Bangkok Taxi- Asking for a Ride, New Complaint Hotline and Fares

There has been a lot said and written about taxis in Bangkok, positive and negative, most of it negative. I am on the positive side- taxis are very inexpensive, most have decent air-conditioning, many even come with shock absorbers and some come without the wet dog smell.

Hailing a taxi in Bangkok is a strange thing- no, not getting a taxi to pull over, but getting the taxi to take you where you want to go. Bangkok is the opposite of places like New York City, in Bangkok the taxi will stop while in NYC and other places the available taxis just pass you by, usually basing their decision to stop on how the you look.

The truly odd part of BKK taxis- you tell the driver where you want to go before you get in the taxi, the driver then gives you a nod of acceptance. Having been here two years, I am now used to this; and yes, this is the equivalent to asking someone to do their job. A taxi drivers’ job is to pick up a fare, drive them safely to their destination by taking the most direct route possible.

Well, not in Bangkok. The taxi drivers job here is to decide if they want to continue driving around with no fare rather than accepting a fare.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could decide to accept parts of your job on a case-by-case basis? “hey, can you send that email….hmmmm….no, seems there is already a lot of traffic on the email at present” or “can you go to that meeting this afternoon….no, kinda far away and very close to the end of my workday” imagine the look on your co-workers face!

Yet this is how it works in Bangkok- you flag down the taxi, open the back door, the driver glances at you, you tell the driver where you want to go, the driver will usually look back over the steering wheel as if seeking the answer from the road itself and then nod ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Then you get into the taxi.

The main reasons for rejecting the fare are “traffic” or “end of my shift, too far away.” I don’t get the traffic excuse- Bangkok traffic is terrible, exactly where is the driver going to find a fare that doesn’t need to travel to a part of the city where there isn’t traffic? Better to be sitting in traffic with the meter running that without, no? Yes, I understand the driver might have a return journey through traffic without a fare, but I still think a fare is better than driving around without one. And if your shift is up, turn off the available light and head to the garage.

I have no idea why this method of accepting passengers was ever found to be acceptable. Thais are known for their service- what if you walked into a coffee shop, ordered an expresso and the server declined your order- “espresso making machine has too much traffic.”

Well, this is all coming to an end. A new ‘law’ states that taxis have a accept the passenger or they will be fined THB1,000. There is a complaint hotline for the rejected passengers to call, and there is information (picture of taxi, driver, etc) required to file a complain. Here is a link to an article in the Nation about the new rules and result:

Only 13 complaints were received yesterday when the Metropolitan Police Bureau started imposing a Bt1,000 fine on any taxi driver turning down passengers.

All the taxi drivers against whom complaints were received would be located and fined if they were found to have actually refused to accept the passengers, the police said.

The Land Transport Depart-ment’s passenger protection centre yesterday received complaints against 13 taxi drivers through its 1584 hotline. The number of complaints is much lower from the average day.

The complaints were less than usual as yesterday was the weekend and the initial data from the centre under Land Transport Department was reported before data gathering time. Normally, there are an average 100 complaints about this problem every day, or about 2,000 per month. This problem has been the biggest grouse of passengers followed by taxi drivers’ improper manners and reckless driving, according to the bureau.

Police said passengers who were refused by any taxi drivers despite the “vacant” sign being on, could file their complaints with police present at the scene so that the drivers could be caught red-handed. Complaints could also be made through traffic police hotline 1197 if there was no police officer present at the scene. 

Passengers have to remember the licence plate, the colours of the taxi and the driver’s appearance, or take a photo or record a video clip.

Senior traffic police officer Lt-Colonel Prasopchok Iampinit advised spurned passengers to video-record the taxi involved for evidence if no police was nearby to fine the cab driver on the spot. 

However, taxi driver Bancha Samruatjit, 47, expressed concern that the new fine against taxis turning down passengers might be abused or unfairly implemented. 

Meanwhile, many taxi drivers said they were happy with warning tickets for petty traffic violations. The warning tickets for petty traffic violations were implemented yesterday for the first day.

About 12,800 complaints were filed against taxi drivers between January and June. The top complaints included refusing to accept passengers, being verbally rude, dropping off passengers before the agreed destination, unsafe driving, and refusing to use the meter. 

Top excuses

The following are the main reasons taxi drivers cite for turning down passengers: 

_ Rental time is running out and the taxi must be returned

_ Running out of gas

_ Traffic congestion

_ The destination is too near or too far

_ Passengers refuse to give extra money (tip) for long distance

_ Preferring foreign passengers who tend to pay tips or are unaware of detours

I will never call this hotline, easier just to wait 3 minutes for another taxi to come along. I agree the current system of asking the driver to accept your destination is inane, but is it really worth reporting a driver over?

Here is an article in the Bangkok Post regarding the drivers response.

“It is unfair and our reasons to refuse passengers, such as running out of fuel, must be also considered,” Tharin Kamkhuntod, secretary to the Thai Taxi Council, told a forum organised by a group of senators yesterday.

They will gather at the Royal Plaza tomorrow and then move to Government House and parliament to ask for the law to be changed.

Taxi drivers will be immediately fined 1,000 baht if they refuse to accept passengers under a new campaign of the Metropolitan Police Bureau which comes into effect next Saturday.

