Apart from the beautiful expansive coastal line, luxurious resorts, and swaying palm trees, Mombasa is also dotted with small colourful three-wheeled vehicles that have almost become an emblem of the region, Aptly named for the rough “tuk-tuk-tuk”
sound of their single-stroke motors. These ubiquitous Tuk-Tuks can be spotted in almost every tourist postcard picture of Mombasa. Taking a wild ride in one of these sputtering three-wheelers is a thrilling experience by itself, an adventure that is not to be missed, and for most first-timers, there is a good chance you will get taken for a “ride” by the smooth-talking driver.
Although riding Tuk-Tuks in Mombasa can be described as more chaotic than comfortable by most visitors, it’s a fun, convenient, and affordable way of getting around for residents and tourists alike!
Here is everything you need to know about this local rite of passage for the next time you visit the Pwani region.
Despite varying in design from country to country, tuk-tuks have been around for a few decades and are still a popular mode
of transport in other areas (including Europe, Africa, and South America) that has been around for longer than you’d imagine. Rickshaws even appear in comics such as Tintin and Blue Lotus when the adventurous journalist and his dog Milu visit Shanghai in 1934.
The ones found in Kenya mainly have a sitting capacity of three passengers, but just like a taxi, mostly boards one passenger at a time and come with additional space at the back that is allocated for luggage. They are also equipped with a dropdown
side flap for the rainy days which is otherwise rolled up most of the time to allow for a breezy experience as you zoom around the city.
How do the locals use Tuk-Tuks?
Preferred for their compact size and swift manoeuvrability, tuk-tuks make getting about Mombasa easier. Their ability to negotiate tight corners, and park almost anywhere, is perhaps the main reason why the locals favour them over the regular taxis and are mostly used for either transportation or delivery. In the early mornings or evenings, you’ll find them near the bus stops or ‘STAGE’ where, rather than operating on a private-hire basis they function as shared vehicles, running up and down a pre-determined route.
How to take a tuk-tuk in Mombasa?
Here are a few to help make the unforgettable experience a smooth sail.
Find out the local rates before hailing a tuk-tuk.
Most locals are friendly and ready to help, just ask anyone and they will gladly tell you the approximate if not the exact price for your ride or go digital with the now common Tuk-tuk hailing apps available for both android and IOS users. Popular taxi-hailing apps like Uber and Bolt in Kenya have the option of Tuk-Tuks, just download and enter your location and destination and it will give you the exact price for your journey.
Always agree on the price of your ride before you get into the tuk-tuk and expect to haggle – your driver will likely quote an initially overpriced fare, anticipating that you will knock him or her down to at least some degree. Most tuk-tuks will start charging at about 50 shillings for a short ride, which is also the standard cost for most places around the town.
Hailing a passing tuk-tuk on the street — major thoroughfares are better — is often cheaper than approaching drivers who have parked in front of tourist places or shopping centres all day.
Say the name of the place, instead of the street name.
Most Tuk Tuk drivers in Mombasado not know the street names and addresses but know how to get to famous destinations.
To make things easier write down or memorize the name of the building or tourist attraction, give them the name of the place you want to go to, not their address.
Safety: What to remember when riding in a tuk-tuk in Mombasa
While the tuk-tuks are normally safe, it’s also advisable to take care of your belongings while you’re on board.
Tuk-tuks don’t have seat belts; you ride at your own risk!
Riding Tuk-tuk in Mombasa is fun
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride while chatting with the driver. You might learn a thing or two about the area, also keep an eye on the funny sayings and the colourful artwork at the back of the other tuk-tuks and matatus.