Friday, February 4, 2011

10 Simple Rules for Tuk-Tuk Drivers

Even the most casual Asian traveller will soon note the regional variations of the tuk-tuk, or motororized scooter-taxi. These mini-cabs, usually powered by a two-stroke engine, are ubiquitous on SE Asian roads.

Here are some samples from our trip so far:

Ones in Bangkok usually have a single bench, and the driver controls the vehicle from the front of the unified cab. They seem to be designed to only half-burn their fuel, creating a nauseating carbon monoxide fog as they travel. A picture of the king by the mirror is de rigeur.

In Vientiane, the tuk-tuks are built heavier, but are noisier, usually as a result of the underpowered engine trying to ram a piston through the case. They often have two rows of seats on either side of the cab, and are able to load far more tourists than they can actually pull. The driver rides external to the passenger section. Add rastafarian colours and statues of local holy men to taste.

Taking a break from a hard day's tuk-tuking.
Siem Reap's are the sleekest, quietest and least polluting of the trio. The driver rides a regular motocycle, with actual mufflers and adequate power. The passenger cab is attached by a kind of fifth-wheel device on the back of the motorcycle. The passenger cabs themselves have a quaint, rickshaw look to them, often with facing bucket seats, and are generally coloured uniformly red.

But whatever the regional variations, common to all is the endless pursuit of the customer. Tuk-tuk drivers are working the sidewalks and parking lots ceaselessly, looking for the next ride of the day.

It's certainly understandable. One good ride with one gullible westerner can feed a family for a day or two. As a result, any tourist seen in any situation seems fresh pickings for the ambitious tuk-tuk driver.

But for the vast majority of travellers, the constant need to turn down a drive offer is grating. And I figure it can't be fun for the tuk-tuk driver as well. So, in an effort to increase cross-cultural understanding, and save a lot of wasted breath and psychic energy, I humbly offer these Tips to the Tuk-Tuk Driver for Increasing Your Request/Ride Ratio.

By following these simple body language cues, you know not to bother asking me if I want a ride in your tuk-tuk:

  1. If I don't give you eye contact, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  2. If I am walking with purpose, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  3. If I am just standing there, looking around at the local scenery, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  4. If I am walking with more people than you can fit in your tuk-tuk, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  5. If I am riding a bike, or just getting off one, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  6. If I am in a tuk-tuk, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  7. If I am getting out of a tuk-tuk, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  8. If I have just turned down your buddy's request for a tuk-tuk, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  9. If I have just turned down your request for a tuk-tuk, I don't want a tuk-tuk ride.
  10. I may want a tuk-tuk ride later; but I probably won't track you down to have you give it to me.

All the above circumstances (except maybe #6) actually happened to your humble narrator. Hey guys, I don't like saying 'no' anymore than you probably like hustling for a ride. So let's work together on this. We can make it more comfortable, and more enjoyable, for all of us.

So here's the Golden Rule:

If I look at you, or walk up to you, and ask if you are free, then I want a tuk-tuk ride.

I hope to see these changes implemented as soon as possible. Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. #11 If I'm asleep don't wake me up and ask me if I want a tuk-tuk. (Happened to me in India).