You’ll have no trouble finding a meter taxi on any street. They’re everywhere! If the red light behind the front window is on, it means the taxi is available. After you haul a taxi, open the front door to ask the driver if he knows your destination and – more importantly – if he wants to go there.
Taxis are obligated by law to turn on the meter, which will always start at 35 baht. However, they know most tourists are willing to negotiate a fixed fee. The driver will tell you that he’ll only accept a fixed fee because the destination is either very far, very busy or that it’s difficult to find a passenger for the way back. Getting angry at the driver won’t help, he’ll just drive away. (We repeatedly use ‘he’ as we are unfortunately yet to encounter the first female taxi driver in Bangkok.)
Of course there are some good guys too, who will turn on the meter without having to ask for it. Then only the language barrier remains a problem. Even popular tourist destinations like the Grand Palace or the Lebua hotel (from the Hangover movie) are often misunderstood.
If you don’t have to be somewhere at a set time, taxis provide an affordable option. Just don’t forget that you have to pay for the highway tolls yourself.
Perfect for: Getting around at the night time when traffic is low and the drivers have less rides to choose from.
Don’t use: If you need to be somewhere are a certain time (i.e. the airport). In a rush? Prebook!
How to book: They’re everywhere, just haul them until you find one that will take you where you want to go. Get someone who speaks Thai to help to ensure a smooth journey.
Uber / GrabTaxi
Easy: ♥♥ (Uber) / ♥ (GrabTaxi)
One of Uber’s great benefits is that the process of booking a taxi (Uber) is the same wherever you go in the world. In Thailand that ideally means no needless discussions with your driver about the tariff or the drop-off location. Sounds too good to be true? Unfortunately it often is.
Bangkok Uber drivers are often just regular taxi drivers who already have to pay a daily fee to use the taxi and would prefer to avoid giving Uber a cut from of their profit. That’s why a lot of drivers will leave their ‘free’ sign on even after accepting an Uber ride, expecting you to cancel once you notice the driver isn’t heading in your direction at all. Also, opposite to most other countries, in Thailand Uber rides are often more expensive than regular taxi rides. So it might be best to ask someone from your hotel or company to help you out with booking or hauling a regular taxi.
We hear you thinking: What about this GrabCar? Well, GrabCar is actually a really, really good alternative. In this part of the world it has been around much longer than Uber and it’s widely accepted among drivers and passengers as a vote of confidence to the manners of a driver. There is only one problem: We have never booked a GrabCar ride without the driver calling you right after accepting, to confirm the pickup location. Odds are they don’t speak English and even if they do, don’t forget it’s already difficult to explain something to most drivers when you are face to face with them.
GrabTaxi is a great app, but unfortunately the way it’s being used makes it difficult for foreigners to use it too. Only recommended if you speak enough Thai to explain your location and if you have a Thai phone number (or they won’t call you and won’t show up).
For GrabTaxi, a 30 baht booking fee is added to each ride. Don’t forget that for both Uber and GrabTaxi you have to pay for the highway tolls yourself.
Perfect for: Honestly, we don’t recommend Uber in Bangkok. GrabTaxi is fine with a basic understanding of Thai and a Thai phone number associated with your account.
Don’t use: If you are looking for reliability (Uber). If there are many taxis near your pickup point anyway (GrabTaxi)
How to book: Both Uber and GrabTaxi have apps in Apple’s App Store (Uber / GrabTaxi) and Googles Play Store (Uber / GrabTaxi).