Top Five Rickshaws YOU Can Drive

  • Cynthia Ord
  • 26 September 2011

Every experienced traveller has some sort of rickshaw story to tell. For most, an exaggeration of a rickshaw taxi ride suffices, especially if embellished with some details about the driver’s nose hair or the speed at which he cleared corners – “one wheel was definitely off the ground!” Other travellers tell tales of close calls with rickshaws in traffic – “then this rickshaw came out of nowhere and nearly blindsided our bus!”

Now imagine if you had a story about actually getting to drive a rickshaw. Yes, today it is possible to get your hands on the steering bar of this ever-popular mode of transport. In which case it’s game over: Your tale wins, hands down.

A good personal rickshaw report is important for two other reasons: First, ‘rickshaw’ is a cool word that’s fun to say. Try it. With conviction this time. Rickshaw. Second, rickshaws come in many varieties and are common transportation in many countries. If you’ve never encountered one, a small part of you hasn’t lived.

Even if you ride one daily, though, there are probably plenty of facts you may not have considered. For instance, the word ‘rickshaw’ is Japanese in origin (jinrickisha means ‘human-powered vehicle’) and refers to two-wheeled carts pulled by a person and often carrying a member of the social elite. Nowadays, the three-wheeled bicycle rickshaw or, more commonly, auto rickshaw has largely replaced the often-outlawed human-powered version. Also, there are many other names by which a rickshaw may be known: tuk-tuk, trishaw, tricycle, bajaj, motortaxi, auto-remorque…

Get ready to tell the best stories about your time as a rickshaw pilot, because we’ve found the top five rickshaws that you are actually allowed to drive.

top five rickshaws- rickshaw challenge

On a Rickshaw Challenge in India, the first order of business is to decorate your vehicle (and yourselves) and think up a great name for your team. Photo courtesy of Rickshaw Challenge

Rickshaw Challenge in Southern India

Since 2006, the Rickshaw Challenge has been serving up rickshaw driving trips for adventure-seekers in India. The first route was from Chennai to Kanyakumari in southern India, crossing an area of the country somewhat off the trodden tourist trail. Since then, this route has been adapted into the Classic Run, which is one of four routes offered as a Rickshaw Challenge.

Get a group together and start planning an outrageous design for the customisation of the auto rickshaw that you (yes you!) will be driving. There is no limit to the amount of insane creativity and detail that participants put into pimping their rickshaw rides, but matching costumes are certainly recommended. Sign up for the 11-day Classic Run, the nine-day Malabar Rampage, the nine-day Deccan Odyssey or the 14-day Mumbai Xpress. Details about dates and prices are available on the Rickshaw Challenge website.

top five rickshaws- large minority lanka challenge

These two Lanka Challenge contestants are about to embark a raucous 12-day trishaw adventure of a lifetime in Sri Lanka, where their driving and tree-planting skills will be put to the test. Photo courtesy of Large Minority

The Lanka Challenge in Sri Lanka

The wildly successful 2011 Lanka Challenge came to an end earlier this month. Organised by LARGE minority as the first event of its kind in Sri Lanka, this race is as much about teamwork, mastering the trishaw (especially at its eye-watering speeds of 50 kph), dressing up in zany costumes and a race across breathtaking landscapes as it is about giving back and scoring points for the earth. In addition to funds raised for social projects (US$26,000 in 2011), each team faces cultural and ecological challenges along the way, such as planting fruit trees.

Check out the fun facts and amazing memories from 2011 as inspiration to start planning for the 2012. The 12-day ride ride (August 31 to September 11, 2012) is slated to be a bigger deal than ever before.

top five rickshaws- large minority cambo challenge

Cambo Challenge contestants are ready to race to the finish line on their decked-out auto-remorques, the Cambodian version of the motorised rickshaw. Photo courtesy of LARGE Minority

The Cambo Challenge in Southern Cambodia

In Cambodia, an auto rickshaw is called an auto-remorque, a ‘motorcycle-meets-carriage mishmash,’ as described by the people at LARGE minority, the organisation behind the Cambo Challenge adventure trip. What better, awkward, irrational and more absurd way could there be to try your hand at driving an auto-remorque than 11 days and 1,350 kilometres of non-stop rickshaw madness. Keen for a thrill? This year’s event is coming up, from November 6-17, 2011! It’s not too late to join.

