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In-city & country Trans

in-city & country wide

So we have made it to our lodging, taken a shower, & relaxed a bit — so, let’s travel.

But 1st, of course, one last safety discussion.

Much of the harsh and soft crime info in the “Airport to Lodging Transportation” post is totally applicable to transportation in-town and long-distance.

Historically, in developed nations, while taxis & tours have been the tourist’s prime transportation around cities & countryside, SIT travelers, once acclimated to Uber and a city’s local bus & commuter trains as well as Asia/Africa’s slew of traditional tuk-tuks, etc SIT traveler have many more interesting options.

Reminder of Pre-Trip Safety Resources:

“Additional” Safe Practices: 

1. Search target country’s travel notifications, if any.
2. Check out social media as well as travel forums & blogs like mine.


◀︎◀︎◀︎   Scroll UP ▲ to return here to TOC)

NOTE: TripAdvisor Forums < attempts to carry on the defunct Thorn Tree Forum tradition.

3. Search US State Department’s Travel Advisories for individual countries. 

   Site also provides:
       a)  auto Advisory Alerts to cell etc. 
       b) Subscribe to STEP Program: get up-to-date safety & security information & allow USSD to reach you in an emergency abroad. 

   Note 1: WADR, I tried to enroll for 10 or more years without success. You may have success.
   Note 2: I have occasionally checked United Kingdom’s site for more info

US State Department: Travel site.  


ANECDOTE: Failure to research: "research" =  time & money saved. In India a young EURO couple recounted to me how they had been duped by a taxi driver scheme into staying at the wrong hotel, taking a very expensive guided trip, etc, etc, etc at an inflated cost of $800 US vs maybe $150.

          Safe Practice:  Yet the guide books, Lonely Planet’s Thorntree Forum (closed now) & other online resources at that time recounted exactly this scam.  

Apparently, ‘research’ was too expensive an investment for these folks. 


I. City Uber/Taxi services:

The taxi risks & Safe Practices of city taxis & Uber services are the same as airport taxis & Uber, without the Airport or government’s oversight protection, so please take a moment to review.


— Taxis: Again please review airport taxi/Uber Safe Practices [pplk: Airport .~ post]

In town, most lodgings can immediately order a reliable cab driver with whom they have good working experience. This taxi/hotel relationship benefits all: taxi driver, hostel & you thus ensuring a high level of safety & service for you.

Taxis congregate at high-traffic points outside major hotels or transport hubs). Of course, always normal to 'hail' a passing taxi.

CAUTION: you have none of Uber or the hotel's recommended safeguards: no connection or driver history with taxi drivers. You MUST TRUST your INSTINCTS.    You & $s are at greatest risk. 

Tesla & others envision entire fleets of autonomous taxis worldwide which should neutralize the dangers & scams taxis present …. rendering this discussion moot. 

But for the moment we must assume that all taxi scams are in play .... and protect ourselves until the future arrives. 

— Uber & Uber-likes:  

Uber, is, of course, the much superior & safer option; ultimately robotaxis will be. Again please review airport taxi/Uber Safe Practices.       [pplk: Airport .~ post]

      ANECDOTE: Uber & foreign girls. (not sure of anecdote source). In India, a small pack of foreign girls booked a long 5h 13 min / 223 mi trip from Karni Mata Temple (aka Rat Temple), Deshnoke, Rajasthan (south of Bikaner) to Jalismer by Uber. (

I suspect the $80>$95 cost was worth it because they 1) avoided 1 night's lodging costs & 2) predictable speed & safety.


                             Please review [pplk: Airport .~ post]

      “Additional” Safe Practices:

    1. UBER & TAXI:

Before trip, have a native speaker write down your destination in English (for you) and in your host country’s language (for your driver)  so you both are on the same page. Uber driver already knows destination, of course.

This practice is very useful when navigating on your own. I do this for restaurant menus & food allergies, multiple-leg legs, prices, etc.

    2. UBER:

       (a) Choose a safe pick-up spot inside hostel to see arriving Uber.
       (b) Uber driver already knows, but confirm price & destination on Uber app with a driver.    See  'a.' immediately above

    3. TAXI —

      a) Before trip, SAVE Google Maps destination & route map
      b) Show taxi driver Google Maps route PIK K9 girl w/ google map.  so he knows you know ‘correct’, most cost/time efficient route in case he has an ulterior reason to deviate AND to guide him, if confused. Remember your Taxi/Uber driver’s minimal credentials.  [pplk: Airport .driver’s background~ post]
     c) BEFORE entering Uber vehicle:
        1) agree on price & destination. Almost ALWAYS negotiate. 
        2) Write down & show driver for his confirmation, or
        3) show driver actual money for his further confirmation.
        4) If Taxi driver still tries to ‘stiff you’ at the ride’s end either:   PIK K9 police
              (a) hand him the agreed-upon fare 
              (b) refuse to pay and start to walk away, or 
              (c) indicate you want police to decide (anything that sounds like ‘police’ usually works.) Use cell phone to pretend to call police.


