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sandy456 Mar 14th, 2007 08:08 PM

Are you a backpacker who has hitchhiked America's highways?
Are you a backpacker who has hitchhiked America's highways?

How common is it for travellers (specifically, backpackers) to hitchhike along America's highways?

I am a backpacker. I'm planning a land-based tour of the East Coast. I'm in Miami beach right now. I'd like to work my way up Florida, through coastal routes in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virgina, Washington D.C, and up to the big cities of the Northeast (including smaller, remote places in Maine and Connineticut).

My question is can this be done by hitchhiking alone? I ask because I don't have a lot of money to spend on Greyhound or Amtrak, unless I have to. If there are routes that hitchhikers use along the East Coast, I'd like to use them too.


If you'd like to recommend a town, region or national park along this route, please do so here. I will research it, and If I like it, I will add as one of my stops. Of course, the route is Miami, up through Florida, Georgia, the Carolina's, Virgina's, and the coastal Northeast (including New England).

Do Americans pick up backpackers by the side of the highway (with backpack n all). I know of the dangers, but I'm a dangerous person, so it's a risk I'm willing to take. I just want to know if it's doable?

Shandy1977 Mar 14th, 2007 08:26 PM

I think it would be difficult. Most wise people I know do not pick up any hitchhikers. After a few stories of hitchhikers who brutally murdered those who stopped, I vowed I'd never pick one up in the US during my lifetime. It only took a few. From what I hear, this is much more common in other nations than in the United States.

Keep in mind, also, that hitchhiking on many major highways or interstates is not only very dangerous but illegal in some areas. You may not only get the attention of a dangerous person, but you may get the attention of law enforcement, too.

If you are set on doing this, I wish you all the luck in the world. I would never, ever recommend it, however. I also think the risk of something bad happening is tremendous. I wish that was not the case, but one needs to accept reality and be honest.

I may be the lone voice in the crowd, but this strikes me as very risky and a bad idea. I wish you the best in your travels, however! =)

LoveItaly Mar 14th, 2007 09:48 PM

Sandy, you state "but I'm a dangerous person"..I hope that was a mistype, lol.

I don't know about the east coast but in my area hitchhiking on the freeways is against the law. And personally I don't know anyone that would pick up a hitchhiker..Shandy's thoughts are mine.

Orcas Mar 14th, 2007 10:26 PM

Last hitchhiker I picked up smelled like a cigarette and asked me if I wanted to smoke a joint. I couldn't wait to get him out of my car but was afraid to dump him....That was about 30 years ago.

I ran a google search seeing your post and notice people are still hitchhiking. It just isn't nearly as common as it used to be. Good luck!

gail Mar 15th, 2007 12:04 AM

Truck drivers used to pick up hitchhikers. But it is my understanding that for insurance purposes trucking companies have seriously prohibited this and many will not take the employment risk.

The only place I have seen hitchhikers in recent years is near entrance ramps to highways.

Another option might be to check Lonely Planet message boards as people there tend to be more oriented towards this type of travel.

Also, check out Craigslist postings for rides - while it requires more preplanning than spontaneous hitchhiking, it might get you there at minimal cost and without getting arrested.

I am not actually sure hitchhiking is any more dangerous for hiker or pick upper these days, but the perception is that it is - so fewer people will do either.

steviegene Mar 15th, 2007 05:02 AM

sandy are you a woman?
Dont you think its a little stupid to just get in any stranger's car that drives by?
And I dont think its very common to see/pickup hitchhikers anymore -- I think that died in the 1970s.

HowardR Mar 15th, 2007 05:54 AM

In the overall scheme of things, it's doable. In the realistic world of things, it's another story!
IF nothing else, the fact that it's illegal on most roads would certainly be a seriously deterring factor! And, that's not even considering the safety factor.

rkkwan Mar 15th, 2007 06:21 AM

Trucking companies don't allow hitchhikers on their trucks, but there are plenty of owner-operators who will.

The place to do it is at major truckstops, not on the ramp. After you get off the first truck at another truckstop, put up a sign for your next destination or direction. You will likely find someone willing to take you.

You'll can see all the states from the highway, but it'll be hard to get from the truckstops to city centers and major attractions.

suze Mar 15th, 2007 07:02 AM

I'm thinking there must be better websites you could find this information (akin to 'sleeping in airports'). It's not legal, it's not common to see, but I'm not certain that it is impossible.