“We will also protest against the government’s policy to hike the prices of liquefied petroleum gas [LPG] and compressed natural gas [CNG],” he said.

He expected about five hundred taxi and van drivers and truckers would join the protest.

Taxi driver Banyong Amporntragool questioned the rising prices of the fuels given that Thailand has gas resources.

He said if the government continued to refuse to tell the truth about the gas issue, taxi drivers would intensify their protests.

Van driver Ban-ern Nengnoi cried foul over the government’s natural gas for vehicles (NGV) plan. NGV is the Energy Ministry’s moniker for CNG.

“The government’s plan to convert public vehicles to use NGV is not a very good one,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bangkok senator Rosana Tositrakul said she will petition an anti-graft agency to investigate whether senior officers at the Energy Ministry had conflicts of interest for sitting on the boards of private energy firms. She said several high-ranking authorities at the Energy Ministry occupied directorships in energy-related companies.

“We are now collecting names to propose to the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate them for alleged conflicts of interest,” she said at the same forum.

Those positions include the permanent secretary for energy, deputy permanent secretary of the Energy Ministry, directors-general of the Mineral Fuels, Energy Business, and Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency departments, and the director of the Energy Policy and Planning Office.

Those people work for energy firms such as PTT Plc, PTT Exploration and Production Plc, Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Plc, Esso (Thailand)’s refinery, IRPC Plc, and Thai Oil. All of them are state enterprises or affiliates.

I hope that taxi drivers pick up the passengers when the pull over, I don’t think a passenger should be rejected if the destination is within greater Bangkok. I don’t care about the hotline or fines, the answer is simple: a taxi driver should drive people where they want to go if the destination is within greater Bangkok.

About the cost of a Taxi in Bangkok- the base meter fare is THB35, this compares with New York where the base meter fare is THB78. A Bangkok taxi charges THB5 per kilometer, a NYC taxi is THB47 per kilometer. And NYC taxi’s aren’t known the be the cleanest and most comfortable.

Here is some good information from Richard Barrow’s blog regarding taxi rates and using the meter (from 2011)

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About faranginbangkok

Additional pictures: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/faranginbangkok For more updates about Bangkok, Thailand and other thoughts: www.twitter.com/lilrichardb I began working in Bangkok during 2008- a time that featured a great deal of political unrest in Thailand and particularly Bangkok. I had lived in San Francisco for 15 years and was working on a project in Thailand. Generally I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and then 3-4 weeks in San Francisco. Did Bangkok begin to feel like home? Yes, and No. Bangkok and the Thai culture forced me to feel many things, the change in culture and environment was so dramatic it forced the decision- embrace or ignore. I embraced and made Bangkok my home and base in 2009. I have enjoyed living in Bangkok, experiencing Thailand and the entire ASEAN region.
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9 Responses to Bangkok Taxi- Asking for a Ride, New Complaint Hotline and Fares

  1. Chris Wotton says:

    I’m a bit miffed – you think taxi drivers should pick up all passengers for trips within Bangkok (I agree) but you don’t think it’s worth reporting them if they don’t. The new law offers a solution to the problem, and you don’t appear to be proposing an alternative?

    • Hello and thank you for the comment. I do not think this method for reporting taxi drivers will work- if you must send a picture of the taxi (or video) and the driver, this would mean you would need to submit your personal information to make the report/complaint. Is that a wise solution? The person making the complaint would have their personal information (at least general contact information) submitted (remember, you are calling a hotline, your phone # will be recorded), I am sure the taxi driver(s) won’t be happy with the fine of THB1,000 as this is more than many earn in a day, what if the taxi driver wanted to discuss the complaint directly with the person that made the complaint?

      Or would even photographing a taxi and the threat of a report lead to a conflict at that time? I certainly wouldn’t want any female friend taking a photograph of a taxi (in any city, including Bangkok) after dark and threatening a report. I find Bangkok very safe, but people become irrational when threatened with reporting/fines.

      And is reporting really worth the time and effort? For me, no. Instead of taking pictures, videos and completing the complaint process, I’ll wait for another taxi. And maybe give that taxi a bit bigger tip as a thanks for picking me up. Maybe that positive reward (albeit for just doing the basics of the job) will help to ensure that driver picks up any passenger they stop for.

  2. Aaron says:

    I’m a bit concerned about the 1000 baht “on the spot” fine collected by police officers. Sounds like a custom-made 500 Baht bribe opportunity.

  3. Willow says:

    After turning down SEVERAL taxi drivers for refusing to use their meters and being dropped off on a highway twice for requesting the meter be turned on I had no alternative but to pay the 200 bht fare requested. Great impression you are making to international visitors Taxi drivers of Bangkok. My lasting impression of you will be that you are all thieving pricks.

  4. jpiotrowski says:

    we should meet my boyfriend in thailand yesterday nov 5 he is coming from ukbut i have a problem the immigration here in the phil not allowed me to fly to thailand. the saddest part my boyfriend was been rob by the taxi all the baggage all the important thing they took. since i cant fly there my boyfriend suffer now he dont know what to do. why its like that we are a tourist in your country but you cant protect us

  5. jpiotrowski says:

    my boyfriend already go to the police station but he not entertain them. so what he would do? please if there someone who can help us please help him

  6. Allan Benfield says:

    The complaints hotline is ONLY in Thai!!

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