Hey Broke Backpacker tribe! I’m Audy, a 20-year-old traveler who left home 2 years ago to embark on a solo adventure.

And wow, let me tell you, hitchhiking has been the most memorable and transformative experience of my life so far. Hitchhiking has totally changed my world view and taught me so much about myself and the universe.

Through hitchhiking, you deeply connect with people and trust your gut, intuition, inner voice, or whatever you want to call it. You know what I’m talking about; that feeling you get when you first lock eyes with someone, the raw feeling that guides us without the chatter of our logical, rational minds and allows us to make gut-based split decisions on trust, connection and going with the flow.

The more you listen to your intuition, the louder and clearer it becomes. In this guide, we’ll talk about training this muscle as we venture out on the open road.

So strap on in, adventure amigas, and join me as I share top tips for hitchhiking as a woman. We’ll SMASH stereotypes, dispel myths, and inspire you to get out there, stick your thumb out, and embrace the winding way of life.

Let’s get into it!

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Hitting the Road for The First Time

My first hitchhiking experience took place backpacking through Mexico in a small, laid-back hippie town on the Pacific coast, Sayulita. Late at night, some friends from the hostel and I wanted to attend a party in the next town, but the buses had stopped running.

Two girls and some thumbs 🙂
Photo: @audyscala

As we were walking, one of the girls casually stuck out her thumb. To my amazement, a pickup truck with a friendly local behind the wheel passed by in less than a minute.

“VÁMONOS AMIGOS!” he shouted, and we all hopped into the truck bed. As we sat there, drinking beer, laughing, and enjoying the coastal breeze, I fell head over heels with this exhilarating feeling.

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    Female Hitchhiking… Practical Money Saver to Devout Lifestyle

    After that initial experience, I continued hitchhiking in Mexico and went through my Central American adventure, both alone and with different friends. It swiftly became my favorite part of traveling.

    It forced me to learn to communicate the direction I wanted to go – or share my story with a curious local. I cherished these moments, engaging in conversations about their lives, seeking travel recommendations, and pondering over the meaning of life together.

    El Salvador friends
    Hitchhiking with cuties in El Salvador.
    Photo: @audyscala

    Hitchhiking played a major role in my Spanish fluency. Spending hours in cars with locals (most of whom spoke minimal English) gave me the opportunity to practice and improve my language skills.

    Sometimes, especially when I was beginning to hitchhike, I would stand by the road with a sign indicating my desired destination. Other times I would simply ask drivers where they were headed and decide to join them if it sounded interesting.

    This approach gets you to foggy mountain towns obscured in wreaths of thick clouds, hidden Mayan temples that weren’t even marked on Google Maps, and the warm kitchen tables of families where laughter, tacos, and stories are shared.

    Solo Female Travel – Hitchhiking Alone

    Happy as can be 🙂

    Solo female hitchhiking became my ticket to falling for this incredible lifestyle. It’s like a crash course in realizing that if you put your mind to it, there is no limit to what you can achieve – the toolbox for success is right within you.

    The feeling of sticking out my thumb, and answering to nobody but myself was liberating and intoxicating. Freedom.

    But let’s not sugarcoat things: the reality wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The world had its way of highlighting the gender gap, often leaving me at the receiving end of catcalls and unsolicited comments from passing cars. Yet, I stood my ground, unapologetically embracing my space and my story.

    In the midst of those dusty roads, I found lessons in navigating the world as a solo female traveler. The journey demands a bit more street smarts, but it never stripped me of my right to explore every corner of this magical planet. For all you adventurous women out there, don’t let anyone dampen your spirit or your quest to see the world.

    Tips to Stay Safe as a Woman on the Road

    Even the safest countries in the world aren’t ever 100% safe. That’s life, baby.

    Following the same common-sense safety procedures as you would anywhere else is where you start. And for hitchhiking as a woman, a few extra too:

    • Trust your gut: Instincts are your best allies. If a situation feels off, trust that feeling. Think twice before you get in the car – listen to what your body is telling you.
    • Connect with other travelers: There’s safety in numbers. Link up with fellow adventurers, share stories, and look out for one another.
    • Plan ahead: Research your surrounding area. Even if you don’t have a destination in mind, inform yourself of the highways and road systems around you so you know if the driver is taking you where you agreed upon.
    • Pack wisely: Keep essentials like a map (digital is fine), a portable charger, and a whistle within easy reach. Preparedness is key.
    • Set boundaries: Don’t hesitate to assert yourself. Politely decline unwanted advances and firmly communicate your limits.

