Tuk tuks, even metre tuks, are ridiculously overpriced. Just do the math. A metre tuk costs Rs. 30 a kilometer. Your average car covers the distance in about ten. Regular tuk tuks will fleece you for even higher amounts.
Tuk tuk fares, like a lot of similar services, have not reached their optimum pricing. They are disproportionately high in comparison to income levels and costs of alternatives. The key figure would be something more than Rs. 10 but way less than Rs. 30. Just enough to incentivise a would-be driver to leave his car at home and take a tuk, as well as incentivise a would be bus traveler to fork a little extra for comfort. Profits will increase as more and more people are attracted to tuk tuks.
Tuk tuk pricing is a fascinating topic. Tuk tuk stands appear to take an almost cartel-like approach to charging fare. ‘Stands’ are wherever you see a collection of tuk tuks parked on a regular basis. Members of a cartel will enforce high prices and will then use their monopoly on the stand to block any new tuk tuks from starting business there. This has resulted in artificially high prices.
The advent of metre tuks have reduced prices, but even they appear to have priced their fare not based on actual market conditions but based on exactly how much they would need to undercut non-metered tuk tuk pricing to grab their market share.
Another factor that determines tuk tuk pricing: location location location. Outside Majestic City the tuk tuks cost you at least 50 percent more than anywhere else. A wise strategy in this case is to move away from MC and hail a tuk already going in the direction you’re heading in. If you stopped it in slow moving traffic and start bargaining, the driver will have no choice but to meet your price or risk the wrath of a thousand horns.
Most tuk tuks quote prices that incorporate potential bargaining loss. So they generally always expect to be bargained down. Tuk tuks in more rural areas are cheaper than those in Colombo i’ve noticed. Maybe a reaction to the lower income levels of rural citizens as opposed to Colombians?
Tuk tuk costs involve petrol, wear and tear and owner fees. Your average tuk probably does about 25kms per liter. This makes the petrol cost per kilometer something like Rs 4. Wear and tear and user fees can be (very) generously calculated to be Rs 10 per km, with this decreasing the further you go. But lay out the math to a tuk tuk driver and you’ll likely be accused of being a know it all, and threatened with violence.
I know because that happened to me once when i went from Pettah to Panchikawatte. The driver demanded more that what we agreed would be the rate. I was having a bad day and was in no mood to be fleeced, so we disagreed loudly. Unfortunately he didn’t appreciate my math skills. But luckily i had a menacing gear lever in my hand which i waved threateningly. And he went off grumbling.
Most tuk drivers are amicable fellows. They’re out to make living and therefore do what everyone else in the system does; capitalize. What they don’t realize is that low prices can be good for them as well as the customer, and can bring them more revenue in the long term. I think maybe a regulatory authority making taxi meters compulsory and fixing the rate can help, also solving transport issues in cities in the process.