Tuk-tuks are a Bangkok novelty that’s more about the experience than practicality.
Tuk-tuks are 3-wheeled motor-buggies that emboldens its passengers with open carriage roadside sets and revving action for some wild rides on the town when you’re in need of a fresh outlook on things.
Out on the town
Consider traveling by tuk-tuk to make your day more memorable. You may want to go city site-seeing in a liberating street buggy. Or add some color to your night as you go bar hopping with your pals.
Locals still utilize tuk-tuks when they have an armful of grocery bags and lugging items on small moves. They also still serve as alternatives when a vacant taxi is nowhere in sight.
About the ‘scams’
However, it is a fact that lots of tuk-tuk drivers receive kickbacks (e.g. cash, sales commissions, fuel vouchers) from businesses that pay for bringing tourist to their shops. Unscrupulous practices can occur as a result such as aggressive solicitations and unexpected detours on the passenger which have unfortunately created mistrust for the industry.
Although it may not be in the tourist’s interest, there are legitimate enterprises that offer legitimate products who employ this ‘creative marketing technique’, often because their shops are located in bad locations. They may include tourist agents, gem stores and custom tailors.
The other type of businesses that enlist tuk-tuks for assistance are nightlife enterprises which include a range of after-hour discotheques to various shades of adult entertainment venues.
Dealing with Tuk-Tuks
Every encounter is an exercise in negotiating down prices. At the core, tuk-tuks provide transportation service and expect a higher fee for a spin in their novelty ride. Recognizing that it’s more about the experience, striking a mutually acceptable deal becomes easier and eliminates any hidden surprises. Split with a buddy, and the value proposition becomes much more acceptable.
Be clear with the tuk-tuk where you want to go. Repeat the arrangement again before getting in. Don’t get upset with unruly and persistent solicitations, just walk away. If the deal is too good to be true, it is!
* A guideline for acceptable prices in tuk-tuks would be like charging per head what it would cost by taxi. So for example, if you are traveling in 2’s, and it would cost 100 baht by taxi, an acceptable median price by tuk-tuk would be 200 baht (100 baht per head).