Lies My Tuk-Tuk Driver Told Me

Taken Sept 5, 2013 in Bangalore, India

Taken Sept 5, 2013 in Bangalore, India

Tuk-tuks or Autorickshaws  are the ubiquitous three-wheeled vehicles-for-hire seen throughout South and Southeast Asia. (Note: Owing to their evolution from walking or pedal rickshaws, they’re sometimes just called “rickshaw” for short, or even “pedicab” or “petty cab”–the latter likely a corruption of the former.) They’re an essential way to get around in the big cities of Mega-Asia, but almost everyone has a bad experience with one at some point.

Let me point out that I’m not suggesting that most tuk-tuk drivers are amoral liars, but as a tourist (or someone who looks like one) the drivers that approach you probably will be. The vast majority of drivers are honest, hard-working men (and the elusive woman) just trying to put food on the table. That’s why my key advice to people on the subject is, “Pick your driver, and don’t ride with the ones who pick you. Then always negotiate your fare–or make sure they will use the meter– before you get in.” The drivers who pick you often have rationalized that it’s alright to treat foreigners like crap. And I’m not so much talking about charging you a little more money (which I personally don’t mind), but more that it’s alright to waste your time or take you places you didn’t ask to go [and potentially much worse.]

Well, without further ado, I’ll share some of my interactions with drivers. This is inspired by a whooper I was told yesterday.

1.) Driver: “The Temple is closed.”
Me: “But there’s a line of Caucasians and Japanese people with cameras going into the place right this moment. I can see them as we speak.”
Driver: “Uhh, monks and nuns.”

2.) Driver: “That road closed. Big protests. Throwing stones. Very dangerous!”
Me: “But I can see all the way to the corner where we need to turn, there’s nobody there.”
Driver: “They hide. [Pantomiming popping up over a wall] Throw rocks.”

3.) Driver: “Meter[ed fare is] 200 Rupee, but I’ll take– only 150 Rupee.”
Me: “I just took a trip yesterday that was 50% farther and took twice as long, and the metered fare was 50 Rupee.”

4.) Driver: “But traffic very bad, VERY BAD. Premium rate time.”
Me: “But it’s Sunday morning at 8:00am. I haven’t heard a horn for half an hour, and I happen to know that there’s no such thing as ‘premium rate time.'”
Driver: “It’s new.”

5.) Driver: “You can’t get from here to there, except go past travel office.”
Me: “Sure you can. It’s one block over and then a straight shot of five kilometers. The travel office is four kilometers out-of-the-way.”
Driver: See lie #2

8 thoughts on “Lies My Tuk-Tuk Driver Told Me

  1. Haha this is excellent!! I had some similar, hilarious interactions with tuk tuk drivers throughout S.E.A. I absolutely agree that it is worth finding a good one, and paying them slightly higher than the going rate just to avoid this kind of hassle. I found a fantastic, friendly guy in Siem Riep and paid him to be our tuk tuk driver the whole time we were there. We became good friends and he took us to loads of places that they don’t often take tourists.

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    • Great advice. Sometimes one can get a tuk-tuk through the hotel that won’t be rock-bottom prices, but which will be very predictable (if for no other reason because one knows who to complain to and can do so without any great inconvenience.)

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  2. I should say the tuk-tuk guys in cambodia were quite nice (my experience). However I can’t say the same about the autorickshaws here in BLR. They literally take you for a ride!

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    • Yes, I found Cambodians to be about the most friendly and cordial people as a group. I felt bad because people would come up to me there and, based on my experience, I’d be thinking, “What’s their angle?” And then we’d have a nice little conversation and they’d leave with no apparent ulterior motive other than to meet.

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    • Oh yeah, they can smell desperation. One favorite way of sticking it to you after you’ve negotiate a rate that is acceptable is to say they don’t have change. We are used to the business always having to provide change, but sometimes here the person with the most money is supposed to provide change. You can press the issue and have them find someone who’ll make change, but they know that they’ve got all day and you probably aren’t willing to be held up for something that may amount to $1 or $2 USD.

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    • That’s a good call. Especially if the driver approached you instead of the other way around. (Not that bad things can’t happen the other way, but it seems like 99 out of 100 are just trying to make a living and have no nefarious designs.)

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