Below are a few tips and information to consider when taking a cab in Bangkok
1) Getting a taxi
Hailing a taxi is incredibly easy in Bangkok making it one of the most comfortable places to live. There are so many, 24-hours a day, and they’re always willing to stop.
In spite of their willingness though, taxis can often brake suddenly or quickly change lanes to reach you that it can create some dangerous road situations. Take care of the location you decide to hail a cab and the traffic conditions around it.
2) Prices and tipping a taxi
Taxis in Thailand are extremely cheap. The starting taxi fare is just 35 baht. A 10 to 20 kilometer trip will cost you on average just 65 to 130 baht. What’s more, tipping isn’t customary nor expected.
However, it is your prerogative if you think a driver deserves a tip. Likewise, if you’re in a hurry, or feel you’re holding up traffic, take what change you’re comfortable with to carry around, and be on your way.
If you forgot that you’re carrying only large 500 and 1,000 baht bills, ask to be taken to a convenient store so you can break it if the taxi can’t.
3) Taxis turning an eye
You’ll begin to feel like all eyes are on you every time a vacant cab is around, flattering at first, but incredibly deflating when one finally ignores and drives right past you when you needed it the most.
Keep in mind, it could be due to a number of reasons. a) They might be on the way home after a long shift. b) They might be out of gas and headed to a pump. c) The taxi driver just didn’t see you on time d) Their English is just very very bad
Whatever it may be, don’t feel insulted. There’ll be hundreds of cabs behind it in no time with full tanks of gas as you already know.
4) Long line ups for taxis
But despite the ease of catching a cab, there are times when you will face lengthy queues that are out of your control. These are especially true during the rain and after events like concerts, which are exemplary of when demand exceeds supply – and also how surprisingly civil things can still remain.
If you’re at the airport, they have designated lineups for taxis that may take a while but they are all regulated to run on meters and an additional surcharge (currently 50 baht).
5) Running off-the-meter
It’s actually law for taxis to run on meters and not to decline a customer in Thailand. There’s even a hotline (1584) to call in complaints.
Unfortunately, in very touristy areas and night club zones, not all taxis abide and will charge off-the-meter for extra cash. This leaves you with little choice sometimes as getting home becomes first priority.
You can walk away and try flagging a passing by cab that’s not part of the racket huddled outside popular entrances. On the other hand, you may run into the same issue or wind up walking into a desolate area.
What can be said is, although it’s off-putting to be charged off-the-meter, drivers do keep their word and it’s nice to know that you’ll be finally getting home now.
This brings us to an alternative to help avoid situations like this.
6) Using a taxi app
Apps like GrabTaxi and Uber are a surprisingly effective way for calling reliable taxis in Bangkok. More and more entrepreneurial type taxi drivers only accept fares via the app and have seen their business double as a result.
On a night where everything is planned and you want to avoid delays, reserving a taxi through a taxi app makes as much sense as reserving your dinner table.
In particular, these taxi apps work great for schedules to the airport when you need a taxi at your front door and at odd hours of the night.
7) Taxi Vans
Taxi vans for larger parties and more luggage space are available with an associated 40 baht surcharge, but are harder to find randomly on the street. If you specifically need a van, book through an app and upgrade vehicle size.
8) Taxi tour guides
Taxi drivers actually have some of the best recommendations for tourist attraction and after-hours clubs (a predominantly international scene). Maybe its because they get a small kickback for bringing you there, but it’s also because of the acquired knowledge from years on the job.
Don’t be so quick to dismiss a taxi driver’s recommendations, especially if you’ve asked. They are running daily circuits and know some of the latest and best spots.
9) Communication obstacles
Having perfect English will actually work against you in this case as the Thai cabbie’s is not. Make an effort to mimic the Tinglish accent (Thai-English) and find the Thai word for your destination or prepare for gridlock.
Remember: the taxi driver will go out of his way to take you to the front entrance even if its the wrong place. So be clear about location before it’s too late no matter how silly Tinglish makes you feel.
10) Different colored taxis
The different colored taxis are mainly to signify what taxi rental company owns them. Taxi drivers will obtain a license and rent a vehicle from a provider, which is identified by the color of vehicle.
One distinction to point out is green & yellow taxis signify private owners who have invested and own their taxi vehicle. They don’t have to return the vehicle at a set time and are free to work when they please.
Another distinction is blue taxis labelled intelligent taxis. These taxis are equipped with GPS systems and are able to provide printed receipts, useful for claiming travel expenses.
11) No hard rules choosing a cab
While there is no hard rule for what type or colored taxi to choose, pick one that’s in good condition, use your best judgement, and don’t hesitate to find another if you’re not getting the right vibes.
Also remember that cabbies don’t have control over Bangkok’s notorious traffic so might as well remain cool in the taxi’s air-conditioning.
Nonetheless, odds are with you. You’re bound to run into only good experiences as you’ll find the majority of Thai taxi drivers are just hard-workers looking to make ends meet and some of the nicest people around.