10 very useful things you need to know before taking a metered taxi in Bangkok

Bangkok Taxis and buses at the busy Rachaprasong junction in bangkok

You will find metered taxis everywhere in Bangkok! A very useful and good value way of getting around the city, but if you are a Bangkok newbie then check out these top 10 tips for using a metered taxi in Bangkok.

1. Cost

Wow! They are surprisingly cheap! You will usually find air-conditioned taxis cheaper than tuk tuks for the same journey! the set charge on flag fall is 35 baht, you will get the first 2 km included and then after the first 2 km  the meter will go up 2 baht for every further km travelled. There is also a 1.25 baht/minute charge for waiting time in traffic when the taxi is idle or travelling less than 6km hour. Journeys of a few km typically cost around 50-60 baht.

2. Vacant taxis

There is not much point standing on the side of the ride waving your arms at occupied taxis who will not be picking you up, best save this for the unoccupied ones! To determine this look on the lower right hand side of the windscreen of the oncoming taxi, if it is vacant the red “vacant” light should be switched on this sign reads in Thai but no need to worry about deciphering the Thai script if it is vacant the sign is switched on and glowing red!

Taxi vacant sign
Taxi vacant sign – When the taxi is vacant the vacant sign will be lit up in red –  Photo Philip Roeland

3. Expressways and toll ways

Any expressway and toll way fees must be borne by the passenger. The driver will usually ask your preference if you want to take the expressway (if the expressway offers the faster route). I always take the express way option as this can save a lot of time sitting in Bangkok traffic. Expressway fees are between 25-45 baht for each section of the expressway you travel on. You are under no obligation to go on the expressway but usually you can save a LOT of time if you do (remember you will pay the waiting rate while the taxi is stuck in traffic which means that often there is not a lot of monetary saving to be made if you take the regular road over the expressway.

4. Use of the meter.

Rules governing the operation of licensed metered taxis in Bangkok state that the driver must use their meter, and most do….however a large proportion do not, especially when it comes to foreign customers. Best avoid the taxis waiting outside the tourist spots and tourist hotels, many of these drivers will not be wanting to use their meter but negotiate a higher fixed price with the customer. If you get into a taxi check that the driver switches on the meter immediately. If he turns around and asks you how much you will pay or quotes you a price insist on him using a the meter, if he does not just leave a taxi.

Bangkok Taxi Meter
Bangkok Taxi Meter – this meter has been adorned with buddhist charms and trinkets for good luck and safety, they feature in most Bangkok taxis lined up along the front dash or dangling from the rear view mirrors.

5. A few tricks of the Bangkok taxi driver trade!

When paying the taxi fare try to make sure you have plenty of small notes and change. Taxi drivers frequently claim they have no change so they can secure a large tip from the customer. Another scam to watch out for is the driver taking an unnecessary long route to your destinations, some drivers will take a longer route just to increase the fare as they will assume the foreign visitor does not know the city well (quite rightly on most occasions)

6. Safety.

Time is money! The faster the driver can complete a trip the more income he potentially make in a day, this leads to some occasional fast and hair-raising taxi rides. If you feel your driver is driver to fast then by all means ask him to slow down, most will comply. some but not all taxis have rear seat belts, if they do i will sure be wearing it!!

7. Metered taxis from the airport

Most peoples first experience with a Bangkok metered taxi will be shortly after arrival at one of Bangkok’s two airports. Currently there is a 50 baht surcharge on top of the metered fare if you use the metered taxi service from Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang Airports, you will need to pay this to the driver. I feel this is not made always made clear to the customer as it just appears in small print on the receipt give to you by the taxi allocation staff at the airport. There is talk of putting this fee up to 100 baht soon.

8. Declining your destination

Rules governing the operating of taxis is that drivers should not decline a destination, however this is one of the most commonly broken rules! Drivers do not like to drive in the congested part of the city during peak congestion hours, when the taxi is stuck in traffic they will be on a lower meter rate if you want to travel to one of these areas at the wrong time of day then you may find it difficult for a taxi to take you there.

9. Using a waiting taxis in tourist areas

Through experience I have learnt to always flag down a passing taxi rather then use a waiting taxi hanging around in tourist areas or outside big hotels. The drivers who park up and wait for a customer very rarely want to use their meter and want to service an unsuspecting tourist who is happy to pay a fixed (but inflated ) fare without use of the meter

10. Tipping

Tipping is discretionary and your choice but my own personal rule of thumb is if a driver has used his meter without request, drives safely and takes a direct route to my destination then I will happily tip. The amount to tip is really up to you, some will round there fare up to the nearest 10 baht and some will tip more. There are no rules or norms here it really is up to you but most taxi drivers do not earn piles of money so any extra income is greatly received.

And the extra free tip in this list of 10:

11. Taxi colours

Taxis are usually painted bright colours, this is useful for us tourists to identify them amongst the busy Bangkok traffic (although not the reason they are painted these colours), there is rather an eclectic combination of colours and colour combinations with “all pink” ones being quite common! Do not worry about the colour coding of the taxi, the colours actually denote the different taxi companies and whether the taxi is privately owned by its driver.

Taxis in central Bangkok
Taxis in central Bangkok

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