Friday, May 28, 2010

The Down-Low on Tuk-Tuks

Quick! What sputters and swerves down the streets of Thailand, spilling smoke and scaring countless tourists? I am of course talking about the automated rickshaw of Thailand, affectionately named the “tuk-tuk” by foreigners for the loud gasping breaths it makes as it barrels to every destination in Bangkok and beyond. It is impossible to travel in Thailand without encountering the crazy machines, so here are some tips for dealing with tuk-tuks and their notoriously colorful drivers.

1) Only use tuk-tuks for short distances. For longer distances, go with taxis or songthaews (modified trucks), which are much more cost effective. However, if you want to get somewhere within a few miles as fast as possible, jump on a tuk-tuk and enjoy the ride as it breezes through traffic like an unleashed roller coaster.

2) ALWAYS agree on a price first. It is very common for tuk-tuk drivers to ask for exorbitant prices after dropping you off, especially in Bangkok. It is also possible that while in transit, they will try to get you to pay them more by using excuses such as high gas prices or mention of a “tuk-tuk mafia”. Seriously, those were the exact words one tuk-tuk driver used! No matter what, ignore these requests and stick with the agreed upon price. Be strong!

3) Beware tuk-tuk drivers who try to steer you toward other destinations. It is highly likely that they will lead you to high pressure sales situations so that they can collect a commission.

4) Share tuk-tuks as often as possible. Some tuk-tuk drivers will try to double or triple the rate, but remember that you have the buying power. You should be paying 50-75% less per person.

5) Try a tuk-tuk ride at least once! It is one of the coolest vehicles ever invented and part of the Thailand experience.

Don’t be scared by any of this advice. Tuk-tuks are safe and fun, and tuk-tuk drivers are real characters with lots of stories. Don’t miss out!

-Ted Gault, former hostel intern

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