Catching a Tuk Tuk
By Kraig Phillips
A trip to Asia wouldn’t be complete without the customary 3-wheeled ride. But lets make sure the only thing taking a ride is you and not your pocket. Firstly when me and Amanda have travelled in Asia we have used a abundance of different modes of transport, from sleeper trains in China saving those pennies and bumping with the locals in second class to sleeper buses which are more of a matchbox compartment aboard a coach. Everything has its up and downs, but all build memories that will last a lifetime and that’s the point of travel, its obviously not to save money, if you wanted that you would be back at home on the couch, cup of tea on hand singing along to the latest fad on Britain’s got talent. But you obviously have the want and need for adventure, a call to the unknown a modern day pirate without the scars peg legs and thievery but still the love of the rum.
You will no doubt in your travels have the need of a motorized form of transport, whether briskly zipping through traffic in those instances when you didn’t count traffic on the airport run, to help you lug back all those souvenirs for your loved ones? Does anyone still do that? I’m not sure how many more tea towels they need…
Tuk Tuk; Iconic, chaotic and plentiful. There’s something beautiful and immersive about riding a custom form of transport, the wind in your hair exposed to the smells and wonder of the world. But let us be honest, we have all been told by a friend or heard from someone of the pitfalls and traps of tuk tuks. The almost customary stops at tailors, jewelers and the aunts and uncles shops of the sweet talking driver.
Like everything in life you can take the good with the bad, all we want to do is give you a little insight and advice to make sure you don’t mark your latest trip with moments of sadness and despair; we travel to get away from the noise of modern day life, the 9-5 job the nagging and hassle of bills.
.1 Trust your gut, I’ve heard this a million times from my nan, uncle aunt and randomness at kebab shops on nights out. I cant begin to start listing the times I’ve felt that niggle, that sense of fear or danger and every single time we have listened to it and for better or worse got home safe. Yes 9/10 times It might be wrong, but who wants to fall into the last 1/10.
.2 No one is your friend. Sounds bizarre and negative right? I don’t want you to take this too literally; you will make friends for a lifetime on the road. Free stays and countless good nights out in the future through the aquantices you meet. But people who seem too friendly, who are not traveling, who seem to be going out of the way to do something out of the kindness of their heart – aren’t.
Tourism is a trillion pound a year industry across the world and you’re the meal ticket. It might be a little bit of a downer to view people in this way, but you will thank me for it I’m sure. Lets those prove their good nature. The man trying hard to be your new sidekick whilst giving you his best price is no doubt making a fortune out of your good nature. There’s nothing wrong with giving extra to those who deserve it.
.3 set the ground rules. If your away with your partner, family of 4, whatever; make sure you say “for all of us” “4 of us” me and her” what ever is needed to clarify that you mean all of you currently there and not per person. 80 Bhat may be cheap for that trip to the zoo but it adds up if you don’t clarify it’s the total fair.
.4 don’t be afraid to haggle. Haggling is beautiful, I’ve came out on top and most times realized I could of got the better or correct deal. That 50 Bhat ride will still be as good as memorable but feel so much more if it costs less. There’s so many Tuk Tuks that if you miss the mark and have to walk two more minutes another will be along.
.5 Hotels don’t always do you favors. There’s been times when we have almost been lazy in a sense and let the concierge or receptionist get us a taxi or Tuk Tuk. Always paying through the roof and having to wait for their “friend” to get there. If there’s a taxi rank its all good but sometimes you can save a small fortune by seeking your out your own form of transport.
.6 Never accept the first price. Yes this is the same as point 4 haggling, but its important so deserves two points.
.7 If someone offers you a service that sounds too cheap 80 Baht for the day drive anywhere but wants to take you two a few shops keep walking. The hassle and pushiness of these places are not worth your time.
.8 Meters broken in a cab? Get used to this, same as if there’s traffic it will cost more by meter, if someone’s trying to justify a upfront price without using a meter which should be used for every journey something is wrong.
.9 keep your valuables on you. Be safe rather than sorry, keep passports money and valuables in sight.