Southeast Asia Travel
If you’re heading to Southeast Asia soon, or are already there, here are some tips to keep in mind when you get ready to step into those little, fun, zippy carriages on motorbikes. Tuk tuks (pronounced took tooks) are fun, easy to get and generally for a great price. They’ll take you anywhere within the cities and some go longer distances. Try to carry a map with you so you can show them where you want to go. Most tuk tuk drivers can speak a small amount of English, however not too well. If you’re lucky, you’ll land a driver decently fluent in English and most of the time they’ll act as your own personal tour guide. This is wonderful because you get information from a true local.
If you absolutely love your tuk tuk driver, you can actually hire him for a second day. You give them a time and they’ll be there waiting for you to send those last few messages before you leave your Wi-Fi zone. Tuk tuks are one of those things you have to do when you’re in Southeast Asia because nobody else in the world does it like they do. However, like anything else, there is a method to follow to avoid getting overcharged or mislead. So follow these tips, stay safe and get your tuk tuk on!
Always agree on a price before you get in the tuk tuk. It’s very important to use those amazing haggling skills you’ve learned so far in your travels. If you’re a foreigner, chances are you will absolutely be overcharged on the first price given. Just imagine, foreigners look like a big, juicy dollar sign to them, so why wouldn’t they try to charge as much as they can. They’ve got to make their money too. However, most drivers are willing to haggle, so don’t get stuck paying more than a local, unless you’re stranded and absolutely have to. A general rule of thumb, cut their price in half and start with that.
Don’t Freak Out
Stand your ground when bombarded by a million drivers at once. And they will bombard you. Your first time is always slightly shocking because you feel like a confused prized gem everyone is fighting for. Ten or more drivers in your face at once gets a little annoying and/or stressful. Especially when they try to grab your arm or your belongings. So remember to breathe and stick to the price you want. One of them is bound to give in. If they don’t, walk away, hopefully in the direction you need to go. If you’re the claustrophobic type, I suggest avoiding large crowds of tuk tuks at all costs.
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Walk Away as Necessary
Don’t feel bad to walk away if no one budges on their price. Right around the corner is another tuk tuk who will be pleased to take your money. Also, please walk away if they are crass or rude in any way. Many of the drivers think it’s funny to ask women if you will have sex with them. Just walk away and try not to acknowledge them. Always remember to be aware when accepting rides from anyone you don’t know. It’s better to walk home than to put yourself in a weird or potentially dangerous situation. Don’t let that scare you away from tuk tuks, it’s just a reminder to always stay cautious. Most of the time, you’ll only have to walk away to avoid being overcharged; and if you do receive cat-calls, it’ll be more fun to wink and laugh with them (obviously, while you continue walking in the other direction).
Don’t Buy Drugs!
Don’t buy drugs from tuk tuk drivers! I’ll say it one more time, don’t buy drugs from tuk tuk drivers. You will get offered a multitude of different kinds. However, there are many risks to going through with this type of dangerous behavior. First of all, you never know what these tuk tuk drivers are actually selling you. For instance, some mary jane could actually be a bag of green tea.
Second of all, you don’t want to wind up in jail. I hope you’ll never have the pleasure of an undercover cop/military personnel dressed as a tuk tuk driver offer it to you. They will arrest you; for it is illegal to use drugs in this area. Remember there’s nothing worse than Southeast Asian prisons
Carry Your Own Bags
Oftentimes drivers will try to help you with your bags thinking they’re being nice. Although they might very well be nice, theft is also very common, so be wary and carry your own bags. Also, make sure to keep your cell phone inside of your bags and not in your hand or your pockets during the ride to avoid it getting stolen. Believe it or not, motorbikers are well known to steal phones directly from your hand and drive off into the distance as you stand or sit in despair knowing there’s no way you’ll ever see your handsfree device again.
Also, remember to treat the tuk tuk like a rollercoaster and keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times. Drivers in Southeast Asia already have enough to worry about on the roads, especially more than a hand sticking out of a tuk tuk. Might as well keep one hand on a handrail and the other on your bag to avoid either of you falling out when you take that turn a little to fast for comfort.
Remember to have fun while driving around in the organized chaos of Southeast Asia! The more you ride tuk tuks the better you will get at communicating with the drivers and the more money you will save in the long run. And always, safe travels.