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Exposé: India’s Rickshaw Drivers Tell All

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

I stayed a full week in Jodhpur, India and absolutely loved the place.  While there I found a very good guide and asked him if it would be possible to hire him for a day to talk with some rickshaw drivers.  If anyone knows three things about me, it should be this: 1) I hate to fly (not because of heights but because of the whole security process where your treated like a 10 year kid and are considered a criminal), 2)  Michael Jackson was as guilty as OJ and 3) I hate taxis!  If I die and go to hell, which I assume I will because I’ve had WAY to much fun in this life so far, is that I will be made to drive a taxi and eat airline food for all of eternity.

That being said, I thought I would try and understand something more that I hated so bad.  So I went out with a camera, notepad, pen and a guide to ask about their worst fares to run-ins with the cops.  Below is what I found out about rickshaw drivers in Jodhpur, India.

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Shekil (24 years old)

“Once a man who was drunk asked me to take him to the bus station.  I asked him if he was sure he wanted to go to the bus station and he said yes.  So I told him it would cost 50Rs and the man agreed. He got into my rickshaw and laid down in the back.  I drove him for 10 minutes and dropped the man off right where I picked him up… which was the bus station.”

  • Owns his own rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 9 years
  • Biggest Tip: $10 British Pounds
  • Biggest Payday: 1,200 RS ($26.16 USD)

Rickshaw Tip: “Never take a rickshaw from a paid stand.  They will charge you more then the ones on the street but they do provide better security if you leave something in the seat as you can go back to the stand and they will help you get the item back.”

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Anwar (33 years old)

“I once had a runner in my rickshaw.  He got out and ran so I had to chase after him.  I was chasing him and people off the street started to pass me and chase him to.  They caught him before I did and when I made it to the man the people from the street had him stuck on ground and his money out.  They paid me and I left.  I’m not sure what happened to the man afterwards.”

  • Rents his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 6 years
  • Biggest Tip: 200Rs
  • Biggest Payday: 800 RS ($17.44 USD)

Worse Thing to Happen in Your Rickshaw: “A motorcycle cut me off on the wrong side and I had to jerk the rickshaw to avoid the crash but it caused it to flip over.  Everyone was ok and no one got hurt.  I flipped it back over with help and finished the ride.”

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Abdula (33 years old)

“I picked up a man who had been drunk off whiskey.  He wanted to go to the bus station so I took him there.  When we got there he said he wanted to go to another place that was 15km-20km away.  So I took him there and when we got there he was passed out from the whiskey.  I tried to wake him up to ask what next or for the money but he wouldn’t wake up. So I took his gold necklace and ring and left him passed out on the road.”

  • Owns his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 15 years
  • Biggest Tip: 3,500Rs (from an American who he drove around for a whole day and the guy really liked him)
  • Biggest Payday: $76.29 USD from the American above

Rickshaw Tip: “If you are fair with us, we will be fair with you.”

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Abdul Selim (44 years old)

“I once had three women who wanted to go home.  On the way they wanted to stop and buy something but said they didn’t have enough money and asked me for 100Rs.  They said they would pay me back with the fare once we got to their house.  I said ok and when we stopped the 3 ladies went into a house and never came back out.  I asked the people at the house where the ladies were and they said they didn’t know any of them.  I lost the fare and the 100Rs!”

  • Owns his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 12 years
  • Biggest Tip: has never gotten a tip before
  • Biggest Payday: 500Rs ($10.90 USD)

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Mohemed (38 years old)

“I dropped off two people in the bad part of town.  They got out and two thugs (famous in town) got in.  I couldn’t refuse them and had to drive them but knew they wouldn’t pay the fare.  They wanted to stop and get some food to eat from a street vendor.  One guy got out of the rickshaw but the vendor refused to give them free food.  I told the other guy he should get out and show his muscles to the vendor and help his friend.  When he got out I took off with them running after me.”

  • Owns his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 12 years
  • Biggest Tip: 50Rs
  • Biggest Payday: 500Rs ($10.90 USD)

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Genfur (34 years old)

“A person left a cell phone once in my rickshaw. I went back to give it to the man, you know to do the right thing. I find him and give him the cell phone but he took it and handed it back to me and said it was a fake cell phone, that it didn’t work and that I can keep it.  The one time I go out of my way to help and I get laughed at and not even a thank you.”

  • Owns his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 15 years
  • Biggest Tip: 400Rs
  • Biggest Payday: 950Rs ($20.71 USD)

Rickshaw Ripoff: “I picked up four British tourist who wanted to see the sites for the day.  We agreed on 250Rs per-person and they said they wanted to go to the palace first.  They went in and never came out.  I waited for 2hrs for them to come out and even asked people if they had seen them but no one had.”

