Top Five Rickshaws YOU Can Drive

Top Five Rickshaws YOU Can Drive

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! 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.

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.

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.


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.The 12-day ride ride (August 31 to September 11, 2012) is slated to be a bigger deal than ever before.

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.

The Three Tinned Tigers are one of the lucky teams to compete in The Adventurists’ famous Rickshaw Run adventures. Photo courtesy of

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. Launching three Rickshaw Runs a year, the Adventurists bring us all the elements one could want on a drive-your-own-rickshaw adventure: customised vehicles, ridiculous costumes, big parties and good causes. This fun-loving bunch also 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.

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

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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