In most places in the world, taxis are expensive. In Thailand, they are cheap. For just over $1, you can go two or three miles, and for between $1.50 and $2, you can see a lot of Bangkok. I take taxis in Thailand every day. I go out for dinner in a taxi, I go to the grocery store in a taxi, I visit my friends in a taxi, in fact I go everywhere in a taxi, usually three to four trips a day – yet the amount I spend on taxis in Thailand every month is less than $100. That’s much cheaper than running a car. If you’re in Thailand and you want to take a taxi too, but are not sure how, just follow these quick tips and your Thai taxi riding experience should be easy and fabulous.
Taxis are everywhere – First of all, taxis are everywhere in Thailand, but especially in Bangkok. Here you can wave down a taxi from the road side at any time of the day or night. You will never wait more than a minute for a taxi as there are literally hundreds of thousands of them. Most taxis in Bangkok are yellow and green, red and blue or sometimes all blue or all yellow. They all have a ‘taxi’ sign on their roof though so you can’t miss them.
Make sure the meter is on – When you first get in the taxi, after you’ve told the driver where you’re going, make sure you watch that he turns the meter on. 99% of Thai taxi drivers will but, especially if you’re in one of the tourist areas, you will occasionally get one that doesn’t. Don’t believe them when they talk about a fixed rate to your destination.
By law, all taxis in Thailand have to use the meter and they know this. If they don’t use the meter, what should be a 50 baht trip (about $1.75) can easily become a 400 baht trip (around $13). If he won’t put the meter on, tell him to stop and attempt to get out – that will immediately cause him to put the meter on. No problem.
Talk to the driver – A lot of Thai taxi drivers don’t speak English, but some of them do speak at least rudimentary English. You’ll also occasionally get one that speaks very good English and they’ll want to talk. Have a conversation with them, as you can learn some fascinating information about Thailand, Thai politics and Thai society. When my parents visited me in Thailand, my father was fascinated with the Thai taxi drivers who talked about the current political situation and the corruption of the politicians.
Air-conditioning – All taxis in Thailand, by law, have to have air-conditioning. Sometimes, you’ll get in a taxi where the air is turned off. Especially on cooler days (well, cooler for the Thais, not the tourists!), the driver will forget to put it on. Feel free to ask him to turn on the air conditioning. 99.9% of them won’t mind, as they know Westerners find Thailand to be very hot.
Don’t Fall for the ‘Tailor’ Scam – In the tourist areas of Thailand, you will sometimes get a taxi driver who wants to take you to his ‘brother’s shop’. His ‘brother’ is a good tailor and he can make you a suit for a very good price. Ignore it and tell him, thank you, but you’re not interested. It’s a small scam some taxi drivers try to pull so they can make some commission on some tailoring services. This doesn’t happen very often with taxi drivers (although it happens often with tuk-tuk drivers) but just be aware that it might, so you’re prepared to refuse.
Tollway Fees – Depending on where you’re going, sometimes the driver will ask if you want to take the tollway. If he asks you, take the tollway. He’s not trying to scam you, just to let you know that traffic is incredibly bad (Bangkok has some of the worst traffic in the world) and taking the tollway could literally cut an hour off your taxi ride. Typical toll fees run 20-40 baht (75 cents to $1.25) so they’re not expensive and will save you a lot of time.
Please Tip – I see so many foreigners who don’t tip in taxis in Thailand. Thai taxi drivers are lucky if they make $20 a day after paying for the taxi rental, gas and insurance. So even a 15 baht tip (50 cents) makes them happy. A typical tip can be between 10 and 20 baht (maybe 50 baht if you go a very long distance and 100 baht if you go from Bangkok to Pattaya), and the driver will be completely satisfied.
Don’t take taxis in Bangkok between 5pm and 8:30pm – Bangkok traffic is horrendous. During rush hour, you can literally sit in a taxi for over an hour to go less than a mile. So, at rush hour, if at all possible take the sky train or underground and not a taxi. This will get you to your destination much faster and with a lot less stress.
Taking taxis in Thailand is very easy. They are safe (I’m a single woman and I travel all over Bangkok in taxis and, in five years, have never once had a problem), cheap, clean and a much more pleasant way of getting around. Follow these quick tips on how to take a taxi in Thailand, and you should have a no-problem taxi ride.