Taxis On Koh Samui: What You Aren’t Meant To Know

Koh Samui March 2, 2012 1:07 pm

Koh Samui TransportAfter 2.5 weeks in Bangkok, we’d started to feel pretty good about our ability to deal with the Thai taxi system. We knew how to get a guaranteed metered fare, we knew our common place names in Thai, we knew the area a bit so we could sniff out “drive them the longest way possible” scams, and more…

Then we got to Koh Samui and it all got flipped on it’s head. In short, taxis follow no rules here. And tourists are captive to their practices on this small island paradise.

Before we discuss the various taxi scams on Samui and how to avoid them, I need to include this disclaimer:

Even when you get ripped off, you’re not paying THAT much. At their worst, taxis on Samui are cheaper than most places in the world, and the tendency to get caught up in “getting the right price” can quickly turn your holiday into a vacation of frustration. So do the following, but be prepared to win some and lose some and keep smiling no matter the outcome 🙂

Ok so first:

Metered Cabs on Samui: They don’t exist. Even the red and yellow cabs that are the most “legit” seem to have places for meters that are conspicuously empty. So what’s the system for fares?

The Rough Price Chart: While it’s greatly open to interpretation, the first cab we ever got into on Samui flashed us a fixed price chart for the cost of going to and from any point on the island. It’s hard to haggle with a fixed price chart but fortunately the fixed prices aren’t completely exaggerated and are what most drivers seem to – with varying degrees of “roughness” – base their quotes on. Note however:

Price + X00%: Cabs on Samui are triple as expensive as cabs on the mainland. In Bangkok we didn’t pay more than 160 baht for a cab fee ever (and that was for a 45 minute drive without much traffic) whereas on Samui, we found ourselves unable to get almost anywhere for even 200 Baht. Most fares were 300 or 400 depending on how hard we wanted to haggle. Just a note to make you prepared for that.

Haggle Your Best: Because there are only loose rules at best, the price you get for any given ride is down to how aggressive you want to be, how many times you are prepared to be turned down, and how your opponent (the driver) is feeling on the night. In general, it’s almost always better to flag down a cab driver who’s already in their car, than to be drawn in by some dude on the street imploring you to take his friend’s taxi. When the driver is in their car, usually holding up traffic, and you’re about to get in and pay the decided fee, it can help push the balance of power in your favor.

Further, when you’re haggling, having reasons always helps. Them saying 400 and you replying “No, 200!” can only get you so far, whereas adding “We made this trip earlier today and it cost 200” holds much more weight.

The “Per Person” Scam: Most taxi drivers before giving you a quote, will ask “How many people?” followed by an implication that – despite all fitting into one car for the same trip – your fee should be X baht per person. This trick is so common that it’s hard to avoid, but try to resist it where you can, and settle on a flat fee based on the distance, not the number of people. If you want to be super sly when you have a bigger party, you can have one person approach the driver and make the deal and only afterwards have your friends reveal themselves when the price is already agreed.

Alternatives to Red/Yellow Cabs: Samui is like the rest of Thailand in that there are a huge number of transport options available. If you’re ever traveling with 3 or more people, it’s cheaper to get in one of the “tuk tuk” things that are (different to the mainland) just a ute with a seating area for about 10 people in the back. For these vehicles, they’ll start out at suggesting you pay 100 baht per person for most locations but the norm is 50 baht per person. Those drivers are more informal and so are harder negotiators so you’ll have to do your best on that one.

Additionally, you’ll run into all kinds of other forms of transport on the island. More than a couple of times we found ourselves sitting in the back of some random lady’s SUV. And again, the less formal the transport seems, the more open the price is to negotiation.

Prices in general: Finally, because there are only a handful of routes you’ll possibly be taking in a cab, we can discuss average prices. There aren’t many places you can be going to/from that should cost more than 400 Baht, but the range in general is 200 to 500 Baht.

That’s about all you’ll need to know to save the most money on your trip and have the best experiences with transportation. Again save where you can, laugh it off where you can’t, and enjoy the trip!

Oh and if you’ve been to Samui and know any tips/tricks I missed, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments!

1 Comment

  • Claas

    Thank you
    Very helpful article about taxis on Samui
    But today it’s raining cats and dogs, I suppose no good haggling conditions
    Wish me luck

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