As with the other LARGE minority initiatives, the Cambo Challenge is an awesome hybrid of fun and positive-impact travel. In 2011, funds are being raised to support a water-supply pipeline project for the Chambuk Eco-tourism Community. Help them reach their goal of US$20,000.

top five rickshaws- the adventurists rickshaw run

The Three Tinned Tigers are one of the lucky teams to compete in The Adventurists' famous Rickshaw Run adventures. Photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/MongolRally

The Rickshaw Run in India

From the same people who organise the fantastical Mongol Rally across the ‘stans of Central Asia and the Mototaxi Junket through South America comes perhaps the most well-known three-wheeled adventure out there: the Rickshaw Run in India. The Adventurists have gained such widespread fame and popularity for their extreme transportation trips that landing a spot on a tour takes some doing. They launch three Rickshaw Runs a year, all of which sell out within hours of opening registration.

The Adventurists established the elements of a good drive-your-own-rickshaw adventure as: customised vehicles, ridiculous costumes, big parties and good causes. This fun-loving bunch is also out to save the world. It has a network of charities that each adventure supports and teams that sign up for adventures are asked to raise £500 for their adventure’s Official Charity plus a further £500 for another charity of their choice.

top five rickshaws- the adventurists ASEAN tour,jpg

In the highly anticipated Rickshaw Run Southeast Asia, which The Adventurists will be premiering this October 16, there will surely be the usual mix of tattooed tuk-tuks, parties, chaos, confusion, costumes, crises and top-shelf fun. Photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/MongolRally

The Rickshaw Run in Southeast Asia

The Adventurists describe their newest rickshaw tour through Southeast Asia as “the sweatier, junglier cousin of its Indian namesake.” Starting on October 16, 2011, this ambitious journey will take about two weeks to blaze a trail – by auto-rickshaw, of course – from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Bangkok, Thailand.

In this exclusive first expedition of the Southeast Asian Rickshaw Run, only 30 positions were available. They sold out in under a minute! Even though the number of participants who will make it to the finish line is yet to be seen, the next tour is already scheduled for March of next year and is sure to sell out just as quickly.

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Cynthia Ord

Cynthia Ord discovered the WHL Group while interning with the local partner Outdoor Albania for a summer. She is currently based in her hometown of Denver, Colorado, helping out with The Travel Word newsletter, and planning her next trip. On the side, she writes about the impacts of tourism for her blog, tourism, people and the earth.
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adventure travel, Asia, Cambodia, festivals & events, India, responsible transport, South-Central Asia, South-Eastern Asia, sports, Sri Lanka, Thailand, top five, WHL Group newsletter,

5 Responses to “Top Five Rickshaws YOU Can Drive”

  1. Tom Carden says:

    I’d love to participate in one of these organised events one day, I reckon it would be an incredibly fun experience. They are a little pricey though.

    In Sri Lanka you are actually able to rent a Tuk Tuk for yourself – I met some people who did it while I was over there and I tagged along with them for a few days. I wrote an article about it here: http://www.tctravels.com.au/2016/04/30/renting-tuk-tuk-sri-lanka/

  2. Jamie Raskin says:

    Go Team Tanuki!
    The Cambo Challenge was the best trip ever!
    I’m not just saying that.
    Big props to Large Minority.

  3. Crossfit says:

    Awesome, that was an exciting adventure race. Great job guys, and Congratulations ! Looking forward always !

  4. John Walls says:

    Awesome article, really cool options. Really love what these guys from large minority are doing….I checked out their website and found this too http://www.morelocal.co in case you’re planning on travelling to Colombia.

    The adventurists also have some awesome stuff!

  5. Henry Williams says:

    nice story i enjoyed reading this

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