Travel Thailand authentically via tuk-tuk

For travellers arriving in Thailand, one thing that may be quite interesting is seeing the locals and tourists alike, taking a tuk-tuk around the city. In Bangkok and other large cities especially, you can see the cute little motorbikes that have been turned into carriages, being used as taxis. The Thai tuk-tuk is unofficially a national emblem of the country, with many souvenirs featuring miniature taxis.

Although foreigners may think it is just a fun way to ride around, the locals see it as a valuable mode of transportation. The open-aired, 3-wheeled vehicles are great for travelling around as they are readily available and cheap. As they are a bit safer than motorbikes and offer a unique way to travel, tuk-tuks have always been a popular way to travel.

History

The early cycle rickshaws, or “Sam Lor” as they are known in Thai, gave rise to tuk tuks. The Thai translation of the name is ‘3 wheels’. Sam Lors were first brought to the nation in 1933, but for security reasons, they were later prohibited from being driven. Thailand responded by importing Japanese motorised rickshaws in 1960, which were an improvement above the manual rickshaws. After an additional update, the contemporary tuk-tuks took over the roadways; it’s said that their engine noise gave rise to their name.

Travel Thailand authentically via tuk-tuk | News by Thaiger
Image via Trip Advisor

Tuk-Tuks for locals

As many travellers assume tuk-tuks are geared for unique tourism experiences, they are usually surprised to see Thai locals using them as well. Even though there are regular taxis, motorbikes, and subways, the locals still use the tuk-tuks for short distances and delivery orders. At fresh markets, tuk-tuks are normally lined up waiting to unload fruits and vegetables, as their regular customers include vendors. Students also crowd into tuk-tuks to go to school. Some tuk-tuks even feature a larger seating area, with many in local neighbourhoods including as many as 6 seats.

Tuk-tuks are known to follow predetermined routes in these local locations; frequently, they proceed from the beginning of a long road to its conclusion. Additionally, the modest Sam Lor or rickshaw is still in use in places like the Pak Kret district, which is farther out from Bangkok’s metropolitan centre.

As you go further from Bangkok, you’ll come across a wide variety of tuk-tuks, such as the green ones in the provinces of Trang and Ayutthaya. Upcountry tourist destinations like Kanchanaburi are home to tuk-tuks that resemble highly customised, organic motorbikes. These have a wooden bench-style seat that is padded and attached to the side or rear of the motorcycle.

The Songtaew, as it is known in Thai, is one of the other tuk-tuk variations. This model of tuk-tuk is significantly larger and can carry larger groups of passengers. Once more, Songtaews are driven to school by students, and locals are known to jam themselves into the small motorised vehicles.

Bangkok tuk tuks

While riding in a tuk-tuk in Bangkok is an unusual experience, there are a few things that tourists should be aware of. Some tuk-tuk drivers may attempt to con tourists because they are desperate for quick cash. If you want to ride a tuk-tuk in a big city, the best advice is to agree on a price before you go. These taxi tuk-tuks normally quote a fare that is somewhat high at first, but you can usually haggle over it.

Travel Thailand authentically via tuk-tuk | News by Thaiger
Image via With locals

They can be more than just a cab because they are not metered. The convenience of riding in a tuk-tuk comes at a price, so be prepared to pay more at rush hour, in the rain, and near tourist attractions. Other things to consider include bag snatchers. Although it isn’t common, it has been reported by tourists that their bags were placed near the outside of the tuk tuk and passing motorbike drivers snatched them.

Cost of tuk-tuks

The cost of a tuk-tuk might vary depending on the driver, the location, and the circumstances. Since taxi fares are often determined by the metre, some may be more than the cost of a taxi over the same distance. Since tuk-tuks lack metres, the drivers typically set their prices. As a tourist, your best chance is to haggle because the tuk-tuk drivers know that modest travellers may make good money. Drivers are aware that they can negotiate better rates from tourists, particularly from first-time visitors who are unaware of the increased costs aimed at them. Remember that a short ride in Bangkok typically costs 50 baht for the base fee of a tuk-tuk.

As riding in a tuk-tuk is somewhat like a rite of passage for travellers in Thailand, it is a great way to experience life like a local while taking in the tropical weather that engulfs the country. Seeing beautiful attractions by tuk-tuk is quite popular, whether you agree with the fare pricing or not.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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