The image of three-wheel transports running in the Southeast Asian streets is a popular thing that tourists usually come across when traveling in Southeast Asian countries. This transport is Tuk Tuk, the iconic image of many Southeast countries that you should try at least once when visiting there.

In order to help you have more information about this vehicle and good preparation for catching a Tuk Tuk when traveling to Southeast Asia, Travel Sense Asia will share with you about the Tuk Tuk.

Tuk Tuk: the auto-rickshaw in Southeast Asia

Tuk Tuk is very general in Southeast Asia countries: Thai Land, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia, etc; especially, It is well-known for the iconic symbol of Thailand due to its popularization in this nation.

It is said that this vehicle derives from a Japanese company importing firstly in Thailand; however; when importing in other Southeast Asian nations, it has changed in structure and design and the “Tuk Tuk” is named after the sound “Tuk…Tuk…” of the engine in its operation.

Tuk Tuk is quite similar to the rickshaw in the appearance but is used as a taxi. This vehicle can carry about 4- 6 passengers in its cabin and often does not glass doors in two sides of the cabin. Despite the lack of glass doors, it is the unique point that attracts the curiosity of travelers to experience grazing cool wind and sightseeing vividly the streets in the whole trip.

tuk tuk

Photo by Chris Arthur-Collins on Unsplash

Differences of Tuk Tuk among Southeast Asian countries

Tuk Tuk appears in almost countries of Southeast Asia especially in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos; Tuk Tuk’s versions are quite similar in function; however, in each country, there are strikingly special patterns in the structure and appearance of Tuk Tuk.

This three-wheel vehicle in Laos owns a large engine to pull a medium cabin up to 12 passengers and have higher top speeds than their cousins. The driver’s seat is set up on the top of the engine and the passenger cabin is situated after the driver’s seat. The Tuk Tuk in Laos is often decorated in blue, red and yellow stripes and appears majorly in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

The Tuk Tuk in Cambodia has a totally different structure as compared with its sibling in Laos. Cambodia’s Tuk Tuk comprises a motorbike attaching with a cabin of 4 seats through the gear of the motorcycle. This auto rickshaw looks like the horse-drawn carriage; the driver operates the motorbike pulling the cabin behind while the passengers sit in the opposite rows to chit chat and view the surrounding landscape.

In Thailand, Tuk Tuk has another name “Sam –Lor”, it is one of the iconic symbols of Thai tourism which leaves a deep impression for tourists to distinguish Thailand from other countries using Tuk Tuk. This vehicle appears every corner of Thai streets. The structure of Thailand’s Tuk Tuk is quite similar to Laos’s one but Tuk Tuk in Thailand is various in the design. The auto-rickshaw of Thailand is a one-piece vehicle that the driver cabin attaches directly to the passenger cabin without any trailers. Thailand version has lower efficiency than Lao’s version but owns a newer engine and more eco-friendly.

tuk tuk

Photo by Lauren Kay on Unsplash

Experiences of traveling in Tuk Tuk

The first impression when catching a Tuk Tuk is that you can catch Tuk Tuk nearly everywhere in big countries of Southeast Asia and in just one minute, you can start your journey in Tuk Tuk. At the first moments when sitting in Tuk Tuk, you can be quite scared with the unsafe structure of Tuk Tuk without the grass door and with a little fence in two sides of the cabin but do not worry. You can absolutely set your mind at rest because the Tuk Tuk runs at a quite slow speed and its structure is not insecure as you imagine.

On the whole trip with Tuk Tuk, you will experience the wonderful sense that you cannot have when catching a taxi to go sightseeing streets in Southeast Asia. Sitting in the cabin, you can feel the cool winds passing your face and a typical atmosphere of streets in Southeast Asia: the smell of vehicles dissolves with the smell of street foods; the sound of vendors harmonizes with the street music. That is so fantastic. Your trip will more interesting when you can have companions as local people and a local driver who can speak a little English and be ready to be an amateur guide for you.

tuk tuk

Traveling on a Tuk Tuk is a great way to feel the atmosphere of streets in Southeast Asia. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Tips for tourists traveling by Tuk Tuk in Southeast Asia

The first tip when traveling by Tuk Tuk is that you must negotiate the fare before getting in it. Tuk Tuk is different from the taxi, it does not have meters that means the driver maybe inflate the fee for your carriage up to many times. Therefore, you should refer the reasonable fee beforehand and when the driver gives you a price, you must negotiate a reasonable fee before beginning your trip in Tuk Tuk.

The second tip is that you should bring your local maps, both an online map and a handy map that can show your destination. With the map, you can describe for the driver about the destination that you want to come more easily; therefore, the driver can determine exactly which route is best to reach and you can save the time. Besides, in case you are missed because you catch a fake Tuk Tuk, you can guide the driver the right way to your destination or turn on the GPS and determine your situation on your online map to escape.

The final tip we recommend for you is that you should avoid the Tuk Tuk scams. An example of Tuk Tuk scam is that some drivers will recommend you to call on a souvenir store on your way. In this case, you should say no with the driver because you maybe become the victim of the overprice stores that your driver is promised to be tipped if he takes you to these stores.

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