Updated 20 July 2017 — Female hitchhikers aren't as common as men, and there are reasons for this.
The media is full of scary stories about women and teenage hitchhikers being picked up, kidnapped, raped and even killed. It's certainly enough to keep you off the roads, especially if you're a solo female traveler.
You'd be surprised at the number of blogs and posts by women thumbing their way around the world despite the dire media warnings.
I'm divided on this - I've hitchhiked alone but I haven't particularly liked it - I've had to be on my toes and quite alert. Still, I'd probably do it again if I had to, especially in those countries where hitching is perfectly acceptable, relatively safe and legal. But no, it's not my first choice when it comes to transportation.
That said, why on earth would any woman choose to travel this way?
Hitchhiking by women isn't as farfetched as it sounds. Many women are doing it - and loving it.
There are plenty of good reasons why:
Along with the many good reasons to hitchhike, there are also plenty of reasons why we should not hitchhike.
We mostly hear about grisly murders and kidnappings, and they do of course happen. But many women hitchhike relatively safely - and some swear by it.
If you've decided to go ahead and try hitchhiking, make sure you adopt every safety precaution by following these safety tips:
One thing you should know is - and statistics bear this out - your greatest risk when hitchhiking is road safety. You're much more likely to have a traffic accident than face a sexual incident or assault. Rapes and murders get huge publicity, whereas the thousands of female hitchhikers arriving safely at their destination don't warrant any coverage at all.
Hitchhiking isn't new. While it is still popular in some parts of the world, that popularity has waned in the US. Perhaps it's the huge highways, the decreasing tolerance by police or less trust in others. Or perhaps, like this video shows, hitchhiking has been scared out of us.
Anywhere but downtown! Always head to the edge of town to improve your chances of getting a ride.
A good place is a gas station - you'll have an opportunity to check out your potential ride before you get into the car, not to mention a place to use the bathroom and buy drinks and food if you're stranded.
Toll booths on a motorway are good - as long as it's legal, because in many countries it is not. Always use a sign with your preferred destination written clearly. There's nothing worse than forcing someone to squint and swerve trying to decipher your scrawny penmanship. This doesn't work where the toll booths are many lanes wide, however, because drivers will be too far away to see you.
Want to hitch a ride with a trucker? Many roads have truck stops. Get there early in the morning or at lunchtime and you'll probably find a ride. At stations, tollbooths and stops, you can pick and choose your ride by simply asking, which increases your margin of safety.
And then there's by the roadside, usually the most common refuge for hitchhikers. Just stick out your arm or thumb (depending on the country), raise your sign, make eye contact, and wait. Just make sure you stand in a place that gives drivers ample time to stop safely. Drivers often give hitchhikers a miss because they'd probably cause an accident if they tried to stop. That said, the roadside places you in a slightly more vulnerable position because you won't even see your potential driver see until the vehicle stops.
Try to minimize the size of your pack, and, don't forget your road map, rain poncho and a bottle of water to stay hydrated, as well as some dried fruit and nuts to snack on. You never know how long you might be waiting.
This will depend on who you are, and what you consider safe.
In a few countries, including Bolivia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico and Mongolia, people will usually expect to be paid for giving you a ride. In Thailand, India, South Africa, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine, this may occasionally be the case as well.
Hitchhiking isn't legal everywhere - for example, it can be legal on some roads and not on others in the US, Australia and Canada, and illegal outright in countries like Singapore.
The easiest countries in which to hitchhike would be Belgium, Bhutan, Canada (where legal), Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and South Africa.
But it's also common - although not as easy - in Argentina, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Thailand, Ukraine, UK and USA.
Countries where hitchhiking is rare (but not impossible) include Costa Rica, Finland, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey.
You never know when you'll be confronted with the possibility or the necessity: in Tashkent recently I took a late train and arrived at the station after it had closed - and after all taxis were gone. I watched what others did and did the same: I waved my arm up and down, and when a car stopped, I handed over a slip of paper with the hotel's name, and said necha pul, which according to Google Translate means "how much"? It worked, because the first man to stop wrote down a number, which seemed acceptable, and in I hopped. This is how they do things in Uzbekistan when no transport is available.
To read even more widely about hitchhikers and their adventures, try Travel With A Road Dog, about a 20-year-old who took off for four years around North America with her dog. For an inspirational story, read this interview with Russian hitchhiker Natalia Kislitskaya in TravelStyleSexFoodLife.
If you're looking for someone to hitch with, you can post in the Travel Buddies section of the Lonely Planet travel forum .
I've come across all sorts of information in my research. While some of these posts, blogs or interviews may be several years old, they still serve to portray the life of a female hitchhiker: Alyssa at Open Destination has wonderful hitchhiking resources; An Aimless Hitchhiker has a different approach; Toby Israel is interviewed by Salon.com about her adventures; Iris is Dutch and in Mind of a Hitchhiker, she records her "no-budget" travels.
And if you're still on the fence about whether to give hitchhiking a try, have a look at these statistics. There aren't many numbers around, and most of those who clamor danger when it comes to hitching are people who haven't tried it themselves. The far greater danger, it would seem, is a car accident.
So what do you think? Female hitchhikers - cool or crazy? Would you? Have you? Have I left anything out? Please comment below!