A trishaw, or ‘beca’ as they are known in Malaysia, is a three wheeled vehicle with a driver in the back, who propels the vehicle by pedalling, and a cab in the front just large enough to seat two adults.
Trishaws are available for hire as a form of public transport in the busy areas of Penang, particularly George Town and Batu Ferringhi, where travel by taxi is sometimes difficult because of the narrow streets and large numbers of pedestrians.
About Penang Trishaws
Trishaws took over from rickshaws as the principal form of public transport in George Town around the end of the 19th Century. A rickshaw is a cab which is pulled along by someone harnessed to the cab in the back in the same way that a horse pulls a cart. This form of transport was brought to Penang by Indian immigrants, in whose native country the rickshaw was invented. The trishaw is a quicker and less energy consuming variation on the rickshaw utilising the then newly developed bicycle technology from Europe.
Like the rickshaws, trishaws have themselves been superseded by motorbikes, cars and buses as the main form of transport in Penang. Trishaws now only carry tourists, and its a lucrative business for the people who are permitted to ply this trade. If you walk around tourist areas in Penang what you will notice is that the drivers are all older men. Some visitors may feel unhappy or concerned about having an elderly gentleman do the physical hard work of taking them around a hot humid city. However, before you let this put you off taking a trishaw bear in mind that on a good day a trishaw driver can earn 200 to 300 MYR which, in a country where the average monthly salary is around 3,500 MYR (and a lot lower for a manual labourer), is considered a really good income.
Trishaw Hire Prices
If you hire a trishaw then you need to negotiate a rate per hour, or fraction of an hour. The current going rate (2018) is 40 to 50 MYR an hour. When negotiating a price bear in mind that the trishaw driver is not going to be cycling continuously for a full hour and they tend to get very upset if you don’t stop frequently to take photographs and visit things. Most tourists hire a trishaw for a single hour. The historic centre of George Town is not that large and you go around the main sights in an hour stopping to take photographs along the way. If you plan to go inside one of the attractions, such as Fort Cornwallis or the Cheah Kongsi Clan House, consider doing that at the start or end of your trishaw hire period or you are really just wasting your money. What trishaws are perfect for is to take you around the various better known wall murals in George Town which can be difficult to locate. Trishaws are also useful for people who have difficulties walking because of age, injury, or health problems because they can take place you would normally need to walk to because there is no car access.