There’s a reason you can’t find a souvenir shop in Thailand without the symbol of a Tuk-Tuk somewhere.
It’s just one of those things you must experience when you visit the country. Like their delicious food, massages, or magic cities.
Called after the sound their engines make, this three-wheeler has become an iconic symbol of Thailand, and for many good reasons.
Besides the top reasons you have to try one, I’ll also share the estimated prices for a ride, how to order one using an app, and reveal common scams so you can easily avoid them.
📖 Table of Contents
- 1. It’s Fun
- 2. It Can Be the Fastest Option
- 3. Chances Are You’ll Have an Experience Full of Personality
- 4. You Get To Explore Things From a Unique Perspective
- 5. The Speed Will Cool You Down
- 6. It Can Be the Most Environmentally Friendly Option
- 7. Wait? Are They More Expensive Than Taxis?
- How Much Does a Tuk-tuk Ride Cost in Thailand?
- How to Book an Electric Tuk-tuk in Bangkok (Requires Thai SIM-Card)
- ⚠️ Be Aware of the Typical Tuk-tuk Scams
1. It’s Fun
I assume your visit to Thailand includes having some fun.
And if riding a decorated couch with a motor (ish) doesn’t sound intriguing, I don’t know what does.
I’ve had several moments of realization during one of these rides, where I’ve been thinking to myself “Damn, now I’m really in Thailand”.
2. It Can Be the Fastest Option
This reason belongs one of the many explanations for the tuk-tuk’s fame.
As they were originally introduced to navigating the cramped roads of Bangkok in the 1960s, they can be the fastest option – especially during rush hours.
So their practical size is something you can still take advantage of to this day.
📌 TIP: The only thing that's faster during rush hours is motorbike taxis. But these are also less safe, and you'll have limited space too. Though I still recommend trying them at least once (if you dare).
3. Chances Are You’ll Have an Experience Full of Personality
Due to the relatively low price of a tuk-tuk, it’s not unusual that the driver owns the vehicle themselves.
Which often results in a personal remake of styling and decorations, ensuring you that one ride is never the same.
And provoke the feeling that you’re welcomed into the home of a friendly host.
4. You Get To Explore Things From a Unique Perspective
If you’ve ever ridden a motorbike before, I think we can agree that the feeling of being one with your surroundings is much greater compared to a car.
A tuk-tuk is a mix of the two. It has three wheels, though you’re still covered from the rain and the sun, but without feeling distanced behind steel doors and glass windows.
So driving these is like going on a city safari. And my brother and I can in particular vouch for that after we once spotted a giant monitor lizard in the middle of Bangkok.
5. The Speed Will Cool You Down
If you’ve ever been to Thailand or any other exotic climate, you know what’s up. It can get insanely hot, especially during the summer and when the sun is at its highest.
So instead of browsing a random store with air conditioning, you can also grab a tuk-tuk and cool yourself down from A to B.
And if you’re prone to sweat like me who’s adapted to the cool Scandinavian weather, then it’s also a good opportunity to dry out for a bit.
6. It Can Be the Most Environmentally Friendly Option
Since the first tuk-tuks appeared in Bangkok in the 1960s a lot hasn’t changed – but some things have (for the better).
According to the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand, there are more electric tuk-tuks than ever. With a doubling in numbers from 263 to 498 in 2022 alone.
Since 2015 the government of Thailand has been pushing for electric vehicles as a solution to the pollution that many of their cities suffer from. So when you’re reading this, chances are there’s might even more electric tuk-tuks for you to ride with.
7. Wait? Are They More Expensive Than Taxis?
A big misconception is that tuk-tuks are cheaper than taxis. And it’s easy to believe when rationally comparing to the price of a car.
But that’s not the reason you should ride one in the first place – the other six reasons on this list are.
The reality is, rideshares and taxis are often cheaper, especially when ordered through the popular app Grab (which is similar to Uber in many ways).
So if your primary goal is to save some money, I recommend you book a rideshare or a taxi through them instead.
📌 TIP: Though be aware that the taxi services within the Grab app aren't available in all of Thailand, such as Koh Samui or Phuket for example.
How Much Does a Tuk-tuk Ride Cost in Thailand?
The price depends on many factors such as your location, time of the day, and of course the length of your trip.
But in major cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, you can expect to pay around 50 – 150 THB for a shorter trip ($1.5 – 4.5).
But if you’re at a tourist hot spot such as Phuket, you’ll likely pay more.
The best way to get an accurate estimate is simply by asking some locals at your destination.
📌 TIP: It's not unusual that drivers to try to take advantage of tourists and demand a bigger price. To avoid this always agree on a price before going. By doing so, you also decrease the risk of getting scammed (more about that in a bit).
How to Book an Electric Tuk-tuk in Bangkok (Requires Thai SIM-Card)
With the MuvMi app, you can order electric tuk-tuks in Bangkok.
This can prevent problems with communication, and payments while decreasing the risk of getting scammed.
Though be aware that people have complained about the waiting time and inaccuracy of the app’s GPS. So if you’re in a hurry, keep this in mind.
And as the title suggests, unfortunately, you do need a Thai SIM card to create a user at the moment.
⚠️ Be Aware of the Typical Tuk-tuk Scams
Now that I’ve been largely promoting the idea of you taking a tuk-tuk once you’re in Thailand, I also feel it’s my responsibility in educating on how to avoid common scams.
With that said I’ve never experienced any scam attempts myself. All the tuk-tuk drivers I’ve met have been friendly.
But that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk yourself. So let’s buckle up and get you scam-proof in no time.
Red Flag 1: If the Price Is Too Good To Be True
In this case, you’re likely part of a bigger though relatively harmless scheme.
The goal of this scam is to suggest a temporary stop at a shop, restaurant, or other business on the way to your destination.
And if you haven’t already figured it out, this often means the driver has an arrangement with wherever he’s taking you and gets paid to bring you as a potential customer.
Red Flag 2: If the Driver Suggests an Alternative Destination
A typical argument is that he knows a better place, or that the place you want to go to is closed.
The goal of this scam is the same as before. The driver has an arrangement with a business and gets paid to bring you there.
This can result in you encountering much higher prices compared to where you originally wanted to go while preventing you from experiencing it in the first place.
How to Cleverly Avoid Getting Scammed by Using Google Maps
These tips also apply to general taxi scams such as taking a detour for a higher rate.
- First, you need to download the free Google Maps app
- Once you have them installed, open the app and type your destination to create a route (and be sure to select the “Drive” option)
- Once you have it ready, simply show the route to the driver and ask for the price to go there.
By doing this you’re not only generally asking for a price for your destination, but also making sure that:
- He’ll be aware that you know the route and therefore be less likely to take a detour
- You can keep an eye on if you’re going in the right direction (whether it’s intentional or not)
- If he claims the place you’re going is closed, you can tell him that Google confirms it’s not (just make sure it’s open!).
And if your driver doesn’t take the same route don’t freak out. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting scammed.
Maybe the driver simply decides to use an alternative route or avoid known traffic jams during rush hours. As long as you’re going in the right direction chances are it’s all good.
📌 TIP: Google Maps can also be used offline. All you need to do is download the map of your area in the app. But be aware that without internet Google can't read the live traffic. This also means your driver is more likely to take another route if he's aware of traffic the app isn't.