Category Archives: All Transport

Taxis in Thailand

There are many kinds of taxis in Thailand. Two of the kinds I would like to talk about today are the motorcycle taxis and car taxis. Many people would probably have been on them but may not have noticed the identifications of these taxis. I use their services all the time but it took a while to figure out how they function and how I would know which is owned by whom.

First, I would like to talk about normal Bangkok taxis. A lot of people may notice the color of these taxis and not knowing why they’re different from other colors. Well, they are! Most taxis we see around Bangkok are Green-Yellow taxis. These taxis are privately owned. This means that every one of these Green-Yellow taxis are owned by an individual. These taxis run on a daily basis. In Thailand, only a few manufacturers allow their cars to be converted into a taxi. These manufacturers include Toyota, Nissan etc. Honda cars are not permitted to be converted into a taxi. However, there are huge numbers of taxis running around Bangkok and most of them are Toyota Collora. Toyota, Camry and Soluna are not permitted to be used as taxis.

These cars will have to be converted by a legalized garage. As we all know, taxis have to last much longer than normal cars. After this process, a taxi showroom is generated. In Bangkok, most taxis are Limo (Collora) and the standard price of these Limos are between 6,00000-7,00000 baht. These days petrol is extremely expensive so most taxis turn to use Gas which additional installation will have to be initiated.

I’ve been talking to taxis about how many hours they’ll have to work to cover the investment they put in. Some of them told me it could take up to 5 years on a 5 day working basis. Some said it takes them around 3-4 years. This difference depends mainly on luck and the amount of miles they travel. They also added that customers tend to choose the look of taxis. The newer the better! Some drivers use a 6-year old taxi and said nobody really gets into his car because the air is not chilling and the seats are not comfortable. I feel sorry for these drivers.

Another kind of taxi is the Red-Blue taxis. These taxis are owned by a particular taxi garage. Meaning that there is an owner who invested some money to buy maybe 20 taxis and open up a garage to fix these taxis. There are many of these investors around. These garages operate by a manager (called “Tao-Gae” meaning old man). He fixes the time schedule of a taxi. For example, a taxi runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There might be 40 taxis in his control. Some are new and some are old. A driver comes in and requests for a new taxi. This kind of taxi could cost him 1200 baht a day. In 12 hours, he’ll have to make more than 1200 plus fuel to cover his rental cost. However, he can go for a cheaper and older taxi which might cost him 700 baht. This request would be booked in advance and the driver will have to be a regular driver in order to work for the owner.

Also these days there are also special licensed taxis. By saying this, I mean there might be an all green colored-taxi or all yellow colored-taxi etc. These taxis have a company of its own. For example, the green taxis are owned by a particular famous person who authorized 20 taxis and opened a garage. This person has the rights to use another color taxi. In addition, meter charge is 35 baht. First 2 kilometers will remain at 35 and it costs approximately 3 baht every kilo. Radio taxis (if called) are charged an additional 20 baht. If you call one from the airport, an additional 50 baht is charged. Only the authorized taxis are allowed to enter the BKK international airport.

Another kind of taxi in Thailand is the Motorcycle taxi. Motorcycle taxis are very common in Thailand. They are fast, convenient and cheap. As we all know, motorcycle are very convenient for short distance travel. So, almost every house would have one. In Phuket, a house would have an average of 2 taxis. In Bangkok, most people use these taxi services instead. Nearly every 200 meters there is a “station” (called “Vin” in Thai). These stations are unique. This means, they would have a name of their own. A station has around 20 or more motorcycles depending on how big the station is. Every driver would have a vest and it is the key identification of these stations. A vest could cost around 10,000 baht. After buying one, you can become one of the members of these stations. A vest would have a unique color and a name. A station should always have someone there to be ready for service. Also at the station, there would be a price list. The price of destinations would be written on the list to be fair. However, the prices are not very different between Vins. I guess it is like marketing and there are rivalries.

This is all I wish to talk about today. I hope you can become more understanding of the functions of taxis in Bangkok at least. I would have no knowledge of taxis in other provinces but Motorcycle taxis should all be the same. I know for a fact that there are no car taxis in Phuket. Only motorcycle taxis and tuk tuk like taxis. These tuk tuk are not metered taxi so you would have to negotiate prices on your own.

Songtaew adventures

As far as I know, the red songtaews are unique to Chiang Mai. Their
numbered counterparts in Bangkok and its suburbs are much more user-friendly, IMO. You know the exact fare, the time it takes to get there, and the way. For instance, if you want to go to, say, the local BigC, you just take songtaew 36. Flag one down on the road, hop on, jump down when you get there, pay 5 bath and away you go. Not so easy with the red devils of Chiang Mai. Flag one down and tell the driver your destination. Now one of three things may happen:
1. The driver has no clue about the place;
2. The driver knows the place, but has no intention of taking you there;
3. The driver knows the place, will take you there, but quotes a high (farang) price.

If you have an idea about the reasonable (ie. local) rate, you can haggle it down to that price, and if you are lucky, the driver will agree. If not, then wait for another songtaew, at which point the whole game starts again…. Sometimes I have to flag down 3-4 cars before I can get a ride. Feels a bit like hitchhiking, really.

You may have an easier time getting the regular price with stationery songtaews, waiting around bus stations and train stations. The drawback is that usually you will have to sit in the car and wait for other passengers who choose that songtaew. Most cars don’t leave until 6-7 people are inside. And even then, some passengers may get the rough deal. I remember one day; four monks were sitting in a songtaew with me. The car left when another guy, a farmer sat in with us. There might have been a misunderstanding between the driver and the monks, because apparently he took them to a different place. The monks wanted the driver to go to their intended place for the same price, but the driver refused. At the end, the four monks had to step out and pay; then the driver just took off!

Another incident happened with me some time ago when I wanted to get home from Kad Suan Kaew, a local shopping mall. After all the above procedure, I sat in and we took off. Some time later, the guy stopped, talked with some other would-be passengers who then sat in too. Then he came to me and told me to get off, because he changed his mind! Apparently, the newcomers meant a juicier business, and my destination would cut into his profit margin. Although I could have (rightfully) hit him on the head, kick his car several times and yell assorted Thai insults in his face, I just got off silently and flagged down another songtaew.

The question may arise now: how can a business be successful if they treat customers like this? The answer lies in the lack of alternatives in Chiang Mai public transportation. In Bangkok, besides the fixed-route songtaews, there are lots of buses covering just about any area. Or, if in a hurry, can take any of the several taxi services. In Chiang Mai, the red songtaews have a monopoly. The only other alternatives are motorcycle-taxis. Or, if you are in a hurry, tuk-tuks, but there are far less of them here, mainly waiting around the stations.

So, when you see a red songtaew, be nice to these guys, no matter how they ignore you or cheat you. That is, if you want to get to anywhere in Chiang Mai in the future. 🙂