Avoiding Taxi Scams in Bangkok (Click here if you can’t see the video)
What would you if your taxi driver were scamming you on your ride to the airport?
I never liked taking taxis. I try every conceivable option to avoid taxis and especially airport ones. Not only are they one of the most expensive ways to get to and from an airport, but I always have to be on my toes in the case, I meet a taxi that’s trying to scam me.
| Read How to Avoid Airport Taxis
The Taxi Scams in Bangkok
I was getting a late start to Don Muang Airport. I didn’t have time to take the BTS Skytrain or the local airport bus
A friend I was staying with hailed me a taxi. He gave driver direct orders: “Take her to Don Muang Airport and use the meter! ” His Thai doorman even helped repeat these directions …in Thai.
But as soon as the taxi left the protection of my friends, my taxi driver looked into the rear view mirror at me and asked me if I spoke Thai. I could see his mind calculating.
I knew what he was going to do next. He immediately went into “the language barrier” scenario, claiming the inability to understand me as he tried to get me off the meter and onto a fixed rate of 500 baht (which is about 100-200 baht over the meter cost if you’re going from downtown On Nut BTS to Don Muang airport). For five minutes, he was persistently haggling, with his claimed inability to understand.
A second sly attempt at a taxi scam
After I declined his 500 baht offer (several times, I might add) and we were nearing the toll booth, my driver started to pull into a rest stop before entering the freeway, claiming he had to use the bathroom. When I told him to turn off the meter if he was going to the bathroom, he retorted that he would have to charge me 500 baht!
He was expecting me to pay his pee time!! I can only guess that his time would’ve amounted to 100-200 baht worth. Offended, I told him he’d have to hold his pee, because I wasn’t about to pay for his problem.
What he probably saw was a single female tourist, who might not know any better.
But I know better.
Now I have never had a taxi driver pull a desperate excuse like that on me before… New York, Las Vegas, New Delhi, Phnom Penh, etc... Of the seemingly shadiest cities where taxi scams might be expected, this Bangkok driver was persistent. At that point, I got deeply nervous. I wondered how desperate he would get and if he might try other things or even get violent. We were already at the toll booth and it was too late for me to jump out and hail new taxi. I had to ride it out.
| Read: How to Avoid Travel Scams
Then I remembered, I have a YouTube channel and being recorded on video, might just be my life and safety insurance. So I pulled my camera out and began to film myself boldly, giving “Travel tips on avoiding taxi scams. ”
When I posted this video on YouTube, it got mixed comments. Many travelers, who had experienced this taxi scam during their Bangkok visit, felt solace that this was a common scam and it wasn’t their imagination. Yes,… this is a common scam in Bangkok, as I also suspect it is for a large part of the world.
A small and odd handful of western viewers felt the need to chastise or name call me for being “cheap”or “paranoid”, saying they’d gladly pay the piddly cost. These insensitive responses did not sit well with me and angered me off.
Does anyone know, why you should not “pay the piddly cost”?
(A raise of hands, class?)
The answer is that our actions as tourists have an impact on an environment and its economy. Just as throwing trash in the ocean can harm marine life and coral, so can thoughtless actions create consequences in the environments we travel. In short, it’s called responsible tourism.
Firstly, would you reward someone who tried to rape, steal or cheat you? It sounds dramatic but this is the same principle. If you’re a tourist wanting to feel generous… donating to a scam is certainly not the way to do it. By rewarding an illegal or illicit action, it encourages it more, in the same way, donating money to a begging child encourages that child to beg for work, rather than to go to school. Note: Sometimes, mob bosses use children workers as beggars to bring in money.
Secondly, what I didn’t know until later is that taxi scammers also target local Thai! Now in India, if you ask a local Indian how much fare it will cost for a taxi or tuk tuk, some will tell you cost and add in explicitly, “Please, do not pay more than that cost“. The reason is when a tourist pays an excessive rate, it encourages the driver to raise that rate and game the locals. Thus, locals are forced to deal with the scam driver and potential harm or lack of safety they’re exposed to. While a western tourist might be able to afford that higher price, the local cannot.
How far can 500 baht go in Thailand?
For an American, 500 baht is approximately $14USD, which may sound cheap off-hand to some, but isn’t cheap in Thai reality.
In the Thai economy, 500 baht is a lot. Ask any long-term traveler or backpacker in Southeast Asia. The longer your travel, the more the currency adds up and 500 baht could get you far.
- A VIP long distance bus (over 12 hours of travel time) from Chiang Mai to Bangkok costs 600 baht …and it includes a hot meal, water and snacks!
- An overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in an air-conditioned compartment with your own berth (with fresh sheets, blanket and pillow) costs about 800 baht.
- A 3 hour mini van ride from Chiang Mai to Pai costs 200 baht.
- Lastly, getting to Don Muang Airport is a 30 baht 45 minute bus ride from Mochit BTS station!
Avoiding Taxi Scams in Bangkok
While some taxi scams are harmless, as a female solo traveler, they can cause unnecessary stress to our trip and enjoyment of a ride. Here’s some tips to counter scam taxi tricks. You can use these for taxi drivers anywhere in the world!
- Have the taxi use the meter.
- Pay for toll booths on the spot.
- Use Google Maps to map and follow the route (* you might even turn the voice navigation ON).
- If you feel something is wrong, get out of the taxi and find another. (* Keep your luggage in the seat with you for an easy escape!)
- Remind your driver to stop the meter.
[Note: Normally, you can take bus #A1 or A2 from Mochit BTS station or Victory Monument BTS directly to Don Muang Airport for under 30 baht. Buses run frequently]