This article will show you how to use motorbike taxis in Bangkok.
Half my friends who visit Thailand love nothing more than getting on the back of a motorbike.
Your senses are at 100 when the driver zig zags his way through the traffic, while you’re on the back without a helmet, one crash away from certain death.
The other half of my friends are total pussies and refuse to to get on them.
When the BTS is not an option they will get ALWAYS choose a cab, which is a complete waste of time.
Certain areas of Bangkok you’re have no chance of getting anywhere without using motorbike taxis during peak-time.
I’m not a fan of the motorbike taxi in Bangkok, they are way too dangerous for my liking.
Thailand ranks #1 in the world for death rate in road accidents.
I’ll write that again.
Thailand ranks #1 in the world for death rate in road accidents.
And I still use motorbike taxis on regular basis – that’s how imperative they are to getting around.
when I was living on Sukhumvit 36 my apartment was a 900 meter walk to the BTS (2 minutes).
The cost of motorbike taxi to the BTS was 10฿ ($0.30) but the first few weeks I always walked.
why spend 10฿ when it’s only a short walk I thought.
I thought wrong.
While it should have only been a 2 minute walk on paper, there were no pavements to walk on, cars coming from both sides and motorbike taxis driving on the 3 cm of space I’ve been given to walk along.
What should have been a two minute walk took 4x as long.
I did this in 35 degrees while getting brake dust and fumes from cars thrown in my face.
By the end of that 7 minute walk I’m drenched in sweat and my face and arms are greasy AF.
I was like a rat getting shocked each time it touches the cheese in a lab experiment, it took me about 2 weeks to realise I should just pay the 10฿ and get on the damn bike.
I don’t think there’s anyway around living in Bangkok and not using motorbike taxis from time to time.
A bike taxi in Bangkok can get you to your destination in 3-6 minutes where a taxi starting from the same position may take an hour if there’s traffic.
So to help you, I’ve created this guide to minimise your chances of death when riding a motorbike taxi in Bangkok.
Head and foot check
The first thing you should do is invest in some sensible head wear, like a helmet.
Not the cheap 600฿ ones you can find at the Big C (which are totally useless), but a real one that can save your life.
I bought a Bilmola (below) for 2,200b, looks great and has a tight fitting strap, here’s a link on Lazada where you can buy your own (no affiliate link).
If the strap of the helmet is not tight enough and you get into a crash, your helmet and brain will fly out.
That’s the problem with the helmets motorbike taxis give you.
They all cost 300฿ or less and the strap never fits. The only reason they give it to you is if you get stopped by the police they cannot fine you. It does zero to protect you.
It can be annoying to carry a helmet each time you leave so I’ll carry it the times I can place it somewhere.
For example if I’m going to a dinner or the gym. If I want to visit the park or mall, I’ll skip the motorbike all together, get a cab and take the hit of it taking 10-20 mins longer than usual.
Related: find out where to buy the best steroids in Bangkok.
I see so many people not wear a helmet, I think because they see others not wear one they think it’s not a big deal. In my earlier days I never wore one for the same reason, but looking back it was quite silly to do that.
I wouldn’t wear sandals either, if you need to place your feet on the floor (just before getting hit or to control the bike after a hit) your sandals will come off and it will be your feet soles dragging across the pavement.
How to catch a motorbike taxi in Bangkok
Catching a motorbike taxi in Bangkok is easy, unlike a Bangkok taxi driver, they won’t refuse to take you or offer a ridiculous price before you get on.
They are located all over Bangkok.
You can spot motorbike taxis in Bangkok because they wear an orange hi-vis jacket. Here’s one buying some watermelon from a street vendor.
Simply wave your hand and they will come to you.
If they see you and ignore you it’s because they are not allowed to pick you up, each motorbike taxi driver can only pick up passengers on a specific road.
When you get on the back of one, if you read the back of their jacket it will tell you which district they work in, with their full name and ID.
I once saw two motorbike taxis follow another driver because he picked a passenger in their location, which almost ended in a fight.
