For travelers arriving in Thailand, one thing that can be quite interesting is seeing the locals and tourists alike, take a tuk tuk around the city. In Bangkok and other big cities in particular, you can see the cute little motorcycles turned into horse-drawn carriages, used as taxis. The Thai tuk tuk is unofficially a national emblem of the country, with many memorabilia featuring miniature taxis. Although foreigners may think of it as just a fun way to get around, locals consider it a valuable form of transportation. 3-wheel open-top vehicles are great for getting around because they are readily available and inexpensive. Since they are a bit safer than motorcycles and offer a unique way to travel, tuk tuks have always been a popular way to travel.
Tuk tuks were created after the first pedicabs, known as “Sam Lor” in Thai. The name literally means “3 wheels” in Thai. The Sam Lors were introduced to the country in 1933, but were subsequently banned from circulation for safety reasons. In response, Thailand then imported Japanese motorized rickshaws in 1960, which was a step up from manual rickshaws. Another upgrade saw modern tuk tuks take control of the roads, the names of which were said to have been created due to the sound their engines make.
Tuk Tuks for locals
As many travelers assume that tuk tuks are designed for unique sightseeing experiences, they are generally surprised to see locals using them as well. Even though there are regular taxis, motorcycles and subways, locals still use tuk tuks for short distances and for delivery orders. In fresh produce markets, tuk tuks are normally lined up while waiting to unload fruits and vegetables, as their regular customers include vendors. Students also throng in the tuk tuks to go to school. Some tuk tuks even have a larger seating area, with many in local quarters comprising up to 6 seats.
In these local areas, tuk tuks are known to travel a predestined route, often going from the beginning to the end of a long drive. And, in areas like the Pak Kret district, which is further from the metropolis of Bangkok, the humble Sam Lor or rickshaw is still in use. Going further from Bangkok, you will see many variations of the tuk tuk, such as the green ones in Trang and Ayutthaya provinces. In the hinterland, tourist hotspots like Kanchanaburi, you can see tuk tuks that look like a very organic modified motorcycle. These feature a bench-style wooden padded seat that is attached to the side or rear of the motorcycle.
Other versions of tuk tuk include the Songtaew as it is called in Thai. This version is a much larger type of tuk tuk that can carry groups of people. Students, again, also take Songtaews to school, and locals are known to crowd the tiny motorized vehicles.
Bangkok tuk tuk
While it is a unique experience to take a tuk tuk in Bangkok, there are a few points that travelers should consider. As some tuk tuk drivers are looking for quick cash, they can definitely try to rip off tourists. The best advice if you want to travel by tuk tuk in big cities is to agree on a price before you take off. Initially, such Taxi tuk tuks will quote a fairly widely inflated rate, which is generally open to negotiation. Since they don’t have a meter, they can be more than a taxi. During the rain, rush hours and around tourist attractions, you can expect to pay a higher rate for the convenience of getting into a tuk tuk.
Other things to consider include bag thieves. Although this is not common, it has been reported by tourists that their bags were placed near the outside of the tuk tuk that passing bikers were snatching into.
Tuk tuks prices
The price of tuk tuks may vary depending on the region, the driver and the situation. Some may be more than the cost of a taxi the same distance, as taxi fares are usually calculated by the meter. Tuk tuks do not have meters and usually the drivers decide what fare is right for them. Bargaining is your best bet as a tourist, as tuk tuk drivers are aware of the financial opportunities available to unpretentious tourists. Drivers know they can get higher prices from a tourist, especially first-time visitors who are unaware of the inflated prices going to them. Keep in mind that the average base fare for a tuk tuk in Bangkok starts at 50 baht for a short ride. In tourist areas, another scam involves tuk tuk drivers offering a seemingly very low price or even a free ride for a few hours. Then they will take you to the places where they receive commissions. However, your best bet for experiencing a tuk tuk is to find one in a local market or a non-touristy location.
As getting into a tuk tuk is much like a rite of passage for travelers to Thailand, it’s a great way to experience life like a local, while also enjoying the tropical climate that overwhelms the country. Seeing beautiful attractions by tuk tuk is very popular whether or not you agree with the price of the tickets.