ANECDOTE: intentionally drops you at wrong location 

          ... be able to recognize your destination.

With a hostel-recommended taxi driver I made a 76 mi round trip from Bagan, Myanmar to Mount Popa hike’s trailhead. Trip included driver waiting for my return from hike & drive back to Bagan hostel.

Instead, this driver tried to ‘dump’ me off in town 1½ miles DOWNHILL from my actual hike’s trailhead .... whose location he knew. Obviously, this drop-off point would add 1½ uphill miles to my mountain hike, but apparently, his girlfriend was waiting in town. 

I refused to get out until he finally drove me up to the trailhead. Remember I had not yet paid him, and .. would not pay until back at hostel. Remember, I could always take a different taxi back to hostel.

            Safe Practice: returning driver

        1) If hostel arranges a taxi/tuk-tuk, make sure hostel person clearly knows what you expect before booking.
        2) Get a full trip price from hostel in advance. NOTE: probably has a higher cost than a street-hailed taxi, but safer & more reliable.
        3) In advance, use Google/Apple Maps to show driver your destination for her confirmation. Most drivers appreciate directions.
        4) Have key info (destination, return pick up time & price) in both English & local language & confirm with driver.  
    The more the driver knows that you are vigilant -- less likely to scam. Remember, driver’s livelihood depends on his good hostel relationship.
        5) Never pay any part of round trip fare until back where agreed.
        6) Calmly stand your ground.











“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic within it.” — Goethe

ANECDOTE: Driver agrees to return later to pick-up.

         ... so she can earn $ during your 1 hr+ site visit

In Quito, Ecuador (& elsewhere, I am positive) taxi competition is so great that when I will spend 1- 2 or more hours at a site, our agreed roundtrip fare allows driver to seek other fares, returning to pick me up at our agreed time.

Remember, your driver feeds his family with every fare he squeezes out of his shift. Most will always return at the appointed hour. You should also— and be timely, fair, patient & flexible.

Remember you have not paid anything yet, so she will be back to get you at your agreed time. 

        “AdditionalSafe Practices: 

        1) Pay NOTHING until your driver returns, and completes final agreed-upon trip.

        2) Double-check & write down if necessary, time of his agreed return. Don’t make driver wait, she may be losing business.














Countryside & foreign immigrant drivers

NOTE: In major cities taxi drivers are often foreign immigrants or migrants from the countryside seeking a better life and desperate even for the driver’s low-paying wage; requiring little education or minimal host country’s language skills to drive a car, tuk-tuk or rickshaw.



ANECDOTE:  Lost tuk-tuk driver

... countryside or foreign immigrants may still lack local knowledge

In Bangkok, Thailand I asked my tuk-tuk driver to, "Take me to Royal Barges Museum across river. He drove us to the wrong place, when I quickly realized he was an immigrant & did NOT know Bangkok. 

I pulled out my guidebook's map & showed him our destination.

Such rural folk have migrated by the millions from Asian countryside & other countries to major cities hoping to earn enough money to send home to improve their family’s quality of life.

Mea Culpa: Partly my fault. If I had followed the Safe Practices I NOW know & preach I would have shown him my Google Maps route ensuring he understood where I was going.

    Safe Practice:

            1) In advance, using Google Maps /Apple Maps show driver your destination & get his confirmation.     Most drivers will appreciate these specific directions.

            2) Your mutual fare agreement before trip, secures your timely arrival & driver’s most efficient time use. He can’t afford to be wrong. 











II. Big City Metro/Commuter Trains: 

For our purposes we’ll lump all similar train-like modes together: light rail, metros & subways & trams, even thothere are some significant differences      [pplk: Airport .~ transportation post]

These urban rail transport systems are designed for relatively few people being moved quickly from stop to stop around the city and its suburbs …. except during peak hours (pre & post) work day times when these trains are jammed packed.  PIK

In contrast, long-distance railroads are designed to haul many people. between large cities in relative passenger comfort, sometimes at very high speeds; stopping at smaller cities en route. 

