You can also use Uber in Thailand – in Bangkok & Chiang Mai – but is it worth it?
Tuk-tuks in Bangkok
I originally didn’t think you would really need to use Uber in Thailand, due to all the tuk-tuks and taxis that are available. Which is true, there are a lot – and they’re chasing you, unlike in many western cities where you can never get a taxi!
Tuk-tuks are something you have to try at least once while in Thailand! It’s part of the experience!
Graham and I decided to get a tuk-tuk from the old town to a subway station, to get the subway back to our hotel. We were quoted 400 baht ($15 AUD) for the 20 minute trip – but I managed to get it down to 150 baht ($6 AUD). Haggling with him was hard work, and included us walking off and him following after us.
The next day, while I was looking at Google Maps for how to get somewhere in Bangkok, it showed me the option of using Uber. When I saw the quote, I thought it couldn’t be accurate – it was so much cheaper than the tuk-tuk that we’d got the previous day!
The Downside of tuk-tuks and taxis in Bangkok
I’ve found that tuk-tuks and taxis can be quite rude, forceful, dirty, uncomfortable, and expensive in comparison to Uber in Thailand. With Uber, I’ve found the cars to be new, clean and have aircon, drivers are friendly, though don’t talk much (which is fine by me!) – perhaps they don’t speak English well.
When you’re going to use a tuk-tuk, you should always have an idea of how much the ride should cost, and haggle with them to avoid getting ripped off. Now, this can be part of the fun – if you’re in the right mood. But it can also be hard work when you’re tired, hot, hungry, and just want to get where you’re going!
An Example of getting an Uber in Thailand
Later that evening, we decided to get an Uber to the restaurant where we were having dinner – Cabbages and Condoms. The Uber drive took an hour, so do you know how much it cost? Go on – guess!
A 20 minute tuk-tuk was first quoted at 400 baht, so an hour Uber might cost… 1200 baht ($46AUD)?
Ok, ok – so the 20 min tuk-tuk ended up being only 150 baht, so the Uber was about 450 baht ($18 AUD), right?
It cost us 144 baht ($5.60 AUD)!
That’s right – 144 baht. For a 1 hour Uber ride. That’s not much more than I paid for a large beer at the restaurant!
We’d been to dinner and drinks on the famous Khao San Rd, and were trying to get back to our hotel. We asked a taxi driver how much – 400 baht! (Is this just their standard quote?) He wouldn’t even haggle, when I said no, he just walked off.
Next option was Uber – it was a bit more difficult, with the complex streets, trying to pinpoint where we were on the map was a challenge. You also need to be in a place where you can easily pick out the car, in the crazy Bangkok traffic.
It still only took about 10 minutes for us to get into the Uber, and then it cost us… 170 baht ($6.60 AUD) – including the surge pricing!
Advantages of Uber in Thailand
The Uber app shows you a map of where you’re going, so you know if you’re being unnecessarily driven around the city, just to get more money out of you. The price is automatically worked out by the app and charged to my credit card. If you feel you’ve been ripped off, then you can apply for a review with Uber.
Airconditioning – aaah, it’s so much more comfortable than a tuk-tuk in the Bangkok heat!
You have the history in the app, so if you want to look back and see where you were – you have that at a click of a button.
Invoice – if you happen to be travelling for business, you have easy access to a detailed invoice to claim the cost back.
It charges to your credit card, via the app – no need to have cash available. This is particularly useful if you’ve just arrived in the country, or have spent all your cash on cheap beer and go-go dancers!
You know the driver is safe, friendly etc. – Uber gives you the option to rate your driver. If their average rating goes below a certain point, they no longer get jobs via Uber. Tuk-tuks and taxi drivers can behave any way they want, and they’ll still be out on the roads picking up more unsuspecting people.
Disadvantages of Uber in Thailand
The main downside I found while using Uber in Thailand, is that the streets in Bangkok are so crazy that it can be difficult for Google Maps (which Uber runs off). This can make it difficult to pinpoint where you are, to set your pick up point. My advice is to try to find a landmark – a hotel, shopping centre, well named street corner – so you can easily set it on the map.
Because the streets are a bit mental – not just the driving, but the design – Google Maps is not as accurate or easy to follow as it would be in a more organised city. One time, our driver got lost because the map’s instructions just didn’t make sense based on what we could see. Most of the time though, the driver knows the city well enough to minimise this issue. This time, we just happened to be going to a quite obscure place that he had never been to before.
The traffic in Bangkok is hectic, and the app will try to send you a way that will be quicker based on the current traffic conditions. I’ve found that the drivers often disregard this and go the way they know – which is the shortest distance by km. I’m not sure if this is because they THINK they know better, or because they ACTUALLY know better, and trying to cut through back streets in Bangkok is not as simple as Google may think.
Obviously, part of the charm of travelling in South East Asia is the crazy roads, tuk-tuks etc. If everybody gets Uber instead of the more traditional modes of transport, then the tuk-tuk industry may end up dying out.
Summary of my experiences with Uber in Thailand
Although everything has its pros and cons, I really enjoyed using Uber in Bangkok. Getting around the city can be stressful and exhausting, however using Uber made it a lot more relaxing for us.
I’m going to Chiang Mai in a few days, and I will definitely be trying out Uber while I’m there too.
Have you used Uber in Thailand, or elsewhere on your travels? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments section below!