Even though my favourite way of travelling is by bus or train, and is the only way for me to see the sights and sounds of Sri Lanka. I must concede that travelling by tuk-tuk is probably the most convenient way to get around. Taxis always end up costing more, especially after getting caught in traffic. Metered tuk-tuks are great, but they can end up costing a fair bit as well if you’re not careful about which ones you hire.
Local companies like Fair Taxi and PickMe set standard rates, see websites, my favourite website for checking prices is Fare Fair but you’ll still come across unregistered drivers who opt not to use meters. These are the tuk-tuks/taxis you should watch out for. Most of the time, these rides end up costing more, sometimes with a start rate which is high. Unfortunately, this is an issue all over the country as there are no government laws stating that meters have to charge the same per kilometre rate.
Roar, a Sri Lankan website, wrote shared 5 things passengers should look out for when hiring a tuk-tuk:
1. Ask what the starting rate is
Ask the driver how much he charges per kilometre. Check Fare Fair to get the current rate and how much it will cost for your journey, remember stuck in traffic will cost more. Avoid if have a high starting rate.
2. Keep an eye on the meter
The battle doesn’t end there. Don’t let your mind wander too much – keep an eye on the metre and if you’re suspicious, do a bit of calculating. Divide the price of the ride by the kilometre count if you can’t figure out how much he’s charging, or keep an eye out for the 0.1KM jump on the metre. If it is LKR4 (or lower) per 0.1KM, you’re doing okay.
3. Fingers off the button
Watch out for any button pressing. We’ve had instances where the driver, after protestations, magically pressed a button on the metre to bring down the per kilometre charge.
4. When in doubt, turn to Google
If it’s a route you don’t take often, whip out that phone and say hello to the 21st century. Google Map the location and if you’re feeling particularly paranoid (or diligent or even bored), track your progress from point A to B. If you’re going off the beaten track for no particular reason and your map tells you he’s taking a longer route, don’t feel shy about pointing it out.
5. Don’t keep those lips sealed
In the event that you discover that dishonest meter, make it a point to tell him. Sometimes it’s the fault of the meter (or sometimes he will just conveniently blame the meter) but sometimes it’s the driver up to no good. Be firm – sometimes they’re nice about it and sometimes not – but don’t let it turn ugly. There are less than pretty reasons as to why people resort to doing this.
Roar’s article also discusses why hiring tuk-tuks in certain areas cost more and found that it all comes down to location. For example: “Tuks around malls like Majestic City, Liberty Plaza and Crescat generally cost more per kilometre due to waiting time.” The work around this is to “just walk a little ahead until the air of tuks clears out, and take one from down the road.”
Note: If a Facebook user contacts you for taxi services and is not using their real name, ignore them at the very least report them to Facebook, for them to review the profile. A lot of these services, do not offer a good price. Even discount is at an already inflated price. If the guy is offering a good and reputable service then he should use his real name to do so. Not using a real name, in my opinion, means he is not honourable and looking to rip off foreigners.