In some countries, as a convenience to local folks, the train may even make a pre-arranged countryside stop where nothing can be seen except a faint pathway into the woods. PIK


Usually at terminals and dedicated platforms. PIK

B. LUGGAGE & Stuff risks: 

Usually, no space is allocated for luggage because most locals have none.

So, you may clutter, if not outright block, the aisle with your traveler’s luggage spawning the considerable, obvious annoyance of regular passengers who must navigate past your suitcase, etc.  PIK

Your greatest risks are snatch & grab thieves & pickpockets as described earlier & above. Please review at    [pplk: Airport .~ transportation post]

TIP: Keep backpacks on floor to take up less shoulder-level space.


Passengers constantly jammed in tightly, body touching body, yet simultaneously jostling each other while others get on or off. Perfect 'hunting ground' for even the most incompetent pickpockets.

If peak jammed hours, keep all bags on floor; one hand  PIK on each if possible or ideally, connected to you [pplk: Resources: ??? post] 

Remember, extremely difficult for you to quickly react & stop a thief’s “grab & bolt” out thru closing doors. 

        Safe Practices:

    1. MY PRIMARY RULE: Always “grasp, ‘feel’ or stare at my luggage items.

        a. ALWAYS grasp rolling luggage with 1 hand …. PERIOD

        b. Carry day pack on my back … locked closed with airline cable.

        c. NOTEs:

              (1) If standing on crowded bus or tram, — put your day pak on floor or attached on top of rolling luggage, (Scott PIKs), and ...

              (2) If seated, slip one leg thru your day pack’s shoulder straps. (PIKs)    Never take your hands off your main bag.

    2. Some companies prohibit tourist luggage during peak hours.

    3. Unless getting off quickly, stay away from doors — too easy for a thief to escape with your bag.

    4. Keep your back against train’s side or facing seated people.

    5. Be observant, look people in the eye so they know you are alert.

III. City Public Bus system: 

Local city or municipal bus systems are designed to give convenient, albeit usually slow, transportation service everywhere within an  entire city for the convenience of its citizens. Travelers use it to cheaply get to otherwise difficult-to-reach places in a city …  often requiring more than 1 transfer between buses. 

Except during rush periods most passengers are just normal folks going about their life. Yet, pickpockets while not intentionally hunting,  are always opportunistic.

        Risks: obvious!!! 

While more relaxed environment except during rush hours, be very sensitive to the convenience of other passengers getting on & off. 

Still wise to use Safe Practices discussed in “Large Metro Systems” above. Please review. [pplk: Airport .~ transportation post]

IV. Long Distance Trains/Bus:

Long Distance Train & Bus infrastructure & amenities vary 
with each country, city size & its economy. ‘Long distance’ systems usually offer more convenient benefits and unique risks.

Long distance buses access more remote, less visited places that planes & trains can’t easily reach. Unfortunately, such remote destinations may make you hostage to the scams of long-distance bus drivers in collusion with others.

Long-distance railroads are designed to haul many people between large cities in relative passenger comfort on inflexible rail systems sometimes at very high speeds while stopping at smaller cities en route.

In some countries, the train will even make a pre-arranged countryside stop for a specific passenger where no road or path can be seen.

A. Access:

1. Long Distance Trains:

Train systems may be Government or privately owned, but through mutual agreement tend to operate seamlessly across borders. They have online information services & booking

No surprise that I almost always use Rome2rio for ticket search and then migrate to aggregators and specific railroad companies.

There are several online websites that provide specialized in providing train information service & tickets and rail passes for travel in Europe & Asia. 1) Euro Rail:; &.  2) Asia Trains

Also, some bloggers have become the expert single sources for train travel information: Seat 61

2. Long Distance Buses: 

OTOH, slower long-distance buses attempt to inexpensively provide a similar service between more moderate-sized cities serving small villages in out-of-the-way areas making for an interesting traveler’s journey.  PIK

Asia’s Long distance bus infrastructure may be haphazard & chaotic, but ultimately decipherable. Most train & bus stations, and travel hubs offer windows & ticket kiosks … again with multiple plans with varying features

Regional Bus depots/hubs are dominated by a mix of struggling private bus companies serving outlying villages & routes. Profitability on some routes is so fragile that buses are often used until they absolutely cannot be economically repaired. 

Noise, smoke and sometimes cooling air migrate up thru large holes in floor surrounding the engine. Truly an adventure for travelers, but reality for them. 

B. Luggage security:

Primary luggage safety differences between airport trains & shuttles and long-distance trains & buses are 1) passengers’ tendency to sleep, 2) night time dimmed interior lighting to facilitate sleep, and 3) frequent stops to let passengers on & off.

