3 Things You Need to Know Before Using Uber in Bangkok

a blurry image of a traffic jam

Uber arriving in Bangkok a few years ago was great news for tourists. No longer would you have to fear the horror stories of being ripped off or being sidetracked to some kind of gem shop with special deals.

Site seeing could become more spontaneous — less worry about being stranded at a site with few taxis. And when you over-estimated your ability to walk in the humid heat, it has become much easier to give up and opt for an air conditioned ride without having to wait for a cab to drive by.

Not to mention lessening the language barrier since the app communicated your pickup location and destination.

And for those of us partial to quick international trips and stopovers, it meant we no longer had to carry local currency and make sure we had small change.

But for all the benefits, they still had some issues to work out. In 2015 cars were often nonexistent and in 2016 bad GPS and a language barrier when drivers tried to call or text complicated things.

Fast forward to the end of 2017. Cars are plentiful now, so availability is not a problem, but the impact traffic has on timing and pricing is a problem.

The first time I requested a car during rush hour I wound up having to call the restaurant multiple times begging leniency on my reservation time as I found myself waiting half an hour for a car that was, supposedly, 10 minutes away and then sitting in traffic for an hour to go just a mile and a half.

3 things you should know before using Uber in Bangkok 

  1. Surge pricing is most of the time, consider upgrading to “save†money.
    Most of the time I was in Bangkok I was usually going out at peak times – dinner, etc — and UberX was always in a state of surge pricing which made it more expensive than a taxi. In contrast, Uber Black was a comparatively good deal. An UberX ride pricing at 200 baht might be only 50 baht more to upgrade to UberBlack. Always check the more premium options to see the price difference before requesting.
  2. GPS is completely inaccurate, so be ready for your driver
    On this last trip I spent a lot of time staring at my phone, tracking my driver’s progress through traffic. I consistently noticed that there was a lag or glitch with the GPS, so it would look like they were 5 minutes away, if not heading in the opposite direction, and a minute later pulling into the driveway.
  3. ETA is a rough estimate, and by that I mean nonexistent
    This applies to any car transportation really — private car, taxi, Uber — the time estimate you see on Google Maps or the Uber app will be completely off during peak traffic times. If you’re trying to make a reservation be sure to leave a big buffer of time or consider walking. Otherwise you might find yourself desperately calling the restaurant to push your reservation time when you’ve been stuck in a car for over an hour to go 1.5 miles.

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  1. Yes! I second this.

    In December 2016 I waited at BKK upon arrival for 20 and then 40+ minutes for Ubers that never showed up despite the app telling me the drivers were 5-minutes away and showing up nearby when I first requested a ride. After requesting my ride(s) the drivers quickly showed in the app as being in a nearby parking garage and zero minutes away where one remained for a full 35 minutes with the icon intermittently driving a circle in the lot and just sitting there. I had to cancel each ride request and take a driver/ private airport-arranged sedan to my hotel in Sukhimvit and Uber even tried to charge me a cancellation fee. When I gave them feedback via the app they refunded the cancel fees and offered an account credit equal to 50 cents in USD. My follow ups to them were ignored.

    I will never again use Uber in Thailand and that was the start of my trying to use Lyft in lieu of Uber everywhere else as well.

  2. I’d highly recommend also having the Grab app handy. Their prices maybe higher marginally, but the drivers who accept the call know your destination and tend not to cancel at the last minute.

    1. From what I’ve seen, there are two kinds of taxi drivers in Bangkok: the ones who try to make “extra stops” where they get a commission and then there’s the drivers that speak no English. Even with the latter,getting them to use the meter can be a major chore.

    1. Yes, but none of those are great options when you have a lot of luggage or need to go to places not covered by the sky train 🙂

  3. Uber is the most frustrating thing in Bangkok, the waiting time is always around 15 minutes, i’m planing to use Grab app the next time I’m in Bangkok, I heard it’s so much better.

  4. Uber is a lifesaver in Bangkok for a farang. I tried to get a taxi home from my office outside central Bangkok but not one would stop for me though they stopped for Thai customers. This went on for 30m. In desperation I went to Uber – the car came early, the driver spoke English, and the price was great.
    Uber is definitely my first choice now in BKK

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