One of Thailand’s and even Laos’ and Cambodia’s most iconic symbols have to be the auto rickshaw, otherwise cutely known as the tuk-tuk. Yes, this name comes from the sounds of the engine chugging the vehicle along the road. Many visitors are very keen for a ride on these machines, if not for their novelty value then for the ease at which these automobiles navigate through the roads.

These three-wheeled vehicles, also known as the auto rickshaw, are fun to ride and because of its open frame design, are great for exploration. Not only are they great for weaving through cluttered traffic, they are also suitable for narrow alleyway travel. This makes a ride on a tuk-tuk faster, even though they are slower than other cars on the road. The auto rickshaw’s open frame design also gives you the feeling of ‘being there’ at all the destinations while the auto rickshaw takes you to your spot.

The auto rickshaws in each country are similar in function but have strikingly different designs and appearances that make each one quite unique from the other. In Siem Reap, it is nothing more than a motorcycle attached to a wheeled trailer while in Phnom Penh, the tuk tuk is a one piece vehicle.

Laos’ versions come as tuk-tuks or jumbos. The jumbos have a larger engine and cabin sizes (for some cars, up to 12 people can squeeze in) and hive higher top speeds than their more ‘conventional’ cousin. Other than a few exceptions, the jumbos are only found in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

Thailand’s standard tuk-tuks are seen mostly in Bangkok other variations exist in other cities). These are three-wheeled one piece vehicles with a driver steering it similar like a motorbike and space for passengers to sit in the back. Three can sit comfortable, but it is also possible to cram in more. Many Thai auto rickshaw companies now produce low emission vehicles, and even old ones are having new engines fitted along with LPG conversions. This certainly helps with the city touring experience.

There’s one thing common about each country’s tuk-tuks. There are no meters, meaning you will have to negotiate a fare beforehand. Make sure to do this before you get on the vehicle, as the driver may demand an outrageous price after reaching your destination.

Tour some of Southeast Asia’s most important cities, both past and present with our Colorful Capitals tour. Of course, tuk-tuk trips are included in this package. But more importantly, you’ll get to experience Southeast Asia, from its temples, historical ruins, sprawling cities, colorful culture and heritage. For more in Southeast Asia, check out our multi-country tours.

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