Named for the sound these little vehicles make, tuk tuks are taxis in Southern Asia. They have a small motorcycle motor, 3 wheels, a front seat for the driver and a rear seat for passengers. I doubt you could get one licensed and insured for use in the US. However, they move people, their shopping and hoards of tourists every day.
Drivers make money if they do a lot of runs. How do they manage this? Easy. They drive like crazy people. They go around other vehicles if they find a millimeter of space. They pass busses, cars and even loaded trucks going uphill. They also pass other tuk tuks. I was riding in one the other day when my driver passed a tuk tuk that was passing a third tuk tuk. Double line in the middle of the road indicates a challenge. Can you get around the vehicle in front of you without crashing into what might be coming ahead?
For me the worst part if this is that tourists need to negotiate the fare before getting into the tuk tuk. This involves a wholly unreasonable figure on the part of the driver while the tourist names a much lower one with the hopes of coming to an agreement. It’s a good idea to get out of the vehicle before you pay so that you can hand over the agreed amount of money and make a speedy get away.
The other day I caught a glimpse of a bride dressed in a red and gold saree, flowers in her lap, flanked by two other women. The tuk tuk wasn’t decorated for the occasion. Just making a run to drop off the bride for her wedding.
This was my driver negotiating a very narrow winding street with lots of oncoming traffic.
Today I rode a tuk tuk from the main railway station in Colombo to a bus station in the suburbs on the southeast side of the city. I planned to take an air conditioned bus to Galle, a 75 minute ride on the southern expressway. The tuk tuk driver actually, and start the eye ball raising now, suggested he drive me instead of taking the bus. I politely turned him down.