Taking a Tuk Tuk like a Bangkokian

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Learn to take a tuk tuk like a local, and avoid getting ripped off. By Karn G. Bulsuk

Learn to take a tuk tuk like a local, and avoid getting ripped off.

By Karn G. Bulsuk



The Tuk Tuk is probably one of Thailand more represented symbols - virtually every tourist picture of the Kingdom will one of those blue and yellow three-wheelers plying the streets.

Unlike the rickshaw, Tuk Tuks are still used by both tourists and locals. For example, near the Klong Toey market there are plenty of Tuk Tuks catering to locals buying groceries from the fresh market nearby, which are different from the drivers plying their trade in and around all the famous temples around Bangkok.

To take a Tuk Tuk like a local, here are some facts to remember:

Tuk Tuks are for short distances

They're not about to take you from your hotel to the airport (and given their lack of speed and comfort, it's difficult to see why you would), but rather around several blocks. All Tuk Tuks have zones they need to stay in and do not generally exit from those areas. Where these zones begin and end is something that you'll need to pick up from friends locally.

Besides, if you go too far, the prices increase rapidly.

Always negotiate before you get on

Tuk Tuks do not and most likely will never have meters, and so are hired based on negotiation. After flagging one down, make sure to tell him where you're going and ask him the price. If it's too high, a smile, shake of the head and an exclamation of "paeng pai!" (too expensive!) is a good place to start negotiations.

If in a local area, at the time of writing you would be looking at a 30-40 baht fare to travel a distance of 1-2 km. In touristy areas, this may be higher, but you should never be paying 100 baht for a trip round the block. Only tourists would fall prey to that.

Don't let them take you to their cousin's shop

Despite this being well documented, people still fall prey to the free Tuk Tuk tour, who take you to a whole series of shops selling expensive goods such as overpriced gold, jewellery and jade, and aggressively encourage you to buy from them.

If the tuk tuk offers to drive you around for free or asks if you want to go shopping, or tells you that for whatever reason, all the temples you wanted to go were closed (Thai holiday, police action, foreigners suddenly prohibited), decline and walk away. There is no such thing as a free lunch, especially in Bangkok. Besides, there are more tuk tuks than there are tourists.

Tuk tuks aren't fast

Yes, you may have seen James Bond zipping away at warp speed on a Tuk Tuk, but the stark fact is that tuk tuks aren't that fast, and don't weave through traffic well. For that, locals get on a motorcycle taxi.


Photo credit: tsaiid

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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: Taking a Tuk Tuk like a Bangkokian
Taking a Tuk Tuk like a Bangkokian
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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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