11 Ways to Avoid Get Ripped Off By Taxis in Bangkok

All around the world, the taxi is a popular and convenient way to get around major cities. No other option will pick you up from exactly where you’re standing and drop you exactly where you want to go. Bangkok is no exception, and brightly-coloured cabs can be seen in impressive numbers on almost every street.

Unfortunately, the other thing taxis around the world are known for is being expensive. When it comes to methods of getting around town, they are the most likely to scam unsuspecting tourists. Bangkok is again no exception. In fact, if anything, it’s kind of infamous for it. To help you get the best out of the Big Mango without it costing you a hefty percentage of your holiday budget, we’ve got a few helpful tips for you.

The colour doesn’t matter

One of the first things you’ll notice about the taxis in Bangkok is their vibrant colours, and the variety of colours they come in. The most common are pink cars with a green stripe and those with a green lower half and yellow upper half. However, you’ll also see them in all green, yellow, blue, orange and red, as well as various two-tone combinations of these colours. Each colour designates a different company or cooperative, but don’t worry — they all charge exactly the same fares.

Flag one down

You’d think this would be the easiest part of taking a taxi in Bangkok, but you might be surprised. You spot a vehicle with the red or green dashboard sign illuminated, wave your hand, and they stop to take you where you want to go — easy as that, right? Well, drivers can be remarkably picky about which fares they accept, even though they’re not legally supposed to be. Some passengers have reported flagging down over a dozen cabs, with each refusing to carry them. Be prepared to be patient, especially if your destination is a little out of the way.

Know where you’re going

Bangkok’s a big place and not every taxi driver knows the city intimately. They almost certainly don’t know every single hotel, hostel, guesthouse and apartment complex, so asking the driver to take you to one of the more obscure ones is likely to get you no more than a blank look. It’s much easier to use the street name or some prominent nearby landmark, such as the closest BTS (SkyTrain) station. Unfortunately, even this might not help as many taxi drivers speak only rudimentary English. Having your destination written down in Thai can be a helpful backup. If your hotel has business cards on the reception desk, be sure to grab a few before you head out as they make convenient clues and, if all else fails, the driver could phone reception.

Decline flat fares

Once the driver has understood where you want to go, a few might respond by offering a flat rate. This is more common in the evenings and is becoming increasing rare during the day. Even so, the correct response is to ask them to use the meter, as they’re supposed to. The flat rate is probably double what the journey should really cost. If they refuse or claim that the meter is broken, find another taxi with a meter that works or a driver that isn’t trying to cheat you.

Make sure the meter’s on

Some drivers will attempt to sting you at the end of the journey instead of the beginning. They’ll do this by strategically not switching on the meter and, once you get to the destination, hitting you with the extortionate flat rate. This is much worse that getting hit before the journey because you’re now not in a position to just walk away. To be fair, very few drivers do this these days, but always be sure to check that the meter is switched on, just in case. It should be showing 35 baht, which is the standard flag-drop rate.

Do your homework for the airport taxi

If you’re getting a taxi from the airport, you’ll first have the figure out where the taxi rank is (it’s about a five-minute walk, on the lowest floor) and then you’ll have to get into the right line for a ticket, depending on how far you want to travel (it’s helpful to know that in advance, obviously). Once you’ve got a ticket, you’ll need to find the corresponding parking space and meet the driver there. After all of that, and at the end of your journey, you’ll have to pay an additional 50 baht on top of whatever the meter says. This is a special surcharge which only applies to outbound journeys from airport. To their credit, most drivers will immediately warn you about this charge, but it still helps to be prepared for it.

Do you want speed or savings?

Bangkok has a network of tollways (commonly called “highways”) which can help you to bypass high-traffic areas of the city…for a price. It’s generally quite a small price — about 50-100 baht per toll gate — but it’s a price that you will be expected to pay. Most drivers will ask you if you want to use the highways, but some will just assume that you do and will then demand the extra money at the end of the trip. If you want to get to your destination quickly, ask the driver to take the highway and ask how much it’ll cost. If you’re on a budget and/or in no rush, be sure to specify that you don’t want to use the highway early in the journey.

Don’t take the tour

The purpose of a taxi is to take you from your current location to a specified destination and, to their credit, most will do just this. However, if your current location happens to be a major tourist attraction or a large hotel, you’re more likely to run into a taxi driver who is also an aspiring tour guide. They may offer to take you to a “better” destination and may try to do so by claiming that the place you want to go is currently closed (especially if it’s another tourist attraction). This is the opening gambit of a scam. It’ll probably result in a trip to a dodgy massage parlour, a random tailor shop or a shop selling questionable gemstones. Trust your instincts and stick to the planned journey unless there’s some seriously compelling reason not to.

We give tips so you don’t have to

Thailand does not have a tipping culture. Unlike in the USA, you are not expected to give an extra 10 per cent of the fare as a bonus. If you feel like they deserve it, the driver will certainly appreciate you rounding the meter up to the nearest 10 baht, but it is not expected. However, a few drivers will attempt to force your charity by claiming to have no change, requiring you to round up significantly further. Of course, they might genuinely be short of small bills and coins, so be sure that you aren’t. Try to break down big notes into smaller denominations as much as possible to prevent this, or ask to be taken to the nearest convenience store so they can break the bills for you.

Take everything with you

It’s rather obvious advice, but you’d be amazed at how easy it is to accidentally leave your phone, wallet, purse, shopping bag, laptop or even your luggage in the back of a taxi. It isn’t unheard of for people to lose all of their holiday money — sometimes hundreds of thousands of baht — by just forgetting to take it with them when they get out of a taxi. Of course, it’s also not unheard of for taxi drivers in Bangkok to hand such windfalls in to the police and see them returned to their rightful owners. If you forget something, your best hope is to call 1644 (the Bangkok taxi call center) and hope for the best.

If all else fails, use Grab

Between the language barriers, the chance of being refused, the risk of scams, the aggressive driving, the hidden costs and the ever-present risk that the driver doesn’t actually know where he’s going, getting a taxi in Bangkok can be a stressful endeavour. Grab removes many of these problems by allowing you to specifically designate a start and end point and telling you precisely how much it’ll cost up front (not including highway tolls, of course). As an extra bonus, the threat of a bad review ensures drivers remain honest, courteous and safe. The cost is generally a little higher than you’d have to pay on a meter, but it’s worth it for the comfort and ease.

Need Airport Transfers?
See our best
Value Options
View Offers

Useful Information about Bangkok Airport

Bangkok Airport Witnessed 18% Decrease in Passenger Numbers for July 2023

Bangkok Airport experienced a significant decrease of 18.41% in passenger numbers compared to July 2019, a pre-pandemic year. The passenger count dropped from 5,420,118 in July 2019 to 4,421,739 in July 2023...

Lounges at Bangkok Airport

See all the airport lounges, locations and opening times available at Bangkok Airport

Eating and Drinking at Bangkok Airport

See all bars and restaurants at Bangkok Airport, including locations and if they are before or after check-in

Duty Free Shopping at Bangkok Airport

See all shops available at Bangkok Airport - plan your duty free shopping in advance