I will say you could be standing a LONG time by the side of the road in the more remote place in rural parts of New England states!!!

highflyer Mar 15th, 2007 08:49 AM

I live in Massachusetts and in 5 years I've seen ONE hiTchhiker. Hitchhiking is much more common in Europe. In the UK I'd see at least one every week and did about the same mileage as here.

J_Correa Mar 15th, 2007 09:01 AM

In California I see hitchhikers on occasion, but it is a pretty uncommon sight. And I don't know anyone here or in other parts of the US that picks up hitchhikers.

Another thing is the use of the word "backpacker". In the US, it usually means someone who treks through the woods carrying all their gear in a pack and sleeps in campgrounds or makeshift campsites along the trail.

suze Mar 15th, 2007 10:00 AM

J_Correa, I humbly disagree with your definition of backpacker in the U.S.

To many of us it means exactly the same as other parts of the world... people who travel backpack-style in cities as well as the countryside, staying in hostels or on the cheap, usually on the road for much longer stretches of time and covering much more groun than most people's vacation trips.

Sandy, if you aren't also registered over on The Thorn Tree at Lonely Planet's website, you should get on over there. Many more backpackers on those forums than here at Fodor's.

TxTravelPro Mar 15th, 2007 10:13 AM

My brother did it a couple of times. Texas to Maine and Florida to Maine.
He did Greyhound, too... much cheaper in the long run, yes cheaper than hitching. He rode a bike from Texas to Maine, at times hitching rides for him, his bike and trailer along the way.
The best way to get from the Georgia area to Maine is on the Appalachian Trail... he has done all 2100 miles TWICE.
Last year my brother built a sea kayak and went from Maryland to Key West. A few years back he did the sea kayak from Maryland to Maine, hitchhiking back.
To me he is so scary looking but people are attracted to him and always take him in for meals, rides, shower and a dry bed, etc...
One journalist was so fascinated with him that he wrote about him in a magazine last month!

schlegal1 Mar 15th, 2007 10:27 AM

Most of my thuoghts have been said but to add some info to the suggestion of hitching from truckstops--just FYI, truck stops are a place where prostitutes work. That could lead to some misunderstandings with a female hitchhiker.

Nora_S Mar 15th, 2007 11:55 AM

And Suze, I humbly disagree with you. I am a "backpacker", and that means I carry a backpack with tent and sleeping bag, and go hiking in the wilderness for days at a time. That is the way the term is understood by everyone I know, for the past 30 years. There's a whole magazine on the subject:

Of course I realize that others use the term to mean carrying a luggage-style backpack, and staying in hostels. But that style of travel is much more common in Europe (and maybe Asia?) than in the U.S.

To the OP, I can only suggest that this stule of travel is difficult in the U.S. these days. Most people feel it is not safe to pick up hitchhikers, period.

suze Mar 15th, 2007 11:59 AM

Well, I am pretty sure that Sandy is using the term as it is used in Europe and Australia and all, not that she plans to go camping in the wilderness.

rkkwan Mar 15th, 2007 12:02 PM

Oh, somehow I didn't notice the OP is female. That makes it trickier, including hitching at a truckstop.

Nora_S Mar 15th, 2007 12:07 PM

I'm sure you're right about sandy, Suze. I thought you were speaking i a more general sense when you corrected j_correa about the meaning of the word.

So there are two meanings, each equally valid in different contexts.

Is sandy a woman? Then I definitely advise against this plan.

gail Mar 15th, 2007 12:09 PM

In previous posts, poster is male.

And after clicking on his name, it appears that he is very well traveled, often to interesting and unusual places in inexpensive and somewhat less secure manners.

I still don't thiink hitchhiking is a great idea.

J_Correa Mar 15th, 2007 12:15 PM

Suze - I realize that Sandy is using the European/Asian definition of backpacker. That is pretty evident by the rest of her/his post. I only brought up the general US definition to help Sandy avoid some possible confusion since he or she is planning to take the trip in the US. Although the definition of backpacker as someone who travels cheaply using hostels, etc. is not unheard of in the US, that is not what most people think of when they hear the term.

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