Thailand Taxi Meter Exposed

Written by Alex. Posted in MMT Featured, Tradition and Culture

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Published on June 28, 2011 with 10 Comments

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!

 

About Alex

Born and raised in Southern California and now live in Thailand. I started training Muay Thai in the States at the age of 18. After my first trip to Thailand I fell in love with the sport and the “sabai, sabai” lifestyle of Thailand. I finally got tired of the 9-5 rat race life in Los Angeles, and thought it is time to re-evaluate my life. At the age of 25 I sold most of my belongings and bought my plane ticket to Thailand. I’m grateful for the things I have accomplished so far and always looking forward to what’s next.

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10 Comments

There are currently 10 Comments on Thailand Taxi Meter Exposed. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. amazing post alex. thanks! i didn’t realize you can call on taxis that refuse you. muhahaha…..happens to me all the time. (and if this happens and another taxi comes by who has seen this….good chance he’s going to try to give you an inflated flat rate/refuse to turn on the meter, especially if you’re on your way to a major bus station or airport).

    i’ll also add, people, please don’t put your drunk, particularly sloppy drunk female friends in a taxi and assume they’ll get home alright. rape happens. i’ve heard of a driver taking a girl to a hotel room and no one saying a thing – and the girl being too wasted to remember what he looked like. her friends stuck her in a taxi and told the driver where to go assuming he would honour that.

    when in bangkok, at night, i find my thai friends either take a taxi home with me, or put me in one and call me while i’m on my way home and ask me to call once i get to my room. not all the time, but on average. (note, this means when i’m sober. i don’t remember the last time i drank in bangkok).

    alex, do you find humour works? has anyone tried it?

    for the most part, i’ve been fortunate with drivers – when living in bangkok i generally went to the same places and knew the routes, so my rates were consistent (although i have definitely been ripped off). if i thought someone was deviating/trying to get more cash from me enroute, i’d usually laugh at them, like they’re a knucklehead friend and be like, where are you going? i remember doing this once with a driver and he discounted my rate upon arrival and apologized for being hungover. i generally try to add humour in there somewhere, if i’m stuck and can’t get out. i swear i’ve seen drivers extend the trip further because the person, who was in the right to be pissed off, called them on it aggressively initially. i think using humor initially allows them to save face – ie. i know you’re being a scumbag but i’m giving you the chance to redeem yourself/not look like a punk.

    i don’t know if anyone’s done this, but i’ve refused to pay someone who was so drunk, he was completely useless and just kept driving around. guy didn’t argue with me. just apologized and left.

    • Yes! Humor is always best. I agree with you and the less aggressive the better.

  2. I remember a long time ago when I got into a taxi one late night in Bangkok, I was drunk and almost got into it with him on the freeway because he was giving me the run around. I thought he was going to stop in the middle of the freeway and we were going to spank each others monkey. He laughed like he was kidding and he took me to the camp.

  3. I agree with ldf’s approach to taxi’s, which is to keep the situation as light hearted as possible. It is Thailand after all.
    Personally there’s been times where I have conceded that I’m going to have to go off an agreed price – such as when I’ve just hopped off a bus from the country in the middle of the night with all bags in the middle of a torrential downpour and I wanted nothing else but to get to my hotel. Sometime you aren’t in a position to argue, or it’s just not worth it. This is where perspective comes into play.
    Otherwise, the tips given in this article should generally keep you out of problems.
    Bear in mind though – fuel, like lesewhere in the world, is getting expensive in Thailand, particularly when you compare it to an average wage there. The cost of fuel has roughly doubled there over the past 5 years – fares charged by taxis going on their meters have hardly moved. Like anyone else, and all scams etc aside, taxi drivers still have to make a living. So keep this in mind next time you’re waiting on the driver to fumble around for your change from the 50 baht note you handed him. After all, no one likes a “kee-nieow”

  4. Reason 564 for learning thai – you’re not as likely to get ripped off when taking a taxi.

  5. Great post Alex and I especially liked,

    “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.”

    Yes, so true. Thanks for the information :)

  6. Do people really have that many issues with the taxis? I can only think of maybe 2 times i was ripped off by a taxi driver in bkk. And really it wasn’t that much of a rip off considering how much i would have paid in my own country to go the same distance. A cab driver in bkk could drive around the city for half an hour wasting time and it will still cost you less than what it would cost to even get into a cab in toronto before it even went anywhere. Now vietnam is another story…even if you get a meter taxi half the cabs have the meters rigged…i learned that one the hard way!

    • LGP, it’s not even about the baht and how much it would be back home. It’s mainly about how much of your time they waste by pulling their stupid tricks. For most tourists it wont matter if they pay 50 baht or 250 baht for the same ride. Most likely they can afford it. They are only here on vacation for a short time and being in ‘vacation mode’ they are ready to spend money. But for the foreigners that live here and make the same kind of income a local does it’s a pain in the ass dealing with people that just think you are another rich farang. Especially if someone makes their living from fighting. Then there is a big difference between a 50 and 250 baht taxi ride.

      I must say though, when I was in Singapore i had to take a taxi from the airport and I was worrying over how much he would rip me off. I had only 25 SGD and thought this fucker better not rip my ass off. He asks me where i need to go and after i told him the address he wasnt sure where it was. I thought ohh shit, here it is. The next thing i see he pulls out a map! and hes looking at it and finds where i have to go and takes me straight there. I was in shock. Hell would freeze over before the majority of Thai taxi drivers did the same thing this guy did.

      Thanks for reading!

      Alex

      • Yeah i understand that, i’ve lived there on a budget for awhile. It’s just i never really found it was THAT bad of a problem. Sure maybe i’d get ripped off once or twice…but if it’s only 40 baht extra or something its not something i’d get pissed about. It’s also just one of the experiences that makes living in thailand interesting. To me at least they are ripping you off, or trying cause they don’t make alot of money and it either works or it doesn’t. Where as in north american/europe we just get raped on everything and there’s nothing you can do about it. And the people ripping you off are rich, not poor.

        And your story about the cab driver in singapore….i’ve had that happen numerous times in thailand. They wouldn’t get a map, but they drove around asking people trying to find the place and didn’t charge me extra. I know what your talking about though…which is kind of the reason i don’t like bkk that much. it feels like everyone is trying to put one over on you…and if i wanted that stress i’d just stay in my own country. But maybe i’m just lucky and in the game of taxi roulette haven’t came up with too many bullets yet.

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