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Asalm (51 years old)

“I once picked up a married couple one time and they started yelling at each other.  It kept getting louder and louder, so I finally pulled the taxi over and left them on the side of the road.  They were still fighting when I left them!”

  • Owns his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 25 years
  • Biggest Tip: 500Rs
  • Biggest Payday: 1,100Rs ($23.98 USD)

Rickshaw Run-In With the Law: “A customer once wanted off at a certain spot along the road.  I said it was problem but he insisted that he wouldn’t get out anywhere else, so I did as he asked.  A cop seen me and made me pay a fine of 500Rs on a 50Rs fare!”

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Hemant (34 years old)

“A French couple I picked up at their hotel wanted to eat at a fancy restaurant in the palace.  I took them there at 7pm and waited till mid-night but they never came back out.  I went to their hotel and asked if they were there.  They had checked out and left.  I lost the fare that night.”

  • Owns his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 10 years
  • Biggest Tip: 250Rs
  • Biggest Payday: 700Rs ($15.26 USD)

Rickshaw Run-In With the Law: “I once got caught without a license by a transportation cop.  The cop could have taken my rickshaw but I was able to only pay 30Rs bribe and got out of it”

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Ayub (30 years old)

“A foreign tourist asked me to take him to the news paper office in town.  I take him and he starts to yell at me saying this isn’t the right place.  He knew some Hindi and was yelling,  people started to gather around us thinking I was taking advantage of this tourist.  I said ok and ended up driving him around for two hours looking for the place he thought was right.  In the end, I took him to the first place I took him and told him to walk inside and ask this time.  He did and it was the correct place.  He only paid me 50Rs for all of it.”

  • Rents his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 8 years
  • Biggest Tip: 100Rs
  • Biggest Payday: 900Rs ($19.60 USD)

Rickshaw Run-In With the Law: “I ran a red light with four passengers in the rickshaw (when I only should of had two).  The traffic police yielded me at the next stop light but I decided I wouldn’t stop because I didn’t have enough money to pay a fine, so I kept going.  They caught up with me 9km down the road and made me pay a 250Rs fine.”

Transport of India, Rickshaw tuk-tuk

Dharmendar (38 years old)

“I was driving my rickshaw and I see a foreign man sitting on the corner having a juice.  He was a very big man and I thought he looked liked the wrestler Undertaker.  I stop and tell him this and he gets very angry with me and tries to fight me, so I run down the street.  When he can’t catch me he decides to go to my rickshaw and flip it over!  I watch him do this from around the corner of a street, he was a very big man.  He stands by my taxi for an hour until people finally tell him lie that it wasn’t my rickshaw.  After he finally leaves, people help me flip my rickshaw back over.  I had to pay to have it fixed.”

  • Owns his rickshaw
  • Years Driving: 15 years
  • Biggest Tip: 5,600Rs ($121.96 USD)
  • Biggest Payday: 7,400Rs (because of the big tip above)

Best Customer: “Best customers I have ever had was a group of seven Australians who wanted to go to a restaurant.  They had been drinking and wanted a special rickshaw that didn’t have a top so they could stand up, drink and party on the way to the restaurant.  We agreed on a fix price of 700Rs each way to the restaurant (1,400Rs total).  I took them at 9pm and they stay until 1am.  When finished each person gave me 1,000Rs… was a GOOD day for me!”


What did I learn from this event?  Not much other then a lot of rickshaw drivers in Jodhpur love to talk about how they got ripped off and that it was one of the most fun days I had in India hanging out with them all for a day.  If anything I realized how little they make and that at least caused me to be a little more sympathetic toward drivers more.

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  • Lisa @chickybus

    Really cool post here–creatively done and very interesting. Fascinating to see what goes on in their lives–and in the rickshaws. These guys don’t get paid much and some have gotten some awful fines, huh? But some sweet tips, too. I love the b/w photos, by the way. Made it even better.

  • simon falvo

    What a wonderful idea. The beauty of travel is not only at looking at wonderful places, but also getting to know – at least a little bit – the local people, how they live, their difficulties, their dreams and hopes.
    Thanks for sharing such a nice piece of the world.

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam

    This is definitely the most interesting post I’ve read in the past month!  Great idea — I couldn’t stop reading and found myself sad that it was over.  Nice work!

  • Dave

    Never thought much about how tourists might rip off rickshaw drivers by leaving them. Kinda rude, especially given how little they make per day as it is.  

