Tuk Tuks

A popular mode of transportation amidst the chaos of the business capital of Colombo, you will not miss the vibrant three-wheeled vehicle winding its way around every corner. Renowned as the ‘Tuk Tuk’, Sri Lanka has a massive fleet of these tiny vehicles all over enabling people to travel from one destination to another by paying the driver a relevant fare which is mainly metered.

Tuk tuks are readily available for quick transfers from point A to B while many of the locals are seen making use of this generous little auto-mobile. However, as of late, tourists too have embraced this method of transportation due to its convenience and availability. At first, the entire experience might seem a little daunting but once you get over all your doubts, you will surely feel at ease.

Given below is a set of simple guidelines that will help you with your tuk tuk journey.

How do you hail a tuk tuk?

With thousands of tuk tuks available in and around the suburbs of Colombo, the following would be the best ideas to jump into a vividly printed and decorated one.

  1. Hailing one on the roadside - The most important point to remember here is to agree upon the rate before hand. However, there are many metered threewheelers available as well. It will be an added convenience if you have a map with you.
  2. Using an App - There are several metered tuk tuk apps available in Sri Lanka. All you have to do is download one of these reliable apps to your mobile phone and hire a tuk tuk. These services offer safety and tracking with the aid of a map.
  3. Getting someone to hire one - Most hotels, restaurants and tourist establishments have their very own fleet of tuks. These, on one hand can be a bit more expensive than a metered tuk but they are safe and trustworthy as they are recommended by a party that you know.
How much does a Tuk tuk ride cost?

Tuk tuk costs in Sri Lanka will vary according to the type of Tuk tuk and the distance.

  1. Metered - According to the new regulations, all tuk tuks should have a meter installed. You are able to track the cost of the ride as it progresses but its always good that you have an idea of where you are headed.
  2. Non-Metered - Either you stop one by the roadside or ask your tour guide or hotel manager to stop one, always agree upon a rate in advance. Feel free to negotiate as they might start off with a higher rate especially if you are a tourist.
  3. Tuk Tuk Apps - With a set rate which is usually cheap, the cost of the journey is calculated via the app. Since your destination is added to the app, the route is directed accordingly.

Most journeys within the city costs a couple of US Dollars while if you are travelling from city to city in a tuk tuk, it might cost more.

Is it Safe?

If you are alert and do not get scammed when it comes to the hiring rate, then Yes - Tuk Tuks are safe. We always suggest that you hire a tuk tuk by using an app or through the hotel, restaurant or tour guide which provides you with an extra level of security, Most drivers are highly skilled in navigating these mini machines through crazy traffic times which makes it more fun travelling in the city, mainly Colombo.

How do you communicate your Destination?

Many threewheeler drivers have little or no English knowledge at all. If they are using a metered tuk tuk app, you will not have an issue as they are directed to your destination via their mobile device. If they are non-metered and don’t speak English, it is best if you show them a map and direct them or ask your hotel to explain the directions. If you are using a map alone, there may be instances that you will have to navigate the driver throughout the entire ride.

Can you hire a tuk tuk for a day?

Yes you can and it is also quite an economical way to explore the busy streets of Colombo especially during annual festivals. These drivers will be happy to take you around while a price should be negotiated beforehand. Ideally your hotel or tour organizer would be the best option that you can approach to get a tuk tuk for a day.

Tuk Tuk Scams in Sri Lanka?

Sadly there are a few unreliable drivers who try out their luck to gain more money by scamming customers, mainly tourists. The primary Tuk tuk scam is changing the price. Make sure that your tuk tuk fare is agreed upon before you set off. Make it clear to them that you are paying the rate that was negotiated. There are certain non-metered drivers who tend to take longer routes just to bump up the fare. The best solution here is to pre-load your destination details in a map app so that you can navigate them if so.

Additional Tips:
  • Always keep your belongings close to you while travelling since it is easy for passers-by to reach in and grab things.
  • If you think your driver has done a good job, don’t hesitate to give him a little extra. It would mean a lot to them, even if the tip is small.
  • If you are satisfied with the driver, you can ask them to wait for you or even pick you up at a specific time. Most drivers are happy to oblige.
  • There are trustworthy tuk tuk drivers who take you through short-cuts as well. But just be alert if you think that the tuk is heading in the wrong direction.

Riding a tuk tuk from point to point has become a famed bucket list item when visiting Sri Lanka and a definite Social Media trend among tourists. It surely is a fun way to experience the country and its hospitality.

【LK94009471: Tuk Tuks. Text by Lakpura™. Images by Google, copyright(s) reserved by original authors.】