The three-wheeled multi-coloured vehicles come zipping around every corner with smiling drivers, whisking their passengers around the city.
While tuk tuks are used by everybody locally and tourists themselves quickly embrace them as the best mode of transport, they can seem a little daunting at first. We’ve put a full guide together answering all the questions you need.
1. How do you actually hail a tuk tuk?
There are tens of thousands of tuk tuks around Colombo. These are the best ways to hop into one…
- Hail one roadside: You’ll want to clearly agree the pricing upfront. They are easy to find and you shouldn’t wait more than 2-3 minutes.
- Hail one using an app: There are several apps which you can download to your phone providing greater safety and tracking. Try TukTuk for a reliable service.
- Ask your hotel, bar or restaurant to call one: Most establishments work with their own reputable tuk tuks. They might be slightly more expensive but they will be trustworthy, and they always know where they’re going.
2. How much do they cost?
There are three types of tuk tuk and the cost will vary accordingly…
- Metered: By law all tuk tuks should have a metre. You can clearly track the cost of the journey as it progresses.
- Non-metered: You will have to agree a price in advance with the driver. It is important you do this before setting off and set the price in stone.
- Apps.:The cost is all calculated via the app and can be tracked accordingly. On the TukTuk app, they start at LKR 35/= per km.
Most journeys are less than a couple of American dollars. Feel free to negotiate with non-metered drivers though, as they will often overstate the price to start off with.
3. Are they safe?
For the most part, yes. You do need to take care that you are not scammed on the cost of hiring the tuk tuk. Using an app or booking via your hotel, bar or restaurant is an extra level of security.
It might seem like traffic is crazy, but the drivers are well used to navigating the manic roads.
4. How do you explain the route?
Many drivers have no English at all. If they are using an app you won’t have an issue as their phone shows them the route.
You should download the map on your phone before getting off the WiFi, so as you can show them visually on the map where to go. Bear in mind that because of the windy tight streets you may end up having to give the final directions.
5. Can you hire a tuk tuk for an entire day?
Yes! It’s a very economical way to see the city. The drivers are happy to get a full day’s work and will show you all the sights in the city for between $5 and $20 a day, depending on how much you negotiate the price.
6. What are the main tuk tuk scams to look out for?
The main scam is the price changing. Make sure the that fare is very much locked in before you set off.
Drivers may take longer routes on metered tuk tuks to bump up the fare. You can combat this by pre-loading the information into your phone maps app.
7. Any additional tips?
- Keep your belongings close to you inside the tuk tuk. It’s easy for people passing by to reach in and grab stuff.
- Tip your driver if you have a good and safe journey. The tip might be small to you but it will be a lot for the driver.
- Ask a good driver to wait for you or pick you up again at a specified time. They will be happy for the guaranteed work.