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Tuk-tuk vs Tricycle

Tuk-tuk is a popular mode of transportation in Cambodia and its equivalent in the Philippines is the tricycle. Both vehicles are good for short trips and have cheaper fares compared to taxis, Uber and even buses. Although the two of them are under the auto-rickshaw category which has variations in many countries—we’ll only compare the Cambodian tuk-tuk vs Philippine’s tricycle.

Cambodian Tuk-tuk vs Filipino Tricycle
Tuk-tuk vs Tricycle

Tuk-tuk vs Tricycle

It was our first time to ride a tuk-tuk during our trip to Cambodia. I was reminded of our ride in a kalesa (horse carriage) in the Philippines. The Cambodian’s tuk-tuk design is practically a horse carriage but uses a motorcycle instead. I used to regularly take a tricycle when going to the office so it really felt totally different when I rode a tuk-tuk. Please check out the breakdown below.

Horse carriage in the Philippines
Kalesa in Manila


Tuk-tuk Advantages  

Elevation. Tourists can have a better view of the surroundings as they travel because of their sitting height inside the tuk-tuk. This vehicle allows visitors to make the most out of their sightseeing experience.

Tuk-tuk in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tuk-tuk with a tarpaulin during rainy days

Comfort. It has a higher chair and better legroom compared to a tricycle. The seats and backrest have thicker pads that provide a better cushion on bumpy roads. Its wider space allows the rider to move more freely inside.

Tuk-tuk sailing to Koh Dach
Tuk-tuk boarded on a ferry in Phnom Penh

Open View. Visitors can enjoy a wider angle view and take better photos in it. Riders can beat the heat inside this vehicle much better because of its open-air design. The enclosed metal space of a tricycle during summer is quite hotter.


Tricycle Advantages

Space. The length of a tricycle is twice shorter compared to a tuk-tuk because its passenger seat is on its side. Here in the Philippines, it’s normal to see a long queue of tricycles and it’s hard to imagine how the queue would look like if those were tuk-tuks. A lot of parking space can be saved with tricycles.

Tricycle in the Philippines
Traditional Filipino tricycle build

Maneuvering. Since a tricycle has a shorter length, it’s easier to maneuver and turn around. This flexibility can be more appreciated in a tight and heavily trafficked road. The passenger seat of a tuk-tuk is like a large tail. The driver needs to carefully watch that it won’t hit anything when changing lanes because it tends to have a whipping effect.

Tricycle in Puerto Princesa
Stylish tricycle in Palawan, Philippines

Smoke. Since the passenger seat is behind the motorcycle in a tuk-tuk, I hated how the smoke coming from its exhaust is blowing to my face occasionally, especially when we need to slow down or stop at a traffic light. In the case of a tricycle, it won’t really be a problem because its exhaust is right behind you.



We can clearly see that a tuk-tuk is an ideal mode of transportation in a tourist environment while the tricycle is a great option in areas with heavy traffic. I hope that this showdown will raise greater awareness about the two transportation options which may benefit different transport groups. This might give them an idea about having an alternative design depending on who they’re catering to and what’s their environment.


Related Post: Koh Dach (Silk Island)

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