Standing by the side of the road the hitchhiker is pretty exposed and vulnerable. Yet whilst it’s odds on that of the tens of thousands of passing cars, one of them might contain a psychopath, most fears of hitchhiking massacres come from cheap horror flicks than real life.
Your best defense is your discretion. When you open the door of a car that pulls up, take a good look at the driver and ask them where they’re going first – that way you can always decline on the grounds that you’re going a different direction. Look for obvious signs like drink or drugs and listen to your intuition. No matter how long you’ve been waiting and how desperate you are, never compromise your safety.
Female hitchhikers, especially, need to take care. There are a lot of lonely guys on the road who dream of some hot girl turning up to climb in their car.
That’s not to say that women shouldn’t hitchhike and indeed they’ll rarely need to wait more than two minutes in most parts of the world. It can be rough going, though, in countries with a macho culture or where gender roles are a little conservative. If you’re on the road somewhere like Turkey, they won’t know what to make of a woman hitchhiking alone and may come to the worst conclusions.
A good bet for female travelers is to hitchhike in pairs with a girl or a guy. Don’t get into cars with more than one guy inside and take a good look at the driver before you get in.
One tactic is to keep the mood wholesome by asking the driver about his wife and family, mentioning your own (possibly imaginary) husband once in a while. If you sense ulterior motives stay calm and ask to be let out at the next service station. Don’t take any shit whatsoever.