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Songthaews vs Tuk-Tuks: Operation Types,Charges, Appearance

By Chris QuanUpdated Apr. 19, 2021

The most popular local modes of transportation in Thailand are the songthaew and the tuk-tuk. They are commonly used to get around in the cities and on the islands.

In this article, we show you the differences between the songthaew and the tuk-tuk, to give you a brief overview of these two main forms of transportation.

Read this article to understand the local forms of transportation in Thailand before you leave on your trip.

Quick Facts about Songthaews

songthaews
  • A songthaew is a kind of pickup truck with a roof and two long benches in the back running along either side of the vehicle for passengers to sit on.
  • This is the most common mode of transportation in the islands, such as in Koh Samui and Phuket.
  • A songthaew can ordinarily hold up to 8–10 people. Phuket's songthaews are much larger and can hold up to 20 people. Don't be surprised when you see passengers standing on a platform attached to the rear of the vehicle.
  • You can flag down a songthaew in the street and board it when it stops. When ready to get off, press the buzzer attached to a cable to signal to the driver that you wish to depart.
  • Songthaew rides usually have a fixed price. However, the price of a short ride varies from area to area.

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Quick Facts about Tuk-Tuks

tuk-tuks in bangkok
  • A tuk-tuk is a motorized rickshaw that can hold 2–3 people at a time.
  • It is a popular mode of transportation in Thai cities, especially in Bangkok.
  • Sometimes tuk-tuks are more expensive than metered taxis, especially at the entrance of tourist spots.
  • Tuk-tuks are small enough to veer through back alleys or weave through cars to get past traffic. This helps in the huge traffic jams that are common in Bangkok.
  • Most tuk-tuks come with rain flaps that can be pulled down; however, if it is raining heavily, the rain will find its way in through the gaps.

Operation Types

Songthaews: There are two kinds of songthaews in Thailand. The first kind has fixed stops and routes and is more like a bus. The route is marked on the side of the vehicle. This kind of songthaew is common in Pattaya and Phuket.

The other type of songthaew has no fixed route. These vehicles are active in downtown areas, tourist spots, markets, temples, and coach and railway stations, where they wait to collect passengers.

The driver picks up passengers who have the same destination or are going in the same direction; these passengers will share the fare. This is like a shared taxi. You can also choose to hire a songthaew if you are traveling as a group.

Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks in Thailand are privately operated. If you decide to take a tuk-tuk, tell the driver your destination and negotiate the fare in advance.

In conclusion: Songthaews are more like busses or shared taxis. On the other hand, taking a tuk-tuk ensures your privacy as you rarely share a tuk-tuk with a stranger.

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Charges

Cost of a songthaew: The price of songthaews varies from city to city. Songthaews charge anywhere between 10 baht to 30 baht on fixed routes.

When you take a songthaew or shared taxi, you can ask the price first and decide whether you wish to board it or not. The price generally varies from 20 baht to 100 baht. If you wish to hire a songthaew for just yourself or your group, the price will be higher.

Cost of a tuk-tuk: A short tuk-tuk ride costs around 150 baht. You will need to shell out 50 baht for a quick jaunt to the end of the road; if you go slightly further afield, the rate immediately jumps to 100 baht or more.

From Where Can You Board a Songthaew or Tuk-Tuk?

Songthaews: Songthaews are common in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui. There are some in Bangkok, but tuk-tuks are more popular there.

In many Thai islands, songthaews are the main mode of transportation as there are no tuk-tuks to be found.

Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks are more common than songthaews in Bangkok. Regarded as a symbol of Thailand, tuk-tuks are also popular in other Thai cities such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, and Hua Hin.

In conclusion: Songthaews and tuk-tuks are both common in Thai cities. But in islands such as Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Samui, songthaews are the main mode of transportation.

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Appearance

Songthaews: The songthaew is a pickup truck transformed into a taxi. it has two benches fixed along the sides of the truck in the back that serve as seats.

There is a roof fitted over the rear of the vehicle but there is no air-conditioning. Curtains and plastic sheeting are hung to keep out rain.

Songthaews come in different colors in different cities. In Chiang Mai, most songthaews are red and yellow. In Pattaya, they are usually blue and white. Phuket's songthaews are much bigger and are painted blue and pink.

In some cities, the color of the songthaew implies the types of songthaew. For example, in Chiang Mai, red songthaews don't follow a fixed route, while red and yellow ones do.

Tip: You can spot a "bus type" songthaew by the route or destination painteded onto the body of the car, rather than just going by its color.

Tuk-tuks: A tuk-tuk is motorized rickshaw. The standard tuk-tuk has one seat up front for the driver and a bench at the back for passengers. The modern version of the tuk-tuk typically has open sides and a cloth roof to protect travelers from the sun.

Tuk-tuks are painted in different colors, but the colors do not have any additional meaning. Colorful tuk-tuks shuttling in the streets form a typical picture in Thailand.

Safety

Songthaews: Passengers sitting on the long benches of the songthaew do not have seat belts.

A songthaew can hold up to 8–10 people; sometimes you might be crammed in with a lot of people, a few of whom will hang outside of the vehicle. The driver tends to drive slowly to ensure the safety of the passengers.

Tuk-tuks: Tuk-tuks have open sides and, like the songthaews, do not have seat belts for passengers. The good news is that tuk-tuks are involved in relatively few dangerous accidents in Thailand because drivers tend to drive at slower speeds.

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Scams

Songthaews: Scams are less likely when taking a songthaew because many songthaews have fixed routes and prices.

Tuk-tuks: Make sure to agree on the price prior to boarding a tuk-tuk. If you fail to do this, the driver will charge you an extremely high price at the end of the journey.

Another common scam is that the driver might try to convince you that the place you want to go to is closed and may try to take you to some other place.

In this case, tell him you want to take the ride even if the place is closed or have an alternate option in mind.

Songthaews and tuk-tuks are both classic modes of transportation in Thailand, and it is a unique experience to try them.

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