Types of ‘one-of-a-kind’ tuk drivers in Sri Lanka!

1. The ‘no meter’ tuk

“No meter” *big grin*

Then comes the:

“Give me this much”. (Double of what I would have paid with the meter.)

Well you got on, so now might as well take the deal because you are half way there.

Helpful tip: If you get in a tuk without checking for a meter and realize it immediately after getting in. Say “Ah no meter no!” And ask him very politely (with a smile) to pull over. They might try to negotiate a fare. Unless its a steal of a deal, do not get back in that tuk! Say “Naa kamak naa, thank you/isthuthi” with a smile.

2. The ‘have meter but its not working today’ tuk

You get in seeing as there’s a meter but either the digits on it look like alien dialect or the tuk driver mentions the fact that it is broken. Repeat same escape mechanism mentioned in point No. 1. As soon as possible.

3. The ‘meter still wrapped in cellophane packaging’ tuk.

In some instances these meters are actually functioning, but sometimes they haven’t activated these meters, making our task more difficult. (So the meter is there as a luring mechanism?)

If they don’t reset it as soon as you get in, ask them tactfully if it’s working, if not, repeat steps in point No. 1.

4. I have a fully functioning meter but…

I have a fully functioning meter but shall we discuss a prize anyway? I say to this, give it a try but if he is ripping you off, immediately get off the tuk! (After he pulls over of course, no need of Bollywood worthy action scenes of jumping out of a moving tuk.)

5. You want to go from A to B? Let me take you go through CDF first!

This guy is ready to take you on a ride, which is why paying attention to the road is important. Because before you know it, you’ve circled around your destination twice and the meter has run amok.

Helpful note: Google map your route before catching a tuk just so you have a general idea of the roads surrounding your destination.

6. Oops! I turned into the wrong lane by mistake.

Do not. I repeat. Do not scroll your Facebook feed while you’re in a tuk because you just might end up in some wrong by lane, and to get back into the proper route might cost you double considering one-way roads and the overall confusion caused by the whole debacle.

It’s noteworthy that this could be a genuine mistake or a trick to bring up the meter reading, so be aware of where you are going the whole ride!

7. Too chatty. Too inappropriate.

The chatty ones with non stop questions. Beware if their conversations start with: “So which party did you vote for?” “That religion of course…” “What do you think about the country situation?”

I just usually smile, laugh or go “hmmm…” to indicate I agree with what they are saying with the minimum of words or sounds required to express it.

I for one believe that even if you can’t agree, agree anyway and/or stay neutral at the same time, then you have won this conversation. So say as little as possible. If they still don’t get it, well I hope you have your head phones with you.

Note: The thing is, the ride is a matter of getting from A to B without your safety compromised. You must do what you can to be tactful and safe.

Side note (1): I was once in a tuk on Vesak Day and the driver was trying to stop at all the ‘Danselas’ along the way. He would ask me if I wanted to stop, wait in line to get free ice cream, and all I wanted to do was go home before the Vesak traffic in the late evening. That incident in my book is inappropriate.

Side note (2): My mom once asked a tuk driver to take her to a building few blocks away since it was mid-day and sweltering hot, he yelled back and said that it is a loss on his part to take her on such a short ride, might as well walk it. So she did, and thankfully she had an umbrella. It’s great that she is a lighthearted person. I didn’t think it was that nice of the tuk driver to just blurt all that out.

Side note (3): My mom (again!) had an experience where, two ladies were waiting for a bus at the stop, and one tuk was parked without a driver. She asked them if they knew where the driver was at, and they yelled “Perera Aiye!” (tuk driver’s name) into the nearest convenience store.

No Perera Aiya showed up, but another tuk did, and my mother proceeded to get in it, when these two ladies also got in, (didn’t even ask my mom), and just said, “We are getting down somewhere close by, looks like the bus is getting late.” *Cheeky Grins*

My mom was very uncomfortable with this, but she allowed them to stay in the tuk. Mid way through the journey, one lady mentioned how she had no money. the other started shoving a Rs. 100 note at my mother. The ride is only Rs. 50, so my mother said it’s quite okay she will pay for them as well.

In the end, the driver was pretty uncomfortable with the whole thing as well since it was pretty unethical what these two ladies did, and in hindsight, my mom would have gotten down and allowed them to take the tuk and waited for the next one, since this experience was so unnecessary.

8. The I have no change trickster

Beware for some don’t genuinely have change and some just try for some luck. Often times if my journey costs Rs. 80 and I give them a hundred, there’s a chance of them going, “Rupial 20 na ne.” ( I don’t have 20 rupees on me.)

If I’m lucky, I am able to dig for change in the ungodly depths of my bag and find some change and manage to go home happily or be salty about the 20 bucks I lost.

9. Back-lighting and Mood lighting

Once I got into a tuk that had blue lights fixed behind the backseat and the light illuminated me in this eerie, creepy way. Few minutes later the lights turned red and then yellow. I felt like I was part of some slow motion rave!

10. The surround sound system

This is when a full blown sound system will act as the soundtrack to your epic tuk journey back home or to work and it feels anything but epic. In fact, the music, most of the time hinders your tuk ride, especially if you were hoping for a zen journey towards your destination! Oops! Prepare to be disappointed unless you are a fan of the music being played!

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2 Comment

  1. Your data is incredibly helpful.

    1. That’s great, thanks!

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