Taxi scams, Bangkok
We were in Bangkok for a few days. Had to take Taxi to go around town since our hotel was not in the centre. We had the city map with us, and we knew where we were going and where we were. The taxi driver just took us around the city in circles. When we should turn right, he turned left and things like that. Eventually we got off the taxi near the place we were heading for and paid him about 2/3 of the fare then walked to our destination. We ended up leaving our wallet in the taxi. ( My husband was so upset that he forgot his wallet inside and didn't realise till we needed his wallet.)
My suggestion is if you are planning on visiting the city, try stay near the bus station or subway. So you can actually not having to be scammed.
When you pick up your bags in the international arrivals area, you will see a big yellow sign warning of taxi scams. It was put up by the airport's endorsed taxi and limo service. When you walk out the middle level, outside baggage claim, you will be approached by people wearing the official blazer of this service. One asked me if I was going to a Bangkok hotel. They offered to take me for 900 Baht! I laughed and him. It only cost 300 Baht to get to downtown Bangkok with tolls. The tolls are 65 Baht. And, always give the driver a tip, they are poor, have kids that want an education, and work hard for their Baht.
Update! The Taxi-Meter service has been moved to the second floor all the way down on to the left as you leave the arrivals area. The bottom floor is for buses only now.
The official Taxi-Meter stand adds an extra 50 Baht to your taxi bill, but with tolls and traffic delays it was still under 300 Baht to get to my hotel in town! Another official's brother-in-law probably got the franchise for the official limo service, and with airport support, he is cheating tourists.
If you want the cheap ride into Bangkok, use the arrival area taxi on the second floor. For a cheaper ride, go to the top floor, departures. Catch a cab that is letting off a passenger and save 50 Baht. Taxis are not really allowed to stop here for passengers, so you have to catch one in the act of unloading a passenger. Put your bag inside the trunk and get in. He won't refuse you.
Also insist on using the north motorway, not the southern Bangna-Trad road. There is no traffic on the north road and the Bangna is usually stopped. It is also a longer ride out of the airport. The terminal is at the north end of the airport, so you must go the length of the airport and runways to get to the southern road. You can spend 100 Baht just to get to the Bangna road.
You should not take a taxi parking in front of hotels or night spots like Nana and Patpong. Some of them will call you or wave at you or even approach you to use their service. They tend to double or tripple the price. You should try to tell them to use the meter and if they refuse, then just catch a new one. There are plenty of taxis out there all day and night.
Unfortunately a sizable portion of the Bangkok taxis will attempt to take advantage of foreigners. It was a very rare occasion not to step into a taxi and have them claim the meter did not work and wanting an outrageous fixed price for a fare. Or they only wanted a very cheap fare but wanted to take you to the cousin's shop in return for the favor. Be firm about the meter ( it is always cheaper than the price they quote) and don't be afraid to get out of the taxi and flag another.
It's quite unfortunate that I should start my Bangkok page with warning tips. Mind you, it's a great place and one where I don't mind going back over again, but it's the dishonest people prowling the streets of Bangkok targeting tourists that gets on my nerves. BKK is one of those places where the "once bitten twice shy" proverb doesn't hold true. On one memorable trip there with my family, we got scammed not once, but twice in two days. This taxi-restaurant scam happened on our first evening in BKK at the Asia Hotel where we were staying.
We couldn't decide where to eat on our first evening and made the mistake of asking an Asia Hotel limosine driver if he knew any good seafood restaurants. He said he knew of an "excellent" seafood restaurant near our hotel that was "patronised by celebrities", and would drive us there for only B20 if we were interested. We took the bait easily. Mind you, this was the day before the bigger gem scam we were yet to fall for.