  • Akila

    Such a great, great idea!  I love these “exposes” of yours, Troy.  That first story is absolutely hilarious.  And, I can’t believe how awful some of these tourists are.  

  • Jodi E.

    Foggy, what a great series of snapshots in prose and, as always, the portraits are beautiful too. We’ve all read about tourists getting ripped off or people being taken off course, but rarely do we hear about the other side of the story. Thanks for sharing!

  • Gary Arndt

    Great stuff. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Lisa, been wanting to do a post like this for a long while and plan to do more in the future.  Glad you liked the photos as well, I thought the B&W effect really added to it some.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree and it’s what I have been making this blog more and more about.  I got some new plans coming up for some new Photo-Essays about people and their work.  I hope you liek it as well. :)

  • Anonymous

    Your comment is the best comment I have gotten in a month, how is that! lol  I wish I had more content for you on this but rest assured there will be more post like this one in the future, so don’t worry :)

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I guess I didn’t realize that either but I guess it also shows you how 10Rs is a big deal to them when negotiating as well.  Then again when you get a guy who says 700Rs for a ride you know EXACTLY what his goal is for the day “One big ride and then I can relax for the day!” lol 

  • Anonymous

    I liked the first one to but the last one had me rolling…. seriously when he told me Undertaker I thought he was making it up but he kept going on and on about it and was all secretive about it.  Not every one can say the wrestler Undertaker has totaled there car for saying hi! lol

  • Anonymous

    Yeah it will be interesting to see how the stories come out in other countries an compare.  I was a little disappointed to that some many people ripped them but I guess if you drive long enough it will happen.  But i guess it should be noted that it wasn’t just tourist that ripped them off either, case-in-point the 3 old ladies (smart old ladies) got that one guy pretty good I thought.

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  • Anonymous

    My first comment by the Great Gary Arndt… now I know I have made it big time! lol  Glad you liked it and thanks for stopping by… meant a lot seriously! :)

  • Matthew Karsten

    Great post Troy! Love that the taxi drivers are telling their own scammed-by-tourist stories!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I really wasn’t expecting to hear about how bad the foreign tourist are but will be fun to compare it later with say taxi drivers in Colombia where there are a lot less tourist visiting.  Are you still planning to come to Medellin any time soon?

  • Mariellen Ward

    Thanks for writing this. I write an India travel blog, and I try to show sensitivity for the people and the culture; and encourage people to have compassion and understanding for autorickshaw drivers and others in the service industry. This post paints a very real and compelling portrait of the workaday life, the low income and the struggles — like getting ripped off by foreign tourists! Maddening! Thanks again.

  • Mariellen Ward

    Thanks for writing this. I write an India travel blog, and I try to show sensitivity for the people and the culture; and encourage people to have compassion and understanding for autorickshaw drivers and others in the service industry. This post paints a very real and compelling portrait of the workaday life, the low income and the struggles — like getting ripped off by foreign tourists! Maddening! Thanks again.

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  • Nancy Sathre-Vogel

    I really love this post! Such a great idea to get out there and talk with the rickshaw drivers to get their side of the story.

  • Anonymous

    I love this piece! I write about culture around the world because I believe that coming to know one another as people is our best possibility for world peace. This is the kind of article that fosters understanding of others and compassion for them. We’re so often quick to criticize touts and rickshaw drivers as being dishonest, but they’re also people, many of whom are just trying to earn a living in the best way they know how.

  • Sebastian

    Great stories! Love all of them! 

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s more of the system that give taxi drivers a bad name then the people.  With transportation like that, there just isn’t a check and balance to make sure people are happy and things are fair.  For me it was me trying to understand a little more and share that experience with my readers, nothing more nothing less :)

  • Anonymous

    Was surprised at some of the stories to, but I thought the bribes to the cops were some of the best insights.  It kind of sums up India in a way on how things work there.

  • Anonymous

    really like your site Mariellen! :)  It was interesting to hear about how they sometimes get ripped off but I also liked how they also told about ditching a few people here and there to run-ins with the cops.  I thought it was a great over all portrait of the driving there at least.

  • Fida

    Wonderful portraits – in text and picture! This is the kind of reportage that brings us closer together, lets us understand more about the culture.

