Taxis in Bangkok- The Long Post

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.

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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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3 Responses to Taxis in Bangkok- The Long Post

  1. isaanlive says:

    nice useful post thanks

  2. gold price says:

    There have been several negative comments about taxis in Bangkok lately. Here are some helpful suggestions:There have been some comments on the website about Bangkok taxi drivers. I have had few problems with them. Make sure they start the meter and make sure they understand that BEFORE you get into the taxi. Also a good idea to photograph the taxi number (and make sure the driver sees this) in case of problems. You can tell him you do this so you can locate the taxi again if you forget something. If problems DO occur, you can let him know you sent a picture of the taxi information to a friend. Oh, and if you threaten to report him to the “Tourist Police” make sure the taxi is stopped or on a straight road. Told one that onetime and he nearly lost control while in a curve!!You will nearly always come out ahead by paying the meter-rate instead of a negotiated rate. Exceptions might be if you are familiar with the meter rate and the driver offers a better deal. Other times during heavy traffic or long trips, the driver may refuse to accept a meter rate passenger. (When I get what I consider to be excessive requests, I usually tell him, “I want clear title and a full tank of gas!”)Passengers are responsible for tolls.There is a service charge from (but not TO) the airportsDon’t be afraid to contact the Tourist Police if you have problems!!!MOST IMPORTANTLY–Have a good trip. Thailand is by far my favorite country and I get there about 5-10 times a year!

  3. Richard H says:

    Just to balance the above – some drivers give a good service over & above what’s required.
    I recently took a taxi from Ekamai to Lumpini, which looks easy on the map but all the “obvious” routes were jammed solid. Most drivers would just have sat in the traffic and let the meter click up, but this one used his local knowledge. We ended up taking a very roundabout route which would have frightened a passenger who didn’t know what was going on, but I knew the geography and could see he was assessing the traffic at every junction and optimising his route to avoid the worst of the traffic. We visited most of Khlong Toei, dodging across railways and through the foundations of the Chaloem Mahanakhon expressway. I enjoyed the ride, and the fare was scarcely more than for the direct route.

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