Bangkok is a sprawling, modern metropolis. With so many people it can make everyday tasks that little bit more harder to do – like getting across the city, for example. But whilst cars get stuck in gridlocked traffic, and motorbikes are seemingly for those who have a death wish, there exists a happy medium – tuk tuks. These three-wheeled beauties are one of the enduring symbols of Bangkok and prove to be a handy way to zip through traffic and across town – so here’s how to ride one.
Depending on where you’re looking for a tuk tuk– and who’s driving it – some may be more suited to your needs than others. For example, if you’re new to the city and wouldn’t mind a city tour, then flagging one down around tourist hubs such as Khaosan Road should see many drivers more than happy to oblige. However, if you’re in a bit of a rush, it can be a pain to go through the rigmarole of explaining that no, you don’t want a city tour and no, you certainly don’t fancy stopping in a gem shop on your way. Like many things in Bangkok, perseverance is certainly the key, and after a while you should find a driver looking for a quick and easy fare.
Once you’ve found the right taxi, it’s important that you’re firm when it comes to your destination and the price. As previously mentioned, they will try to take you to various places such as tailors, gem stores and ticket offices – which quite often are scams – in order to receive a fuel token for bring custom to these places. Tell the driver that you don’t want any part in the charade firmly, and you should get your wish. Don’t be taken for a ride when it comes to the price; if you have a rough idea of how far your destination is, it can help with the negotiations. After all, as cool as tuk tuks are, they’re un-air conditioned, noisy and uncomfortable – so don’t pay over the odds for a trip.
Whilst tuk tuks are everywhere in Bangkok, they’re actually not all that popular in other Thai cities, so you should enjoy them whilst you can. Yes, they can be uncomfortable, but for short distances they’re more than up to the job. More of a novelty than a practical way to travel, their open nature provides ample opportunities to take photos of Bangkok as you’re flying through it and is a chance to enjoy one of the most enduring features of Bangkok.
Whilst on a tuk tuk, you should ensure that bags and valuables are kept away from the open sides as bag snatching has been known to happen. Also, it’s important to remember suitability and comfort – is a trip across the city, in a hot, uncomfortable vehicle that leaves you open to the heat and the exhaust fumes, really the best way to go? Sometimes, taxis or the BTS is more appropriate – but for a quick jaunt from Khaosan Road to the Grand Palace? Take a tuk tuk.