What we saw at the restaurant (can't recall name) was a huge wall menu, with glass and concrete tanks on the ground outside the restaurant. Prices were EXHORBITANT. B200 for a plate of mixed vegetables was the cheapest on the huge menu. Dad was still in a pretty good mood, so he ordered us a grilled lobster. Once seated inside, we noticed 2 other groups of families eating quietly and the atmosphere was pretty sullen. They must have realised something we had not. Anyway, the bill for the 4 of us was quite expensive - food quality wise, nothing to shout about. We were all simultaneously thirsty after dinner due to the MSG. Anyway, to cut the long story short, if unsure, get your friends to recommend any restaurants they've tried or even splurge abit more at those restaurants you read about on the THAI inflight mags because what we experienced was certainly not worth it. You might notice the many local restaurants that are chock full of people, as Asians tend to congregate wherever food is good. Walk right into those rather than relying on a taximan.
Bangkok taxi Scams are amongst the worst in the world. I'll share some stories that happened to me to show all of you just how bad it is... OK I got in a closed metered taxi in Bangkok and asked to set up a price before hand so they wouldn't just drive in circles rising the meter. The driver said ok, and I'm positive it wasn't a miscommunication because I speak fluent Thai. I set up a really good price, 40 Baht per person to go from Banglampoo to the area by Little India. So we get in two taxis (there were eight of us) and have the same deal set up for both taxis, they worked together. I didn't have a map with me, so I didn't really know the streets to where we were going, but the driver promised me he knew where to go, in fact he repeated it! So I trusted him and thought he would get us there fast because he was only getting 40 Baht per person. Boy was I wrong, he and his buddy drove us to the other side of the city. We paid them thinking that we were in the correct location, until I realized we weren't. Then I told them we were in the opposite side of the city and threatened to just leave us there unless we paid them 80 Baht more per person. Well, my friends and me wouldn't stand for this so I try to argue with the drivers in Thai, to no avail. Then I noticed there was a police stand nearby so I walk to the station and got an officer to help. Once the drivers saw the officer they just agreed to take us to where we wanted to go no problems, but still a huge ordeal and almost an hour wasted. And they thought we would give up, haha!
Well this is only one story about Bangkok taxi scams; there are a lot more, lol.
Here's what to do to try and avoid these problems:
Always work out the price before hand, but do give the drivers a fair amount, if not... well what happened to me may happen.
Carry a map so you know where the drivers are going.
If you don't speak Thai carry the address of the place that you are going in THAI to show to the drivers.
Try to avoid metered taxis.
Never say it's your first visit to Bangkok, if a taxi driver or whoever asks how long you've been there or if it's your first trip lie! There are ample con artists around just ready and waiting to take the unsuspecting tourist for a ride! Taxi drivers will charge you way over the odds if they think you don't know the going rate. Always ask them to turn on the meter if they want to agree a price upfront it will be above the going rate! When visiting the main tourist attractions you will see many smartly dressed men in suits even lingering around the sights to try and persuade you that the attraction is closed today or not open until later, many will even point to a closed gate, chances are you are just not at the front enterance. They might also try tell you that your clothing is unacceptable for entrance to the palace etc whereas at most major tourist attractions including the grand palace you can hire appropriate clothing free by leaving a refundable deposit. Don't be deceived by their lies, they will say there is another attraction close buy that they will take you to. I've never been mislead by them but have heard plenty of stories where people have been fleeced for tour guide fees or taken to the make shift tour guides shops or families shops along the way and encouraged to buy stuff. So be assertive and don't be misguided by anything they may tell you. Check everything out for yourself.
I just spent eight days in Bangkok and due to the extreme heat I opted to take Taxi's around the city, as this is a very cheap way to get around when compared to other places.
Daily I found myself having to repeatedly insist that the cabbie turn on the meter. Most would pull away once you got in and never turn on the meter. Often I would ask the driver to turn the meter on and he would completely ignore me, acting as if he hadn't heard me. So I would insist more forcefully that he turn on the meter, then they would try and quote me a flat rate, which was often three or four times the metered price. I'm normally pretty laid back and take things in stride but after eight days of fighting with dishonest drivers my patience was starting to wane.
Add into this that most carry no change, or claim to not have any change so if you don't carry a lot of small bills and change, expect to pay more than the meter.
