A hitchhiking letter is a very useful tool used by some hitchhikers in order to get rides more easily in certain countries, in the same way that some choose to use Signs for the same purpose.
It usually consists of a few paragraphs, written in the language of the country where your hitching, where you introduce yourself, your journey, your reasons for hitchhiking, and finally ask the reader (usually the driver of a vehicle) to give you a free ride to the next/last gas station or city in his way.
Where and why to use it
Hitchhiking letters are best used in countries where:
- Hitchhiking is not a common practice (most asian countries, for instance).
- The idea of a westerner with no money is almost unbelievable (everywhere?, but especially Africa, and countries that are not too used to backpackers, like western China).
- The languages you can speak are not widespread, and it's hard to communicate your intentions to the drivers.
Using a hitchhiking letter in those situations may prove to be an invaluable help, because it offers you a way to make the local people understand what you're doing, why you're doing it, and what you need. It helps to remove all the confusion and misunderstandings that, in certain countries, make hitchhiking so much more difficult unless you speak the native language.
How to make the letter
Aside from the obvious fact that the letter should be written in the language of the driver, it's advisable to make it as clear and concise as possible; therefore, it's not a very good idea to translate the letter using a computer translator, because they tend to be quite inaccurate and might make the whole effort useless.
To translate the letter accurately, your best bet is to write it in English first, and then try to find a native speaker from the country you're visiting who can help to translate it. The workers of any tourist office will surely be glad (if not a bit surprised) to help, and basically anyone who can understand basic English is good enough to help. Even if the contents of the letter are somewhat changed, it will work as long as it is written in understandable native language.
This letter is an example to see what a hitching letter could look like (in English). If you've used a hitchhiking letter (and have it in a digital format in another language) feel free to post it too.
I'm Albert, a traveler from Spain (Barcelona) who has been traveling around the world with no money for the last 5 years. Until now I've visited more than 50 countries in my trips, and right now I am here in China, heading south towards the province of Yunnan.
Unfortunately, I do not have any money, so I cannot travel by plane, train or bus. Instead, I usually travel by land, either walking or in the car of other people that let me go with them.
So, if you are also going to the south, perhaps you could help me by taking me with you to the next city or gas station in your way. Even a few kilometers would be a great help!
Thanks a lot, and have a nice day! =)