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Bangkok Taxis – A Love Hate Relationship

My hatred of taxis in general began in Bangkok years ago when I was just a noob expat in an exotic Asian country looking to experience localised culture in its many forms.

The first thing you are almost always greeted with (and most of the time by choice) the moment you step out are the Bangkok taxis. From the Don Muang Airport days, these taxis have hounded tourists like brazen hooligans hoping to make a quick buck by selling fake Rolexes, only to jib you of double what you normally pay once you get on their less-than-hygienic smelling metal boxes on wheels by refusing to turn on their meters. Even today, with the Thai airport authority introducing restrictions to the standsards of taxis allowed to pick up tourist fares, you’ll still hear not-too-distant cries from the offending taxi drivers trying to pick up naive tourists that will think nothing of a 400 baht cab fare when their journey should costs just 250 baht. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg; don’t get me started on how they rig their meters to jump faster or territorial mafia cab gangs that pay protection money to Thai police for sovereignty over certain areas.

But there is another side to this story, as there are always other sides of truth to seemingly ridiculous, unfair or even criminal practices.

My wife and I just recently found out through a BK article about the plight of taxi drivers in Thailand. Their daily expenditure for renting a cab and buying gas comes up up to over 1700 baht, and they have to contend with 60,000 other cab drivers in the streets for fares (which, if you’ve ever been to Bangkok, may seem like a supply-far-exceeds-demand market from our point of view, but from theirs is akin to striking a small lottery each time they pick up a fare), not to mention their fare structure hasn’t changed up until recently for the past 15 years, and even then most cabbies are too poor to get their meter readers upgraded (the cost of upgrading their meter machines is 1500 baht).

I personally have had numerous bad experiences with Bangkok cabbies wanting to take me for a ride (I even nearly got into a fistfight with one for taking almost 2 hours to get to the airport and insisting on keeping the change one time). It was not until this trip that what a friend once said to me truly made sense in the world of public transport touting.

In an outing to Chatuchak market, he said once after seeing some Singaporeans haggling with a shopkeeper, “People shouldn’t insist in bargaining down to the last baht with the sellers?

One Comment

  • James

    “Effectively the university students and middle-class working population are for developing Thailand into something other than its third-world standing today, while the poorer rest of the nation is just trying to survive in a country that essentially is doing well enough already as an agricultural exporter”

    Actually it’s a struggle for control of the country – between the forces aligned with the military and the palace and nouveau rich politicians like Thaksin. The elite would like to keep the poor poor and are annoyed that politicians like Thaksin inserted himself into their patronage system.

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