In eight days I think I had one honest driver who immediately turned on the meter and made change for me, but I told him to keep it as it was nice to find an honest driver.
It's not the money that matters as with exchange rates the scams were in reality only a couple dollars at best. Not a big deal. It’s just the principle of it.
After eight days of scam artists and few honest people, I was more than ready to leave the city.
If you take cabs in Bangkok, Always insist the meter be turned on and carry plenty of small bills.
Some taxi or tuktuk drivers offer good fares but there's a catch: you'll have to take a "quick" stop-over at a jewelry/ leather goods outlet before heading to your destination. If you don't intend to take this side trip and you don't have much time, just politely refuse the offer. If the driver accepts your reply, then good. If not, just ask to be dropped off right away. These drivers are supposed to get gasoline coupons for every passenger they bring to the jewelry/leather goods outlet. This is no way to help them if you're going to be inconvenienced, better that you just pay them the reasonable fare.
I have met my fair share of taxi drivers trying NOT to go via meter and try to stick me with an inflated taxi fare, especially when night falls and you are returning to the hotel late. I usually slam the door shut and walk off and find the next available taxi, not that there are any shortage!
I am no push-over tourist and you shouldn't be too, no matter how strong your currency is compared to the local currency. (Incidentally, I was chatised once for remarking on this which I find most amusing. The case was made for "aiding the locals". Well, what can I say? There are folks who are utterly and philanthropically generous....chuckle!)
Also, watch out for the Tuk-tuks. It has never happened to me but my friends had suffered in their hands. Instead of driving them to the requested location, the Tuk-tuk driver sent them to shops that they had commissions with and tried to get them to buy items off these shops. My friends were pretty much chagrined and enraged and refused to part a single cent. They pretty much swore off all Tuk-tuks in Bangkok thereafter. However, not all Tuk-tuk drivers are unscrupulous though so exercise your judgement.
You can get either of the following:
"This company is non metered after xx:xx hours"
"The meter is broken - how much are you willing to pay?, how about (pricex6) ?"
"I do you special price only (price x 6)" (unless you know the fare do not chose this option)
In all instances, I would, tell them politely but firmly "Turn the Meter on or Stop the Taxi"
if they are persistant and inform you of the starting information - tell them politely but firmly "Stop the taxi - or I pay nothing" this generally works as they would rather not lose the money. Then get out of the taxi and find another - there are millions of them around.
There are not a lot of taxi drivers out there doing this - but they do exist, be aware and be polite at all times.
It is law that all taxi (cars) must be metered, unfortunately at the moment the Tuk-Tuks are not required to follow this law. Although the Tuk-Tuks are regulated in regards to safety, the same as taxis
When you jump in a taxi, insist that the driver uses the meter. They may say it's broken or cheaper to set a price but I guarantee it's not. The other one is the old gem store scam. They tell you they know of a place where you can get an amazing deal but my advice is to just get out of the cab if they won't take you where you want to go directly...
Be very careful about getting a taxi to your next destination once you arrive in Bangkok International Airport. A presentable looking man approached us on arrival, claiming to be airport staff and offering us help. Despite all my research into this type of taxi scam, before we knew it, we had been whisked around the back of the airport and into a filthy, unlicensed cab. We were charged 700 baht for a journey that should have cost no more than 250 baht.
The following day, a different driver tried all the usual tricks of trying to get us to stop off for gas vouchers etc. No way was i going to let him away with it, so i just kept repeating where we wanted to go and that we wanted to go straight there. He knew that I knew what he was playing at, and winked in the mirror at me, saying "Oh, you're from a nice country. You read all about Thailand".He was laughing at this stage, and brought us directly to our location without any unnecessary stops.
Article Publied in Bangkok Post 27 March 2010
Tens of thousands of taxis roam the streets of Bangkok at any given time of the day or night.
They compete for the right to service passengers, which is good in that it offers more choice.
However, many observers believe that overall service standards have declined since deregulation of the industry ushered many more taxis onto city streets.
