This shouldn’t really be headline news; a taxi actually switching on its meter when a passenger gets in. Tourists visiting Ko Samui have long complained about rude and aggressive taxi-meter drivers refusing to put on the meter and charging exaggerated fares, but it seems changes are on the way . . . supposedly.
Although they are meant to use their meters, actually getting a Ko Samui taxi driver to switch it on isn’t easy, even if you speak Thai. It creates a bad image for Ko Samui – an island heavily dependent on tourism – when somebody steps off the plane or ferry and one of the first things they encounter is blatant overcharging. Too many of the taxi drivers seem to take the attitude that everybody coming to Ko Samui is a rich tourist and so they can afford to pay the extra charges. Taxi drivers all over the world get accused, rightly or wrongly, of overcharging and ‘taking the scenic route’ to bump up a fare, so Thailand is no different in that respect. Bangkok’s taxi drivers also have a habit of not switching on the meter, but even so the prices charged in Bangkok are far lower than Ko Samui. The drivers on Ko Samui will point to the fact that oil prices are higher on the island than on the mainland and also that nobody is forcing people to use the taxis as there is also a songthaew service on the island.
Responding to tourist complaints about taxi drivers refusing to turn on the meter, Ko Samui authorities have liaised with the island’s Taxi Meter Operators’ Association and come up with the radical solution that taxis will now switch on their meters. Along with many others, I remain unconvinced and how long this will last is anybody’s guess. For the record, here’s what has been agreed in terms of pricing:
90 Baht for flagfall + 50 Baht per kilometre for the first 2 kilometres. The per kilometre rate then decreases as the journey lengthens as follows:
11 Baht per km after 2km
9 Baht per km after 11kms
7 Baht per km after 20kms.
So the minimum cost for a journey up to 1km will be 140 Baht. A 20km journey e.g. from Na Thon ferry to Chaweng Beach should be around 360 to 370 Baht.
As they say in Thailand, ‘up to you’ as to whether you use the taxi meters. Compared to prices in the West, they are still relatively cheap and it could be argued that if you are spending $100+ a night on accommodation, why worry about a few extra Baht on a taxi. I know many expats and locals on Ko Samui refuse to use the taxi meters and use the songthaews instead. Some of the songthaew drivers also have a habit of overcharging, but not to the extent that the taxi meters have done. Perhaps that will all change now. We shall see.