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Phuket Opinion: Being taken for a ride

Phuket Opinion: Being taken for a ride

PHUKET: The whole nation has again seen what Phuket’s illustrious taxi drivers can do to deter potential tourists from coming to the island, despite all the rhetoric from officials that they are working on changing Thai tourists’ impression that Phuket is an expensive place to visit.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 13 December 2020, 09:00AM

The more common taxis at the airport are not metered taxis, but ’chartered taxis’ identified by the green or yellow licence plates. Photo: The Phuket News / file

The more common taxis at the airport are not metered taxis, but ’chartered taxis’ identified by the green or yellow licence plates. Photo: The Phuket News / file

The latest incident became public when a woman Thai tourist posted on social media this week that she was charged B200 per kilometre for her journey with two friends, altogether carrying three items of luggage. The post went viral and Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew has ordered that the incident be investigated.

While no further details have been presented about this latest Phuket taxi ripoff, the difference between metered taxis and what the government calls “chartered taxis” becomes vital. The rates for metered taxis are very clear, widely published and even if the meter has been rigged the increasing fare can be seen by passengers during the journey.

So-called “chartered taxis” are an entirely different animal, and their maximum rates set by law are not easily found.

Last year a chartered taxi van driver put Phuket back on the ugly destination map by charging Australian tourists B3,000 to take them from the airport to Kata.

After the usual public statements by officials to take stern action over the incident, police deemed the high fare charged to be the result of a “misunderstanding” and fined the driver B2,000 for illegally having his passenger van at the airport to pick up passengers. Police said that no more action could be taken as the price was settled through a private negotiation between the driver and passengers.

Meanwhile, Airports of Thailand (AoT), the public company which is 70% government owned and operates Phuket International Airport, fined the driver’s accomplice B2,000 for illegally roaming the halls of the airport terminal soliciting customers to the driver’s van as a transport service.

No explanations were given as to how the van driver was allowed to drive his van into the airport passenger pickup area or how his accomplice openly solicited customers inside the main airport building undetected despite the alleged high security measures in place at Phuket’s key tourism portal.

That is how well these chartered taxis are regulated.

Following last year’s incident Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Phungdet blasted how chartered taxis are allowed to operate. “This problem does not happen in a country where laws are strictly enforced,” he said plainly.

Mr Thanusak also called for officials to post signs at the airport showing the fares that are supposedly already installed in the visible public areas at the airport. “Then tourists can see the prices and make decisions before using the service without any need to negotiate,” he said.

The fact that people can negotiate fares with chartered taxis remains lost to people landing on an island so often touted as a “world-class destination”. The fares for chartered taxis were set in 2013, and even then the maximum fare to be charged for journeys from the airport to Kata, Karon, Rawai, Nai Harn and Laem Phromthep were all B1,000. (See below for list of links to official fares for chartered taxis in Phuket posted in 2013.)

Also often not fully appreciated is how much the taxi cartels pay AoT for the privilege of picking up passengers at Phuket airport. The Phuket Limousine and Business service Cooperative (PBC), whose vehicles are identified by the PBC logo on the car doors, admitted in 2007 that it paid B820,000 per month in concession fees to AoT for the right to operate at the airport, an amount that increased 10% annually. That figure was 13 years ago, and PBC is just one company with the right to pick up passengers at the airport.

While AoT as a company has an obligation to its shareholders – it posted a profit of B29 billion for fiscal year 2019, from revenues in excess of B69 billion – the government holds a huge majority share for a reason.

If officials actually want to start correcting the high fares charged by Phuket taxis, they know where to look. In the meantime, everyone is just left to guess why they don’t.

The maximum fares for chartered taxis in Phuket as set by the government in 2013. To download high-resolution images of the set fares for each area, click the following links:

Set fares official notice, click here.

Outrigger Laguna Phuket

From Patong, click here.

From Karon, click here.

From Kata Beach, click here.

From Phuket Town, click here.

From Phuket Airport, click here.

From Rawai, click here.

From Cherng Talay, click here.

From Kamala, click here.

From Nai Yang, click here.

From Mai Khao, click here.

From Layan Beach, click here.

Form Koh Siray, click here.

From Ao Por, click here.

From Bang Rong (Pa Khlok), click here.


