This method of travel can be, without a doubt, one of the most dangerous methods of getting around in our world today. Hitch-hiking is definitely the most affordable way to travel long distances but it comes with certain and serious risks. You never know who is picking you up or what their mental state or intentions are. But hitching is a great opportunity to meet people and strike up some interesting conversation. You may even get a friendly invitation for a meal or a place to stay for the night. Just be cautious about who picks you up. It may be tough to know who not to get into a car with, but it gets easier with practice.
Hitch-hiking can be a tedious affair at times. You need to have great patience to wait several hours for a ride on occasion. And even when you do catch a ride, sometimes you may not get very far. Walking along the road many kilometers is all part of the process. As well, expect to contribute to the gas fund or buy a meal on occasion.
To begin with, don't forget to observe the cultural differences of the country you're in. Sticking out your thumb in Canada and the US means you need a ride, but in Israel it is like giving someone the finger. Just so you know, many countries' hitching symbol is simply pointing at the other side of the road.
Some people say that holding up a sign with your destination written on it is the easiest way to get picked up. But it certainly isn't the safest. It is better to wait until the car pulls over and then ask the driver where he/she is going. Then you have the opportunity to refuse by saying that you are going somewhere else if you feel uncomfortable about getting in for some reason.
Stay with your backpack when traveling long distances with your driver. I've had a friend come out of the restroom at a roadside stop in Spain to see the car he was traveling in speeding out of the parking lot - with his backpack still in the car! Even though you feel like you're being paranoid, it is safer to keep your bag with you.
Other Hitch-hiking Tips