Drivers are mostly men who are small in size but they are the last people you want to start a fight with.
I was walking down my local soi one day and heard some commotion behind me, I look back and see a motorbike driver grab a large machete from a condo flower pot which they must have hidden for such occasions.
It was on that day I made a mental reminder to myself to always pay them in full and never piss them off.
There are motorbike taxi stands all over Bangkok, they usually look like this:
Stands are at the start of each street and then a few at various sub-sois.
How much does a motorbike taxi in Bangkok cost?
I don’t think there’s a definitive answer on that to exactly calculate your trip.
Each stand will have their prices listed for the most popular locations:
None of it will be in English.
If I don’t know the price to where I’m going , I’ll pretend to inspect the sign letting them know that I read Thai and know the price to where I’m going – when in fact I have no clue.
Pricing isn’t like a taxi where you read the meter, it’s based on the amount of roads you cross and distance.
For example, you can take two trips at 300 meters each but if you took one from the other side of the road which made the motorbike taxi do a U-turn you could pay 10-15฿ more than if you crossed the road and then got one.
Never ask them what it costs if you’re unsure, just give them what you THINK it costs and then wait to see if they ask for more.
My strategy is to hand them what I think the distance would be worth based on similar trips and then walk off soon as I hand the money to them with a thank you.
If that works, then the next time I take the trip I do the same but this time give them 5฿ less. If they complain, then I know the fair should be what I paid last time, if they don’t complain then I know I’m know paying the right fair or still too much and do it again.
They will rip you off if you give them the chance, but they are only doing it by 5-15฿ so not the end of the world and totally fine in my book of ethics.
When I know the fare and they ask for me for more, I’ll tell them nothis is what I pay and it’s what I’ve always paid in a nice polite way, then walk off.
They never argue IF the price is right, they will get in your face if you under pay and refuse to give them more.
To minimise your chances of being over charged, dress well, only give them directions in Thai and don’t look so white.
You can also use an app like Grab where you can book bike taxis from your phone and pay on your card, much easier, but the drivers aren’t so good and official bike taxis hate them and may beat them up if seen.
My two cents on motorbike taxi in Bangkok
At face value, Bangkok motorbike taxi drivers look mean and serious, but they are actually very relaxed and friendly people.
I know a few in my soi because I get them so often and they are always smiling and waving when they see me.
Sure you get the odd grumpy man who seems to have a bad day everyday, but you get that in all job roles.
As for driving skills they are a mixed bag, if they aren’t drinking alcohol they are usually pretty good.
Once I needed a motorbike taxi because I was late and didn’t fancy being covered in sweat, but I saw a few bottles of beer next to their bikes.
I walked that day.
Once I got on a bike and the driver sped up as we went over a speed bump.
I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt as maybe he didn’t see it. But he did it again for the next one.
I quickly realised after he jumped off the pavement at 20mph that he was drunk. What I first thought was his body odour turned out to be the smell of alcohol.
I told him to stop right away in a polite way, walked away and paid him in full.
I’ve probably taken over 200+ bike taxis and only once I got on and the driver was out of his mind. I’ve also been in 3 near misses, we were going slow enough that I would not have died, but most likely would have broken a bone in my body.
Nowadays I only take motorbikes taxis in Bangkok for small distances, in smaller sub sois. I’ll never take one that needs to go on any major road where cars can drive 30kmh or faster. The sub sois are great because they have speed bumps where I live, and if they are full of cars nobody can ever go more than 15mph.
Take them during the day as shops are closed to sell alcohol, I try not to take them at night because other people on the road in cars may have been drinking and may hit you.
Whether you plan to get a motorbike taxi in Bangkok or not, you should always get insurance as hospital bills can run into the thousands of dollars very quickly if you break a bone or worse.
There’s quite a few brands to choose in Thailand and I will be writing a guide on that in the coming months but until there I would suggest reading Ultimate Guide to Health Insurance by Luma Health, they are expat friendly insurance company helping expats in Thailand.