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DeKaaskopp | 15 December 2020 - 11:19:58

@Kurt   Guess that "pool of friends driving each other to hospitals/airport" is like a supporting group, comforting each other in all kinds of life situations too. Probably much needed, as everything on Phuket is so bad for you. Says a lot about you if you couldn't  find a decent taxi driver after living so many years on Phuket.Life in a bubble !

Kurt | 15 December 2020 - 10:08:13

DeK seems not to understand that having a pool of friends, drive each other to hospitals/airport is not a money pinching thing. It is indeed about comfort, save driving, trust, not to be scammed.  'With closed wallets' is a expression. D. Just not charging each other for time and fuel.  But you know that well, still address some positive alternative negatively. 

DeKaaskopp | 14 December 2020 - 16:36:29

@Kurt  Instead of troubling friends of mine in order to save a few baht, I prefer to be driven by a taxi driver of my trust at a reasonable rate. As a penny pincher you choose of course to keep your wallet closed.

Sandbar | 14 December 2020 - 15:59:15

Thailand is such a beautifull country with so many genuine local people who are so proud of thier "Turf"! Unfortunatley, they are being let down by a governing body that "rules" by no "rules"! Listen to your young people marching on the streets seeking democracy and a fair change of direction for all Thais. They are Thailands life line for the future!

Dukkkman | 14 December 2020 - 12:56:42

I am starting to wonder what is wrong with me. why don't these guys rip me off.
I have been travelling from the airport to Phuket for 15 years. It used to be 600 baht and now it is 800 baht.quite reasonable. I think my wife might scare them . I do get the mad driver with a deathwish sometimes

Kurt | 14 December 2020 - 10:46:07

The taxi- and minivan operations on Phuket are such a well known long lasting criminal scam scandal dat most of us expats/retirees have among each other transport net v.v home- airport arranged. Singling out the Phuket transport mafia for many years already. Forget them, ignore them. Drive each other to/from airport with closed wallets.

Sandbar | 14 December 2020 - 08:17:38

These taxis and mini bus drivers should be regularly auditored to satisfactory transport standards. They should be fined, or have to do complete compulsory training to maintain thier taxi licences, if they don't meet the nesscary standards! But hey....not going to happen! Because there are no standards to comply with in Phuket! 

Sandbar | 14 December 2020 - 08:07:59

They are a law unto themselves. I have been to many countries in my time, and I have never been treated so poorly by a national taxi company! Bad manners, dirty vehicles, drivers spitting out the window....shocking! Hardley what you want to experience on arriving in a tourist country. Government officials and the police fear them! Clean up this dissgracefull rabble, "third world" behavio...

Junkie9 | 14 December 2020 - 08:04:13

Has any one actually travelled in a meter taxi in Phuket with the meter operating?

Tbird | 14 December 2020 - 00:37:38

I believe this may be a historic event: a post that everyone on this forum agrees on! May wonders never cease...

Capricornball | 13 December 2020 - 18:30:31

Public transport criminals are the scourge of Phuket...all of the , moto taxis, minivans, taxi scum and tuktuks, all thugs and losers that couldn't care less about what anyone thinks. Perhaps the best thing about covid is that the roads are free of these scumbags, but now as things open a little, the scum is back on the roads and living up to their miserable reputation.

CaptainJack69 | 13 December 2020 - 12:08:48

The only prices posted on arrival in the domestic terminal are for the (not running) shared mini-bus service where they illegally take you to their tour desk on the bypass road and tell you your hotel is closed. All other prices are hidden and the touts are EVERYWHERE. The other night I was harassed 4 times just trying to get to the carpark. One guy physically blocking the door. Only Phuket.

CaptainJack69 | 13 December 2020 - 12:04:14

Those with the power to address this have known about it for decades and chosen to do nothing about it. That this persists now during the COVID crisis is despicable. These people are killing Phuket.

Kurt | 13 December 2020 - 11:49:56

Phuket did give herself the title 'World class' . One has to massage himself a image as long others don't. Problem with local Officialdom here is they don't know what they don't know. Just belly staring, and self decorating,  puffer fish behavior. Contains nothing. Emptiness stares in the face.

JohnC | 13 December 2020 - 10:00:08

If Phuket ever wants to get back to having the title world class this is one of the first things that has to be fixed urgently.


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