Getting around in Thailand, especially Bangkok, is a hurdle you’ll need to plan for. Outside of the Bangkok rail system, taxis will be your primary method of transport in most cases. Taking taxis in Bangkok can be quite maddening. It is almost always a negotiation, and traffic is horrendous, making negotiations with drivers even worse. With that said, it’s a necessary evil and you need to be able to deal with it. Here are 5 Tips for Thailand Taxi Travel:
#1 Only use metered taxis in Thailand and confirm meter use prior to entering
Taxi drivers in Thailand are notoriously famous for asking higher rates with tourists rather than using the meter. In recent years, the government has made an attempt to address this, and you can report them (technically) but many drivers still refuse to cooperate. Let them know you’re an informed tourist and you’ll be ok. Make sure the meter is ON before allowing him to start driving. If he gives you trouble, get out.
#2 Ask if the destination is ok prior to entering
Thai taxi drivers are surprisingly selective and will choose their fares based on the best return on their time. Asking this will either serve as the start of negotiation (in which case you should move on if you can) or get you a head nod, hopefully after confirmation of meter use as well. You may now enter.
#3 Offer a tip as an incentive to get there fast
This may seem odd, but it will prevent the driver from taking you for a time-consuming ride, which he may want to do now that he can’t ask for a high fee upfront. Don’t worry, a small tip will do fine and you don’t even need to agree to how much (the total will still be far less than if you’d allowed a negotiation to take place). It’s the thought that counts, which will also mentally trigger him to get you there quickly. I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly pay an extra 20 baht (~75 cents US) for an hour of my time not spent in a taxi.
#4 Use your Apple/ Google Map or GPS
Now that you’re in a metered taxi, you’re still not in the clear. Keep track of the route you’re on, both to make sure you’re not being taken for a nonsense joyride, and also to make sure the driver is going where you need him to. Keep in mind that if he is lost, he will never admit it. This is Thailand, and he will not lose face in front of you. He will continue to drive around in order to save face or ask another driver. You can easily help him out with your phone map if you need to. If he is actually lost, he will gladly accept the help with a smile.
#5 Negotiate when you need to
Sometimes, you’ll need to give up hope of a metered taxi. In peak traffic times or during inclement weather, for example, Thailand taxi drivers (being acutely aware of the concept of supply and demand) will take the opportunity to ask higher fares, for which I am usually happy to pay the few cents more to get out of the rain or exhaust fumes, as I am sure you will be too. Be sure, though, to stay within the negotiating parameters provided in the 9 Golden Rules for Negotiating in Thailand.
Another common means of transport is the famous Tuk Tuk. Read up on tips for dealing with those at Tuk Tuks in Thailand: 5 Tips to Avoid Disaster, and for a review of train travel in the country, read my article Train Travel in Thailand.