By Taylor  -  Anyone who has been to Bangkok and taken a tuk tuk knows that they can be a lot of fun, and a major ripoff. There is talk of gasoline coupons, and commission, and "Official" tuk tusk vs private ones.It is impossible to get into one without being harassed to be taken to a tailor shop or travel agency. And at night you are constantly asked if you want to go to a lady massage or out for some "boom boom".
I met a tuk tuk driver last night in Bangkok, and as he was taking me to Khao San road he pulled over and asked if I would go into a tailor shop and look at suits. If I did he said he would cut the price of my ride from 100 baht to 50 baht. (30 baht = $1) I agreed! I spent two minutes chatting to the tailor about a wool coat I was interested in getting tailored, and then left and got back into the tuk tuk, and we continued on. I asked if he got commission for taking me there, and he told me he got gasoline coupons. 5 litres.

He pulled over again, and asked if he could take me to a travel agent, just to talk to them. If I did he wouldn't charge me anything for my ride. I agreed again! And spent 2 minutes talking to a woman about train tickets (they wanted 900 baht for a week away - the soonest they could find me a train to Chiang Mai. I had already bought the exact ticket across the street at the actual train station for 840 baht.)
After talking, I got back into the tuk tuk and my driver thanked me, and we continued to Khao San Road free of charge. I asked him to pull over again, and then I turned on the charisma and asked him how much commission he got, he flashed me 300 baht and smiled.

He earned 300 baht for taking me to a travel agency, and I didn't even buy anything! A scheme started brewing in my mind. I asked him if he would take me to ten more tailor shops the next day, and split the commission with me. He thought for a moment, and then started jumping up and down! He was so excited, he had never thought of that before. He gave me his number, and we met up this afternoon.
We went all over Bangkok, pricing suits, looking at gems, talking ticket prices. And after 4 hours, we had made 2600 baht ($92) and become good friends. He opened up and told me everything about tuk tuk scams, and prices, how much drivers make at different places.

He bought me path Thai, and let me drive his tuk tuk down an alley, across a main road and into a parking lot.
I now will present the facts to you about tuk tuks in three phases. firstly..

The Problem

  • Tuk tuk drivers make commision for taking you places, especially tailor shops and travel agencies. It can be hard to find a tuk tuk sometimes because the hotel you want to go to isn't one that pays them. So instead they will either refuse to pick you up, or take you to a hotel that does pay them, assuring you that the one you wanted burned down or is fully booked.
  • Tuk tuk drivers charge a ton of money. There is no meter, so your at the mercy of the drivers knowledge of the streets to get a good deal. Its usually exponentially better than your knowledge of Bangkok - therefore you may pay hundreds of baht to get a ride around the corner.
  • Gas costs next to NOTHING in a tuk tuk. They tell you it does, but they get it from the company that rents them the tuk tuk for 10 baht a litre, and one litre will get them anywhere in Bangkok and back. Twice.
  • The handoff of commission to a driver is shady business, the unaware customer will never see it. A man sits outside of each establishment, and opens the door for you. As soon as you go inside he hands the driver a tightly rolled, or stapled wad of bills. The driver pockets it, and tells you its gasoline coupons if you ask. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GASOLINE COUPONS. ITS A LIE!

The Prices

  • Cost to rent a tuk tuk for 12 hours - 270 baht
  • Commission for a tailor shop - 35% of what you spend goes to the driver
  • Commission for a tourist office - 40%
  • Finders fee for just bringing you into a tailor shop - 200 baht
  • Finders fee for just bringing you into a tourist office - 300 baht
  • Commission for bringing a paying customer to a lady massage - 50% (the driver makes around 1500 - 2000 baht for each customer he brings)
  • Liter of petrol - 10 baht

The Workaround

Every time a tuk tuk picks you up, there is one of two things to do. 

A. When negotiating a price, tell them that they can take you to a tailor and keep the 200 baht commission, but you want to ride for free. Its important to let them know that you know what happens. They feel exposed, the secret is out. They arent going to be able to trick you, and they will usually roll with it.
B. Wholeheartedly refuse to go to tailors or tourist offices, and pay inflated prices - the whole time feeling better about yourself for not feeding a corrupt system.

You must decide between A and B.
I recommend A though!

Pae (my driver, he is 25) Is now my brother. He is picking me up tomorrow to take me to the train station (free of charge) and told me that any time Im ever in Bangkok to call him - and he will give me free rides anywhere I want to go for free.

First published by / Dec 2010
* All together, its pretty much the same in 2016. The only difference now; One litre petrol is now about 23 - 26 Baht, $1 rate = about 35 Baht.
I do recommend anyway, try and get a METER - Taxi. They ate reasonable, and you`ll see the price!
Thai Massage; usually between 300 - 600 Baht   (* I speak of an Traditional Thai Massage!)


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