Hey, I replied to your PM and thought I'd share it here in case it helps anyone else. If it's your first time hitching, the general rules still apply in Europe - check out the Sparkies section for those tips.
In general, England is relatively slow - people are suspicious. Destination signs are very important, and perhaps an up-beat one like "Life is a Highway!" to get a smile from the drivers. If not a lift, a smile is worth something also! Makes the wait go quicker... Average wait I'd say is perhaps 30-45 minutes. It helps to approach people at service stations with a map. Maps are disarming - a random stranger approaching you is seen as very suspicious, and they put up a barrier immediately. No Map = "They want something from me. I don't want to give it to them."
Map = "They need help. I will help them". Be brave, and just go and ask them.
I live by "If you don't ask, the answer is always no". That includes thumbing while walking out of a city. You might just get lucky. You might look like an idiot, but you'll never see these people again!
You can hitchhike the ferry from Dover. They pay for the car and not the passengers. This also applies to the channel tunnel, which is much quicker. I strongly recommend getting dropped at a service station on the road to Dover (Maidstone services...?) , and catch somebody going onto the ferry (approach them). Once in Dover it gets hard to hitch, and I have been moved off Port property by police, which makes hitching horrible! It took me 24 hours to get a ride in Dover last time, though the ride that came was really awesome and let me stay with them in Dusseldorf that night
[First time I did it it took 30 minutes, on Port property. The 2nd time I caught a ride through the tunnel at a service station]
Once on the continent hitchhiking becomes so much better. Looking like a tourist can play to your advantage (a big backpack helps in this respect also). As a rule of thumb, toll-booths are great places to hitch from. The traffic is going slowly and you can create a connection. Look them in the eye and smile! And have a destination sign.
Language barrier - Everyone speaks Body Language, Map, and Notepad. Using these languages you can talk to a driver for a long time and learn a lot about each other. With my map, I drew a line of my route onto the overview of Europe. I call it my Loud Map, because it says a lot about what I've done and what I'm doing, and it says it in every language. The reactions from people when they see it on paper can be very positive and they may be more inclined to help you.
Learn the language!! Just the essentials gets you a long way and people open up to you. It shows respect.
Sleeping - I use a tent and the only issue I had was in Greece when I pitched it under a highway bridge (it was raining!). I was woken at 2am by police who wanted to see my passport, and they told me to move off by morning. Find somewhere out of the way - no problems.
- Approach people at service stations. It will get you a ride much quicker. Smile, and show respect.
- Present them with a map! "Oooh so that's how you get there. Are you going that way?" Boom!
- England is slow, but its worth the wait - you can have really good conversations with your drivers. Once in Europe the language barrier prevents conversations about the meaning of life or the existance of intelligent extra-terrestrial lifeforms.
- Seek out Toll-Stations
- Make yourself a Loud Map!
- Learn some of the local language.
Go with the flow and embrace the opportunities that come your way - they will often be your fondest memories.
"Some of the secret joys of living are not found by rushing from point A to point B, but by inventing some imaginary letters along the way"