Hey MMT readers. I am really excited to share this post with you guys. I can’t even imagine how many countless people have been and are currently being taken advantage of by taxi drivers here in Thailand. It happens day in and day out, and not just to foreigners either. They will rip off their own people too. There is pretty much no way around it, but at least after reading this post you will be armed with the knowledge that will help you not get ripped off, or at least not as bad.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a Bangkok taxi driver, and ask him all the questions I wanted. I know for a fact that he is a kind hearted and honest guy because he is my girlfriends uncle. I thought that having already been scammed so many times by those spineless taxi drivers, and learned the hard way that I will know what to look out for. But after talking with Uncle Prasit I feel like a lot more comfortable sitting in a taxi.
Hailing a taxi – Ok, before hailing a taxi you should know 1 thing that will help greatly reduce the chance of getting ripped off, and that is which side of the street to take the taxi from. This will of course depend on where your destination is. Best way is to just ask people around you in a friendly manner. Now, I wouldn’t go up to a motorcycle taxi or tuk-tuk driver and ask them, but I mean someone that won’t have anything to gain out of lying to you. You can ask a food vendor, someone on the street, or a 7-11 clerk. Any “normal” person will do. By figuring out which direction you need to go you can get in the taxi from that side of the street to get to your destination. If you take a taxi from the opposite direction you will be wasting time and money on him having to either make a U-Turn, or he will know you don’t know which way you’re going and take you for a ride. And remember when hailing a taxi look for the ones that have the red light lit on the left corner of the dashboard. Those are the ones that are available. Avoid old looking taxis (not old drivers, those are usually good), but if the car itself is old chances are it might have a bootleg meter too. New(er) looking taxis have meters which are checked for accuracy and have government locks on them.
Meter – One of the easiest scams a taxi driver will try to pull is not turning the meter on. When you get in the cab and tell them where to go they will try to quote you a price, usually it will be 3-5 times the amount that it will actually cost to get there. If you are feeling brave you can insist that they turn the meter on and after some more lies coming out of the drivers mouth he will turn on the meter. But there is nothing stopping him from taking you on the “scenic route” to where you need to go. Uncle Prasit advises if the driver doesn’t turn on the meter right away just get out. Don’t waste time arguing with him to turn on the meter. You are better off catching another taxi.
Taxi commissions – Another way taxi drivers make money is off of commissions from different shops or businesses. For example: Let’s say you get into a taxi and tell him to take you to a certain hotel, he might ask you if you already have a reservation or not. If you get this question you always answer “YES!”, even if you don’t have a reservation at the hotel yet. Some people not knowing any better might not have a reservation and the taxi driver will tell them that they know a better hotel which is nicer and cheaper. They will take you to some shit hole that will charge you more money for the room to cover the taxi drivers commission. Be careful, it happens with more than just hotels. If you are going to a temple, club, tour company, or anywhere… If the driver mentions anything about knowing a better place, get out and find another taxi.
Keep a Map – One thing that Uncle Prasit mentioned is to keep a map handy with you while you are in the taxi. Even if you don’t know where the hell you are on the map or which direction you are going. It will cut down the chances that the driver will take the long route. He might assume you already know which way to go. If you have any sort of problems when you get in the taxi like if you smell alcohol, driver is asking too many questions, pretends he doesn’t know where MorChit Bus Terminal is(happened to me), don’t hesitate and just get out. There will be many more taxis to pick from.
Expressway – Sometimes the driver will ask you if you want to take the Expressway (toll road). In Thai it is called “tang duan”. You will have to pay the toll of course so it is up to you. The driver will always insist that it is better and quicker to take the Expressway, but he is also interested in getting a quicker turnover rate too. In some cases he might be right, and in peak times traffic can be really bad. It might be worth it. It’s your call.
Inside the Taxi – One thing I do when I first get into the taxi, as I am telling him where I want to go is check for the following… 1. Drivers identification usually on the front left side of the dashboard. 2. ID Plates on the doors. 3. Government locks on the meter box. If all 3 are in place we should have no problems. If something is missing then be careful. Better to just get out and get another taxi. Sometimes drivers might share the taxi so they might honestly have forgotten to put their ID card on the front. If that is the case make a note of the ID plate that is on the door. If you run into any problems on the ride you can call the Taxi Center (Dial 1584) and report it to them. If there is no ID on the front and no ID plates on the doors GET OUT! Don’t take a chance.
For the Ladies – Be extremely careful getting in a taxi alone at night. It’s always better to go with another person anyways but keep an eye on where you are going. It is not unheard of a taxi driver taking people into dark alleys and robbing them.
Drunk? – If you are pissed drunk and stumble into a taxi after a night at Soi Cowboy, well… Not much you can do. You’re getting boned hard! You will probably pass out in the taxi and wake up in front of your hotel with a 300-something baht meter to pay for. Sucks to be you.
Airport Taxi – Avoid the 50 baht that the airport taxis charge you by getting a taxi from the second floor instead of the ground floor. Ignore ALL of the drivers inside the airport that will swarm you and ask you where you are going and walk straight out. You will be able to see a taxi that is dropping off someone coming to the airport and can pickup that taxi.
Baggage – If you have baggage with you in the taxi and you need to make a stop somewhere before getting to your destination be careful of your belongings. If you are away from your stuff for a long time the driver might go through your stuff and rob you. Better to take your belongings with you.
Taking too long? – If you have been in the taxi for a while and already feel like it is taking way to long to get to where you are going keep bugging the driver. Ask him how much longer it is going to take. Tell him you always go to your destination and it never takes this long. Taxi drivers get annoyed quick and will probably just take you straight to where you need to go. One time while my friend was visiting Thailand we were getting taken for a ride. Meter was already almost 200 baht. I asked the driver how much longer it will take and he replied with a bullshit story and at the end of it said maybe 30 more minutes. My friend told me to tell the driver “If you get us there in 10 minutes I will give your 350 baht.” The drivers eyes lit up. 8 minutes later we were right in front of the shop we needed to be at. We called him on his bullshit, and told him next time not to waste peoples time.
One last thing and just sort of a FYI… If you hail a taxi and after getting in and telling them where you want to go the driver tells you he doesn’t go there, or wont go there, you can call the Taxi Center and report him. Make sure you provide the ID plate number. He will get fined 1,000 baht. Just throwing it out there so people are aware.
I hope that this info will help you guys while in Thailand. Taxi drivers can be pretty bad and annoying but it is still possible to find a nice, honest driver. Usually I look for the oldest one I can find. Some of the things I wrote can also apply to tuk-tuk drivers as well, but they have a whole different set of scams they will get you with. Plus they don’t have meters. You have to know the prices which are never posted, so it’s pretty much how much you are willing to bargain and pay them. I avoid tuk-tuk drivers like the plague. When I find an honest tuk-tuk driver that hasn’t sold his soul I will make a post about it.
If you have any tips to add that might help people please leave them in the comments!