  • 2 Backpackers

    Original and cool!  Most of us would never consider getting out there and talking with these guys, including me!  Nice job.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks guys, it was a fun experience and was well worth it getting out there! :)

  • Angela

    I can’t believe the story of the man who flipped the rickshaw over, what a jerk! I hope you don’t really believe you go to hell just because you are having fun in this life, the need to sacrifice yourself to earn paradise is a myth and is useful to nobody 😛

  • Anonymous

    Yeah the Undertaker guy was pretty funny and weird to say the least.  He only told me that in secrete away from the other drivers and made me walk down a little ally way so he’d be out of sight form everyone when he told me about it.  For I thought that was the most interesting part of the whole day for me! :)

  • Avinash N

    Thank you Troy for this wonderful insight…! Most Rickshaw Drivers are good people, some may try to fleece foreign tourists..!! 😀 Can’t blame them coz they think that foreigners are very rich people. If you had asked them how many mouths they have to feed from there meagre earnings, it would have made you sad..! :)

  • Melvin

    Great post! Love it! I’ve been to India and used of course rickshaws as well. Your post give a very good view behind the scenes. It’s interesting to read their experiences!

  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    Love the photos and the stories.  Great piece!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I was surprised at how little they make but I guess in a way it doesn’t surprise me in a way because I would see many of them just sitting around and it they couldn’t make that BIG money then they didn’t move.  Capitalism doesn’t come to mind, so to say :)

  • Anonymous

    Well I just thought it would be fun to see a little what they had to say but getting more behind the scenes would reveal maybe to much! lol

  • Anonymous

    Well I just thought it would be fun to see a little what they had to say but getting more behind the scenes would reveal maybe to much! lol

  • Wade Shepard

    Truly excellent work here, man. I’ve never known anyone to bring out the human side of taxi drivers as you did here. Many props for this. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Wade!  I guess no realized that the first guy is 24 years old but said he’s been driving for 9 years.  You do the math on that… only in India maybe! lol

  • Anonymous

    Love this post – very creative and lovely pictures and stories!

  • Anonymous

    Love this post – very creative and lovely pictures and stories!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Sherry, been trying to focus on people more in my travels then just the tourist sites, which I’m starting to get a little bored with.  People seem to never bore me though :)  Always fun to see what others think around the world and how they live.

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  • Cam

    Enjoyed this post – great way to capture a unique subculture. The B&W portraits are well done!

  • Jimdeblock

    Good photojournalism! I enjoyed reading it

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  • Cailin

    Very cool idea and I love the photos of all of them! I can’t believe some of them had never been tipped before like that guy who worked for 12 years! crazy!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Cailin, I have been surprised at how many drivers have said they have never gotten a tip before.  But if you drive just locals around I can understand it bc in their country tipping isn’t a custom.  But yeah after 12 years there had to be one drunk that said “keep the change man!” you would think! lol

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Cam, I was trilled at how well the photos came out bc I shot them all in noon harsh light.  They do look 5x better B&W then in color though.

  • Amanda Williams

    I love this post! The photos are great (especially Ayub!), and it’s really interesting to hear their side of the story. You’re always hearing tourists talk about rickshaw drivers… but we rarely get to hear the stories from their perspective. What a cool idea! And it’s great that you found so many willing to chat with you.

  • Candice

    Such a fantastic idea, and such expressive photographs. I hope karma is sweet to the jackasses who ripped off such hard workers!

  • Anonymous

    lol Ayub was cracking up because his friends were making fun of him the whole time I was taking his photo.  So out of all the ones I got this was the only one I could actually use bc he was looking off or down or had his eyes closed from laughing so hard.  So funny that you liked that photo out of them all! :)

  • Prathima Kharvi

    That’s an awesome writeup. Loved all those stories. 

  • AlexBerger

    Fantastic post! Very original! Loved it!

  • Gray

    What a fantastic post! I loved reading all their stories. I’m a little appalled though at how many people rip them off when the cost of a rickshaw ride isn’t that much to begin with. And no tip in 12 years? That’s just wrong.

  • Jade

    Love this post! We didn’t take a trip in a rickshaw, but I often thought about these men who were driving them. So interesting!

  • Linda Fairbairn

    Was your ‘very good guide’ a rickshaw driver? If so, is he one of these? There’s a final curiosity to see who helped you on your quest!
    Compelling read and a wonderful insight :)

  • Linda Fairbairn

    Was your ‘very good guide’ a rickshaw driver? If so, is he one of these? There’s a final curiosity to see who helped you on your quest!
    Compelling read and a wonderful insight :)

  • Cornelius Aesop

    Great post and I would agree, it seems like some people went through a lot of hassle for what ended up being only a few dollars.

  • Merav @ AllWays

    Best read of this week. The stories of the simple people trying to make a living always amaze me, and I can’t believe some tourists are ripping off these people.

