Good question. What is a Rickshaw? You can Google Image ‘rickshaw’ but to be honest you’ll just get a lot of pictures of muscly old men pulling two-seater carriages. And yeah, those are rickshaws too. But when we use the word ‘rickshaw’ we’re referring to something pretty specific: the vehicles you’ll be using to navigate your way through the wilds of Sri Lanka and Cambodia on a Large Minority Travel Challenge. And they don’t run on Old Man power, no matter how well-defined their calves may be. They run on gas. And carburetors. And other mechanical sounding things. Want to know the basics of what to expect? Here’s our handy guide.
It all depends on which country you choose to travel to. If you’re doing our Cambo Challenge, you’ll be riding a French-named, Japanese-powered and Cambodian-designed Auto-remorque (basically a scooter-powered auto rickshaw). On the front is a small motorcycle, and mounted to the rear fork is an open cabin with an in-line seat on each side. These things are super reliable (they very very rarely break down, and even if they did, we’d come rescue you), they’re fuel-efficient, easy to learn on and pretty spiffy looking, if we do say so ourselves.
If you’re thinking a Sri Lanka challenge may be a bit more your speed, however, you’ll be driving an Indian-made, Sri Lankan-modified tuk tuk (think of a rickshaw, but without the ‘pulling’ bit). It’s a three-wheeled vehicle that is super awkward and lots of fun at the same time. Its strength is its adaptability: this thing will drive on any surface (practically, we haven’t tested it on lava or quicksand yet), handle any driver, and put up with any level of competence or incompetence. They’re built to be thrashed about. It’s basically a small cabin on three wheels with room for a driver in the front and two passengers in the back. Cosy, but speedy. Did we mention driving a rickshaw was fun?
The cruising speed of a rickshaw is around 22 mph, and they’re both steered with handlebars, rather than a wheel. That means they’re pretty manoeuvrable, even if you haven’t raced a Harley Davidson before or been involved in underground drag racing. The accelerator is under your right hand, the clutch and gears are on the left. In the Sri Lankan tuk tuks you’ll find the main break under your right foot, for the Cambo auto rickshaws, it’s on your right hand, like a bicycle. Basically you hop on, point it in the direction you’d like to go, and drive. Each vehicle is made to be pretty user friendly, and we’ll teach you how to navigate the gears. Which leads us nicely on to…
You sure will, in fact we kind of insist on it. Tuk tuks and rickshaws are nimble and fast, but a Cadillac they are not: they are easy to tip and flip over (if you don’t know what you’re doing), which is why we on the first day of your Cambo challenge or Sri Lanka challenge, you’ll be given a mandatory tuk tuk driving induction and safety training session. The clutch control is the bit non-riders find tricky to learn, but nearly everyone picks it up in time. A safety course may not sound like the sexiest way to start your challenge, but we’re not going to apologise. It’s important to us that you’re safe on the roads. Think of us like an overprotective Dad.
1 litre of gas will get you about 20 – 25 kilometres on each vehicle, depending on how much you ride that throttle. The Cambodian auto rickshaw tanks take about 4L of fuel, the Sri Lankan tuk tuks about 6L. You can fill up on the side of the tuk tuk (or under the seat of the bike) – there’s a fuel hatch that you open. We’ll show you how to handle refueling during your driving induction class.
Not quite. We’re not going to let Tiny Timmy hop behind the wheel and just go nuts. All our drivers have to produce a valid International Driving Permit with a Category A or B stamp. If you need help in organising one of these, or you just want to know what the deal is, give us a call and we can talk more. It’s not hard to get one, but we do have to insist. These are vehicles, not toys, and we’ve heard too many horror stories of unlicensed tourists in Thailand to let our adventurers go out on the roads without the proper paperwork. Need more convincing? Read our Top 3 reasons to travel by tuk tuk.