The Tuk-tuk is my favourite form of transportation in Sri Lanka, and the easiest. Nothing beats cruising in between traffic and getting a good view with wind (and smog) in your face. Despite the pros, riding the tuk-tuk is also the easiest way to get conned – pun intended. After traveling around Sri Lanka, I noticed some trends that could come in handy when avoiding your chances of getting ripped off.
(In the tuk-tuk from Galle Fort to Hikkaduwa)
1. KNOW THE MARKET RATE
Sadly, only tuk-tuks in Colombo offer metered rates. If you’re traveling about in other parts of Sri Lanka, you just have to bargain for a good price. It is good to ask the locals what the market rate is going from one place to another before negotiating with the tuk-tuk driver. Take advantage of the fact that tuk-tuks are everywhere and ask them as you walk along (even if you don’t intend to go on them).
2. CHECK THE METER
If you are lucky and get a ride with a metered tuk-tuk, check the meter. The standard rate (December 2013) in Colombo starts off at 50 Rupees for the first kilometre. Subsequently, it should increase 1.50 Rupees per minute waiting time and/or 30 Rupees for the next kilometre. So if you see the meter running unusually fast, that should be a warning sign to get off and flag another!
3. FLAG IT DOWN
There is usually a bunch tuk-tuks waiting outside malls or famous tourist attractions. 80% of my experience involved a dodgy driver. I much prefer flagging down random tuk-tuks as it avoids the situation of being hoarded by a pack of tuk-tuk drivers aiming to pick up the tourists. Most of them will approach you and give you their “best rate” and believe me, they are very persuasive. Again, always insist on using the meter (but check that it’s working and not tampered with!)
4. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THE WAY
On so many occasions, I got into a tuk-tuk where the driver told me they know where they are going but they actually don’t. It is very frustrating as they will drive around, ask other drivers the way, take you in circles while the meter keeps on jumping. I’ve seen drivers asking the other locals for directions and getting a different answer each time. If you happen to be as unlucky as me, get off, pay the driver a minimal sum and get someone else.
Bonus tip: Have a map on you so that you have a rough idea where the driver is taking you. Some take longer routes in order to bump up the fares so beware!
5. USE THE SAME GOOD DRIVER
If you find a good and honest driver within the city/town you’re at, take down his number! Most of the time, they will be more than happy to offer their services again. Some might ask you for a small tip, but I much prefer paying slightly more knowing I’m in good hands.
(My friend and our reliable tuk-tuk driver who drove us from Mirissa to Galle)
I certainly hope these tips are helpful. I had so many dodgy experiences. Apart from being driven around town by a clueless driver, I had some who tried to charge extra halfway through the journey saying “it’s further than expected” and another telling us his meter worked but stopped working the minute we got in.
At the end of the day, I still enjoy riding the tuk-tuk. If you’re up for an adventure, you also have the option of renting your own tuk-tuk and exploring the country with it! I was reading about Marc and Carina’s experience here and I wish I had given it a shot! In the interview they even mentioned that they gave some school children free rides. Such kind hearted people!
photo credits via srilanka.for91days.com
Maybe you can give it a thought as well and tell me how it goes!
Peace & Love,