Perhaps the easiest and most comfortable way to get around Bangkok, or for that matter most Thailand cities is by the air-conditioned taxi. These come in quite a few different colours though and it pays to recognise the official ones. In Bangkok for example, the green/yellow and red/blue ones are the most common. Bangkok has thousands of taxis, and finding one at any time is never a problem. The occasional exception to this is during a heavy downpour.
By international standards, Thailand taxis are very cheap too, the flag fall being just 35Baht including the first 2km and then 5Baht per km after that. This means that even relatively long journeys around Bangkok often aren’t above 100B. There is a small surcharge applied per minute for sitting in traffic of 1.25 baht per minute (when moving under 6km/h).
Sometimes drivers will try to negotiate fixed priced fares, as is done with tuk-tuks and motorcycle taxis. It generally isn’t a good idea to accept a negotiated fare as this, in most cases, will be more expensive than the metered fare.
As there are no exams that have to be passed to become a taxi driver in Thailand, communication with a driver can be a problem. It’s worth bearing in mind that many taxi (and tuk tuk) drivers are from Thailand’s poor Isaan (northeast) region, and are likely to be fairly uneducated and many speak little English. Here are some suggestions to help with the language barrier when using taxis:
- If possible, get your hotel to write in Thai the name and location of your destination on a slip of paper which you can give the driver.
- Have a map written in both Thai and English, and point to the place on the map.
- If one taxi seems to not understand, then say never mind and try the next taxi.
The two tone green and yellow taxis are generally recognised to be the best. These are driven by the owner, while all others are rented out by the day. All licensed taxis have yellow and black number plates.
Tipping of taxi drivers is not really a Thai practice, though rounding the fare up to the nearest 5B or 10B is fairly common. Any more is not expected and not really necessary. If you’re unlucky, the driver will sometimes claim to have no change to try and force you to pay more. Getting out to change money at a nearby store will often lead to him remembering where his change is kept.
Bangkok Taxi Exceptions and Cautions
Airport: Normal taxi service pickup at Don Muang airport includes an airport authority mandated fee of Bt 50. The taxis are registered and dispatched from a kiosk on the sidewalk outside the arrivals area. The dispatcher will create a 2 part form. keep your copy even if the driver asks for it. The form has license numbers for filing complaints.
Toll ways: During normal traffic hours, especially if traveling a significant distance, Toll ways save time. Sitting idle in traffic is usually no fun at all. The passenger is expected to pay toll fees unless included in a negotiated fare.
Negotiated fares may be necessary when traveling to the outskirts of Bangkok. Be clear about the fare and who pays any toll way fees. One commonly negotiated fare is Bangkok to Pattaya (around Bt1000)
Meter: Watch to make sure the driver turns on the meter. Sometimes they simply forget. If he fails to do so when requested, ask him to stop and simply get out of the taxi.
Arguments: Don’t get into an argument with a taxi, tuk-tuk, or motorcycle taxi operator. It will accomplish nothing and could escalate into a dangerous situation. Just walk away. Don’t look back.
Shopping: Don’t let a taxi operator take you to a special bargain shopping destination. They are working on a commission. Plus, the goods you will be offered may be fakes. This is especially true of gems.
Taxis standing near tourist spots are usually touts, or preying on the gullibility of tourists. Select a taxi that is cruising for a fare.
If you aren’t near any taxis, you can phone 1661 and order one to pick you up. This costs the meter fee + 20B.