Introduction & Regional Variations (Worldwide)

Tuk-Tuk, trishaw, auto, rickshaw, autorick, bajaj, rick, tricycle, mototaxi or baby taxi in popular parlance is a motor vehicle and a mode of transport for private use and as a vehicle for hire. It is a motorized version of the traditional rickshaw or velotaxi, a small three-wheeled cart operated by a single individual, and is a 3-wheeled cabin cycle. Auto rickshaws can be found in many developing countries.

Regional Variations


In certain parts of Egypt such as the further reaches of Alexandria auto-rickshaws are used to access long streets where use of a taxi would be uneconomical, not necessarily in poorer areas.


Tuk-tuks are also to be found on the streets of Banjul, Gambia, but are not as common as conventional four-wheel vehicles.

Eastern Africa

There are tuk-tuks in several Kenyan towns. Using them is somewhat cheaper than ordinary taxis. However, tuk-tuks cannot operate in mountainous towns, which are common in Kenya. Fierce competition with Boda-bodas (bicycle taxis) and Matatus (minibuses) hinders popularity of Tuk-tuks, especially within the interior of Kenya. While they may not be widely found in Kenya, they are numerous in the coastal regions, which are less mountainous. For example, in the town of Malindi they offer an economical and convenient mode of transportation.

Tuk-tuks are also common in Ethiopia, and are becoming common in Tanzania, particularly in the outer areas of Dar es Salaam. Since 2009, tuk-tuks have become common in Maputo, Mozambique.

In Tanzania and Ethiopia, they are known as “Bajaj” or “Bajajis”, after the Bajaj Auto company which manufactures many of them.



Auto rickshaws (locally called “baby taxis” and more recently “CNGs” due to their fuel source) are one of the most popular modes of transport in Bangladesh mainly due to their size and speed. They are best suited to narrow, crowded streets, and are thus the principal means of covering longer distances within urban areas.

Earlier, auto rickshaws were coloured black with a yellow canvas topping and ran on gasoline without any meter system. However, due to the vast supplies of natural gas in Bangladesh, the government has since encouraged the development of four-stroke compressed natural gas(CNG)-powered engines rather than the older two stroke engine petrol-running models. Two-stroke engines had been identified as one of the leading sources of air pollution in Dhaka. Thus, since January 2003, traditional auto rickshaws were banned from the capital; only the new CNG-powered models were permitted to operate within the city limits. The newly manufactured CNG auto rickshaws are more fuel-efficient and have a lower centre of gravity, making them safer than older models.

All CNGs are painted green to signify that the vehicles are eco-friendly and that each one has a meter built in as standard.

Another version of the auto rickshaw can be seen in rural areas of Bangladesh, where they are called “helicopters“. “Helicopters” are auto rickshaws modified to have a large body with which it can carry more than six or seven passengers.

At the end of the 1980s, a local company Atlas designed and built a new version of the auto rickshaw, called mishuk, a name derived from a children’s mascot of a local deer. Unlike baby taxis, mishuks have spoke wheels and a green body, and have no meter system. Mishuks have more space than baby taxis or CNGs, which makes it more popular with women. They are commonly found in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country due to its four-stroke engine, which is not listed as a significant source of air pollution.


In Cambodia, the term tuk-tuk is used to refer to a motorcycle with a cabin attached to the rear. Cambodian cities have a much lower volume of automobile traffic than Thai cities, and tuk-tuks are still the most common form of urban transport. At the temple complex of Angkor, for example, tuk-tuks provide a convenient form of transport around the complex for tourists. One can hire a tuk-tuk and driver by the day.

Siem Reap tuk-tuks are generally of the style of motorcycle and trailer. Phnom Penh tuk-tuks are by contrast one piece. They are the front end of a motorcycle consisting of steering, tank and engine/gearbox with a covered tray mounted at the back. The power is transferred by chain to an axle mounted to the modified rear fork which drives the two rear wheels. Suspended upon the rear fork is an open cabin with an in-line seat on each side. This arrangement can carry 6 people at ease, with their luggage in the leg space. It is not unusual to see these vehicles greatly overloaded, especially in outer suburbs and around markets.


