Maps are essential to hitchhiking. Make sure you always have a good map with you, the scale should at least be 1:700.000. In many countries it is very important to have a map that shows petrol stations, service areas, toll gates and other important places on the motorways.
You want to know were you are going. It also helps if petrol stations are marked, and you don't need city maps. Try and find a map that you don't have to open out to one large sheet of paper every time you want to use it; you will be using it often. Book-style maps are best.
Paper maps and Atlas
Map Tips: Positive
- The Shell Euroatlas is good for Europe, however, it's difficult to find.
- The Falk Länderkarte series (in German, but can be understood by everyone) is brilliant for individual European countries, with a useful, clever and compact fold-out page system. It is easy to find but only inside of Germany and neighbouring countries.
- The maps by Marco Polo are excellent for Europe. The 1:800,000 ratio version is the best (the name of this map changes in different countries). It is printed in Germany but is available across the continent.
- In Scandinavia (especially Finland) - the Esso country maps are great, and free from any Esso petrol station in Finland
- For the United Kingdom AA maps are good but can get a bit too large.
- In Germany, you can get a booklet for free at the Rasthof restaurants which provide a map of all the country's Rasthof and the information about every one of them.
- Collins Road Atlas: Europe 200 (1 : 1 000 000) is nice and has most petrol stations, even though it is a bit large (A3).
- The Dutch ANWB has quite good European country maps for free (for its members, just ask in the shop some people at the cashpoint if they can take it for you), they also include the motorways to the country from and to the Netherlands.
It's recommended you have a map that is at least 1:1,000,000 ratio. 1:750,000 is usually good enough.
Remember that petrol stations often have maps for sale, including very local ones. If you need to find out the geography of the local area, simply walk into the shop, pick up a local map, study it, get the information you need, then put it back and walk out. Many service stations also have large maps on walls or notice boards.
Map Tips: Negative
- Michelin Individual Country maps are not the best to use, they do not list the Services Area and lots of useful information are absent, the scale ratio is often not good enough.
For Western, Northern and Southern Europe: one specific edition of the Marco Polo car map of Europe is great, it doesn't contain too much useless stuff like indices or city maps, and shows petrol stations on highways! Unfortunately guakasite, wikitalk only found this one in Slovakia.
"Philip's compact atlas Europe" shows service stations in some countries, is pretty compact and was available for 7 euro at the New English Book Store in Amsterdam, in June 2008.
There is also the fast growing incredible free (like Free Software) OpenStreetMap (openstreetmap.org) that is already very good for England and Germany and has at least some data on many places where other services don't have anything at all!
On most modern mobile phones, there are mapping applications. For Java enabled phones (almost any phone), you can use MGMaps, which uses maps from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and even OpenStreetMap. It also supports GPS, if you have a receiver built-in or via bluetooth.
The Nokia N810 runs GNU/Linux, its GPS function is not great but it works okay in cars. You can easily get a lot of maps for the proprietary built-in software, at least for Europe, North America and some other parts of the world. Maemo Mapper is free software with loads of options, by default it downloads the maps from OpenStreetMap but you can also change it to use Yahoo or Google Maps.