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I took a taxi in Bangkok, the driver used the meter, but at the end of the ride the driver cleared the meter (was 55 THB) and pretended that we had agreed on some higher price (was 100 THB) for the ride. Aside from videotapping the driver clearing the meter or the entire ride, what can I do in that situation to pay the meter and not whatever price the taxi driver comes up with?


This question is not a duplicate of How to tell scam taxis from legitimate ones in Bangkok? Does it make sense prebooking?. I took a legitimate taxi, just the driver at some point felt like trying to make extra cash on me. I want to know what the optimal course of action should be in my scenario.


I have crossposted the question on Quora.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Mar 26 at 9:47
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Had something similar happen going from Tunis airport to central Tunis. The driver (who had a "mate" with him, so I was skeptical from the outset) had the meter on, but just before the destination he turned it off (at which point it had reached 5 dinars). I only had a 20 note to spare and he wanted to give zero change. He eventually gave 3 dinars back (LOL!) whereby I fetched the phone and said calmly and smiling (in French) "we don't need the police here, do we?" whereby he sighed and gave me another 10. Still 2 more due, but I left it at that and got out, finishing by sternly saying "no fraud, I don't like that!"

Another time (admittedly off-topic) I was in Belgrade and had an early-morning flight from Skopje, but the last evening bus Belgrade-Skopje was cancelled, so I got a bus to Vranje where I arrived around midnight. A uniformed police officer I met on the bus helped me get a ride with a "Happy Taxi" driver he knew, whereby we settled on 50 euros (a fair offer). However, as he was re-fuelling near the border, he started complaining about how expensive the tolls and fuel were and that I'd have to pay for it. I gave a weak reaction, to make it appear I didn't really understand what he said, in order to make it to the airport hassle-free. Once there, I gave a 50 note, and when he asked for another 60 (!) I politely said (in Serbian) "In Vranje you said 50, and I know that's a normal price, so here you have 50. Have a good night" and went away.

Both times I had no luggage in the back, which does make matters easier.

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    Typical North African haggling! Don't even feel offended, totally normal, and you did the right thing in paying a little bit above market, it's kind of the decent thing to do if you're not local. – PatrickT Mar 27 at 2:52
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    @PatrickT "you did the right thing in paying a little bit above market, it's kind of the decent thing to do if you're not local" Nothing personal, but just to hell with that attitude so much. That's the very mentality that causes drivers worldwide to go full mafia mode at the mere smell of a foreigner. And I can't stand it, since whenever I do have to resort to a taxi, it's a pain having to worry about which driver is honest and which one isn't. Imagine if I had luggage in the trunk to boot (never did so far) – Crazydre Mar 27 at 10:17
  • @PatrickT Also, within Tunis and Sousse meters are the default, so I always insist on using it. Some drivers say upfront they want a (clearly too high) fixed fare instead, which is no problem as I then know to simply dismiss them. This was a one-off for me, and other than airport-based drivers, it seems most are honest (at the arrivals floor at Tunis airport, they all want 50 dinars, so one should go to the departures floor and catch a city-based cab. Other than the mentioned occasion, that's always worked wonders) – Crazydre Mar 27 at 10:27
  • I know what you mean. Just like in the U.S. never tip, because "to hell with that attitude", right? (Edit: not wishing to pick a fight, but I think there's the ideal and the practical, and quite frankly when I travel to Africa or the USA, my mental state shifts to practical. But deep down I'm like you. Remember Mr Pink / Steve Buscemi: "I don't tip because society says I have to." In my country, I'm Mr Pink, elsewhere not so much.) – PatrickT Mar 27 at 19:53
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    @PatrickT In the US I may tip if, say, the food at a restaurant was particularly good, but that's mainly because it's what most locals do as well. Equally, at the National History Museum of New York (a "pay-what-you-want" museum) I originally gave $1 upon entry, but found the place sufficiently good that I gave another $4 upon leaving. The difference is it's done on my own terms as the customer, unlike when someone tries to make me believe I rightfully owe them 5-10 times more just because "as a Westerner he surely has cash to chuff down the toilet, and so I'm free to milk him as I fancy" – Crazydre Mar 27 at 21:10
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Remain calm and say you have left your wallet in the other bag, which is in the trunk. He will of course know that's a lie, but he will also realize nobody will proceed until the baggage is offloaded first. Prepare to wait several minutes if he is really stubborn.

Eventually the taxi will attract the attention of security personnel or his colleagues by holding up the line of taxis

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    +1 this is good thinking for when you have luggage in the trunk. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Mar 26 at 9:21
  • Do they ever come to open the trunk for you and watch you remove the wallet from your bag? How do you react if they catch you lying? – user541686 Mar 27 at 10:13
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    Don't care. Primary concern is that all travelers (and their belongings) get out first. Don't blink an eye on the high price, don't panic. Make it appear natural and proceed to offload everything if he doesn't do it for you. You have just increased your bargaining position! Act surprised, gee, you know what: the wallet is in the first bag after all! Now he has a choice: accept your money offer or leave empty handed. In theory he can intimidate you but most likely he will just move on to the next victim. Of course if the driver is helpful, tip accordingly. Just don't reward the bad ones. – E. van Putten Mar 27 at 11:09
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In situations like this I never pay, I simply leave, if they want trouble ok lets get the police involved, in most countries, the driver has a lot more to loose than a tourist who brings money into the country to spend.

Moreover many countries do not want a bad reputation either with this type of things.