Together with the recent boom of recreational facilities in Gaza for the local residents, donkey carts have all but been displaced by tuk-tuks in 2010. Due to the ban by Israeli on the import of most motorised vehicles, the tuk-tuks have had to be smuggled in parts through the tunnel network connecting Gaza with Egypt.


Auto rickshaws (often called just auto) are common all over India, and provide cheap and efficient transportation. New auto rickshaws run on CNG and are environment friendly. Typical mileage for an Indian-made auto rickshaw is around 35 kilometres per litre of petrol (about 2.9 L per 100 km, or 82 miles per gallon [United States (wet measure), 100 miles per gallon Imperial (United Kingdom, Canada)].

Many major nationalized banks in India offer loans to self-employed individuals seeking to buy auto rickshaws. Auto rickshaw manufacturers in India include Bajaj Auto, Kerala Auto Limited, Piaggio and Force Motors (previously Bajaj Tempo), Mahindra & Mahindra and TVS Motors. Auto rickshaws are found in cities, villages and in the countryside.

In July 1998, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Delhi government to implement CNG or LPG (Auto gas) fuel for all autos and for the entire bus fleet in and around the city. Delhi’s air quality has improved with the switch to CNG. Initially, auto rickshaw drivers in Delhi had to wait in long queues for CNG refuelling, but the situation has improved with the increase of CNG stations. CNG autos were distinguishable from the erstwhile petrol-powered autos by having a green and yellow livery as opposed to the earlier black and yellow. Certain local governments are pushing for four-stroke engines instead of the current two-stroke versions.


Referred to as bajaj in Indonesia, are common throughout the country’s capital Jakarta. Bajaj is Indonesia’s main auto-rickshaw manufacturer.


Lao tuk-tuks come as tuk-tuks or jumbo tuk-tuks. Jumbos have a larger 3 or 4 cylinder four-stroke engine , and many are powered by Daihatsu engines. Jumbos’ larger engine and cabin size allow for greater loads, up to 12 persons, and higher top speeds. Jumbos are (with few exceptions) only found inVientiane.


Auto rickshaws are a popular mode of transport in Pakistani towns and is mainly used for travelling short distances within cities. One of the major brands of auto rickshaws is Vespa (an Italian Company). Environment Canada is implementing pilot projects in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta with engine technology developed in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada that uses compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of gasoline in the two-stroke engines, in an effort to combat environmental pollution.

In many cities in Pakistan, there are also motorcycle rickshaws, usually called chand gari (moon car) orqingqi (after the Chinese company who first introduced these to the market).

In addition to ferrying people around, an innovative use of auto rickshaws in public life was the demonstration in Peshawar in 2001 against the American invasion of Afghanistan.

Rickshaws are forbidden in the capital, Islamabad.


Auto rickshaws are an especially popular form of public transportation in the Philippines, where they are referred to as “tricycles” (Filipino:traysikel; Cebuano: traysikol). In the Philippines, the design and configuration of tricycles varies widely from place to place, but tends towards rough standardization within each municipality. The usual design is a passenger or cargo sidecar fitted to a motorcycle, usually on the right of the motorcycle. It is rare to find one with a left sidecar. Passenger typically carry up to five passengers in the sidecar, sometimes more, and often one or two pillion passengers behind the motorcycle driver. Tricycles are one of the main contributors to air pollution in the Philippines, since majority of them employ two-stroke motorcycles. However, local governments work towards phasing out two-stroke-powered tricycles for ones with cleaner four-stroke motorcycles.

Sri Lanka

Auto rickshaws, commonly known as ‘three-wheelers’, can be found on all roads in Sri Lanka from the curvy roads through the hill country to the congested roads of Colombo transporting locals, foreigners, or freight about. Sri Lankan tuk-tuks are of the style of the light Phnom Penh type. Most tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka are a slightly modified Indian Bajaj model, imported from India though there are few manufactured locally and increasingly imports from other countries in the region and other brands of three wheelers such as Piaggio.

