#The Art of Thumb – the best hitchhiking signs

If you are one of those who hitchhikes just with a thumb, letting the road take you wherever it wants, here is a dose of inspiration to change your mind and maybe make your next hitchhiking travel a bit more colourful, or just more fun.

A month ago, we launched a call to the creative hitchhikers: we wanted to see their roadside art, the best of their boards and the ingenuous signs with which they talk to the drivers that speedily pass by. Because we have a second to make an impression when we stand with our thumbs up, because we often have time (a lot of time) to play around with cardboard and markers and because there is more to hitchhiking than getting free rides, what follows is a selection of signs that make may you smile, or probably, want to stop next time you see them on your way.

Hitchhiking Signs Competition Winners

The idea was to have a competition and gather signs of all kinds. The categories were:

  • Beautiful sign
  • Creative hitchhiking
  • Simplicity rules!
  • What everybody loves (public vote via Facebook and Twitter)
  • “It’s the taking part that matters ” (Glory to the old Olympic principles. Send us your worst signs too!)

Given that nobody dared sending us broken, ugly, dirty hitchhiking signs for the last category, we declare it deserted, and have decided to create out of the blue a last-minute special prize for the one sign that made us laugh out loud when we saw it posted. The new category is therefore called ‘The jury’s favourite’ (and no, the participant did not send us a flying Lao beer!).

Beautiful sign

“Wien Monkey”. Sent by Tino Asprilla (with Sidney Tailford)

Hitchhiking signs competition_The Art Of Thumb_Tino Asprilla

Tino and Sidney joined Tramprennen – a hitchhike race for drinking water in 2012, thumbing their way for two weeks from Belgium to Romania. This was the beginning of Sidney’s Euro-travels and he travelled with a bag full of special markers to draw signs taking him to the other side of the world. On a very lonely gas station in Czech Republic he lost the bag while hopping into a car. Another team of the race found the bag and took it along. Sidney happily drew up this monkey sign and gave to them as a reward.

Why did we choose it? Because it is a beautiful board indeed, and because we love the way the story brings across that the idea of “competition” in a hitchhiking race is somehow erased by the “hitchhiking” side of it, that travel becomes a game and it’s all about people helping each other on the way. Also, on a side note, because we love monkeys.

P.S. We hear that Sidney is still roaming Europe. If you see him around give him a lift and a get him drink from us 🙂

Creative hitchhiking

“Ta Bian Che…”. Sent by Anzor Chen

Best Hitchhiking signs_The Art Of Thumb_Anzor Chen

Anzor is a cardboard engineer! He made up this device while hitchhiking in Taiwan. His instructions say “use board and thumb just one hand”.

Why did we choose it? This was by far the most complicated decision to take, because defining creativity is somehow anti-creativity. We had a rotating board by LosViajesDeNena, cookies from Marloes Fiers, Hector Roma’s extended whiteboard thumb, a high-tech sign from WorldwideHitchhiker and a whole range of beautiful messages (see the gallery below). After long considerations and a few changes of mind, we finally concluded that there is something graciously simple and useful using a whole box as a sign, and the way Anzor Chen combines two people’s work into one. We wonder how long we could stand with a box in our arm, but we are not judging comfort here! Plus now you can all use the first 3 characters “Ta-bian-che” for your future China trips!

Simplicity rules

“Anywhere but here”. Sent by Madli Pani

Best Hitchhiking signs_The Art Of Thumb_Madli Pani_Anywhere but here

“Simple, yet efficient” – says Madli. This board helped her to get out of the centre of Melbourne, Australia in less then 5 minutes.

 Why did we choose it? A hitchhiking jewell. There was no doubt about it. We waited till the last minute for any other option, but only a simple thumb could have beaten this one in simplicity. For those who want to let the road guide their travel, here is the perfect solution to call attention without setting your destination.

What everybody loves

“Good people”. Sent by Hitchhikers’ Handbook

Best Hitchhiking signs_The Art Of Thumb__Hitchhikers handbook

This photo was taken in Portugal where after 7h Ania and Jon had hitched only 30km and all the hope had nearly died. So they made this sign to provoke smiles and encourage people to stop and it did work!

Why did we choose it? At the end of the day everybody loves good people. It is a common sense that even bad people rather stick to good people, right? But we are sure they attract the best of drivers. In any case, for this category we were additionally eased. We did not have to think of any justification, but simply to do a little bit of facebook and twitter maths. So this is where the people’s vote went to.

The jury’s favourite

“Salzburg”. Sent by Gary St.

Best Hitchhiking signs_The Art Of Thumb_Gary St_Salzburg

Gary St was clearly heading to Salzburg. It is doubtful that anybody would have mistaken him for a mere road sign indicating the right way to Salzburg. He insits that it has taken him ages to make this sign. Although, we have serious doubts about the appropriate use of the verb ‘make’ in this case, there are pretty good chances it has taken him quite a while until he found a way to get that board.

Why did we choose it? Here, we have to highlight that we disagree with any form of unnecessary vandalism (freeing caged animals or burning a Monsanto field for example could be perfectly justified though) Now, seriously, any time we come across this photo, it makes us laugh. We also think that it definitely deserves a prize, because it can perfectly compete for winning any of the other categories (although its orthodox beauty is more a merit of highway industrial designers than of Gary himself). So thanks Gary!  Now, every time you see a sign missing, remember “Gary has already been there” 🙂


And here comes our part of the deal: handmade little gifts from Laos will be crossing their way to wherever you want us to send them to. The idea is to surprise sombody else, whether you know the person or not, it does not matter to us. A sort of thank you for all the gifts we receive along the way. The 5 “winners” please send us by email to RovingSnails@gmail.com the following info:

Name of the receiver


Message (if you want to include one)

*** The letters will be sent within the next 10 days, explaining that it is a gift from you.

*** Faithful to hitchhiking principles the letters will be sent “by land”, so when they will arrive to their destination depends on the efficiency of the Laosian post.


These are all the rest of beautiful signs we received for #TheArtOfThumb. We have spent a good few days choosing 5, and would love to send gifts to all of them, but our travellers budget has a final say in this matter. In any case, they all very well deserve to be picked up!