Part 3: the Tuk Tuk

I would take a wild guess and say that if you ask 100 people about a symbol that would represent “typical Bangkok”, more than half would surely mention the noisy, colorful tricycle taxi, called Tuk Tuk.

What a Tuk Tuk really is, is not quite clear to me. For some foreigners, it is an environmental hazard: loud, stinky and just adding to Bangkok’s catastrophic traffic. For most Thais it is a cheap form of transport. “Transport” as in “truck” and not as in “taxi”.

Designed as a 2-seater, it is often overloaded with up to six people or stuffed to the roof with goods such as clothes, fruits, eggs (there are no boundaries to the imagination).

For tourists it often starts out as a photo opportunity, turns into a “must do” folklore act and ends as an expensive lesson on how they just got scammed.

The Tuk Tuk, as it is

Let’s face it (and believe me, it is not a stretch!). To find a good and honest Tuk Tuk driver among the bunch that waits at every tourist location in Bangkok – smiling widely and offering a cheap and interesting ride – is as difficult as finding water in middle of the desert.

From the “traffic”point of view, a Tuk Tuk offers absolutely no advantage over a taxi. Even if you know where you want to go and even if the driver is willing to take you there and even if he is willing to do so for a “correct” fare, the Tuk Tuk is not considerably cheaper. It is sure not faster since it is not able to “weasel” through traffic. It is almost the same width as a car, so there are no gaps or spaces to fill and go through.

Apart from that, there is no air conditioning in a Tuk Tuk and you are sitting almost exactly at a level where every bus, every truck and almost every car blows their exhaust directly into your face.

But I totally understand, of course, that doing something that makes absolutely no sense sometimes has to be done just for the fun of it. And I agree.

Different city, different Tuk Tuk: the Ayutthaya Tuk Tuk

So even if the Tuk Tuk has no advantage over a taxi when it comes to the fare (and as you are probably a first- timer in Bangkok, most drivers will overprice on that, too), the comfort, the safety or any health issue, it is quite fun to get around by Tuk Tuk.

And if you know where to go, speak a little Thai and probably are okay with paying a few Baht more (in the end, you are on holiday and don’t take matters too seriously…and that is good), please heed some advice.

Never…ever take any of the generous offers that some Tuk Tuk drivers make.

For example, they promise to take you on a nice city tour for very little money.

They promise to take you to the best bars (eg. “ladies” or “massage”) in the whole city.

They promise to take you to the best tailors and gem shops in Bangkok.

…and what starts out as a bargain, sure ends up to be the most expensive, unplanned part of your holiday, with almost guaranteed unsatisfactory endings.

Noisy, colorful...and sort of fun: Bangkok Tuk Tuk

So take a Tuk Tuk for a fun ride from A to B, but never take any of the offers that the friendly and funny guy who is driving you, is making.

If you have Thai friends in Bangkok, take them with you. They are an almost 100% shield of security against Tuk Tuk scams. Let them do the negotiating, let them explain the way…and after they have done all of that, hop in and have fun with Bangkok’s colorful, noisy and happy Tuk Tuks.

Because if you don’t want to travel by all of the before mentioned means of transport, there is one more transport you could try.

…if you dare!