take or how far you'll get each day so be open!
Pack snacks. You never know when you'll be standing with your thumb out for 2 hours and get hangry at each other!
Try reading up on hitchwiki about the place you're hitching from.
Enjoy the ride. Make the most of getting to chat to some new and interesting people. And don't forget to be grateful.
Note: Crossing from France to England is best done with the ferry as cars pay per vehicle rather than per person. We were picked up at the petrol station before the ferry terminal and got onboard without any issues.