Ejected is part of the Reunion Tour Trip Report.
Do you recall my “Taxi my friend?” The Worst Places to Hail a Cab written in 2014? I had Bangkok as #5 on that list. Here is the excerpt: “If I come one day and there is no traffic, then I tell you there is no more Bangkok,” the taxi driver told me. Ever since then I have repeated that line to taxi drivers who tell me, “Today there is too much traffic.” Another trick I perfected is to sit in the front seat next to the driver and when he says, “Sorry no meter,” I react by turning the meter on myself. That usually gets a good laugh from the driver who now takes me where I want to go at the meter price. I followed up that post with Avoiding Taxi Scams Abroad in 2016. Tip #5 was ‘Don’t Get Killed.’ I wrote, “Common sense is in order here. If you feel that you are in a situation that is dangerous, then hand over the extra Thai baht. Nothing ends a vacation abruptly like getting hacked by a machete.”
Since that time, Bangkok has changed in one notable way. It has Grab, the go-to rideshare app (see Grab: The Rideshare App in Singapore And Thailand) that will spare you from shady taxi drivers. First, like Uber, it will tell you the price before you book including the surge price during peak hours. Put in your location, wait for the ride, and arrive in peace without the hassle of haggling (see Sharm el-Sheikh Taxi: For 40, I Bring You Camel, Tomorrow). When the demand is high and the wait times are too long, it is not worth using Grab. That does not mean the app isn’t helpful. During such times, you can at least get an idea of how much a ride should cost and, depending on your frugality/negotiating skills, hail a cab off the street to get you on your way.
I found myself in this situation one Monday night in Bangkok (see One Night in Bangkok: A Marathon Party Guide). Grab said it was 180 baht ($5) to Khaosan, but I would have to wait a few minutes. Desiring Khaosan pad thai (see What Are You Doing on Khaosan Road?), I boldly went old school and hopped into a random cab in front of the Aloft Bangkok on Sukhumvit 11 (see Aloft Bangkok: Accept No Substitutes). The driver started out with the usual line written above about traffic congestion. He demanded 500 baht ($14.56). I told the driver that I would not pay more than 200 baht. Initially, the back-and-forth banter was light-hearted.
- Driver: Oh, you’re a good man, you will pay 300. Ha ha ha.
- Me: No, I am going to pay you 200.
- Driver: Ha ha ha. I want 300.
- Me: Put on the meter.
- Driver: No (still chuckling).
I should mention that this was happening as we were driving towards our destination with neither side willing to budge. Unbeknownst to me, my friend was filming the interaction.
We were more than halfway there when he dropped us off. He received no money and I still needed a ride. Behind schedule, and despite my friend’s protest, “Just pay whatever so we can get there,” I opened the Grab app again to see that the cost from my current location was 100 baht. I hailed another taxi, ready for the next round of negotiations.
- Me: Khaosan Road.
- Driver: 100 baht.
- Me: Thank you.
I am always annoyed when my local Thai friend says that the reason I get ripped off by taxis in Bangkok is because I am a tourist. Would my first driver have charged him 200 baht because he was Thai? I doubt it. Still, that line bothers me enough to be unrelenting when it comes to dealing with drivers. Fortunately, there is Grab in Bangkok, minimizing the times I have to deal with rogue drivers and maximizing the information I have when I have no choice but to do so.
Read all my taxi adventures here.