Important advice on travelling by tuk-tuk and three-wheelers in Sri Lanka
Tuk-tuks (also known as “rickshaws” around the world) are a major feature in Sri Lanka. In urban areas, they play a valuable part in transporting people who cannot afford the luxury of a private car but wish to avoid taking a bus. They are extremely useful for travellers to get around villages, towns and cities at all times of the day and night. They can be a blessing when you wish to commute from one village to another and do not have a private car at your disposal.
Prices should always be negotiated ahead of your trip, however short it may be and even if you have already done the same route on another tuk-tuk.
If you’re traveling for the first time in Sri Lanka, you will have to bargain for a good price. As you do not have prior experience, 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.
Tuk-tuks come with meters. If your driver insists on using the meter, you should know that the standard rate in Colombo is Rs.50 for the first kilometre and Rs.30 for the next kilometres. If your driver does not know the way, get off and look for another one. If on the contrary, you find a good driver on arriving in a place, you would be better off asking him to come back and pick you up for the next ride.
Some tourists have managed to rent tuk-tuks for durations ranging from a day to a month from tuk-tuk owners. This is not a very common occurrence and hence you should know that it could be a very long and tiring experience if you want to get it for a good price. We do not have first-hand experience of tuk-tuk hiring but the prices quoted for a day are in the range of Rs. 600 per day without fuel. You do not need a special licence to ride a tuk-tuk. Any driving licence will do provided you can furnish the tuk-tuk registration papers and insurance. It is advisable to try to ride a tuk-tuk to verify your aptitude and the vehicle’s road-worthiness before embarking on this unusual mode of getting around Sri Lanka. Remember that tuk-tuks can easily roll and flip if you negotiate a very sharp turn and the result can be very dangerous.
The Sri Lankan Ministry of Toursim organises an annual Tuk Tuk Challenge with about 20 participating teams in a rally that lasts about 9 days in the month of September.