5 Tips for Taking a Taxi in Bangkok

1. Learn some basic Thai words. Turn left, turn right, and stop here are words that will definitely come in handy, don’t forget to add the polite particle khrap if you are a man and ka if you are a woman.

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  • leow sai – turn left
  • leow kwaa – turn right
  • jort tee nee – stop here

The ability to give some basic directions in the cabs will obviously help you get to your destination. Drivers will also respond well at your attempt to speak Thai and your chances of getting scammed will decrease because they will assume that you’ve been in Thailand for a while and know the correct price.

2. Carry a map or card from your hotel. Many business cards are bilingual with both English for you and Thai for the driver. Some cards even have a small map and directions for the cabbies but don’t expect every driver to be able to read your map. Another way to assure your arrive at the right destination, especially if you don’t speak any Thai, is to ask the bellhop, security guard, or your Thai friend to tell your driver where you want to go. Another tip is once you are in the taxi call your destination and hand your phone to the driver so he can speak to a Thai person at your destination.

3. Remember your taxi. When you take a taxi, make a mental note or jot down the number of the cab, along with the color of the taxi or the name of the cab company. The taxi’s number can usually be found on stickers on the windows or metal plates attached to the doors. You might want to ask your driver for their card, called a nambaht in Thai. Don’t rely on getting the cabbie’s information from their license displayed on the dashboard. Half the time it’s their co-worker’s license who shares the taxi with them. If you forget something in the cab and if you have minimal information about the taxi, you can call 1644 in Bangkok, the taxi call center for lost items.

4. Be aware of scams. While most drivers are on the up and up, there are some cabbies who try to make some extra baht in not-so-honest ways. Occasionally drivers may suggest a seafood restaurant or a massage parlor because they may receive perks from those establishments, including gas coupons, for bringing in customers. Another scam involves telling passengers that certain tourist spots are closed for a public holiday and instead you might end up at a cheesy tailor shop or a gem store. If you are asked to visit a store and you do not wish to go a firm NO will usually suffice, if the driver insists get out of the taxi as soon as you can and find a new driver.

5. Avoid taxis waiting near tourist areas. Sure, it’s convenient to walk out the door of a local club or the lobby of your hotel and take the first cab you see, but keep in mind that most of those drivers won’t turn on their meters and will offer a flat rate several times more than the metered fare. Some drivers will try to tell you that this is the same amount as the meter and if you’re new to Bangkok or are just visiting from London or New York, the fare might seem reasonable. If you wish to avoid paying the inflated fair, walk a block or two away from the tourist spot and flag down a passing taxi, this will usually get your the correct metered price.

Lastly, treat the drivers with respect. Most drivers are honest and are truly concerned about your comfort and well being. If you do have a conflict with a driver raising your voice or arguing with them goes against Thai ways of communicating and it generally won’t help your cause. It’s much better to be level headed and to talk to the driver calmly or have a Thai person, preferably one with some authority try and solve the situation for you.

Even better – give your cabbie the benefit of the doubt along with a ten or twenty baht tip. They might just be having a bad day and why not cheer them up instead of making their day worse.

Bangkok Taxis
Artist, freelance illustrator, professor, and Thai culture vulture Dale Konstanz is a Bangkok taxi addict. During the past four years, he’s been snapping photos of the sacred decorations in the taxis for his blog, “Still Life in Moving Vehicles”. The blog is dedicated to the friendly, patient, somtum eating taxi drivers of Bangkok and it focuses on the sacred talismans and other decorations inside the taxis. His new book “Bangkok Taxi Talismans”, will be published in early 2011.

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  • Another great video Tony, thanks.

    Your viewers might be interested in my Thai language blog http://www.TweetYourselfThai.wordpress.com which, as it happens, has a lesson especially for helping direct your taxi driver to where you want to go here http://bit.ly/taxithai

    I also tweet short timely lessons in Thai from @AjarnPasa

    Looking forward to the next instalment
    .-= Ajarn Pasa´s last blog ..At the Restaurant – Ordering =-.

  • Nora

    Hi, Tony. Very helpful video. Could you comment or create another video around what is going on when the taxi refuses to take you to your (very easy to find) destination? I have learned a bit of Thai and am not generally considered to be unpleasant! It seems to happen when I want to get to Banglampoo from Hualampong or Siam Square/Erewhon shrine area- I think because of traffic? I know the bus to take from Siam, but often prefer a taxi from Hualampong because of luggage…. any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Hi Nora,

      Could be any number of reasons. I’ve encountered this before but I’m usually able to find another taxi to where I need to go. Something to consider is that if your destination is some ways away the driver has to consider that he might not have a fair coming back. So it might be financially better for him to only accept small fares in a certain area that one big fair that takes him a ways away.

  • Hi Tony, I love your video. Especially, you have to be careful when you open the door. The motorcycle is the king of Thai street everywhere. They do not afraid even a big truck.

    Hi Nora, I agree with Tony. Some reason might be about the financial issue. Another reason might be timing. Some taxi driver do not own a taxi. A driver rent it by shift. There are 2 shifts. The shift in the morning will end at 4 am. and int he afternoon will end at 4pm. Therefore, you might get a chance to be refused for the taxi driver around 2.30 – 3.00 am or pm if your destination is far from the driver’s destination. On the way back, the driver might not be able to get a passenger because they have to return the car by the time.
    .-= relishThai´s last blog ..Durians in Thailand =-.

    • Good point relishThai! The good news is just as one shift is ending it is always easy to find one that is starting.

  • Jamie MIlks

    Tony, what’s the deal with wearing a seatbelt?

    Are you required to wear it?

    Cause in some cabs there are none.

    • You are probably required to wear it but I’m guessing it’s rarely enforced. I never wear it in the city because traffic moves so slow but I do wear it when heading out to the airport as the drivers tend to go pretty fast on the highway. Some of the older taxis I’ve found didn’t have a seatbelt but most of the newer ones do.

  • welcome to Angkor wat driver !

  • Rich

    Hi Tony,

    Great video and advice. I have been using a great driver for 3 years to run me down to Hua Hin from Bangkok and do other trips but can now not get hold of him. I have been phoning him from the UK for a week and I know he does not ever take a holiday ! I know his licence number is their a central number or organisation I can get hold of to try and make contact? Long shot I know !

    • I can’t recall off the top of my head right now but there is a number you can call if you forget something in a taxi. You could try there. Try posting on twitter as I’m sure someone knows that number.

  • nihar

    How do I dial 1644 from outside Thailand….left my phone in the taxi on the way to the airport …realised it only after boarding the flight. …pls help…

  • Tyson

    “Most drivers are honest and are truly concerned about your comfort and well being.”

    This is such BS.

  • Rick

    What are the names of taxi cab companies you’d recommend?
    I’m currently in Indonesia and am planning a visit to Thailand in June. In Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta you can’t go wrong with Blue Bird Taxi or Express Taxi. They always use the meter.