I am a regular user of taxis in Bangkok, generally I ride in a taxi 2-3 times per week and use taxis for trips to and from the airport 3 times a month. I am satisfied with 9 out of the 10 trips I make in Bangkok taxis, of course the 1 trip where I am not satisfied is remembered more then than the 9 satisfying trips.
Bangkok taxis are not expensive compared to taxis in the USA and Europe or compared with taxis in Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo, of course this makes economic sense as the overall cost of living in Bangkok is lower than those countries. In Bangkok, many taxi drivers speak some english, or at least will try.
A reader posted the following comment based on my earlier post about changes in laws for taxis in Bangkok that went into effect during 2012:
‘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.’
I’ve been on a terrible streak of bad taxis. The highlights:
- Mid-afternoon, I live on a quiet street mid-Sukhumvit and was heading to the airport, I wake up one of the sleeping taxi drivers parked on my street, tell him where I’m going and off we go. I notice he is going to the wrong airport after I informed him “Don Mueang” at least 3 times—I almost miss my flight due to the traffic jam incurred having to use local streets to get us to the correct express way.
- Early evening, arrive at the Don Mueang airport, taxi driver doesn’t like the traffic on the expressway, uses local roads, massive traffic jam on the local roads, the 25km trip takes 1.5 hours.
- Early morning- 5am- leave my condo to hail a taxi, the taxi drivers are asleep in their taxis (once again, on my street) and don’t want to take me as I want to pay the metered fare. I walk to the entrance to my street where there are always cabs trolling along Sukhumvit where I find 3 taxis parked, the drivers don’t want to use the meter, but want to sit around and negotiate a flat fare. Ugh. I hail a cab, pay the meter (thb10 less than what the drivers wanted for their flat rate). The only issue- the driver didn’t know the way to the airport and had to ask the toll collection attendant as we entered the expressway.
Humor me by allowing me to make a few generalizations about taxi drivers perceptions of foreigners and Thais- many taxi drivers view foreigners as either an ideal passenger or one to be avoided. Why ideal- foreigners are ‘rich’ and might give a good tip, or a tip better than a Thai might give. This sentence implies that Thai’s are good tippers (not necessarily true) and that foreigners are good tippers (not necessarily true). Another reason a taxi driver might pick up a foreigner is to milk the meter by taking a circuitous route.
There are taxi drivers that don’t want to pick up a foreigner as they are not comfortable speaking English. Others might not pickup any fare as they are close to the end of their shift or low on petrol.
A few basic tips to trying to hail a taxi:
- Be polite- smile, use a kind tone of voice, this will get you a long way with the driver (and in Thailand). It still is customary to open the rear door and ask the taxi driver it he will take your fare before you jump in the taxi, crazy I know. You are asking someone to do their job.
- If you are staying in a hotel- ask them to hail a taxi for you. Also ask them to provide a card with the address of the hotel in Thai- show the card to a taxi when you want to return to your hotel (note- many hotels have their address on the electronic door keys)
- Try to have your destination written in Thai- hotels can do this for you, many guide books have the name of the sight/location written in Thai
- Don’t go off meter- just don’t. I don’t. If you are going to see popular sights, most taxi’s won’t pick you up in those areas ‘on meter’- so take the water taxi (cheap, fun, good sightseeing) back to Saphan Thaksin and then take BTS. It’s probably faster anyhow. Just make sure the driver turns on the meter when you get in the taxi, if not, lean forward and point to the meter. If they don’t turn it on, get out.
- Choose a newer looking taxi if possible- a cleaner one, not beat up and dented, you’ll be more comfortable (air conditioning should be better, wet dog smell less, shock absorbers are really nice to have on these roads)
- Remember, don’t get frustrated if the taxi driver doesn’t speak english
If you have a taxi driver you like- consider hiring him for your return trip to the airport or for sightseeing. If you hire a driver to come pick you up- many times it will be off-meter with the fare negotiated before you depart; you might pay more for this as the driver is coming to pick you up, but many times it is worth it.
Again, 90% of my taxi experiences are good and I expect yours will be as well, if you have a bad experience, don’t let it ruin your day/stay.