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I am going to hitchhike through Germany in the near future and I have never done it before. I am trying to go from one city to the next one, a few hundred kilometers.

Am I going to be more successful on a weekday or on the weekend? Is there a difference between Saturdays and Sundays? And what time of the day would you recommend?

3 Answers 3

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As Germany has a very high density of cars, the time is completely irrelevant (As long as you do not stay on a forest road at 02:00 night), someone is always on the road. I suppose you know the standard rules for hitchhiking, but I will repeat them for the sake of completeness:

  • Be good looking, sympathetic, neat and clean. German car drivers have a strong affinity to their car in general and they tend to be a bit wary of strangers.

  • Choose wisely the point where you hitchhike. You must be visible from far distance (so the driver can see you, judge you and decide you are OK) and the driver must be able to stop (bus stops, gas stations etc.). You may find this open source map helpful in finding a good spot.

Rules especially for Germany:

  • If you want to ask a driver something and he has his windows up, raise your index finger or wave at them, smile and make eye contact. They will understand that you want something from him.

  • You are not allowed to hitchhike after the Autobahn (highway) sign (closely to the on-ramp) and not on the highways themselves (service and petrol stations, as well as parking lots and rest areas are completely OK and valid). Drivers are not allowed to stop their car outside built-up areas, so the best places are bus stops and places shortly before the city border.

  • On Autobahns always use service stations. You have shelter for weather, there are toilets and perhaps even showers, there are always people, and you can eat and drink something.

  • Choose your host. Do not fear to be stuck at a location, there will always be options. If you do not have a good feeling, do not drive with him.

  • Buy a good map to find the correct road. In Germany, every important road between locations has its own numbering. Having a map is really nice for planning, you are able to trace if you are going in the correct direction (you are talking with your host and he misses the correct exit), you have alternative destinations, you can point to the destination if you are not speaking German and your host does not speak English well. It also avoids that your host is driving completely wrong and you end up in CompletelyInsignificantVillage.

  • This is especially important for Anglo-Saxons: Use the word NO. Do not use euphemisms. Asking for the "bathroom" sends you likely to the shower. Yes means Yes, No means No. Polite indicators of NO like "I wonder if this is the best solution" will be very likely ignored.

  • Have some change for buses. Sometimes there are directions which can be really easily accessed by bus and cost little money, so trying to hitchhike would be a waste of time.

  • You can ask everyone everywhere where traffic is. At traffic lights, railway stations, gas stations, stores. You can always politely ask if someone is driving in your direction.

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  • Drivers are allowed to stop outside built-up areas if the road does not have priority. (However, you don’t want to hitch-hike on those roads either.)
    – Jan
    Nov 29, 2016 at 2:19
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As somebody who is a very active hitchhiker in Germany and Europe, I feel like I should add a couple of things that have not yet been mentioned – especially for people who stumble upon this now.

Hitchhiking in Germany is fairly beginner-friendly. My main advice for Germany would be to try to get onto the highway and when you do, ask your driver to take you to a service station. Getting onto the highway is usually the hardest part by far, so accepting rides into a city (even if it's further away than the next service station) is usually a bad idea – unless it's getting late and you want to take public transport to your final destination.

In my experience, it's usually easier to find a ride by talking to people as opposed to using a sign or thumb, provided you find a good spot to do so. In some locations, signs can also be very effective.

One more tip: Always trust your instincts, resources, and planning more than driver's advice. I usually got very stranded, when drivers drove me to places about which they said something like "you'll have an easy time there," unless they were a hitchhiker themselves.

Now, to answer your questions:

Am I going to be more successful on a weekday or on the weekend?

Weekdays have far more traffic and hence better chances. I often get picked up by business-people on work-trips, which rarely happen on weekends. Also, you have better chances of hitchhiking with truck drivers (works best if hitchhiking alone).

Is there a difference between Saturdays and Sundays?

Yes! On Sundays and on statutory holidays commercial truck ops are forbidden until 10pm (few exceptions apply). Furthermore, in July and August trucks cannot take certain routes on Saturdays, too (only 7am till 8pm). Your hitchhiking options might be a bit more limited then. Beware, holidays differ from state to state.

And what time of the day would you recommend?

Daytime tends to be easier but I've also had success at night. That's partly because there's more traffic during the day, and also because people tend to have an easier time trusting you.

A word about different highway infrastructure options:

  • When looking for service stations, try to find ones that only service one direction of travel flow, and ones that can't be publicly accessed from local roads. You're mainly looking for the word Raststätte, those are big service stations where many people stop for gas, food, and toilets. If you're travelling alone, you also have great chances of finding long-distance rides with truck drivers.
  • Sometimes you can go for rides to a Rastplatz. Those are less frequented, as they only have toilets and some tables with benches, and people usually only stop shortly to go to the toilet or to have a quick snack they brought themselves. I usually only go for this if I struggle to find any better rides, or if the other option would be to get dropped off at some random village.
  • My least favorite option is so-called Autohof. Those are big service stations with multiple gas stations and restaurants that are close to the highways. They come with some disadvantages, as they service both directions of traffic-flow on the highway in addition to local traffic. Hence your chances of finding a ride in the correct direction when asking around are only about 1/3. This can be quite frustrating. It should be mentioned, though, that they come with relatively high traffic-flow and if you find a good spot to stand with a sign, you might get lucky.

Some resources you might find helpful:

  • When looking for good spots in general, consult this public and open-source map. The countless user reviews really give you a good feel for the spots.
  • When looking for service stations, look at this commercial map, maintained by the companies who run them.
  • When looking for any hitchhiking related advice, go to this Wiki. They have great entries about most major cities worldwide, as well as country-specific tips and tricks.
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It’s better you reach the cities on weekdays because the frequency of public transports inside the city decreases and most of the shops close by 8 pm on Saturday and only open on Monday.

German people generally love to travel during weekends so there are higher chances for you getting a ride. But even if you reach the place on a weekend, all is not lost as fast food joints like McDonald's and Subway are open 24*7 (at the railway stations only).

If you need a place to crash you can register at couchsurfing.org to couchsurf. The members might preferably host you on weekends. Or if you are in a decently big town or city you can use the waiting lounges at the railway stations but the downside is you have to sleep sitting up.

Once you have reached the city it is economical to buy a day pass to use public transportation inside the city. Another suggestion is you can buy a regional eurail pass at germanrailpasses.com/passes-prices that will allow you to travel between distant cities.

I am in Germany right now and if you have any other questions please comment! Hope you have an eventful trip!

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