Negotiating rickshaw rates while travelling in India
Magdalen and Brian were our first guests from Pakistan (albeit, Americans living in Pakistan). They’ve shared some very useful rickshaw negotiating tips and allowed us to pass along the wisdom. Their original post and many of their adventures can be read on their blog.
While we are by no means experts in this topic, it is a piece of wisdom we want to pass along to other ‘foreign’ tourists for their travels in India. While every city is different, many of them offer a variety of different transportation options and it is quite easy to end up overpaying for such services. Do not buy anything at any shop your driver takes you to, he is most likely getting a commission and the prices will be inflated to cover his cut (plus some).
This post is about the auto, tuk-tuk, auto rickshaw, whatever it may be called where you currently are. We will use ‘rickshaw’ for this blog post. Under this same topic, but slightly different, we will also include the bike rickshaw. The topic here: how to figure out what to pay!
No doubt, you have read in all of the travel blogs or guidebooks to agree on the price of the rickshaw before you get inside. In some cities they even talk about metered rickshaws. Well, regardless of what you find when you arrive, here are some tips.
Tip 1 – Negotiate, in India it is your birthright!
Yes, it can feel strange at first, but do it! You will walk up to the driver & say “how much to go to X location.” They will tell you to get in without giving you a rate. Ask again, and they will respond with a number that they are very confident in (it’s usually higher than any local would think of paying). It’s ok to negotiate! Sometimes we started with a quote of 250rs and were able to talk them down to 20-40rs. Just be firm and polite. It’s okay to walk away after you start to negotiate.
Tip 2 – Ask a Local
Before we leave the train car, we turn to the person next to us and ask, “What is the local rate for rickshaws in this city?” Usually, we were able to find out an appropriate price quite easily (and of course sometimes they would tell us numbers above what we knew to be true). We also asked police officers and folks at the front desk of the hotels/hostels we were staying at. Sometimes they wanted to ask us where we were going and tried to help coach us – but usually we were able to find a good price point to be aware of (sometimes we would ask two people and get very different numbers – 40rs and 200rs for example go with the smaller number in mind when you negotiate).
Tip 3 – Location, Location, Location!
This is true for so many things in life! When you’re staying at a fancy hotel (or standing in front of one), and you ask the nearest rickshaw for a ride, the price will be higher! If, however, you walk away from that fancy hotel, onto a main road (so maybe you have to walk 200-300 meters) often you will be able to strike a better bargain (the difference between 250rs and 40rs, for example). This also applies for right in front of the train station & tourist attractions. Know the nearest intersection to your hotel and give that instead of the hotel name for rickshaw ride back.
Tip 4 – Don’t be afraid to walk away
It is not uncommon for you to approach one driver, and instantly be mobbed by 2-10 other drivers, all trying to understand you mis-pronounce the name of a tomb, hotel, monument. Know that you are, in that moment, negotiating with all of them – but, it is also ok to walk away. Time and time again we would ask how much go to X location, get an outrageous price, then we’d quote something much less – the drivers would come down some but, we were still not happy- so, we’d walk away, and right at that moment they would offer a somewhat reasonable rate. Or they don’t & you just walk away and find the next rickshaw.
Tip 5 – Be confident, just sit in a Tuk Tuk and ride!
Sometimes, when we were quite confident of the local rate and we were not standing in front of a fancy hotel we just hopped on the rickshaw, told them where we wanted to go and when we hopped off, we gave them the local fare and there was no problem. No promises that this works all the time – but it did work for us a couple of times. We also didn’t really stick around to discuss things with the driver- we just paid and walked away.
Tipping a rickshaw driver: There is no need to tip on a single ride. If you hire a rickshaw for the day we suggest tipping a small amount (as long as you don’t buy anything at any of the shops the rickshaw driver took you to).
A quick note on the bike-rickshaw – We rode them a few times (they’re bumpy, slower than the autos, and difficult for tall people to sit in, but great for the environment). That said, they are totally safe & somewhat fun. They are supposed to be fix-priced: when we talked with other tourists we found they usually paid 10rs per person (sometimes 20rs if you’re traveling alone). We never got the prices down that far, but we preferred the smoother ride of the auto rickshaws so we usually steered clear of them.
A quick note on safety – While I’m sure there are horror stories out there about using rickshaws, we have ridden rickshaws in several countries and had no problems at all. We’ve ridden them early in the morning (before sunrise), throughout the day, and late into the evening. We’ve ‘rented’ a rickshaw for the day & hired them for partial days too. All with no major problems. But, as with anything, you should be careful and mindful of yourself, your surroundings, and your belongings.
Bottom-line, remember that the rickshaw drivers is just trying to make a living in order to feed their family. You, however, are trying to save money to travel more. Sometimes we would negotiate to 80rs (from 250rs) and would give the driver 100rs anyway.