  • Diana Edelman

    Troy — this is such a great idea and fascinating post. I love that they were honest with you and that you learned from it. Beautiful photos, too. I think you should interview people in every place you visit. :)

  • Greg Goodman

    great Great GREAT article! I’ve always wanted to do something like that but you actually did it. Cheers!

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I to always wanted to and while in India an opportunity was there, so I made it a point to try it.  Been one of my best articles to date and plan to do more while traveling.

  • Anonymous

    LOL Diana I actually tried it here in Medellin, Colombia but will have to do more for it… found it a bit harder to talk with those guys but I already have some good stuff (dead bodies in trunks, being stabbed to full girl-on-girl action).  But I need to find another local translator to do more of it, so still working. :)

  • Anonymous

    Yeah I often wonder if maybe there was some confusion, as they said “meet us here” and they guy was waiting some where else and when they waited liked 15min they said screw it and just got another rickshaw.  Though I will say I never missed placed my own rickshaw when I rented them for a day, evening or whatever.

  • Anonymous

    India is full of Karma and bad karma at that, so I’m sure it will happen to them sooner or later! lol

  • Anonymous

    I think the 12 years no tip was more because he only took fares with locals and we all know Indians don’t tip much.

  • Anonymous

    No, my guide was just a tourist guide.  He wanted to show me the sites more the next day and I said I was done with sites, that I wanted to do something different.  He was down for it because as we say “it was easy money for him just talk” but I think he got just as much of a kick out of it as anyone.  Guess he never thought about it either.

  • Anonymous

    I think thats most time the case in India for a lot of things… it’s just a poor country all the way around and nothing comes easy for no one but the born rich. :(

  • Andreaguthmann

    Really cool!  Love the concept here.  Beautiful photos accompanied by nice lengthy quotes.  keep it up!

  • Nancy Mancini

    Found you thanks to A Dangerous Business

  • Anonymous

    Great!  Welcome aboard and hope you like! :)

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  • Peter Clay – Travel Project

    Great article! Its good to read something that gets past the normal boring touristy posts that are out there and see the world from the local point of view. Going to India in 3 weeks, even more excited now!

  • Travel Club

    amazing blog and pics. these pics are so different tell some story.

  • SpunkyGirl Monologues

    I LOVE this post. Great idea.

  • Andi Perullo

    Wow look at all of these awesome comments — totally deserved! This was an incredible post!!!

  • Kadir Ansari

    really g8 coverage  
    i am also photographer & journalist 

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  • Sue Ann

    I love it that you bothered to ask these guys about their lives. Their stories reflect a bit of what’s great about human nature and how we can be quite unthinkingly cruel. Next time I get a rickshaw I’m going to give the driver a big fat tip!

  • Louise

    Hi Troy, just found your website today and I am mesmerized by your pictures and stories! Good job! This blog post especially fascinated me. I’ve always been thinking of doing the same and I think I might start doing it next time I travel (Nepal/India 1,5 months from now, woo).
    Just a question: How did you approach them? Just in the streets or when they were having a break? And did you ‘compensate’ in any way (a small tip, a cup of coffee, etc.).

  • foggodyssey

    I hired a guide to translate for me, who also helped to introduce me to the drivers. He knew where there would be a lot of them lined up and waiting on fares, so we did that at 3 different places just going over and saying hi and what I was trying to write about. Not all wanted to do it but once you got one to say yes, more seemed into after that.

  • Suchitra

    Awesome post but i hate auto rickshaws. Most of rickshaws don’t have manners to driving.Some don’t know how to speak with passengers or womens. Some do not agree to charge fare according on meter because of this things i always preferred to travel in Delhi by city taxis or radio cabs.

  • Ben Haring

    Hi, mad props to u for this! I’ve spent over 4 years in India (I’m now enlisted in the Navy paying back student loans and saving for my next trip) and i can hear the Hindi accented paan garbled voices of the rickshaw drivers in each of these. Seriously, this is one of the most authentic blog postings i’ve read in a long while. Thank you!

  • foggodyssey

    Thanks Ben (and for your service)! It was a fun day getting this, glad you liked it!

  • Jenna

    This is a great look into the rickshaw drivers and I condem the ones who are honest and supportive. I just spent the passed month in Bangalore, India and would tip all drivers who didn’t rip me off (BIG TIPS) and when I was ripped off… it just felt awful (which was more often than not.. twice a day). I made a video of one of my terrible experiences and shared it on my blog: Please, share this if you can! I want to help make a difference across India!


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