The Hazards of Rickshaw Travel and Tips to Avoid Them
…or Rickshaw Know-how from the Rickshaw Mavin
Rickshaw travel can be a highly risky, expensive business as well as a serious health hazard. I will do my best to help you past all the pitfalls if you ever chance to ride a rickshaw in India or similar form of transportation in other parts of Southeast Asia where it is also known as a tuk-tuk.
First of all, rickshaw drivers have a form of telescopic vision and can spot the uninitiated coming from a mile away. You can literally be “taken for a ride” – a very short ride – which can cost the unawares traveler anywhere from 50-150 rupees. The true price for the same ride in a shared rickshaw, which all of these actually are, is 5 rupees. So, when you need a rickshaw to anywhere, first find out from a local person how much it should cost from point A to point B, in a private rickshaw, and also if there are shared rickshaws available for the same ride. There is no difference whatsoever between the private and shared ones, except for the price and the fact that the shared one stops every so often to let someone on or off.
Secondly, you can easily sustain serious neck (whiplash), shoulder (banging against the metal bars on the sides of the rickshaw), head (hitting the ceiling), or lower back injuries if you haven’t learned how to properly “ride” a rickshaw.
To avoid the above, first of all, pay attention to the road (and you might be able to anticipate sudden jerking stops), try not to sit close to the side, but rather in the middle of the seat (where the other passengers act as safety padding), even though it may seem more comfortable to be sitting with at least one side not snuggled close to a complete stranger. Sitting between two other passengers will also
make it less likely for you to hit your head on the ceiling going over ruts, potholes, and traffic bumps at high speed, but if you ARE sitting near the outer side, hold onto the metal bars . This will keep you in your seat and also keep you from accidentally banging your shoulder into one of the bars. As far as lower back goes, the best option is again to sit between two people who again act as buffers in case of sharp bumps along the way. (Below, there is one further important hint which I discovered by accident, but helps with ALL of the above problems).
Finally, NEVER stick your head outside the rickshaw to see where you are – the risk of decapitation is not to be dismissed as unlikely.
The thing I discovered by accident, just a few weeks ago, not only helps with all the health hazards, but has an additional fringe benefit I never even contemplated. Riding in a rickshaw will completely undo any hairdo you may have had when you left home. There are no windows in a rickshaw, summer or winter, and you are exposed to the elements, and even if it is a mild spring day, once that vehicle gets moving, there is a continuous wind, almost like riding a motorbike. This is obviously the main reason that Indian women oil, and then gather their long hair , rather than leave it loose, and for extra added protection, cover it with dupatta or sari head wrap.
I had always tried to ride a rickshaw facing front. I never feel comfortable riding any vehicle facing backwards. A few weeks ago, to my initial despair, there was only room facing the “wrong” direction, and I was in too much of a hurry to wait for another rickshaw, so I got in. To my great surprise, riding with my back facing the front had many advantages I had never thought of. First of all, the wind was from the back of my head, so my hair stayed fairly normal looking! In addition, when you face frontwards, you are sitting at the back of the rickshaw over the back wheels. I never thought of this before. When you are riding with your back to the front, you are right in the middle of the rickshaw, BETWEEN the back wheels and the front wheel. Like any moving vehicle, the ride in the center away from the wheels, is always smoother! So to my great surprise, there was less bumpy, banging, and whiplashing than in any other ride I had ever experienced. While going over bumps or stopping short, I saw the people facing me on the other seat suffering various levels of discomfort, neck whipping, head bashing, etc., and I was having a completely smooth (as much as can be expected at least in a rickshaw) ride. So, my final advice is, for many reasons, RIDE BACKWARDS IN A RICKSHAW.
Hope this will be of service to you one day, as I would love to think that all of you will one day find yourselves enjoying India by making a trip here.