    It’s Actually Easier to Get Picked up as a Woman

    Acknowledging the necessity for heightened awareness as a solo female traveler, I found that hitchhiking was an area where my gender played to my advantage. It appeared that people were more open to offering rides to women, perceiving them as less threatening. This became even more apparent when I began hitchhiking with a male friend, as the ease of getting rides changed.

    Hitchhiking with a Male Companion

    One day, while I was backpacking Costa Rica, I was picked up by a truck. To my surprise, there was a guy named Charles and his dog in the back.

    Guy in hopping into back of pickup truck with his dog in Costa Rica.
    Who wouldn’t love this guy…

    I hopped in, and we immediately hit it off, sharing stories of our hitchhiking adventures. When I asked him where he was going, he replied, “I have no clue,” and at that moment, I knew we were going to get along just fine. 

    We were dropped off in a rather sketchy town, and Charles, unfolding his camping chair, plopped down on the side of the road, scraped refried beans out of a bag with a potato chip and stuck out his thumb.

    Charles was used to waiting on the side of the road for hours, or even days. I was struck by his patience and positive attitude as he watched the world zoom by…

    Together, we hitchhiked across Costa Rica, foraging for magic mushrooms and sleeping in a $10 Walmart tent on the beach. (Get yourself a tent that WON’T fall apart!)

    Charles told me that people would pick us up as a duo more quickly (though sometimes we still waited hours) than when he was hitchhiking alone. It became evident that many people showed more fear or intimidation toward men than women.

    I couldn’t help but be in awe of Charles and the amount of patience that was shaped by his diverse hitchhiking experiences. I often grew frustrated during the long waits for a ride and Charles would gracefully sip a beer smiling in a way that seemed to embrace the world around him.

    Guy and girl posing for photo in Costa Rican hostel.
    Travel friends are the best, especially if they come with a doggo

    It was through him that I learned an invaluable lesson: the significance of maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook and working hard to try to enjoy every moment of the journey.

    Hitchhiking with a Female Friend

    One of the most incredible adventures I embarked on was with my good friend legendary Broke Backpacker team member, Amanda. We decided to explore El Salvador, relying mainly on hitchhiking as our primary mode of transportation.

    Two girls taking a selfie while hitchhiking in El Salvador.
    Our first ride in El Salvador.

    It was my first time traveling with a friend instead of going solo. And because of our similar views on travel, it was a wonderful experience. It amazed me how quickly we were able to catch rides, usually waiting no more than a couple of minutes before a kind-hearted Salvadoran offered us a lift.

    Our first encounter happened as we stepped out of the airport, overwhelmed and clueless about the local bus system. In a spontaneous moment, we approached a random woman who was getting into her car in the parking lot.

    She was surprised but warmly welcomed us into her vehicle and not only gave us a ride but also took us to her hometown, where we were treated to yummy pupusas, a local speciality. It was during this meal that she shared her experience about the best places to visit in El Salvador and also cautioned us about areas to avoid.

    I discovered that people are genuinely happy and excited to share their stories and give advice, especially in a less-traveled destination like El Salvador.

    Girl frolicking in a cave in El Salvador whilst hitchhiking.
    Frolicking in a magical cave.

    We had many interesting rides across the country but perhaps the most memorable was when our driver took us to a secluded beach only for us to find a magical cave awaiting us. This cave held immense spiritual significance for him and his family, and it was regarded as a sacred space. 

    The ceiling of the cave was coated with lush green moss that trapped moisture, causing a constant drizzle inside. As he shared his childhood memories, he revealed that he used to visit this cave to meditate, feeling the gentle droplets of water on his face. He would make wishes and manifest his dreams, he claimed that everything he desired had eventually come true.

    Inspired by his experience, Amanda and I closed our eyes, meditating and we began envisioning our own futures. Fast forward to a year and a half later, and to our amazement, everything I wished for in that mystical cave has manifested into reality. Hitchhiking can bring some of the most unexpected and beautiful experiences.

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    The Back of a Pickup Truck… Where Dreams Come True 😉

    The back of a pickup truck holds some of my best memories of my years of cheap travel, making it my favorite way to hitchhike. As nice as it is to sit in the passenger seat and share stories with the driver, the bed of a truck will always hold a special place in my heart as it is from here that you get the best view of the country you are traveling through. 

