If there’s one thing that prompts our love-hate relationship with Bangkok, it’s traffic. Fortunately, the ubiquitous motorbike taxis (aka moto-taxis) are our white horses… or maybe not.
Riding a Bangkok motorbike taxi can be dangerous and sometimes a major rip-off. But if you know how to ride a Bangkok motorbike taxi and avoid scams, chances are you will arrive in time, safe and sound, without paying one baht too many.
Here are the must-know tips to help you make the most out of each Bangkok motorbike taxi ride. Tried and tested by us Bangkokians.
How to ride a Bangkok motorbike taxi safely and avoid scams in 7 steps
1. Have the name of your destination in Thai
By having the name, we mean in written form. It’ll make your life so much easier. Not all Bangkok motorcycle taxi drivers speak English, and your Thai pronunciation of the place might not always ring a bell. Either show the driver the destination on your phone, or ask your hotel receptionist to write it down on a piece of paper for you.
2. Ask for the price (and bargain) before you hop on
We hate to say this – but you’ll probably come across some moto-taxi drivers who try to rip you off, assuming you don’t know the reasonable price. That does not mean all Bangkok motorcycle taxi drivers are going to scam you, though.
So apart from having the Thai name of your destination, also ask locals how much a ride should cost. (The same goes for normal taxis.) It’s very important that you ask and negotiate the price before hopping on. If the moto-taxi drivers insist you pay more, just walk away. We can’t guarantee they’ll come and offer you a cheaper ride, but worry not. There are plenty more fish in the sea.
3. Sit astride and find ‘The Spot’
You might see a lot of Thai women sit with both legs on one side because they are wearing short shorts or skirts. Chances are they’ve been mastering the pose since first grade and and thus know how to balance themselves on a motorcycle.
However, we suggest you sit astride and upright. Each foot should easily find the footrest on the side of the motorbike. Next, find ‘The Spot’ where you aren’t sitting too high or too low but right where the seat is a little sunken – just enough to make you feel comfortable.
Don’t worry if you can’t find ‘The Spot’ at first. Practice makes perfect.
4. Put on a helmet and hold fast to the handrail behind you
Not all moto-taxi drivers have a helmet for passengers, but always ask just in case. If they don’t have one, try to find your balance and hold fast to the handrail behind you.
5. Keep your elbows and knees in
This is very important. Do not point or extend your arms or legs while riding. If your motorbike is zigzagging on a 4-lane road or in tiny alley, try to squeeze your elbows, legs and feet in even more. Lots of passengers have their toes or ankles hurt from scratching nearby vehicles or other objects on the road.
6. Ask the drivers to slow down
Sometimes Bangkok motorbike taxi drivers assume you are in a rush, and decide to race with speeding cars or in traffic lights. Just ask them to slow down by saying ‘Cha Cha’. Or if you want to be on the safe side, ask them to go slow before hopping on.
7. Only pay what you’ve settled on
Here is where it can get a little tricky. Sometimes when you’re nearing your destination, drivers will say they don’t have enough change, or that traffic was really bad. (Implying you should pay more.)
Just tell them you have both agreed on a certain price and only pay the settled amount.