Tips For Getting a Tuk-Tuk in Chennai

I’ve decided to write some tips about catching a tuk-tuk (known as an auto or an auto-rick to the local population) when in Chennai – they probably apply to most asian cities aswell though.

So here goes…

1. All Tuk-Tuk Drivers Wear Face Masks and Black & White Stripy Tops

Or in other words, they’ll rob you blind given half a chance. It’s nothing personal, but if you have white skin, you can expect the driver to add anywhere between a 20% to 150% premium on the price they would charge a local.

Take for example my journey to work. When I was with my friend Aravind, he would negotiate a price of 70-80 Rupees (about $2). The first time I got a tuk-tuk by myself, they asked for 150 Rupees – nearly twice the price because of my skin colour.

2. Make Sure You Know How Much A Journey Will Cost Before You Go

If at all possible, ask a local how much the tuk-tuk journey should cost before you make it. This will give you a better position when it comes to bargaining. Using the example above, I now bargain my way to the right price as you should too.

3. Walk Away

If the tuk-tuk driver won’t budge from his high rates, then start walking away and look like you’re trying to get another tuk-tuk. Many times the driver will call you back and agree to your prices.

I’m amazed at how well this tip works. Although I do have fears that they will all colude against the ‘stupid foreigner’ and none of them will offer a good price.

4. Don’t Be Concerned If You Stop At A Petrol Station

Something I learned quite early on is that a stop via a petrol station is not unusual as you try to get to your destination. Nor is asking for the money to pay for the petrol before you’ve got to your destination.

This has happened a couple of times to me – although I’m not sure if it’s normal (or indeed acceptable) for them to ask for your money to pay for the petrol.

5. Where Ever You Want To Go, The Tuk-Tuk Driver Has Never Heard of It

I’m not sure if this is something against foreigners, but it seems when I get a tuk-tuk with my Indian friends there is no problem getting to where you want to get to. When I try and get a tuk-tuk, the driver gets lost, has no idea where the place is or goes some where completely different.

I’ve tried local landmarks, maps, everything. Only this evening I got a tuk-tuk back home and despite showing the driver a map printed out from Google Maps, we still had to pull over while the guy asked for directions.

Edit 04/2016: This blog post was written in February 2007 in the first couple of months when I had arrived in Chennai. Re-reading the paragraph above makes me cringe to think that I tried showing an auto-driver a map to show where I wanted to go 🙁

These are just some of the tips I have when you are living in Chennai or working in Chennai.

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