    Girl in back of pickup truck while hitchhiking in Mexico.
    Contemplating life…

    Being in the back of a truck allows you to be able to smell and hear local life continuing on as you pass through. Catching a whiff of freshly brewed coffee from a nearby café, feeling the energy of the bustling streets, hearing the chirping of birds and the laughter of children. These moments create a genuine and immersive connection with the community around you.

    Two girls hopping into a truck in EL Salvador whilst hitchhiking.
    Nothing beats the feeling of securing a ride

    Amidst the chaos of backpacking the world for the first time and the frequent anxieties and thoughts on where to sleep, when and what to eat and how to get around, I would sometimes find it challenging to organize my thoughts, truly feel my emotions and process all of the craziness that was happening to me. When I found myself in the back of a truck, often alone, I discovered a haven of peace where I could be introspective. 

    As cars zoomed by, I would make quick eye contact with strangers who, upon a second glance, would often meet me with a warm smile. It’s in those moments that a profound realization sets in, and gratitude fills my soul.

    I found myself shedding tears of joy, overwhelmed by the sheer gratitude of living the life I had always dreamt of. It is moments like these that remind me of the beauty and fulfilment of this path I’d chosen.

    Are you also an aspiring adventurer looking to hit the road and stick out your thumb?

    Top Tips for Happy Hitching…

    Here are some tips for staying safe while hitchhiking:

    • Bring a Marker: A marker can be invaluable for quickly making a sign indicating your destination. Opt for a thicker marker for better visibility.
    • Choose a Safe Location: Stand in areas where drivers have ample time to see your sign and pull over safely. Look for well-lit spots with wide shoulders.
    • Practice Patience: Hitchhiking might require waiting for a while. Embrace patience, maintain a positive outlook, and enjoy the journey.
    • Avoid Night Hitchhiking: Nighttime hitchhiking is riskier due to reduced visibility and potential encounters with intoxicated or questionable individuals.
    • Know the Roads: Familiarize yourself with local highways and routes. This knowledge can help you make more flexible travel plans.
    • Use Your Phone Wisely: Keep your phone charged and have a working SIM card for connectivity. Use it to stay connected, share your location, and communicate any concerns.
    • Communicate Needs: If uncomfortable during the ride, politely request a stop at a public place for your well-being.
    • Prefer Pickup Trucks: If possible, choose rides in pickup trucks. Being in the open bed offers an escape route if needed.
    • Connect at Gas Stations: When in need, try approaching kind-looking individuals at gas stations. Politely ask about their destination and if they’d consider giving you a lift.
    • Share Location and Photos: If uneasy, discreetly take photos of the driver and car. Share them, along with the license plate, with someone you trust. I took this photo and sent it to my mom when I was a bit worried by a semi-truck driver I was with, we ended up becoming great friends but better safe than sorry.
    Girl takes selfie with pickup truck driver while hitchhiking in Mexico.

    Remember, hitchhiking can be an incredible adventure, but safety should always be a priority.

    Be Smart and Get Insured BEFORE Hitchhiking

    Hitchhiking isn’t the safest method of travel. If you’re gonna do things like this, make sure you’re insured. Don’t be silly.

    ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

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    SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

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    FAQs About Hitchhiking as a Woman

    Let’s get into a few FAQs on the topic of hitchhiking as a woman!

    MY BIGGEST TIP OF ALL – Gal’s Hitchhiking 101

    If you take one thing away from this article, make it this: Trust your intuition. The moment you make eye contact with a driver, trust your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right or raises any concerns, don’t second-guess yourself.

    Your intuition is THE MOST, I repeat THE MOST, powerful tool for ensuring your safety while hitchhiking and as you practice listening to that feeling the louder and clearer it will become. Fear will dissipate and you will understand that this feeling will guide you to exactly where you need to be and will steer you away from danger.

    If you want to learn more about this I highly recommend the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book beautifully highlights the magic of being guided by your heart.

    And that’s it guys! Thanks for reading my post on the joys of hitchhiking in Mexico and Central America as a woman, for more hitchhiking-related content, click on my author bio below to see more of my tales from the road. 

    Backpack and guitar on sits on side of road while hitchhiking in Mexico.

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