http://www.goaway.sg/2015/08/18/tuk-tuks-of-the-world/

How Many Of These Tuk-Tuks Have You Ridden? Traveller

This post is about your humble tuk-tuk, the three-wheeler that you see on the streets of many Asian countries. The Furious Panda’s Redzuan Rahmat has been to several other countries where variants of the tuk-tuk exist, and have sat in many of them. The universal (or at least the most recognisable) name for them is the tuk-tuk, but other countries call them by very interesting names as well.

India

In India, tuk-tuks are known as autos (short for auto-rickshaw) – and they are everywhere. Best for short distances and, in some cities, best for people who are smog- and noise-resilient.

Tuk-tuks in India, called Autos, parked outside the Jagdish Temple in Udaipur, India.

Tuk-tuks in India, called autos, parked outside the Jagdish Temple in Udaipur, India. Photo: The Furious Panda

Tuk-tuks can not only carry passengers. This one from Thiruvananthapuram functions as banana storage.

Tuk-tuks don’t only carry passengers. This one from Thiruvananthapuram functions as banana storage. Photo: The Furious Panda

China

The tuk-tuks I’ve seen in China are more like mini three-wheeled lorries, which they call san lun (which translates to three wheels). I’ve also ridden on a more traditional motorcycle-like tuk-tuk in Guangdong’s countryside.

A three-wheeler san-lun parked in the Dong village of Zhaoxing in Guizhou, China.

A three-wheeler san lun parked in the Dong village of Zhaoxing in Guizhou, China. Photo: The Furious Panda

Indonesia

I see lots of them roaming the streets of Jakarta. The tuk-tuks are locally called the bajaj, after the manufacturer brand. These look very similar to the Indian model.

A bajaj driver on the streets of Jakarta. This one has a door for the at the front.

A bajaj driver on the streets of Jakarta. Photo: The Furious Panda

There is also another variant that I have seen in Sumatra. This one, called the becak, is a motorcycle attached to a sidecar, resembling a motorised cycle-rickshaw.

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Two becaks, the local variant of the tuk-tuk, sit unattended in Aceh city, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo: The Furious Panda

Cambodia

In Cambodia, they are also called tuk-tuks, but they look very different from the rest. They are motorcycles but with an attached carriage at the rear.

Across the street is the Cambodian tuk-tuk. This version has a very open carriage, which some people use to explore Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, where this photo was taken.

Across the street is the Cambodian tuk-tuk. This version has a very open carriage, which some people use to explore Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, where this photo was taken. Photo: The Furious Panda

Sri Lanka

Also known as tuk-tuks, the models in Sri Lanka are similar to the ones you find in India, albeit slightly modified. They come in all sorts of colours.

A row of colourful tuk-tuks in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.

A row of colourful tuk-tuks in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. Photo: The Furious Panda

Bangladesh

All the tuk-tuks I have seen in Dhaka are green in colour. They are known as CNGs, named after their fuel source. In fact, the reason why they are green is because they use the cleaner CNG fuel.

One oddity about the Dhaka CNGs is that all of them are grilled, separating driver from passenger, and passenger from the outside.

One oddity about the Dhaka CNGs is that all of them are grilled, separating driver from passenger, and passenger from the outside. Photo: The Furious Panda

Thailand

Oddly enough, despite being probably the first place I’ve seen a tuk-tuk, I don’t have any photos in my archive!

Pakistan

The variant of the tuk-tuk you find in Pakistan is unique. It’s more angular than the Indian/Sri Lankan/Indonesian models. They call them rikshaws, probably short for auto-rickshaws.

A rikshaw in one of Multan’s markets.

A rikshaw in one of Multan’s markets. Photo: The Furious Panda

Here is another kind of the tuk-tuk that I’ve seen in Pakistan. It is a motorcycle attached to a covered carriage that seats two facing the front, and two facing the rear.

On the central roundabout is this model of made-in-China tuk-tuk known locally as the Qingqi, after the brand name.

On the central roundabout is this model of made-in-China tuk-tuk known locally as the Qingqi, after the brand name. Photo: The Furious Panda

Ethiopia

Ethiopia also has tuk-tuks, and they are called bajajs (the same as in Indonesia). They are all uniformly blue in colour, with a white canvas top.

A Bajaj turns the corner in the city of Mek’ele in Ethiopia.

A bajaj turns the corner in the city of Mek’ele in Ethiopia. Photo: The Furious Panda

Sudan

The model of the tuk-tuk I found in Sudan is very much similar to the common ones listed. Known locally as rakshas, they come in various colours, not just the black yellow variant below.

Multiple rakshas on the roads of Karima, Sudan.

Multiple rakshas on the roads of Karima, Sudan. Photo: The Furious Panda

In my opinion, the tuk-tuk is the best way for a solo traveller to get around. More versatile than buses but cheaper than cabs, the tuk-tuk can take one passenger and one backpack comfortably. Most can take up to two or three passengers, though I’ve been squeezed in with five before. The tuk-tuk has a top speed of around 100 km/hr, though most are content to chug along at 60 km/hr. The biggest advantage of a tuk-tuk over a cab is that it is able to slip in and out of little side roads and bypass heavy traffic jams. They are also surprisingly able to cut through rough terrain. It’s perhaps not the best form of transport if you are sensitive to dust and fumes, since most tuk-tuk models are exposed to the outside environment. Also, they don’t do steep inclines very well.

This post was originally published in Redzuan’s travel blog, The Furious Panda

Redzuan Rahmat is a travel fanatic who yearns to see everything and experience everything. Red loves visiting unusual destinations and is equally comfortable getting lost in museums, mountains, and malls. He spends his spare time obsessing about his next trip, usually to some remote corner of the world. He blogs about his adventures & misadventures on The Furious Panda.


With wanderlust flowing in her veins, Lili has always had grand dreams of travelling the world, escaping to exotic locales and experiencing different cultures. Whenever Life gets too much for her, she reaches straight for her earphones to tune out the world. More than just a temporary distraction, music has a profound way of taking her to places that stir the soul.

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