1. Long Distance Trains

Same as Airport > City & Metro, Light Trains: Take all luggage on board to store in large luggage racks, if any, & overhead racks or your compartment  PIK

2. Long Distance Buses

Under bus luggage storage compartments & interior overhead racks are mostly identical to Airport Shuttle buses. Please re-read earlier post section:  [pplk: Airport .~ transportation post].  PIK

C. Personal Safety:

I am unaware of any significant pattern of danger to passengers, nor have I experienced any threats on long-distance trains & buses that is not inherent in society at large. In any context, we should be aware of who is around us and act prudently.

Please review my Airport Personal Safety guidelines: [pplk: Airport .~ transportation post]

D. Potential Risks & Scams:

Long-distance trains & buses have several benefits with companion risks: 

        1. less expensive than flying, but, so also for opportunistic pickpockets & scammers. 

        2. Local vendors walk the aisles:

Often local vendors will jump on a train or bus and walk the train’s length selling snacks & drinks and then get off at the next stop and do the same on returning train.

While very entrepreneurial, equally entrepreneurial pickpockets may be embedded opportunistically to fleece inattentive or sleeping passengers.  A small ticket price back & forth, if the target opportunity is great enough.

I have NEVER witnessed same.

Normally, just hard-working country folks selling local stuff for an income to help feed their families. Remember train /bus riders may inherently be wealthier than the vendors.

        3. save a night’s hotel cost on an overnight “sleeper” train/bus. 

A sleeper train/bus is a great economizer, saving a night’s lodging. 

Unfortunately, it is harder to secure your belongings when asleep even if in a small compartment with 2-4 others. You must have strategies for protecting your belongings while/when asleep. [pplk: Soft Crime post]. ???  

     1) Bag compartments locked & secured to bed, plumbing, etc,

     2) passport & money carefully under sheets & pillow at compartments wall so difficult see & reach.


ANECDOTE: camera theft / sleeper train

Colombia bus camera theft / great China sleeper train

      ANECDOTE 1: Colombia to Ecuador bus: Stolen Camera

8064A2. In Quito, Ecuador a young woman’s boyfriend lamented to me of his girlfriend’s loss of an expensive camera worn over her shoulder while she slept on a bus from Columbia to Quito during the chaotic Venezuelan citizen exodus to Columbia & Ecuador. This specific night-bus theft risk was well documented on the Internet.  

     ANECDOTE 2: Datong to Xi'an, China sleeper train [pplk: sub-post: Day pak cable/lock. post] 

I rode the ‘night train’ from Datong > Xi’an reminding myself of my earlier solo trips across Canada when I was 10 & 12. Love trains.

I attached my rolling luggage bag to the overhead luggage rack in the aisle outside our permanently open 4 person compartment with my airline cable so I could see it whenever I looked up. My day pak beside my head against cabin wall.












1) Research internet for latest scams/thefts / soft crimes; not to be frightened, but rather prepared
2) Lock bags closed with airline cable. [pplk: sub-post: Day pak cable/lock. post]
3) Lock bags together & to something immovable (bed, plumbing, etc) 
4) If possible connect bag to you [sub-pil lk.] 
5) Keep valuables out of sight always, if possible, particularly if sleeping on a night bus/train. 
6) Sleep with small expensive items under bed covers between you & wall.
7) Wear money belt when a sleep
8) Be sneaky don’t advertise expensive possessions or money
9) Hide & secure cameras under clothing:  Videocameras/cameras should be strapped over your head & under one arm & hidden beneath a jacket or rolled up dress shirt wrapped around your waist so difficult to see & (but not impossible) to get off you while you are asleep. .

1) [ytlk:  to come]: Daypak & Rolling Luggage , 2) [spillk: ] My video camera straps ???,3) (pplk); (?) daypack & roll lug 4) (PIK)


NOTE: While potentially ripe hunting for pickpockets & ‘snatch & grabbers’, regional bus depot buses are usually completely safe, but I did encountered an exception.  A real doozy! 


ANECDOTE: Hanoi long-distance bus scam

Your brain usually 'deals' with scams U can't see coming -- TRUST brain.

      ANECDOTE: Hanoi bus to Ba Bể Nat’l Park scam. 

With my hostel's innocent assistance, I booked a bus to Bến Thuyền Bó Lù  S in Ba Bể National Park on lake Ho Ba Be’s south side. From there I would then walk 2-3 miles east to Mr. Linhs’ Homestay overlooking the lake which I had pre-booked for several days overlooking the lake. 

The bus picked me at my hostel and drove directly to chaotic main bus depot. At this point with no warning or scam premonition, we were ushered onto another bus. This is not necessarily unusual as bus companies jockey for efficiency. 

