If you have spoken to a friend or relative who has spent time traveling in Thailand, one of the most common topics for discussion is the interesting journeys that they will have taken by Tuk-Tuk. Indeed, while you will find Tuk-Tuks in other parts of the world, the vast majority of those in use are actually in Thailand, and here they are much more popular than in other countries. If you are planning your first trip to Thailand, then here are a few things that you will need to know.
What Is a Tuk-Tuk?
Historically, one of the most common methods of transport in the region has been the rickshaw, which was powered by the driver cycling, but essentially the tuk-tuk is a version of a rickshaw with a small engine to provide the power instead. They are three-wheeled vehicles which have a single seat up front for the driver, and then a bench seat with space for two people at the back of the vehicle where the passengers will sit. Modern versions will usually have a cover over the seats, with the sides of the vehicle open, making it easy to get in and out but providing some protection against the elements.
Is Traveling by Tuk-Tuk Expensive?
This is probably one of the most surprising aspects of traveling by Tuk-Tuk, as the majority of people will usually assume that this is less expensive than taking a taxi. The reality is that you will usually find the prices when compared with a taxi to be quite similar, although it is vital to ensure that you agree on the price for the journey before you travel. The other factor to bear in mind when traveling by Tuk-Tuk is that in many areas you will find several drivers asking for your business, so playing one off against the other will help you to negotiate a lower price.
The Safety of This Method of Travel
The safety of the Tuk-Tuk is an aspect that is certainly a concern for many people, and as they have open sides and most will not have seat belts to hold you in place should there be an accident, in these respects, they are not the safest of vehicles. However, on the other side, there are relatively few accidents even on the busiest city streets, and they tend to be at low speed, so some people will view that as a positive in terms of their safety.
Where Will You Find a Tuk-Tuk and Driver?
Although they are very convenient, Tuk-Tuks tend to be vehicles that are used by tourists, so the majority of the drivers will usually stay in the areas where they will find plenty of business, with Bangkok particularly usually having several drivers looking for work outside the main tourist spots. They are also generally vehicles that are associated with urban areas, and because of the standard of the roads in much of the country, the bumpy rural roads do not make for great conditions for these little vehicles.
Common Scams Associated With Tuk-Tuk Travel and How to Avoid Them
One of the most important things to remember when you take a journey on one of these vehicles is to agree on the price before you travel, as you will sometimes find that the price if you haven't agreed the rate will be much higher than what you would have otherwise paid. A more insidious scam is that a driver will offer his services for a day or a fixed period for a very competitive rate, but will either take you to a retailer or insist that you visit three retailers over the course of the day, and will then get a voucher from the retailer for taking you there. The hard-sell tactics in these retailers are worth avoiding.
The Environmental Impact of the Tuk-Tuk
Another factor to consider if you are thinking of taking a journey on a Tuk-Tuk is the environmental impact that they will have on the town or city where they operate. They are certainly not the cleanest of vehicles, with the visible fumes pumped out by the engines making for unpleasant conditions on the roads in some of the larger cities. When you compare them with taxis or the motorcycle riders that offer journeys, the Tuk-Tuk's environmental credentials do not stack up favorably.