There has been a fair bit in the press here (Bangkok) lately about the problems with catching a ‘meter’ taxi at Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok airport) into the city.
When the new airport first opened in September 2006, there was a plan in
place to create a ‘satelite’ taxi and bus cue about 5km from the terminal. Travelers would have to board a bus with their bags and make the journey to this area and then get a taxi or bus onwards. Thankfully someone wised-up and realized this was a terrible idea, instead allocating an inconvenient and too-small space for taxis right at the terminal.
This taxi zone then had a couple of cheap office desks put on the sidewalk with attendants who take down the traveler’s destination, then give it to a taxi driver, who then in theory uses his/her meter, and takes you to your destination.
Move forward to today and getting a taxi is almost worse than ever at the new airport. There are still a couple cheap desks on the sidewalk and the taxi rank is not on the Arrivals’s Floor, rather one floor below (not sure how they came up with this). So, you get to the taxi cue, get a taxi and pay the metered rate, plus toll charges plus 50 Thai Baht (B) for the airport fee. A typical 35km ride into the city will cost about 250B on the meter, plus the 50B surcharge and toll charges (which you pay as you travel) of about 70B. Total cost: about 370B (roughly $12US).
The main problem with this method is that more and more the taxis operating from the airport will rarely turn on their meter, often kick you out of their taxi if you question the meter or have their meter rigged to charge you more. On top of this, about 60% of taxis have a big natural gas tank in their trunk that takes up about 50% of the room, making it impossible to put a large bag inside.
Another option is to hire a private car at the airport from one of the many respresentatives (touts) who approach you as you exit into the airport Arrivals Hall. Cars are typically about $30US to a downtown hotel. Getting one usually involves waiting about 10 minutes for the car and some include tollway charges but others do not. Some of the drivers pocket the tollway money their company gives them and charges the unknowing traveler.
This brings us to Smiling Albino’s service. We have long included an Arrival Pickup with our Siamese Dream, Thailand Grand Slam and other longer adventures, included in the trip price. When you arrive in a new country, after a long flight, and not speaking the language, there’s nothing worse than having to contend with a shady/shifty taxi driver, causing frustration/stress right from the start of your trip.
We feel having a dedicated car/driver, who is honest and knows your schedule, waiting to whisk you to your hotel in hassle-free comfort key to a great travel experience. Considering the thousands of dollars you spend on your air tickets to get here, adding a little bit more to your trip total for a strees-free hotel transfer is a ‘no-brainer’.
In addition to our trips that include an airport pickup at the start, we give all guests the option to add private transfers to/from the airport during other portions of their trip (again ensuring a seamless experience). Here is how it breaks-down:
Mercedes E-Class: $60US/way
Toyota Camry: $45US/way
Take a page from a recent guest who elected at the end of their trip to take a taxi to a downtown hotel we arranged for them. They spent $10US on a taxi, only to have the driver turn the meter off half-way, then kick them out when they raised question to this. They then called me on their mobile phone from the side of a highway and I talked to another taxi driver they flagged-down. This taxi took them to their destination, using his meter, at a cost of about $12US. In all, they spent 1.5 hours, two taxis and $22US. They had Smiling Albino book them a private car back to the airport for their flight home.
So, while public taxis can often be fine and are generally very affordable in Thailand, when you have limited travel time, want to enjoy every moment of your holiday and make the most of it, spring for a private car and let us take care of the fine details.