But be VERY careful if you are not a seasoned traveler and know what countries this does NOT work in then better pay the metered price and leave.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Comments have been locked here, go to the chat to add your post, but remember to be nice, also there. – Willeke Mar 25 at 17:16
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You're asking how to win an argument when being fleeced. You can't. All you can do is hope it doesn't turn into a robbery. No thinking person would ever honestly believe that you agreed on a higher fixed price... The problem is that in countries like these the police either don't care or are part of the racket. Even if they do care they won't come in time to save you in the moment.

What to do? Saying "no" and getting out of the car is a great start (although he might have your luggage in the trunk). If things get violent either give him what he wants or defend yourself. Compliance is usually safer, I've never been to Thailand but I'd pay almost any sum of money not to be interrogated by their police for fighting a local who may or may not have organized crime connections with them.

Talking is still your best bet overall. These kind of things can often be preempted by making polite smalltalk and making yourself less of a mark by showing you know a bit about the culture. Very few of these people are ready to commit a violent robbery so if they still change the price just be firm but polite. No negotiation from the metered price, but also no insults or ego challenges. This is not a misunderstanding but you can still deescalate.

Also understand that a lot of cultures are far less direct and formal than their American/European counterparts. When originally writing my answer I didn't realize that 45 THB is $1.35USD. If you're an American he's asking you for pocket change because he's extremely poor. If this were a proper shakedown he knows you have tens to hundreds of times that amount on your person.

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    "No thinking person would ever honestly believe that you agreed on a higher fixed price": why not? Some taxi passengers do agree on a fix price upfront in Bangkok (which is typically not a good idea). – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 26 at 9:20
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    @Dan: “how to win an argument when being fleeced. You can't.” Don’t underestimate the power of words, behaviour, and psychology. Of course, if someone’s really determined to get the money from you, then there’s a point where resisting becomes too risky, but as other answers show, there are a lot of things you can try before that point. – PLL Mar 26 at 10:01
  • @PPL Good point, I've added some advice about talking your way out or just avoiding the situation altogether. – Dan Mar 26 at 19:33
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In many places taxi drivers are quite busy, so they try to avoid losing time with you because that costs them money they don't get from the next client.

With this in mind, keep insisting on a sum you think is fair, and refuse to pay more. Unless you're late yourself, there's a high chance that the driver will be the first to give up the game.

Things get much more complicated if you need to get a change from the driver. You can still keep sitting in the car waiting for the change, but psychologically it's easier for the driver to agree to get less than to part with the money they already have in their hands.

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  • Could you add if there is a problem if you have luggage in the back of the car? – guest Mar 26 at 19:56
  • Is this theory or do you have experience with this approach? – guest yesterday
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The simple answer is Immediately phone the police.

Just sit there quietly, say and do nothing whatsoever to the driver, and begin phoning the police.

If necessary just phone or text your friend or whatever overseas, and ask them to look up for you how to dial the police locally.

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    Is this generally or speciafically for Bangkok? (There are countries where I would not recommend this) – guest Mar 25 at 22:10
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    The advice in this answer is very limited, it assumes one knows the language to communicate with the police, that the police will care (they definitely won't in places I know), and that the shady driver will do nothing about it. – Martin Argerami Mar 25 at 23:46
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    Probably sitting there and do nothing makes the problem much bigger for the driver. That means losing business so I expect in most cases it will be quickly settled then if you don't move. – E. van Putten Mar 26 at 9:29
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Best way is to workout all the time, it'll keep you fit and intimidating so this kind of stuff is less likely to happen to you.

Second best way is to joke it off with the driver, say you don't have cash, you can't understand, talk in klingon, tell him a boring story about your childhood, act like a 5 year old, bullshit with the driver, it's fair game because he's bullshitting with you.

If that fails, cause a scene, get angry, cry, open the window and pretend to call for help, call the police (or pretend to call the police even if you can't), and then bullshit some more, he'll be more agreeable if you're not worth the trouble. Don't start a real fight, that will not end well most of the time in a foreign country.

If possible, say yes to whatever, insist on paying once he gets you to your destination. Once there, make sure you have your luggage. Then get out of the car and negotiate outside, or just pretend you haven't met the driver at all.

If you can't get to the luggage, just sit there but don't pay. Wast time, open the door so he can't drive around, but sit until you can come to an agreement. Someone has to give up once the time wasting isn't worth while anymore.

If all else fails, just pay him.... if your bad behavior is not enough to get you off then it's not worth it getting your head bashed in over a few bucks.

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    this ridiculous answer gets a down-vote from me – Cloud Mar 26 at 15:11
  • The problem is it's often not just "a few bucks" but 10 times the normal fare – Crazydre Mar 27 at 10:45
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    Well.... I guess.... if it's 10 times more expensive then you'll have to consider wasting 10 times more time, but safety first. And also, is it really ridiculous? If you're alone in a foreign country, and unable to get help, then you'll have to balance joking, bullshitting, causing a scene and time wasting..... – lzl Mar 27 at 11:21
  • Or be informed of what's correct, and call the police if need be, should the driver flout it. – Crazydre Mar 27 at 13:52
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    Yeah that would be the best, if it's possible.... but then you'll have to explain your situation in thai, your location, and actually expect the police to care enough to come and get you. All the while the taxi is prob driving around. I'd be surprised if this has ever worked. The most you can do is threaten to call the police, but if he calls your bluff he might be more determined to get your money after that. – lzl Mar 27 at 15:32
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In my experience, Thai taxi drivers can add extra costs based on distance (extra fees for short distance) and where you're hailing them (50THB extra for hailing from an airport).

Similarly, if you hail them from specific spots, you may be given a slip of paper containing information of driver and other relevant information like this:

Slip of paper with contact information (PII blanked out)

While noting that you won't be given one of these for every ride, if you do get handed one of these, I'd recommend contacting the numbers on these papers first, in the case of the image above, that'd be the airport, and then the ministry of transport.

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