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Tuk-Tuk in India: Unconventional Transports You Can Find in This Country

Okay, so you are all set to travel to India – the colourful country with a lot to explore, learn, and take back from. From the majestic monuments to exotic flora and fauna to fascinating culture and traditions to lip-smacking delicacies and some of the most interesting daily stories – India has so much to offer and get you indulged in.

To note the last one first, India on roads is really interesting. With multiple flavours tempting your senses, vibrant hues grabbing your attention, and a unique blend of rugged yet natural vibes in the ambiance, the city trip is a roller-coaster ride, especially when you are travelling on a Tuk-

Indian Tuk-Tuk
Indian Tuk-Tuk
Tuk in India – the most iconic three-wheeled vehicle of the country.

Tuk-Tuk – an experience, to say the least

Imagine zipping through Indian roads in peak hours of traffic in the most visible and most famed vehicle which makes it a hallmark experience for tourists. These interesting modes of transport and the etiquette and rules and tricks to hail them – all together can be an experience and a mystery especially for the first-time travellers.

  What is a Tuk-Tuk?

Also known as auto-rickshaws, rickshaws, or simply auto, Tuk-Tuks are the most widely afforded modes of transport in India. They are fast, readily available, easily connected from one place to another, and refreshing a ride too.

  Are Tuk-Tuks safe?

Now, this is a relatable as well as questionable point. The structure of Tuk-Tuk doesn’t give you enclosed support as a hired taxi would offer. Passengers are indeed exposed to the elements, and it is not really possible to avoid pollution and weather bashes. However, accidents don’t happen too often and the fact that the travel is faster and easier as compared to bus and train, Tuk-Tuk in India gets an upper hand.

Tuk-Tuks in Mumbai Street
Tuk-Tuks in Mumbai Street

Take a Tuk in India
Take a Tuk to Attraction

  Get welcomed by Tuk-Tuks – we call it ‘compassion’!

The moment you would step out of railway stations or bus stands, you would be greeted (read insisted) by the auto drivers to tag along for a city tour or at least till hotel. However, this encounter is less likely to happen outside most international airports!

  Charges and negotiation

 If you are stepping out of a railway station or airport, get ready to get a pre-paid auto. The reason is obvious, as the pre-paid services would cost you 2-3 times cheaper as compared to the rate hiked by the nagging rickshaw drivers.

You can also book a Tuk-Tuk as arranged by the management of your pre-scheduled hotel. It is often an all inclusive service, or at competitive rates, and the sight of your driver waiting for you with a little placard is much relaxing after a long journey.

Negotiate the Tuk Fee
Negotiate the Tuk Fee
In case of day-trips, you can either book a Tuk-Tuk service from hotel itself or pre-negotiate one from outside asking them to pick you from your hotel at scheduled time.

Pro tip: Always ask a local resident beforehand the estimated ride charges between your destinations. That way, it would be easier for you to negotiate and finalize.

  Metered or fixed fare – ensure beforehand

In several metro cities like Mumbai and Kolkata, Tuk-Tuk charges run on meter or a fixed rate varying in distance and locations. However, chances are high that the drivers might nudge to put down the regular meter charges. In those cases, look for another and then another till you can negotiate and get the best deal.

Pro tips: It is good to mention here that sneaky meter scams are witnessed often, if not very commonly everywhere. Again, it is best to enquire a local about the possible meter rate from your hotel to where you are booking the auto from!

Tips to follow while travelling in Tuk-Tuk in India:

a)  Make sure to fit your entire body within the cabin

Upon saying that, there should be no sticking your hand out, or letting your knee stick out the side, or poking your head to catch better views. This is very risky with the kind of traffic India has, and can lead to bumps, bangs and bruises.

b)  Know the maximum passenger permit

Hunt for Relatively Newer Tuktuks
Hunt for Relatively Newer Tuktuks
The maximum number of passengers allowed in a Tuk-Tuk is 3 (or 4 or 2 in some cities). Extra passengers are carried on extra money, depending on the driver, city and length of the journey. But then, this is often illegal and can run into legal trouble if caught by the traffic police.

c)  Do carry a clean handkerchief

This is to cover your face as you are exposed to dust, pollution and also to extreme weather conditions.

d)  Hunt for relatively newer vehicles

Not only would you be relieved of the on-road safety of the vehicle, but it would be less noisy, and would have their engine at the rear unlike the old ones at the front. Tuk-Tuk in India is often a bumpy ride. So opting for new and maintained vehicles would also ensure you don’t get backache at the end of the journey.

e)  Always carry change and smaller currency

Don’t hand over big currency notes to the driver, as he might not have the changes ready and he might try to round up the fare. Do carry changes and smaller currencies (in INR) to pay the exact amount.

f)  Minor breakdowns might happen – take it easy

Yes, you might face some minor breakdowns while travelling in Tuk-Tuk in India. Mainly because the vehicles are running continuously, and there are no proper maintenance schedules for these, the autos are prone to damages at time. Do wait for the repair done by the driver himself, or look for another auto.

g)  Be ready for the continuous honking, or some loud music!

Honking is common, and often considered normal. So is loud music (mostly Bollywood music) playing at the loudest volume? Either bear with those, or you may request the driver to go easy with the same.

h)  Tipping is NOT compulsory

Liked his driving? Loved the way he guided you to places? You may ask the driver to keep the change. But remember, it is not compulsory to tip every auto drivers, especially the ones breaking traffic rules, the rude and unruly ones, and the ones asking for extras.

Keep these few things in mind, and you are all set to take your memorable and exciting ride of Tuk-Tuk in India. Happy exploring Indian roads the Tuk-Tuk way!

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