Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuk-Tuks in Panajachel, Guatemala

This is Bryan's tuk-tuk. We met him in English class.
He says he works 7am to 9pm.
A tuk-tuk (took-took) is the equivalent of a taxi here in Panajachel. They zoom around with wild abandon, often creating long lines that look like they should spill out dancing clowns.

They each have a unique number and are almost all painted red, which seems to be related to how old the vehicle is. There are a few yellow ones that seem to be older, and I did see one light green one.

Many drivers have decorated their vehicles to show their individuality, and some even have advertising on them. They paint logos and flames and faces on them, and it seems like some of them have named their tuk-tuks as well... unless that young Guatemalan man is named Rosita!

The highest tuk-tuk number I have seen so far in Pana is 161. And yes, I have seen the #1 tuk-tuk as well!
A tuk-tuk parked outside a tienda (convenience store) with an
adorable pup keeping watch.

You hail a tuk-tuk by raising your hand, or sometimes just by glancing at them too long, or sometimes they even just drive up to you and offer you a ride. The drivers will say, "Taxi?" if they think you are a gringo.

A ride anywhere within Pana and Jucanya is Q5 per person, or about $0.82 Canadian. When you go out of the "delta", like to our house, the price doubles to Q10 per person. Late at night, the prices goes up by 5Q per person.

Anyone and everyone can get in a tuk-tuk: kids, dogs, bags of stuff, friends piled up. It seems a bit odd that they charge per person. It's not like back home where you can split the cost of a cab. But maybe the "per person" cost is only for tourists... you never know.

If you have a tuk-tuk driver's phone number, you can call him to come pick you up anywhere in town or even at your house. When you meet a nice tuk-tuk driver, one that you trust or one that speaks English, ask for his number so that you can give him more business. Even if he is busy, he can send a friend.

There seems to be quite a brotherhood amongst the drivers. We were warned not to "mess" with them as they are quite a close-knit community but in my opinion, it seems like they are divided. There are young brash drivers with tuk-tuks pimped out with neon lights at night and slogans like "Fast & Furious" and "Incredible Hulk." There are older drivers who have very simple tuk-tuks, or even rusty and rattly ones, and they seem to be just doing a job.
Then there are well-spoken young men who are courteous and helpful, and go out of their way to make sure you are happy. They are my favourite and include our friends Bryan (#132) and Victor (#88).
As a side note, I have only seen one female driver in Pana.

Tuk-tuks parked in early morning.
Some tips for tuk-tuks: 
Be careful entering a tuk-tuk that already contains another passenger, as it has been reported that people have been robbed by this way.
If you are going to an unusual or far-off location, be sure to confirm the price before entering the tuk-tuk.
Carry exact change as some drivers will insist they don't have change and you'll end up being ripped off.

Here is a short video of us riding in a tuk-tuk in town.

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