The journey began. 

Perhaps 4 1/2 hours later the bus abruptly stopped alongside the dark night’s roadside several miles beyond the last little village. 

Summarily, we passengers were advised that the bus could take us no farther. I have no detailed recollection of the bamboozling lies we were told during the back & forth phone calls that our tour agent allegedly had with his tour office in Hanoi.  But after several such fruitless telephone calls and multiple phony apologies, the bus was going no farther. We were left stranded on the road.

At this time we were also advised that for whatever reason (which was never made clear) we were on the north side somewhere outside of Bến Thuyền Ba Bể village —perhaps the last we passed and a long, long way from the lake a long long long way from the south side's boat dock near Nha Nghi Son Lam Homestay in Bến Thuyền Bó Lù village which we were destined for. So, what options?

Behind the bus ¼ mi was a lit service station & convenience store, but ‘fortunately’ LOL, directly ahead we could see a motel complex. Our agent and bus driver were most confident that we might very well be accommodated in the motel complex. Having no new alternative the bus drove us there.

The proprietor ‘sympathizing’ (LOL) with our plight delightfully advised us that they could accommodate us… at a nightly rate that was multiples of norm AND the next day we could join (Choice? No!) their lake tour which at the end would drop us on lake’s south side at our original destination, Bến Thuyền Bó Lù village. The lake tour was, of course, exorbitantly priced. 

Obviously, by now we realized we were part of a well organized scam involving the original bus driver, current bus driver & motel owner. But what to do?

The young doctor and I chatted, and she & I decided that before we committed to this extortion we would walk back up the road to the service station in hopes we could find a solution there for getting to other side of lake that evening as we had initially planned. 

At the service station, they advised that they had no vehicles, only two motorcycles not normally used as taxis. However, after some discussion & an agreed price, they drove us to the small boat ferry dock a few miles distance before the last ferry left. Getting dicey!

Our luggage precariously perched, we roared off flying down dark narrow roads, one of us on each bike to the small ferry boat marina, jumped quickly on board & made for the opposite shore. After a couple hours of luggage-drag, we arrived at our pre-booked Mr. Linhs Homestay, tired, but none the worst.

Later we learned that such scams were prevalent in the area, but apparently unknown to what I believe to be our very honest Hanoi Hostel hosts.

On balance, while unnerving, it was an exhilarating adventure & Mr Linh's Guest House was excellent & well-located.

        Safe Practices: (well after the fact)

1) Ask booking hostel or bus company about such scams before booking.

2) Check tour company reviews, if any. Such quasi-bus/tour companies probably have little online visibility.

3) Google Maps search & save route.

4) Track bus’s route to detect any significant divergence.  If discrepancy, cross-examine driver for a legitimate explanation such as “ We divert to this small town for passengers and then return to Google’s route.”

Honestly, in my experience, this was a rare, one-off experience,  OTOH, several times I have been competently directed off 1 vehicle bus to another for another journey’s leg I knew nothing about. 











Less Traditional Transportation safety issues:

While developed world countries primarily rely on the transportation modes discussed above, any transportation forms in addition to those above that you can imagine can and will be used by locals and tours throughout the world ....

.... tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, bicycles, boats (Bangkok’s rooster-tails, S Vietnam Mekong Delta narrow fishing boats, Venice’s gondolas)

Particularly in developing or emerging nations ALL forms of localized transportation serve all economic levels including the wealthy & tourists. Certainly, the wealthy may use the most comfortable, while lesser folks & the more adventurous tourist will use local buses, commuter trains, tuk-tuks, rickshaws, motorcycles, and bicycles.

Sometimes transportation choice is defined by availability, cost, & usefulness in the situation you find yourself in. Availability may be serendipitously whatever passes for transport in that location at that time.  [spplk (?): Transportation ]  


1) Da Nang, Vietnam: dropped off Laos sleeper bus at night at a busy downtown street corner: no taxis, no clue about the bus system and its routes, just a slew of hungry motorcycle taxi drivers. Off we went; my rolling bag in driver’s lap & daypack on my back. Worked!

2) Yet, ironically, in Ollantaytambo, Peru (last town before Machu Picchu) only a ratty old taxi was willing to drive me up a steep mountainside’s rough dirt road to drop me off to hike back down thru Inca ruins & still functioning agricultural terraces. 

3) Chaing Mai to Mae Son mountain village’s infrequent scheduled trips in little modified trucks

Sometimes a small village may not have a taxi, but probably in Asia or South America someone’s got a tuk-tuk or motorcycle and can use the income. I have seen an elegantly dressed Chinese woman riding sedately in a man-drawn rickshaw. In one northwest Thailand village, a motorcycle taxi was all available.

