Once you have arrived in Asia, you will see a lot (!) of Tuk-Tuk’s. Also in Sri Lanka the three-wheeled taxis are commonly used and you will see and hear them everywhere. As soon as you step out of the airport, you stroll through markets or you just try to cross the street, locals will try to pick you up by inviting you with a (sometimes friendly) “Tuk-Tuk?” or “transport?”. Driving Tuk-Tuk in Sri Lanka is fun and here you will get some advice to travel safe and cheap.
For short distance rides (up to 30 min) from A to B they are the ideal way of transport. Surprisingly, two people (we managed to drive with four as well) plus baggage will have enough space in these small vehicles to wind around cars, other Tuk-Tuk or Vans.
In the tropical heat, especially at Sri Lanka’s coast, you will enjoy the airstream in your face. Once you decided to take a Tuk-Tuk, try to trust the driver :) The traffic is chaotic, loud and hectic but stressing yourself out won’t help. So just lean back and enjoy the adventure.
It is always cheaper for tourists to take taxis with taximeter but as the minority of Tuk-Tuk’s in Sri Lanka have these machines, it’s recommended to agree on a price before. Happy bargaining! Having said that, drivers do not bargain as much as people do in Thailand or some other Asian countries. They start with a lot more reasonable price and you won’t be able to push the price more than 100 LKR (which is less than a Dollar). To find out which price is a good deal just decline the first offer and turn away. After doing so, drivers who still want to make business, will decrease the price to an “almost local” price.
Of course, sometimes we paid more than a local would do, but in the end you are bargaining for 50 cents. And the good thing about all these Tuk-Tuk’s is: You will never spend time looking for a taxi. A small rule of thumb is 50-100 LKR / km.
Important note: Do not be relieved after the Tuk-Tuk driver told you he knows where the place is. Our experience: They do not! That’s why we recommended in our article Sri Lanka Budget Backpacking: Get mobile data to tell them where to go.
If you do not have data you will find yourself asking fruit- or fish salesmen for the best way to the place you want to go. If you plan to go more than 15 kilometers we won’t recommend taking a Tuk-Tuk but a train or bus is always cheaper. In Sri Lanka trains are really convenient and impress with awesome views. Trains are from 40-200 LKR depending on class and distance.
Tuk-Tuk per km: ca. 50-100 LKR
As you now know the prices you need to expect, enjoy the typical Asian thing. Stepping into a Tuk-Tuk means you arrived! Safe travels!