Bangkok transport: the iconic tuk-tuk
Travelling in Thailand without seeing a tuk-tuk is impossible. The vehicle takes over the urban space. It participates fully in the rhythm of the city with its speed and its very particular din.
Probably the most emblematic means of transport in Thailand, the tuk-tuk is a singular creation, used by both locals and tourists. A unique object that is part of a modern mythology.
Tuk-tuk origin and history
The machine is quickly repairable in the city. There are many of them in Bangkok. If you can’t always see it, you can certainly hear it. For the story, the word tuk-tuk would take its origin from the noise of the engine. The tuk-tul has a two-stroke engine (tuk! for the top piston, tuk! for the bottom piston). In addition to the engine noise, there is also the sound of the old-fashioned exhaust pipe, which gives the vehicle a very characteristic sound.
The vehicle is in fact a kind of motorised tricycle with the power of a large scooter. Its main function is to carry passengers like a taxi or materials like a small van.
In fact, the tuk-tuk is the modern version of the Indian rickshaw or rickshaw. The driver, in the front, can accommodate two to three passengers (or many more) in the back. Open on both sides, it is only covered by a roof, which is very useful when it rains or the sun is too hot.
Since 2015, Thai tuk-tuk have a net on the right side. Indeed, this is not to protect themselves from an accident. But more to prevent snatchings.
Tuk-Tuk, a Thai transport
The tuk-tuk is part of the Thai postcard. Before being a means of transport for tourists, it is above all a practical means of transport that the local population uses to get around. It has several advantages: it is fast and small enough to fit into the smallest of spaces, and it is also economical. Safer than a motorbike, it is still a small straw in the event of a collision with a larger vehicle. With no great protection on the sides, the passenger often has to rely on the driver’s good sense and will to live…
It is very present in large urban centres. There are no less than 70,000 of them in the country, the vast majority of which are in Bangkok.
Tourists are very fond of this little car. The experience is worth the diversions. Indeed, the machine remains impressive when you get on it for the first time.
Tuk-tuk and pollution
The tuk-tuk has a major problem: pollution. Although many tuk-tuk vehicles now run on gas (and therefore emit little CO2), the fact remains that the driver and passengers breathe in the exhaust fumes of buses and other large trucks.
Although it emits less CO2, it is still a noisy machine and contributes to a very annoying cacophony. However, engineers seem to have found the solution: the solar-powered electric tuk-tuk. A Thai firm has launched a tuk-tuk with a roof covered with solar panels. Autonomous, silent and faster than the original model, this green tuk-tuk is quite expensive. You have to pay twice the price (€10,000) to get one.
Most tuk-tuk are often bought on credit or owned and leased by a lessor.
Tuk-tuk and negotiation
With tuk-tuk, you have to think about negotiation. Fun at the beginning, it can be very tiring in the long run. The tuk-tuk is one of the tourist attractions of Thailand. For the new visitor, it is easy to say yes at the first opportunity. But the problem is that you don’t know what the prices are.
In these conditions, drivers develop a lot of imagination to attract tourists. They often promise specific tours. Then, on the way, they stop at clothing or souvenir shops. The aim is to get a commission from the purchase made by their customers.
The other tactic is to raise the price very high in order to completely surprise the tourist. The tourist’s reaction is to halve the price, but the damage is done, as the negotiated price is in fact multiplied by 2 or 3 compared to the normal price.
Tuk-tuk and 4 little tips
- Never take a tuk-tuk near a highly touristy place. The prices are huge and the drivers are experienced in selling tours.
- Favour short distances.
- The price should never exceed 100 baht (very high maximum).
- The tuk-tuk is fun, but the taxi is the most cost-effective means of transport (especially for several passengers).
Tuk-Tuk and organized tours
For a few years now, Expique Bangkok has been a specialist in tuk tuk tours. Here there is no negotiation, no hassle, no surprises, everything is fully planned. There are several possible tours: night markets, family tours, etc.
It is well done and saves time. For more information see the official website Expique Bangkok