The Lowdown on Bangkok Taxis

If you are exploring Bangkok, there are times when the best option will be to take a taxi. Whilst there are plenty of other transport options in Bangkok, including the Skytrain and metro, they don’t link all areas of the city. Catching a taxi in Bangkok can seem confusing at first, but these tips will help you get around the Thai capital by cab.

Bangkok taxi

How much will a Bangkok taxi cost me?

Bangkok taxis operate on a meter system with fares set by Thailand’s Department of Land Transport. The current flag fare is 35 Baht. Many taxis have a rate table displayed in their cab, but the examples below will give you a guide to fares:

  • Journey of 5km = 55 Baht
  • Journey of 10km = 80 Baht

Bangkok taxi rates have been set at this level for a number of years and increases are expected in 2015.

Taxi surcharges

There are no surcharges for late-night or ‘out of hours’ journeys. However, there are extra charges applied in certain circumstances, for example if you travel on the expressway or from either of Bangkok’s airports.

Airport surcharge

If you take a cab from the official taxi ranks at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang airports, there is a surcharge of 50 Baht on top of the 35 Baht flag-fare. This won’t show up on the meter and should be paid to the driver in addition to whatever the final meter reading is when you reach your destination.

Express-way charges

If you are travelling across Bangkok, especially to or from the airport, you may be asked by your driver if you want to take the express-way. In most cases, the express-way will save you time. Toll charges vary from around 25 to 45 Baht. If the taxi is on the meter, you are responsible for this fee and once paid the driver will usually hand you the receipt.

Example fares

  • From Terminal 21 shopping mall (Sukhumvit) to Grand Palace = approximately 90 Baht
  • From Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport to MBK shopping centre = 260 Baht meter fare + 70 Baht express-way tolls + 50 Baht airport pick-up surcharge.
  • If you hire a taxi in Bangkok to take you to a destination outside of the city the driver is not obliged to use the meter and will normally quote a set fare. For example, a taxi from Bangkok airport to Pattaya will usually charge at least 1,400 Baht.

Hiring a taxi in Bangkok

Bangkok taxis that are available for hire will have a red illuminated sign in the front window. The polite way to hail a cab is to stretch out your arm with your palm facing downwards and move your arm slowly up and down. Tell the driver where you want to go before you get in. Taxi-meter drivers aren’t meant to refuse fares, but it does sometimes happen to locals as well as tourists so don’t take it personally if it happens to you. Most taxis will switch on the meter straight away, but some may try to negotiate a fixed fare. Politely insist on the meter and if he refuses, wave down another taxi. With so many taxis in Bangkok you’ll never have too long to wait to catch another one.

Bangkok taxis come in a variety of colours including blue, pink, yellow and green. The colours represent different cab companies. You can flag down any of them so long as they have their red ‘for hire’ light illuminated. It’s a good idea to make sure you’ve got some smaller denomination notes with you before getting in a Bangkok taxi. Trying to pay your 60 Baht taxi fare with a 1,000 Baht note won’t make your driver happy.

taxis in Bangkok

How to avoid being overcharged

Wherever possible, try to flag down a moving taxi rather than use a taxi parked up outside a hotel or tourist attraction. The drivers of parked cabs tend to approach tourists asking them where they want to go and then quote a higher rate than the meter fare. It might not always be a vast amount more and it could be that for the sake of convenience you might agree to a set fare. But to avoid paying more than the going rate, wave down a moving cab that uses the meter.

Taxi apps

There are a couple of smart phone apps which visitors can use to catch a taxi in Bangkok. These include Grab Taxi and Uber. Grab Taxi uses standard meter taxis and simply adds on an extra surcharge for booking via the app. Uber are a private company and charge a higher rate than the standard meter rates. However, at the time of writing, Thai transport authorities are deciding whether such companies should be allowed to continue operations in Thailand.

Language barrier

If you are catching a taxi from either of Bangkok’s airports there are dispatchers at the taxi rank who can speak English so there should be no problems. The staff at the rank will allocate you a driver and tell him the address you are going to. You pay the driver when you arrive at your destination.

Not all Bangkok taxi drivers speak English so if you don’t speak Thai there can be times when explaining things can be difficult. If you know in advance the places you want to visit in Bangkok, write down the names in English on a piece of paper and ask staff at your hotel or guest-house if they can write the Thai name next to it. Then when you wave down a taxi, you can show the driver the name in Thai of where you want to go. It’s also useful to keep a business card from your hotel with you or ask them to write down the name and address in Thai.

Bangkok taxi-meter

Should I tip?

Tips are at your discretion. I like to leave a tip if the driver has been good fun to talk to or if he’s been a good driver, but there is no obligation to tip if you don’t want to. Thai people will often round-up the fare so if the meter charge was 92 Baht, they might give the driver a 100 Baht note and tell him to keep the change. If you use a taxi where the driver hasn’t used the meter, for example a cab parked outside a hotel, there is no need to tip. The driver will have already quoted a set fare which is higher than the meter rate so you don’t need to worry about tipping.

Seat belts

In Thailand, seat belts are compulsory for drivers and front-seat passengers so make sure you buckle-up when you get in a taxi. Since 2012 it’s also illegal for anybody in a road vehicle to consume alcohol and that includes passengers in taxis and buses.

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