V. Tuk Tuks, Rickshaws & palanquins:

A tuk-tuk is a motorized version of the bicycle rickshaw which replaced the traditional human-pulled rickshaw which, in turn, replaced the even earlier ‘palanquin’ or sedan chair (kago); used in South America’s 18th & 19th Century mountains, PIK

“The Silla” was a chair-like device that, like a backpack, carried 1 person on the back of another.  A similar device is apparently still in use on Huangshan Mountains of Anhui province in Eastern China although I saw none walking down that mountain.

Rickshaws & tuk-tuks are infinitely more fun & useful for the tourist than a taxi because you actually feel, hear, see and smell the culture you are passing through.

A. The human pulled rickshaw —

The human-drawn rickshaw, invented in Japan in 1869 and used in China by 1874,  reduced the deadweight effort required to carry the palanquin. PIK

The wheel’s great mechanical advantage allowed 1 unskilled man to much more easily pull another with less effort. Less expensive & easier to navigate congested narrow streets of the pre-18th C than a horse & carriage. PIK

The human rickshaw & the Great Wall have always been my classic images of China. It truly harkens back to a pre-automobile era in such exotic cultures and remains a very much desired tourist experience. 

In those days labor was dirt cheap, as it still is, particularly in the perpetually poor countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, India & much of Africa so the rickshaw man was just another element in a physical labor-based economy. Just imagine what that life would be like?



ANECDOTE: Hand pulled rickshaws


   ANECDOTE: Hand pulled rickshaws

       ANECDOTE: exploring a country’s culture

Before my China trip I also read “Rickshaw Boy” by  Lao She (aka Lau Shaw) (1945) translated by Evan King,

A powerful, deep insight into 1920s Chinese culture at-the-bottom.  The Novel's protagonist is an orphan peasant who lives in Beijing to earn a living as a young, hardworking, well-built rickshaw puller who dreams of owning his own rickshaw.

      ANECDOTE: my great moral/ethical awakening

In Mandalay, Myanmar after a long day of walkabout sightseeing I decided to take a human rickshaw back to my hostel mainly for that ‘classic experience’. But I soon ethically &, morally rued that naïve decision. 

I climbed in the somewhat rickety rickshaw. The old man puller who looked older than I, started off, straining visibly up a moderately steep street under my 185# load. 

Having read Rickshaw Man, a Chinese classic, I guess my mind suddenly slammed me into his world & I realized what a cruel injustice brought he & I so innocently together. 

Each of us old beyond our designed usefulness, but me, of considerable means & he, probably dirt poor. He, strong for his age. I, just hanging on. 

Within a block or so I stopped, feinted a desire to see 'something over there', gave him 2/3 of his full quoted fare for the 1 ½ mi trip to my hostel, & thanked him graciously. 

I watched him pull away in search of another fare while I grappled with the conflict between an authentic cultural experience and my own moral indignity.

My experience was soul-shaking, ironical & maybe even inexcusable because …. sometime before I'd observed 2 Amer/Euro women of stout proportion (fat) in a single rickshaw being drawn by a man visibly straining under ‘the load’ while the two women giggled their excitement to each other.   

Imagine your view as a rickshaw man .. of your future life; day after day. Reminds me of Les Miserable’s Jean Valjean’s 19 years of galley ship agony.

I wondered to myself had the women " no compassion for this man. Did they not notice his straining back, bulging calf muscles and head & shoulders bent low into the traces? Blind to the burden they had placed on him?”   I initially hadn’t, why should they?

Just to be fair & balanced, rickshaw men are probably one of the lowest levels of their economic system & desperately need to feed their families. Aren’t you doing them a favor?

It is a moral dilemma we developed world citizens can afford to have; the poor can not afford such moral trivialities because they're too busy trying to survive day-to-day.

         Safe Practice (moral solution):

Choose a healthy-looking rickshaw puller, go a sufficiently satisfying small distance, stop him, make any excuse, “Need to shop!”, etc. & pay him well for your intellectual thrill. 

You will have served him well & gained still another unique travel experience without undue moral baggage.

Now, hand-drawn rickshaws have been almost completely replaced by the cycle-rickshaws & tuk-tuks.











hand drawn rickshaws have been almost completely replaced by the cycle-rickshaws & tuk-tuks.

Imagine, your view of your future life, if you were a rickshaw man: day after grinding day.      Reminds me of Les Miserable’s Jean Valjean’s 19 years of galley ship agonies.