Before 1992 the number of cabs in Bangkok was capped at 13,500 vehicles for fear the streets would become too clogged.
Under this strict limitation, taxi registration plates were like gold, costing even more than the cars for anyone wanting to enter the business.
But as the city's population grew, the government came under pressure to lift the limit.
Since the industry was deregulated in 1992, the Land Transport Department has registered 80,000 taxis, of which 60,000 are constantly on the move to find passengers.
This free-for-all policy ended the problem of insufficient taxis, but in the process created new ones.
In the past the behaviour of drivers could be better kept in check by the department because there were fewer taxis and they tended to be more established. It's not the case today. The number of drivers and vehicles has grown far beyond the capability of the department to monitor them.
With it has brought crime and unethical practices of unmitigated proportions, obliterating reports of honest and professional drivers.
In addition to waves of complaints about poor service and driving standards, many passengers tell horror stories of rape and robbery, while murder and extortion of foreign tourists is not unknown.
Topping the list of complaints to the department's call centre is the refusal of drivers to accept a fare.
Chairat Sa-nguanchue, the department's director-general, concedes there are just too many taxis for the agency to control. "The liberalisation of the taxi policy was successful in the sense that it led to new services. But other problems have arisen. And that has put Thai taxis far below the standard of taxis in other countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and England," Mr Chairat says.
The new services include a requirement for fares to be charged by meter instead of the old practice when passengers had to bargain with the driver. A vehicle's lifespan is set at nine years to force old taxis off the roads. The regulations apply to the main yellow and green taxis driven by the owners as well as taxis of other colours run by small firms on a cooperative basis. Each cooperative has a different colour.
Qualified drivers are required to be at least 25 years old, possess a public transport driver's licence, learn the code of conduct and receive training on taxi driving skills. But many companies ignore the rules as they are desperate to find anyone who is available to drive their vehicles rather than leave them sitting idle and losing money in a garage.
The Siam Taxi Cooperative estimates that only half of all drivers are qualified. "Many owners do not ask for a licence and other information from those coming to rent their cars because they fear losing money," said Siam Taxi chairman Vitoon Naewpanitch, who drives as well as runs a taxi business.
One of the main problems is that many drivers will refuse a fare if the destination is clogged by traffic because they know the authorities will not go after them for breaking the rules, he said.
It is the duty of the department to make sure the rules are adhered to. Mr Chairat said officials are regularly sent to monitor firms and individual owners. But with a task force of just 80 officials, it is impossible to undertake thorough checks.
Taxi drivers who fail to meet the requirements are blacklisted and their cooperatives receive a warning before action is taken, including the most severe measure of a complete ban on its operations, he said.
When a crime is committed in a taxi, police from all units are required to help the department as its officials have no arrest authority. "This problem needs the cooperation of all agencies."
A new meter to be installed in taxis was launched this year and the department is hoping it will kill the practice of drivers using longer routes to pad out fares. The meter will issue a receipt with the fare, distance and time of the ride.
The department once floated the idea of installing a driver compartment in the taxis for the safety of passengers and drivers, but it faced strong opposition from taxi firms which did not want to invest more in their vehicles.
Mr Vitoon said the department alone cannot tackle the problem of ruthless drivers and poor service.
Jear Youtamnat, a veteran driver who was plying his trade before liberalisation policies were introduced, bemoaned the falling driving standards. "Part of the problem is they compete fiercely for passengers as there are too many taxis in Bangkok now," the 63-year-old said. "Unlike the old days, now there is no sympathy, even among drivers themselves," he said.
The cabbies are such conmen u wont believe how stupid they think you are. I never get ripped off by taxi drivers cos the prices they offer is just absolutely ridiculous! There are loads of times I've been offer 200baht for a short ride which I know will only cos me 50 baht and I will tell them they are mad! Ahaha! I guess I'm also lucky I know the place well enough. There are loads of taxis available so dont just get on the one who seems the friendliest cos he's only up to cheat you! Make sure you ask for the meter and make sure they bloody switch it on before they drive off!