Bangkok really needs to get its Taxi shit together

Bangkok, you had this post coming for a long long long long…..long time and we’ll start this post with something rather personal – and quite likely something that doesn’t surprise anyone who’s ever been to the city of angels: Transportation in Bangkok sucks.

That’s nothing new. We all know that public transport is terrible and while most tourists would disagree since they only use the BTS or MRT around the city center, everybody who has to go somewhere further away from the money making area knows that this statement is right. And, actually, that’s ok as this gives the estimated 476 million taxis a reason to be around.

However not everything is as good as it seems here in the city of Taxis with broken taximeters. Every time darkness sets in in the Land Of Smile the nice taxi driver from the neighborhood turns into the greedy ass who never has any change at hand and refuses to take you where you want if it’s not on a route that seems promising to pick up further customers that have no choice but to get ripped. It’s like when feeding Gremlins after midnight. Giving in to asshole taxis after dark just makes them more confident in their behavior as they know they’ll get away with it. And that well thought out comparison now brings us to the problem at hand.

Taxi Hailing Apps

Taxi drivers behave like asses yet there are no consequences to their behavior. They refuse guests, they turn of the taximeter and ask for insane fees instead and straight up screw you any chance possible. You might now want to argue that, since it’s 2017, there should be an IT related solution for this kind of problem and, of course, we got apps for that. There’s GrabTaxi or AllThaiTaxi for example. Taxi hailing apps. Problem: In peak times it shows you that there are lots of taxis around however none of those taxis will accept your request. Tried that last week after the Coldplay concert here in Bangkok. Even though the apps showed taxis in the vicinity, none of the taxis accepted my request and I had to try for more than 90 minutes to get a cab from the street. Thanks for nothing.


Thailand hates Uber and, to be quite fair, me too. After all the background info that still comes up Uber seems to be a fairly shitty workplace and the people in charge seem to be, without exception, all big jerks. Nevertheless the drivers I encountered here in Bangkok have all been very nice and helpful – the complete opposite to 83% of taxi drivers. However Thailand doesn’t like that this private internet company is taking away business from their oh so cherished ‘real’ taxis that it decided to declare Uber ‘illegal’.


In order to fight this shitty Taxi driver behavior Thailand even released an official app that lets you issue complaints right with the department of land transport (DLT Check App). I tried that a few times but nothing really happened. The reports say they’ve been ‘sent’ but this might just show up to make you feel like you did something and not actually lead to anything. Also taxis know that customers could, in theory, report them but that doesn’t stop them from acting like assholes in the midst of the night.

Bangkok, get your shit together

While it might seem ‘scary’ for the people in charge to see new business models succeed and putting pressure on existing approaches, preventing ‘better’ ideas from succeeding (hello, Thailand 4.0) can’t be the way to go. Thailand needs to a) actually check on their Taxi mafia – and not only during average working hours (that’s when most checks happen) but also at night and at places where the police knows the demand for taxis will be high. Set an example, intervene, bring in some law and order and b) allow, promote and support new transportation approaches. That doesn’t mean they have to give Uber the green light for everything but maybe rather encourage local solutions that aim to tackle that problem. This does not equal copying motorcycle hailing apps by the way – it should be the mutual goal of the government, drivers and transportation start-ups to work on this issue together.



Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at
Sascha is the publisher of and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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