Rickshaws, and other means of local transport

The becak in Indonesia Rickshaws are an example of a specific way of local transport for specific countries or continent. When travelling to the big cities in for instance Europe, be prepared to learn the specific details of the local subway or bus system again for each city. But in more remote regions, there are completely different means of local transport.

The shared taxi

Where taxis are mostly expensive, and buses don’t reach every street or area, in many places there is the alternative of a shared taxi. They mostly often have a fixed route, but stop anywhere to pick up passengers, and they may even make detours to drop them off.

In many developing countries, fixed taxis are the main public transport available. They are cheap, and offer job opportunities for many people, so there are many of them around.

In different countries, there are different names for shared taxis. Here are a few:

  • Latin America: colectivo, publico
  • Africa: Matatu
  • Indonesia: Bemo, oplet
  • Turkey: Dolmus
But there are many local names for similar services.

Shared taxis normally have a fixed price for different routes. But having said that, as with any service, some locals tend to charge more for tourists. So make sure you know what to pay before you get in, to prevent paying too much.


In many developing countries, rickshaws are a traditional way of transport for the higher classes. Originally, they were human pulled carts, but nowadays bicycle rickshaws almost everywhere replace them.

Rickshaws are mainly found in the countries of southern Asia, where they are known under different names:

  • Vietnam and Cambodia: cyclo (pronounced see-clo)
  • Indonesia: becak
  • Malaysia and Singapore: trishaw
  • Thailand: samlor (name for any three-wheel vehicle, including tuk-tuks)
  • Philipines: tricycle
  • Myanmar: saika
  • India and Bangladesh: cycle rickshaw

They are found in other parts of the world as well, but are not as common there. In large European cities rickshaws are marketed as an ecological alternative for a taxi. In these cases, they are mostly referred to as pedicabs.

Although rickshaws are mostly cheap, they are like taxis. This means that the drivers cannot always be trusted. You have to make sure to bargain and agree a price upfront. And even if you do that, there is a chance that the driver wants more after the trip (it happened to us in Hanoi, Vietnam).

Non-human powered vehicles

The next step from bicycle rickshaws are the motorized vehicles, like tuk-tuks in Bangkok, or the Bajaj in India and Indonesia. Older, and more and more rare are the horse-drawn vehicles like the Delman in Indonesia. Where these used to be cheap, they are now mostly used for tourists, and thus expensive. Unless you are in non-tourist local environments, of course.

This overview is far from complete. If you have seen other local means of transport worth to mention, please Contact us.

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