These three-wheeled open-aired Made in Thailand vehicles are unique to Thailand. They have their origin in samlors, the human-pedalled vehicles which predominated before World War 2, but the addition of Japanese made small engines changed that sector, and it continues to live on. They continue to be found in some places Bangkok, especially in tourist areas since they have some unique appeal to tourists. In small towns outside of Bangkok where there are few if any taxis, tuk-tuks are common.
The fare is negotiated. You may find that the fare comes out to be close to that of a taxi, for foreigners, so that the main benefit of tuk-tuks is the experience of the open air ride. The disadvantages include exposure to the pollution, the less comfortable ride and the heat if you stop at a traffic light for a long time. Of course, tuk-tuks are reasonable for only very short trips.
In tourist areas, it's common for tuk-tuks to offer sightseeing tours, which usually include stops at places where they say you can get great deals on shopping. You should decline these. The tuk-tuks get a commission, and the goods are often faked (especially jewelry) and/or overpriced. These tuk-tuk drivers are a big hassle, so you have to make clear that you are not interested in going or even talking about it.
However, most tuk-tuk drivers will just take you where you're going and not hassle you at all.
Tuk-tuk drivers are generally from very poor backgrounds and their English is worse than that of taxi drivers.
There are many tuk-tuk enthusiasts, and exports of this unique Thai invention have been taking off. For example, the British gentleman John Taylor uses them for his tour agency in England, www.TukTukTours.co.uk
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