Tuk tuk’s are an iconic symbol of Thailand offering visitors a three wheeled taxi.But be aware. As a tourist you will most likely be cheated and ripped off.
Somebody described the tuk tuk’s as having the shape like a deranged ice cream truck with no windows, seat belts or generic safety device. You will find the tuk tuk’s and there drivers everywhere in Bangkok and most of them are safe. But there are some you should avoid. Those are the ones offering you a ridiculously cheap rate.
I have personally been offered to get in tuk tuk’s around the Kha San Road area for as little as 20 baht and they said they would take me where ever I wanted to. First the tuk tuk driver will tell you that the attraction you want to go to is closed. At this point you don’t know that it is a scam, so when the driver start showing you temples and other sightseeing spots on a map it seems to be a good deal. They might even take you to a nice restaurant where you can have a good lunch. (Ok, the driver might get a commision from the restaurant for bringing you, but so what)
So far so good, but then the real “scam” begins. You will most certanly be taken to a “gem store” or a tailor. And the tuk tuk driver will take you there even if you refuse saying you are not the least bit interested. Then you will be forced to go in to the stores and the staff in the stores will be very “pushy” and even rude if you don’t buy anything.
So why do the tuk tuk drivers do this you ask yourself? They will earn themselves some gas coupons or commisions from these places. It is also common when you are looking for a ride to a certain guesthouse that they will end up driving you around to many other guesthouses where they get commision.
If you want a genuine tuk tuk driver you should flag him down yourself, and best to do that is away from the most touristy streets. The genuine tuk tuk driver most likely has a very limited English, if he speaks any English at all. But even the genuine tuk tuk driver might try to scam you. They migh wana charge you up to triple the prices for being a “farang” (foreigner). He migh even offer you a price before you even told him where you want to go.
I have been approached by several tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok wanting to charge me 200 baht for a ride that would cost me 80 baht in a metered taxi. If you still wanna go in a tuk tuk you should negotiate starting with a lower price than you are willing to pay. Many backpackers and other tourist have no clue what the normal rates are and due to that the tuk tuk drivers will try to charge as much as possible. Don’t forget that these tuk tuk drivers do this maybe hundreds of times in one day and have become very good actors.
So when you want to go in a tuk tuk in Thailand stand up for yourself, but do it with a smile on your face. Keeping a good face is very important in Thai culture, and don’t feel guilty about the bargaining process as it is embedded in the Thai culture.
As you understand getting approached by a tuk tuk driver can lead to a total waste of a day and also a waste of money. And worst of all, it might give you a negative view of Bangkok and the Thai People.