Tuk-tuk is a nickname used in many parts of the world for auto rickshaws.The traditional English name for tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka is simply three-wheeler, as a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka is a three-wheeled cabin cycle. Usually it is a vehicle for hire, a small taxi or motorized rickshaw for urban transport. But some persons also use it privately. Sri Lankans need a special driving licence for tuk-tuks. Charges must be negotiated with the driver. It is highly recommendable to agree on a price before tour start, otherwise you would be pushed to pay more than usual afterwards. Be aware, that foreigners pay a much higher charge than locals. But maybe you accept a modest surcharge. However, be fair yourself and don’t bargain in a harsh way that is disrespectful, local drivers will not become millionairs because of their services for you. A few three-wheelers in Sri Lanka have distance meters, in Colombo this is becoming more and more common. Usually a tourist will pay less in a meter taxi.
“Tuk-tuk” is a onomatopoetic name, referring to the noise of two-stroker, it continues to be used though new models use for-cycle engines, since the Sri Lankan government has banned import of two-stroke trishaws to reduce air pollution in 2007. The nickname “tuk-tuk” was introduced in Thailand and not in use in Sri Lanka before the 1990s. But many tourists coming to Sri Lanka had visited Thailand earlier on and used the Thai name for threewheelers in Sri Lanka, too. In the major tourist hubs locals started the nickname, too, and nowadays it is as common in all parts of Sri Lanka as the traditional term “three-wheeler”. Another funny nickname is “baby taxi” used in Bangla Desh. In contrast to Thailand and Sri Lanka, in Cambodia the term tuk-tuk is used to refer to a motorcycle with a cabin attached to the rear (a kind of “four-wheeler” version”).
Japan had been exporting motor rickshaws to Thailand since 1934. First Daihatsu Midgets were introduced in Bangkok in 1957. In their homeland Japan, three-wheelers went out of use about 1970. Most Sri Lankan tuk-tuks are imported from India and produced by the manufacturer Bajaj, also the most popular motorbike manufacturer in South Asia.
Tuk-tuks are not only common in South and Southeast-Asia, but also in Africa and South America. By the way, since 2007 tuk-tuks have been active in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, since they have passed the EURO-4 rules. They are imported from India and Thailand.
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