B. Cycle rickshaw. 

    ............   (aka pedi-cycle). bicycle rickshaws :

A bicycle rickshaw’s mechanical advantage easily replaced the brutal hand-drawn rickshaw. 

First built in 1880s, cycle rickshaws were used widely in Singapore by 1929 & outnumbered pulled rickshaws by 1935. In all south & east Asian countries by the 1950s,  and finally, by late 1980s, ...  world-wide, ...  an estimated 4 million cycle rickshaws.

Cycle rickshaw: Wikiwand: 

C. Tuk Tuks (auto rickshaw )

An auto rickshaw is a 3-wheeled, often motorcycle-based, version of the hand-drawn rickshaw & cycle rickshaw. Japan, Asia’s most industrialized country in 1930, promoted Tuks tuks. Mazda’s “Mazda-Go” released a 3-wheel open "truck" in 1931. PIK

Equally at home in chaotic large congested cities, medium >small towns & dinky little hamlets, at airports, inside narrow open markets aisles, on major highways & jangling down dusty rural pathways.  Definitely, IMO, the most flexible & interesting tourist transport option.   (PIK) 

The "Tuk-Tuk" name springs from early model’s loud, staccato motor sound. Also known in various countries as:  auto rickshaw, baby taxi, mototaxi, pigeon, jonnybee, bajaj, chand gari, lapa, tum-tum, Keke-napep, Maruwa, 3wheel, pragya, bao-bao, easy bike, cng and tukxi.

Wikipedia’s “Auto rickshaw”: 

Various configurations from simple canvas-roofed, single-bench passenger rigs TO double-bench truck-like passenger taxis TO motorized mini-truck for freight & livestock ... are near infinite across world. 

Most prevalent in Africa, South America & Asia because relatively inexpensive to buy, easily maintained & operated, cooler because not fully enclosed and functionally versatile for people & goods. If it can be put on a tuk-tuk somehow, it is a ‘gonna go.’

Functions as family’s private transportation & business opportunity. A 'family' can buy a Thai tuk-tuk for $4500 & then 'man' spends the day lallygagging with his buddies at a popular street corner smoking & drinking coffee while his wife labors in the surrounding hills. (I have seen it, seriously) 

Thailand women working fields while man sleeps below with grazing cows. [ytlk: 1st Thai : Mae Son ]

          ANECDOTEoverly packed tuk-tuk

In India, I shared a 3-bench tuk-tuk from Gwalior train station to Orchha. we had 3 women & me on the back bench facing forward, 1 woman on a middle bench facing us & 2 men & driver on front bench plus my 2 bags, a large bundle of reeds & 2 large milk cartons.

What would have cost me 300 rupees by myself, cost me only 30 rupees (45 cents US). 

          Safe Practices:

   Please review: [pplk: Airport > City: Taxi safe practices post]

1) Before trip, research & SAVE Google Maps destination & route map 

2) Before trip, ask hostel clerk to write down destination in English (for you) and in host language (for tuk tuk driver).


Tuk-tuks usually congregate wherever locals or tourists might need them in big cities, small towns & even remote country intersections. 

Lodging desk clerks can call them, if necessary, but then you don’t get to bargain.

2. LUGGAGE risks:

Little because you are often alone & your bags are either in your lap or near you or tied down on top of a tuk-tuk mini truck.

Little danger in my experience although snatch & grab is possible, if careless & inattentive with personal belongings or stowed luggage.


I experienced NO harsh crimes using a tuk-tuk nor have I heard of any. Perhaps because these are often barely surviving employees or independent business people scratching out a living serving mostly locals & tourists when they can. OTOH, if they can focus their business on tourists, then you are prey to most soft crime risks. 

4. Potential tuk-tuk Scam RISKS

Very similar to taxis so please review [pplk: Airport > City post]

1) Price gouging (over pricing/changing price), (I experienced)

2) Changing price en route, particularly to remote areas where you are a captive audience.

3) Mis-direction scams (e.g. your hostel is out of business, but they have a better substitute for you) Hard to pull this off cuz we can just call hostel on cell.

4) low-level collusion with other soft criminals, hotel clerk pimps driver. 

          Safe Practices:

   Please review: [pplk: Airport > City: Taxi safe practices post]

1) Before trip, research & SAVE Google Map destination & route map 

2) Before trip, ask hostel clerk to write down destination in English (for you) and in host language (for tuk tuk driver).

3) Get hostel clerk’s estimate of fare, if possible

4) Show tuk tuk driver Google Maps route to mutually confirm destination.. Remember your Taxi/Uber driver’s minimal credentials.

