Learning to drive a Tuk Tuk in Thailand: All your questions answered!

Orange and pink Tuk Tuk from the side

I vividly remember taking my first Tuk Tuk ride as a kid and thought this car-bike-carriage hybrid was the coolest thing ever! I loved watching the road rushing by my feet and the surge of adrenaline I got as we darted through busy traffic. Fast forward 20 years and I jumped at the chance to drive one whilst I was backpacking through Southeast Asia. Fancy learning to drive a Tuk Tuk in Thailand yourself? Keep on reading!  

So, why Thailand?  

The Tuk Tuk Club in Chiang Mai was the first chance I had to learn to drive a Tuk Tuk on my travels. Before arriving in Thailand, I had spent the last month travelling through, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Although all these countries used Tuk Tuks, I hadn’t had the opportunity to drive one.   

Mel from Footsteps on the Globe at the test centre driving an orange Tuk Tuk towards the camera with a cone on the right side of the Tuk Tuk

Why Tuk Tuks? 

Tuk Tuks are an instantly recognisable symbol of Thailand and such a fun way to get around! If you’ve been to Thailand before (or pretty much anywhere in Southeast Asia!) you’ll have no doubt have had a ride in one.  

It’s such a thrill to whizz around the city streets feeling the wind in your face; open to all the sights and sounds around you. But when you’re behind the handlebars of a Tuk Tuk out on the open road yourself? Times that feeling by 100! 

As part of your driving experience, you go off the beaten track in a way you wouldn’t do on a normal ‘touristy’ trip. Going off road allows you to connect more with Thai culture as you visit lesser-known temples and drive through rural areas.   

Mel from Footsteps on the Globe on a golden balcony at a temple in Mae Wang with mountains and greenery in the background

What kind of Tuk Tuks do you drive?  

All the Tuk Tuks are original ‘Bangkok style’ Tuk Tuks. But they are modified to be slightly higher to give you a better view and slightly longer to give you extra leg room.  

Do you need a driving license? 

Yes. You must hold a manual driving license and be over 18. 

Is it similar to driving a car? 

Strangely yes! But with a few differences. In Tuk Tuks, you accelerate by turning the right handlebar and brake using the right pedal. The brake in particular takes a little getting used to. When accelerating your instinct is to push down on the right pedal but in a Tuk Tuk you just come to an abrupt stop! The gear box is also between your knees which does make changing gears awkward at first!

I would have to say though as someone who took four goes to pass their driving test, driving a Tuk Tuk is far easier and more laid back than driving a car in the UK!  

The inside of an orange Tuk Tuk showing the handlebars, gear stick, ignition and seat

What does the driver training involve?  

As you already know how to drive, the training is just to get you used to the Tuk Tuk. You practise stopping and starting, changing gear and manoeuvres – just like a sped-up driving lesson. 

Since passing my driving test six years ago I’ve only driven about twice but I picked up driving a Tuk Tuk so quickly. I passed my ‘Tuk Tuk Driving Test’ in less than an hour which is a testament to how easy it is! 

Mel from Footsteps on the Globe driving a Tuk Tuk around a cone at the Tuk Tuk test centre

Do I still need to do the training if I have a driving license? 

Yes – as similar as it is to driving a car, there are still those mechanical differences that you need to adjust to before you take your Tuk Tuk out on the open road.  

Mel from Footsteps on the Globe pointing to the pedal in the Tuk T

What are the Tuk Tuks like to drive? 

In one word – exhilarating! The Tuk Tuks only reach up to about 30mph but this feels a lot faster when you’re bouncing down dirt tracks with no seat belt or side doors! And I loved the noisy revving and the quick acceleration. I actually got a bit cocky on the country roads and missed a few turns…and cows! I can confirm though that no animal was harmed in the making of ‘Mel Speed Racer: Tuk Tuk Edition’.  

Mel from Footsteps on the Globe pictured driving down a rural road in Mae Wang in a Tuk Tuk from behind with greenery on each side of the Tuk Tuk

What if I don’t want to drive? 

If you decide you don’t want to drive a Tuk Tuk and just want to chill in the back, you can do that. You’ll still enjoy the ride and soak up all the culture on the stops.  

Green mountains and landscape with a grey sky in Mae Wang

Where do you drive to?  

The Tuk Tuk Club offers lots of different trips including: one day, three days, five days and 11 days. I did half a day through G Adventures which included my training, lunch and drives to lesser-known temples in Mae Wang.  

Golden door to a temple in Mae Wang
Golden dragons next to a red and blue staircase leading to three golden buddha statues at the top of a hill

Why go with The Tuk Tuk Club? 

The Tuk Tuk Club genuinely offer the most unique experience. I felt like I got an insight into the real and authentic rural life of Northern Thailand. The Sunday Times perfectly described it as: “A journey into a nation’s soul”. And that is exactly what it feels like driving along deserted country roads, through jungle and high mountain passes. It was amazing.  

You also never know who you will meet! One of the guides Graham is a Manchester lad who moved to Thailand through working in the travel industry. And my god did he have a tonne of awesome travel stories to tell! He is definitely someone I could have taken for a Chang beer to hear the rest. Both my guides had expert knowledge of the area and luckily they were happy to answer my millions of questions about Thai culture and history! 

Mel from Footsteps on the Globe smiling with Graham from Tuk Tuk Club with greenery and mountains in the background

I had an awesome experience learning to drive a Tuk Tuk in Thailand with The Tuk Tuk Club. I can’t thank them enough for the once-in-a-lifetime memory I made.

And that’s it folks, learning to drive a Tuk Tuk in Thailand: All your questions answered!

Would you ever try driving a Tuk Tuk? Let me know in the comment below.

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Mel from Footsteps on the Globe in front of a temple with two Tuk Tuks either side of her, Pinterest image

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