Being taken for a ride in a Tuk-Tuk - Bangkok, Thailand, Southeast Asia

Being taken for a ride in a Tuk-Tuk - Bangkok, Thailand, Southeast Asia

Being taken for a ride in a Tuk-Tuk - Bangkok, Thailand, Southeast Asia


One of the iconic images of Bangkok (and one of the most iconic scams) is Thailand's pervasive tuk-tuk (named because of the sound of their small engine). These are motorized rickshaws that serve as an alternative to taxis. They are popular amongst tourists for their novelty value, but that is exactly what they are a novelty. When in Bangkok I would recommend taking taxis for their safety, ease of use, to avoid one of the classic Bangkok scams and to preserve your precious lungs.

First, as you can see from the photo, tuk-tuks have an “open-air” design so they offer no protection in case of an accident. In addition, Thais are very small people and the tuk-tuks reflect that. I am six feet tall and I look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame when I ride in the back of one of these!

Second, tuk-tuks have no meter and the moment you open your mouth and speak English the fare doubles or triples compared to what an equivalent taxi fare would be. All taxis in Bangkok are metered, but some drivers will tell unsuspecting tourists that the meter is broken. If that happens simply walk away and look for another taxi. More times than not the driver will tell you to come back because by some great miracle the meter has started to work! Never step into a tuk-tuk unless you have successfully bargained a fair price otherwise you will be taken for a ride (physically and fiscally).

Third, one of the classic Bangkok scams is that a very friendly Thai will approach you on the street and produce a Bangkok map to help you with your sightseeing day. Your new “friend” will tell you that some of the popular sites are closed for the day, like the Royal Palace, because it is a national holiday. For a small price, usually 20 Baht (about $.65 cents USD), he can have his friend, who conveniently pulls up to the curb in his tuk-tuk, take you around to less touristy sites. The “tour” will take you to some temples, but also to a tourist agency (posing as the official tourist office) where they will try to sell you overpriced train and bus tickets. The finale is a trip to the local tailor where you have the opportunity to buy a customized suit. You gotta look stylish while in the Bangkok, right? Fortunately, I didn’t fall for this scam as I was well aware of it, but I met many travelers who succumbed to the “inexpensive” tuk-tuk tour.

Lastly, the “alfresco” tuk-tuks expose passengers to the high levels of pollution, besides, the heat and humidity that Bangkok is known for. Bangkok taxis are air-conditioned and compared to taxis I have taken New York City and Chicago, are well kept.

When in Bangkok be sure visit the “must see” attractions such as Wat Arun, the enormous reclining Buddha and the Royal Palace. If you are feeling a little adventurous then hop on a local tuk-tuk for that essential Bangkok experience, just be sure to bargain hard and hold on for dear life!

Check back for more of my Thailand adventures!

Happy Travels!

Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography

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Taken on: 22nd February, 2012. Copyright: All Rights Reserved - See Sam Antonio Photography's page of Flickr

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Set astride the majestic, churning Chao Phraya River, the Thai capital Bangkok represents all that is good and bad about an Asian megalopolis. Loved or loathed, it's a city with everything for some and nothing for others, and a place that almost every visitor to Thailand will find themselves in at some stage.

For many travellers, Bangkok, or Krungthep to most Thais (Krungthep mahanakhon amonratanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok, popnopharat ratchathani burirom ubonratchaniwet mahasathan amonpiman avatansathit sakkathattiya witsanukamprasit to those who like to refer to places by their full name), is anything but charming on first impressions. But peel back its multitude of layers, and you may well grow to enjoy this fascinating city.

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