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Taxi guide to Asia: How to avoid being scammed

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Just as beautiful and fascinating Asia is, just as chaotic the big city jungles can be. Read here in the ultimate guide to transport and gratuities.
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Taxi guide to Asia: How to avoid being scammed is written by Emil Moe

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The best tips for taxi driving in Asia

Asia is a wonderful place I travel to regularly. The weather, the heat, the light and the atmosphere are all things that make me relax every time, whether it is in the cities or in the countryside, it each has its own charm.

Despite having lived in both Thailand and Cambodia and traveled quite a bit in Vietnam, I still manage to fall into a tourist trap from time to time when I have to be transported in Asia. However, this primarily applies to private taxis.

I will therefore try to go over what I have learned from experience to avoid being scammed and how you can use the different options, from regular taxis to different Uber-like services, and what they cost.

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Pay the taxi and move on

First, I would like to make it clear that despite having been cheated myself several times, I have never had any unpleasant experiences.

However, I also always pay the price they ask and move on. In the vast majority of cases, it is a matter of principle that I do not like being cheated, but not an amount of major importance.

However, I am happy to tip those who do not cheat.

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Use your smartphone and save money

With a smartphone and internet, for example in Cambodia you can save up to 300% of the "tourist" price.

For example, I got away with 4 times the price from the airport, in the Vietnamese city, Ho Chi Minh to the center. A trip that should have cost 50 Danish kroner ended up with 200 kroner. I guess I took the taxi from the official stand at the airport.

Yes, sometimes you have to pay for forgetting your own good advice.

You can get on the local networks by, for example, using 3Likehome, buying or local SIM card or using an app where you can get an e-SIM card.

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Use the app Grab – or Bolt

In Asia, in most countries – and especially in the cities – you can use the app Grab or a newer alternative: Bolt. This applies, for example, to countries such as the Philippines and Thailand.

In the Grab app, you order the means of transport you want; everything from motorcycle to 'SUV'. The JustGrab function selects the nearest means of transport – apart from motorbikes – and is perfectly fine in the vast majority of cases. Grab will also state the price in advance, and I have not yet experienced that the price deviated from there - except when in Bangkok I accept that the driver takes a toll road, where you then pay extra for eg driving on a motorway.

The principle in Bolt is the same, and since there can be a difference in prices and – not least – in when the car can arrive, it can be a good idea to have both.

The advantage of using apps is that you enter the destination in advance and thus do not have to explain yourself to a place, which can already be difficult in Asia.

For some, this can remove the charm, and you can also choose not to enter the destination in the app.

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Taximeter in Thailand

How is it really right with the local currency in Thailand?

The currency in Bangkok is Thai 'Baht' (THB). Roughly speaking, the baht must be divided by 5, so that 20 baht is 4 kroner, 100 baht is 20 kroner, etc.

In Thailand and Bangkok, it is not my experience that cheating with taxis is quite widespread, as long as you stay away from 'tuk-tuks' in Bangkok, because they target tourists, and always charge a higher price - but then they are also cheerful to drive with!

If I book from the street, I always ask the driver if he drives by "meter" - in English of course. If the answer is no or an excuse like it's broken, I'll find the next one. If, on the other hand, he says yes, I have never experienced problems.

If I book a motorcycle on the street, I of course make sure to agree a price in advance. It should preferably be 50-200 baht (10-40 kroner), depending on the distance.

The eternal question about tips: If I tip, it is usually 20-50 baht, i.e. 5-10 kroner. Tips can be given directly in Grab after the ride.

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Creative taxi fares in Vietnam

My view of Vietnam, unfortunately, is that it is notorious when it comes to being a little too creative with taxi fares. A few companies that should always be safe are Mai Linh og Vinasun. The latter is state-owned. The same applies here as in Thailand, that you can use Grab or Bolt to avoid unpleasant surprises.

In Ho Chi Minh City, I've experienced everything from the taxi meter going up too fast, to the driver pressing a button that caused the fare to increase each time.

The last time I was in Ho Chi Minh City, as mentioned earlier, I took a taxi from the official stand at the airport to my hotel, but still had to pay 4 times the price. My advice is simply to stay away from the taxi stand right outside the terminal.

If you are going from the airport in Ho Chi Minh City, you should therefore either order a limousine service inside the terminal. This costs approximately DKK 60, where a real taxi will cost DKK 40. So there is not much difference if you have a Danish salary, and the price is far from the 200 kroner that the scam drivers charge.

Alternatively, you can order a Grab, which should cost around 30-40 kroner, but if you have traveled 10-20 hours by plane to Asia, it is my opinion that the last 20 kroner is well spent.

The currency in Vietnam is Vietnamese 'dong' (VND). Approximately 10.000 VND goes for 3 kroner. And what about tipping in Vietnam?

If I were to tip, it's usually around 5-10%, so it's often 5.000-10.000 VND. Tips can again be given directly in Grab after the trip.

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The price of a taxi in Cambodia

The exchange rate in Cambodia is officially 'riel' (KHR), but US dollars are also widely used, and most ATMs pay you in dollars. A few offer both riel and dollars.

The problem is that the ATMs pay in the largest possible bills, and few shops accept $100 bills, as an average salary in Cambodia is around $250 a month. It is therefore a good idea to exchange for $10 bills at the bank afterwards.

The exchange rate for dollars is $1 to 6,5 kroner and $1 is approximately 4.100 riel. 6.100 riel is 10 kroner. A bit confusing, but a good tip is to think of it in dollars and calculate from there. If I want to tip, I often round up and give whole dollars. So if the trip costs 5.000 riel, I pay $2, i.e. almost $0.75 in tip. And trips in cambodia are cheap, so it's ok to round up.

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PassApp - both in Cambodia and Copenhagen

In the larger cities in Cambodia, in the rest of Asia, you can use Grab and often Bolt. However, it is far more widespread to use the app PassApp. The app works pretty much like Grab, but here you can't pay through the app, but instead you always have to pay in cash.

The amount appears in PassApp when the trip has ended, but is rarely more than 10-15 kroner. Some drivers try to come up with an incorrect price after the trip, and of course you shouldn't accept that. Thus I have tried it cost well $1 but he asked for $2. Of course he got $1 and no tip.

PassApp writes all prices in the local currency, riel, but as you quickly discover when traveling in the country, a lot of trades take place in US dollars. Despite the fact that the official rate is close to 4.100 riel to $ 1, most people count 4.000 riel to $ 1 to make it easier to convert. Often, riel is only used for anything under $ 1, so you pay in 2 currencies at the same time. Coins are never used in Cambodia, not even in the US. PassApp also works in Copenhagen. Whether it's the new rickshaws that use it or how it's connected is still unknown to me. Incredible for an app that is Cambodian.

Good taxi ride, and good trip to Southeast Asia!

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About the author

Emil Moe

Emil loves to travel and has traveled in large parts of the world.

Since it is important to know its foundation, the destinations were
the first many years in Europe. Later, it has expanded to all parts of the world, but especially Asia has captured his interest and he has lived in Asia several times. First Thailand and later Cambodia, where he has also had the pleasure of watching Angkor Wat several times.

On a daily basis, Emil is a software engineer and fully enjoys being able to take his work under his arm and go out into the world.
On the journeys, local culture, history and population are in focus. It is a pleasure to learn about other cultures and traditions and at times be challenged in his perception of how "things tend to be".

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