Seasoned Asia hoppers know better than to waste their pocket money on scams that dishonest drivers pull. Be it a tuk-tuk, electric moped, taxi, coaster, or cyclo, public transport is one of the most common pocket-draining tourist traps in this part of the world. Drivers can smell a tourist from 30 feet away and pull out their bag of tricks before you even see them. If you've been to at least one Asian country, you might have already picked up some good haggling skills (one of the most useful things to pack when touring this side of the planet). If this will be your first time, don't fret. Encounters with shady cab drivers are almost inevitable when you’re in Asia, but there are ways to actually get the fair price for your ride. Here are some tips:
- Ask a local or your hotel concierge what the fair price for a certain distance is, and then add 10%-20% to get an idea of what you should be paying. Remember that taxi meters are only common in bigger cities. Everywhere else, the fee is fixed or has to be negotiated. Ten to 20% more than the typical fare should be enough.
- Flag them down on the streets (be sensitive about local traffic rules, though). Taxis standing by at a corner will usually want to negotiate a ridiculously high fixed price, which can easily be twice the actual meter price.
- Agree on your payment scheme/price before entering the vehicle. Once you're in their custody, there's no turning back!
- Know the local name of your destination, or have the name written down in local alphabet. Language barrier problems are not uncommon, especially when visiting places where English is not widely spoken. It is best to know how to properly pronounce the name of your destination in the local dialect or have its name written down in local alphabet (your concierge can do this for you). It also helps to write down the name of a famous landmark that is close to your destination in case the driver is not familiar with the area. If he seems clueless about the place, move on and find another driver (preferably one that speaks a couple of English words) to take you.
**A special note on tuk-tuks: Half the fun of visiting Thailand (and other Asian countries using them, like Cambodia) is riding the tuk-tuk. They may not be the safest mode of transport, but riding them is sort of a rite of passage. However, tuk-tuk drivers are also infamous for charging unbelievably fares. Our advice, HAGGLE! Meet him half-way. Also beware of quick 'stopovers,' which often mean a trip to a random gem shop where you'll be talked into buying snake oil. If you can't get the driver to lower his asking price, don't sweat it and just hail a cab. Meter fares are often cheaper.