5) BEFORE entering:

   a) agree on price & destination. Almost ALWAYS negotiate. 

   b) Write down & show driver for his confirmation,. OR

    c) show driver actual money you have agreed to for his further confirmation.

6) If tuk-tuk driver still tries to ‘stiff' you at the ride’s end either  

     1) hand him the agreed-upon fare 

     2) refuse to pay and start to walk away, or 

     3) indicate you want police to decide (anything that sounds like ‘police’ usually works. 

7) Finally, be firm, gracious perhaps humorous if you can pull it off.

    ANECDOTE: mid-trip driver switch scam

Just outside outside China’s Forbidden City after agreeing on a tuk-tuk fare to nearest metro station, a few blocks later my driver pulls to the side & 2nd driver replaces him. Surprise!

At the metro station, new driver had doubled my fare. I refused to pay. He threatened to call the police. I smiled & said, “OK.” calling his bluff. As I started to walk away he took the original fare.

Siem Reap: Same scam at Siem Reap en route to Angkor Wat by father/son team; .... same result. 


D. Motorcycle taxis:

Same risks as taxis except ….the raw danger of riding thru often chaotic, crowded streets on a motorcycle loaded down with my large rolling pack & my daypack.  [jlk: ANECDOTE: Danang, Vietnam]


  ANECDOTE: ‘Painted house’ solo motorcycle tour. 

Initially, I planned a complex solo itinerary of taxi & bus rides from Nawalgar, India to Fatehpur & Mandawa 'painted house' villages over 2-3 days.

My hotel owner introduced a tour guide with a motorcycle who took me to all 3 'painted house' towns, dozens of painted houses and several ‘privileged’ private interiors of still occupied houses. Rare treat. Splendid choice!

E. Motorcycle or bike rental: 

’Large city’ motorcycle, scooter or bike use scares me; one wrong directional shift by you or a nearby driver, or a loose running pig or dog and you may suffer a trip-ending accident. Very high risk, IMO, yet not so much out in Asian countryside. I did both in my 70s.


      1) Your skills vs potential for accidents 

      2) Responsible for resolving breakdowns, getting help, etc.  OTOH, ubiquitous cell phones today make this much safer & easier.

      3) Solving problems you create.

     ANECDOTE: Thakhek, Laos 3 day solo cycle trip

I rented a 250-hp Honda motorcycle 3 times for 3 overnight solo rides into off-tourist-track interior Laos areas. It was thrilling with only a couple of hairy moments. 

     ANECDOTE: Ayutthaya, Thailand bicycle temple-hopping 

Temple-hopping around Chaing Mai, Thailand in its low-density agricultural area on a rented bike gave me great exercise & flexibility and a novel authentic cultural exposure over a distance too easily walk. A great day it was. 

OTOH, earlier in day, being paranoid of my own stupidity, I carefully placed the rented bicycle’s key in my cargo shorts pocket while I visited a temple via a steep walk up. BUT, back down again, the key was gone. Impossible? Yet it was. 

I hiked up and down 3 times until fortunately on 3rd trek I found the key. I felt dumb as a rock, — but human, I guess.

    ANECDOTE: Guilin, China rural bike ride

A day’s bike ride in the countryside near Giulin is best done with a bike: see, feel & taste the countryside.

           Safe Practices:

1) Always have cell phone number, address of rental company & fully charged phone.

2) Discuss breakdown solutions with company. (Most people will offer roadside assistance, if they can)

3) Drive slow & with great defensive caution [sub-pil lk. ]

    ANECDOTE: truck driver in Laos.

A truck driver passed me and abruptly turned left & stopped, then, immediately backed up rapidly before I could react.

I barely missed the back of the moving truck.

4) Hide vehicle key under a rock near bike so can only be ‘lost’ so far. 

5) If electric motorbike, know battery time remaining.  

ANEC: Bagan, Myanmar pushing bike last mile or so. 

6) Basic repair tools, if possible (bike inner tube, wrenches, etc.) although I don’t want to spend the day trying to repair a rental machine)

In all fairness, some scams are often just the way business practices have evolved. EXAMPLE: In the early Internet days (Yes I was there 😃), it was considered UNethical to get/steal/buy my email address without my permission. Then companies started 'stealing' my data as a condition of site access. Their self-serving new ethics are now 'the' norm. 

Now, Google & its advertisers coupled with massive computer data scrapping & crunching algorithms, machine learning & AI … infiltrate everything we do. Search an arcane site in Laos ... & within days, hours or minutes Laos advertisements appear on your Facebook account etc. Greed trumps ethics.



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