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).
Private Car Rental
We’ve included this option because all the big companies are present in Thailand. Hertz, Avis, Budget, Sixt… You name them, they’re here. But before you read on you should be aware of a very important disclaimer: If you get into an accident, as a foreigner you are always responsible. Even if it isn’t your fault in any way, you are responsible. Consequences can vary from paying a large amount of money to the other party or jail time. We are just stating the facts here. Check the travel advisory on Thailand by your local foreign affairs institution and it will confirm this.
A few tips to take note of if you do decide to drive yourself:
- Have an internationalised drivers license. Otherwise the police won’t accept it and you’ll have to pay an ‘inconvenience fee’ of around 500 – 3,000 Baht;
- Be prepared to drive on the left side of the road (the steering wheel is also on the other side);
- Avoid driving on Friday afternoons. That’s when a lot of white collar workers start to celebrate their weekend by drinking with their colleagues before driving off to home;
- Watch out for the motorcycles, they can pop up out of nowhere, even from the opposite direction;
- Bring cash for the toll ways;
- Take a video of the entire car during pickup at the rental company;
- Never honk to, provoke, or argue with a Thai driver. Criticising someone’s driving style has lead to more than one fatal confrontation in the past. A Thai does not like ‘losing face’, especially in public;
- Abide to the speed limit and all other rules, even if the other drivers don’t. You don’t want to give the authorities any excuse to stop you;
- Thailand is the country with the second highest road fatality rate, after war-strikken Libya. That’s because it’s so crowded and simply because many Thai are reckless, impatient drivers. Mentally prepare for this;
- If you encounter one of the many security checkpoints, just relax and smile and trust that this is one of the many routine checks and you’ll be on your way again in a matter of minutes.
The Thai landscape is stunning, especially in the more rural areas near the likes of Sukhothai, Klaeng and Chiang Mai, so it’s a shame that driving in Thailand comes with so many downsides and risks. Fortunately you can still hit the road to the south or east by hiring a limo or minibus, still at very affordable rates. Check the Limousines and minivans section on this page for more info.
Perfect for: Anyone who has a extreme passion for driving abroad, wants to see the countryside and is prepared to accept the risks.
Don’t use: Period. Just book a taxi, limo or minivan.
How to book: All major car rental companies are present in Thailand and have offices at the international airports.