In 2007 January the Sri Lankan government imposed an ban on all 2 stroke three wheelers and therefore the ones imported to the island now are only with a four stroke engine. Most three wheelers are available as hiring vehicles with few being used to haul goods and as private vehicles. Bajaj enjoys a virtual monopoly in the island with its agent being David Pieries Motor Co Ltd. A few three wheelers in Sri Lanka have distance meters, but the vast majority of charges are negotiated between the passenger and driver.


The auto rickshaw, called tuk-tuk (Thai: ตุ๊กตุ๊ก) in Thailand, is a widely used form of urban transport in Bangkok and other Thai cities, as well as other major Southeast Asian and South Asian cities. It is particularly popular where traffic congestion is a major problem, such as in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima.

Bangkok and other cities in Thailand have many tuk-tuks which are a more open variation on the India auto-rickshaw. There are no meters, and trip costs are negotiated in advance. Bangkok fares have risen to nearly equal normal taxis due to uninformed foreigners willing to pay the asking price, but leaves passengers more exposed to environmental pollution than taxis. The solid roof is so low that the tuk-tuk is a difficult touring vehicle. Today few locals take one unless they are burdened with packages.

The Thai tuk tuk is starting to change from the old smoke-spewing vehicle of yesteryear. Many Thai Tuk Tuk companies now produce Low Emission vehicles, and even old ones are having new Engines fitted along with LPG conversions. In an early morning of Bangkok, these same passenger vehicles can be seen busily transporting fresh produce around the city. The new tuk tuks also have wet weather sides to keep passengers and drivers dry.

The Thai auto-rikshaw manufacturers are, Monika Motors Ltd., TukTuk (Thailand) Co., Ltd., TukTuk Forwerder Co., Ltd.Bangkok and MMW Tuk-Tuks Co.,Ltd. in Hua Hin. Smaller manufacturers are the Chinnaraje Co., Ltd. in Chiang Mai and the Expertise Co., Ltd. in Chonburi which is manufacturing its models in Komaki, Japan, also.


There are comparatively few Vietnamese tuk-tuks on the road. Most are in the two largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi as well as a few in other major tourist centers. Ho Chi Minh tuk-tuks generally comprise the motorcycle and trailer style of Siem Reap while Hanoi and Hội An tuk-tuks are of the style of the light Phnom Penh type.



Auto rickshaws have been very commonly used in Italy since the late ’40s providing a low-cost mode of transport in the post World War II years when the country was short of economical resources. The Piaggio Ape, invented by the Vespa creator Corradino D’Ascanio, first produced in 1948 by the Italian company Piaggio, though primarily meant for load carrying, since then has been also widely used as an autorickshaw for human transportation and it’s still extremely popular all over the country, being particularly fit in the narrow streets of the center of many little towns of central and southern Italy.

Though it has lost his key-role in the country transportation, Piaggio Ape is still used as a minitaxi in some areas such as the islands of Ischia or Stromboli (in Stromboli cars are not allowed), and it has recently re-launched as a trendy-ecological carrier or as a promotion tool, mostly relying on the role Ape played in the history of the Italian design. Since 2006 Ape is being produced (on licence) also in India where currently is one of the most popular auto rickshaws.


Since 2007, tuk-tuks have been active in the Netherlands, starting with Amsterdam. They now operate in Amsterdam, The Hague, Zandvoort, Bergen op Zoom, the popular beach resort Renesse and Rotterdam. All of the tuk-tuks in the Netherlands are imported from India and Thailand. They are fitted with CNG engines and have passed the EURO-4 rules.

