Tuk-tuks becoming popular with tourists in Paris

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 September, 2013, 5:10am


The humble tuk-tuk, a fixture in Asian cities from Bangkok to Bangalore, is rapidly becoming a common sight in the touristy parts of Paris - and the bane of traffic police.

The three-wheeled auto rickshaws, as well as human-powered pedicabs, first appeared in the French capital in 2011, and their numbers have since risen to around 50, lining up at landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or the Place de la Concorde.

Like their Asian cousins, many are brightly painted, while others sport the iconic yellow with black-and-white trim of the New York cab.

The growth in numbers has been fuelled in part by the recent downturn in the French economy and the need to find work.

The price for a tuk-tuk - imported from Thailand - can be as much as €9,000 (HK$92,000), but buyers hope to make good their investment. While tuk-tuks may be a cheap alternative to taxis in Asia, in central Paris, tourists are happy to pay an average of €20 per ride, easily more than regular cabs can charge.

"Unemployment is everywhere," one driver says. "We have found something that the tourists like."

The downside, he said, is that "the police hassle you" - checking items including registration, medical clearance, insurance, brake lights and indicators as well as maintenance.

A driver called Sofiene, who says he always dreamed of being his own boss, earns between €90 and €110 a day - but might be fined between €35 and €135.

"Why shouldn't I take advantage of the Golden Triangle like others do?" asked the former hotel maitre d', referring to an upscale section of the Champs Elysees.

Benjamin Maarek, manager of the company Allo Tuk Tuk, which offers commented tours, said: "The right to the location is the right to work."

For the police, tuk-tuks are just another headache. "These tuk-tuks are breaking the law because they haven't been booked" by telephone or online, one policeman said.

Under French law, only registered taxis are allowed to pick up passengers on the street.