The Old Indonesian Three Wheeler, Becak Is Not The Same As Ricksaw

Indonesian Three Wheeler Becak - RicksawBecak, the old Indonesian three wheeler, based on many English dictionary is often referred as rickshaw. Well, both are actually in the same category, old and non motorized vehicles. However, when we take a look at the shape and how the vehicle is handled, then there is very distinctive differences.

Let’s take a look at the first picture. That’s Becak.

After that, please see several pictures of vehicles that are called as rickshaw in some Asian countries, like Vietnam, Japan, and also Bangladesh.

(Before that, let me thank all photographers at that have shared the below rickshaw images under CC0 license. Because of their kindness to let everybody use the image freely, I can show to the readers the difference between Indonesian three wheeler with other countries’. Thank you.)


The Three Wheelers In Asian Countries

What do you think? I believe you can see the difference between rickshaws and Becak.

ricksaw 01
Bangladesh Rickshaw
Japan Rickshaw
Jaoan Rickshaw


Indopnesian Becak
Indonesian Becak
Old Shanghai Rickshaw
Old Shanghai Rickshaw









Yes. You are absolutely right. A rickshaw always has a driver in front of its passenger compartment. The driver drags the vehicle, either on foot or on pedal, like a bicycle. Meanwhile, on a Becak, the Indonesian three wheeler, the driver sits behind the passenger cabin. They push it.

That is the difference and the reason actually why Becak is not the same as rickshaw.

The Indonesian Three Wheeler

Becak is said to be brought in to this country a long time ago. It was when Japanese troops occupied Indonesia during the World War II. At that time, the three wheeler was used to transport logistics.

Since then, becak has been utlized widely all over Indonesia as public transportation. Almost all cities in Indonesia has their own version of the non motorized vehicle.

Until now, becak is still operative. However, some cities has started to abandon it. For example, Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia has banned this vehicle from crawling all main streets. Some other cities has also issued the same regulation.

The government, years ago when they issued the regulation mentioned humanity reason behind the ban. They don’t think the job as becak’s driver is humane enough. It is said to be similar to slavery.

Indonesian Three WheelerWell. I am not sure it is correct to describe the job as the three wheeler’s driver as slavery. Anyway, it’s quite true that to ride a becak is like pedaling your bicycle with hundreds kilograms load. Very exhausting. ( I tried myself and I could not even ride it for 100 meters)

Whether the prohibition is correct or not, I must agree with it, even not for the same reason.

The traditional Indonesian three wheeler can not compete with more modern vehicle like cars or motorcycles. It is too slow. Of course, it is understandable as it depends on how strong the driver is. Or, if he/she has enough food or not.

Its slowness can also cause problems on the street. Indonesia traffic, especially in medium or big cities are known to be cruel and congested. Having a slow vehicle on the same roads will surely cause havoc. It is unimaginable.

Becak’s Changed Roles

On the other side, to eliminate 100% this traditional vehicle , at least my thought should also be avoided. Generations in future should also know how their predecessor lived in the past. Becak can be said one of the remains from previous generation and for sure it must also be preserved.

It is lucky that some of the cities, especially the ones that have been known as tourist destinations find the solution. While they are changing the transportation system with the more modernized vehicles, they still allow the old Indonesian three wheeler to operate..

Now, becak is more to play a role as tourists attraction. It would be quite unique experience for foreigners to try how to live in the past. I am sure it is.

So, until the time comes to completely remove becak from the book of Indonesian transportation, becak may still operate.

I don’t know exactly how it will be. But, there is a prediction, or a guess, probably it will be just for another 5-10 years. Not only because of the regulation but also because of the availability of the spare parts for the old three wheeler is getting less and less.

As a closure of this article, if you are planning a trip to Indonesia, perhaps, I would like to suggest for you to try¬† this vehicle. It’s enjoyable and quite fun. Of course, if you are the driver, I am not sure it will be enjoyable but as a passenger, I think it’s nice.

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