United Kingdom

The first Tuk Tuks to enter service in the United Kingdom were supplied and built by MMW Imports under the brand name MMW Tuk Tuks in 1999, The very first Private Hire license was issued to an MMW Tuk Tuk for tours of Bath in the year 2000, MMW also gained full Hackney license in Weston-super-Mare. MMW also now export Tuk Tuks from Thailand to the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, New Zealand and Australia. All the MMW range are built in their own factory in Thailand and are custom made for each customer’s needs, hence no two tuk tuks are the same but come fully customized as per required spec.

Tukshop of Southampton started the commercial importing of Tuk Tuks into the UK in 2003 which resulted in many people being inspired to set up taxi type operations in a number of cities including Blackpool, Brighton and Leeds. Tukshop failed to gain a taxi operator license for London after a number of media appearances in 2004. The company founded by Mr. Steve are specialists in experiential marketing using the iconic three wheelers for street marketing campaigns. Clients of Tukshop include many household names such as T Mobile, Harrods, Universal Pictures, O2, BBC, Freeview, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Tiger Beer & Grolsch lager. Tukshop have imported and put over one hundred tuk tuks on the roads of the UK and Europe between starting the business and Oct 2010. The company currently stocks models from Piaggio & Bajaj including the commercial versions such as the TM Van.

A Bajaj tuk tuk is currently operated by Bangwallop of Salcombe, South Devon. Taking just two passengers at a time, the tuk tuk has an operator’s license issued by VOSA and trips can be booked in advance.

Auto rickshaws were introduced to the city of Brighton and Hove on 10 July 2006 by entrepreneur Dominic Ponniah’s company Tuctuc Ltd, who had the idea after seeing the vehicles used in India and Sri Lanka. They were CNG-powered, using a four-speed (plus reverse) 175 cc engine. Under the terms of their license, the Bajas ran on a fixed single route, and stopped only at designated stops. They are of the same design as traditional auto rickshaws in other countries.

An investigation was launched into Tuctuc Ltd’s operation of the service after complaints were raised that routes, stopping points and timetables were not being adhered, primarily by the city’s taxi drivers. In November 2006, the company was fined £16,500 – the maximum penalty possible – by the South East Traffic Commissioner. After amendments were made to the timetable to reduce delays and improve reliability, the Commissioner allowed the company to keep its operating license. However, the company announced in January 2008 that it was ceasing operations, citing “archaic legislation” as the reason.

In 2010 Carbonyte UK Ltd acquired the rights to sell and modify the TVS King tuctuc The TVS tuctuc is supplied as a quirky passenger vehicle, and as the ‘Carbonyte Pod’, a van version of the TVS King. Carbonyte also convert the tuctuc into an electric vehicle and offer a hybrid version of the Pod enabling appliances to be powered by the hybrid motor, and the tuctuc is driven by an electric motor. Carbonyte market the Pod as a ‘business in a box’ giving the customer an environmentally friendly vehicle with a unique street presence, and tailored to suit any business, whether selling coffee, ice-cream, hotdogs or confectionary.

Central America

El Salvador

The mototaxi or moto is the El Salvadoran version of the auto rickshaw. These are most commonly made from the front end and engine of a motorcycle attached to a two-wheeled passenger area in back. Commercially produced models, such as the Indian Bajaj brand, are also employed.


Three-wheeled Coco taxis, resembling a coconut, are used in Havana, Cuba.


In Guatemala the commercial vehicles are referred to as tuk-tuks. Tuk-tuks operate, both as taxis and private vehicles, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, around the island town of Flores, Peten, in the mountain city of Antigua Guatemala, and in many small towns in the mountains. In 2005 the tuk-tuks prevalent in the Lago de Atitlán towns of Panajachel and Santiago Atitlán all appeared to be from India (Bajaj Auto).

South America


It is a common sight in the rural areas and many towns and cities of Peru to see Bajaj auto rickshaws, locally known as mototaxis, “taxi cholo” or “cholotaxi” lining up to pick up passengers as their fare is very low. They are also in the capital, Lima, but they are usually restricted to the poorer districts.

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