One of the most popular and fun things for visitors to Thailand to do is to ride in a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is like a motorized rickshaw, a tiny 3-wheeled vehicle that runs on a motorbike engine, and fitted to carry 2-3 passengers at most. Taking a tuk-tuk is an incredibly fun thing to do, but there are some safety tips you should follow if you want to take a tuk-tuk in Thailand safely.
Agree on the Price Before Leaving – Unlike taxis in Bangkok, tuk-tuks do not have meters. So, to be safe, it’s necessary to agree on the price of the tuk-tuk ride before you get in and the driver starts off. Be warned, most tuk-tuk drivers try to charge a lot more than the ride should be, sometimes up to ten times the price. It’s best to take a tuk-tuk when you know what the cost of a similar trip in a taxi would be, and don’t agree to pay more than this.
In fact, because a tuk-tuk is non-air conditioned, you actually should pay less, although few tuk-tuk drivers will give you that low of a price. For me, if the tuk-tuk driver is fair, when we get to our destination I will usually give him an extra 20 baht (65 cents) as a tip. If they are not fair and bargain too aggressively though, I give the agreed upon fare and nothing more.
Don’t Ride Tuk-Tuks on Long Journeys on Traffic-Jammed Streets – One safety tip most Thais I know always tell me about tuk-tuks is never ride them on long journeys, especially when the traffic is bad. Bangkok, for instance, has some of the world’s worst traffic. The last thing you want to be doing is sitting in a tuk-tuk in bumper to bumper traffic breathing in toxic fumes for hours on end – not safe or healthy. In fact, tuk-tuk drivers have one of the highest rates of cancer in the world, which gives you a good idea how unhealthy tuk-tuks can be.
To take a tuk-tuk safely, only travel in them for short trips and on roads that aren’t likely to be too congested. Your lungs will thank you.
Don’t Take Tuk-Tuks in Wet Weather – To stay safe in a tuk-tuk in Thailand, don’t take a tuk-tuk when it’s raining. The roads in Thailand get quite slippery in rain. To add to the danger, tuk-tuk drivers drive erratically and fast so the little vehicle can spin out of control easily. Plus, you’ll get absolutely soaked as rain comes down in sheets in Bangkok, unlike anything you’ve likely ever seen before. Save riding in a tuk-tuk for a dry, sunny day. It’s much safer and a lot more pleasant too.
Take Tuk-Tuks in Thai Resort Towns or Smaller Cities Than Bangkok – I do take tuk-tuks in Bangkok but that’s because I’m a Bangkok resident, so understand traffic patterns and weather. For tourists or other visitors to Thailand, it’s safer to only take a tuk-tuk in a smaller Thai city or in a beach resort town. There’s much less traffic on the roads, which means you’re a lot less likely to end up in a tuk-tuk accident.
Don’t Cram Too Many People in a Tuk-Tuk – In Thailand, you’ll often see tuk-tuks loaded with six Thais plus a month’s grocery shopping and even a couple of chairs, a table or a barbecue grill. They’re Thai. They know how to take a tuk-tuk safely, even when it’s overloaded. You don’t. So, make sure you only have 2-3 people in the back of a tuk-tuk, particularly because there aren’t seat belts. If you’re hanging over the side too much it’s very easy to fall out of one while going around a corner.
Don’t Clown Around in Tuk-Tuks – In several areas of Thailand, I’ve seen tuk-tuks loaded with drunk foreigners. Hanging from the side of the tuk-tuks, pushing each other around and screaming loudly, this is offensive to the tuk-tuk driver and to local Thais, plus it’s dangerous. Tuk-tuks are not particularly stable vehicles (they are on only three wheels after all), so messing around in the back of a tuk-tuk when it goes around a corner could even cause it to tip over. Sit back in your seat, hold onto the side and enjoy the ride. Don’t be obnoxious and offend everyone around you. It’s annoying, plus it’s not safe.
Tuk-tuks are incredibly fun vehicles to take a ride in, and I recommend every tourist to Thailand take one at least once. Just follow these few safety tips, and you’ll have a completely safe and unique experience on your trip to Thailand.