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Life in Chiang Mai


Dearth of taxis in Chiang Mai

By Tom Long
Over the most recent years, there has been a marked increase in the number of proper taxi vehicles registered for hire here in Chiang Mai. However, a vacant car-style taxi is still a comparatively rare sight on our city’s streets; so why is that?
The more-prevalent local tuk tuks, bicycle rickshaws and songthaews (a pick up truck converted into a mini bus) are a different matter – few would deny that there are plenty of those, except perhaps when you really need one to get home, after a late night out on the town!
But if you’re going a long way, if it is raining, if you have a lot of baggage with you, if it is too hot, or if (like so many expats now living in Chiang Mai) you are over retirement age and/or infirm, none of these cheaper alternatives provides the comfort and safety to be found in a licenced taxi car. That is...if you can find one!
I had been asking myself where these taxis are all day, since it is so rare to find an empty one patrolling the city’s streets, in search of custom. The answer is that scores of them spend most of the day, idle, awaiting arrivals at the airport.
Why should they do that? The answer lies in the rip-off specially-high fares charged for airport pick-ups. It is clearly worth their while to wait there for hours, as just a couple of such airport transfers bring in a higher fare income than would many-a shorter trip around town.
And then, on the rare occasions that you might be able to actually hail a vacant taxi on the street, driver dishonesty too often comes into play. Apparently, very few Chiang Mai taxi drivers are prepared to use the taxi meter fitted in their cabs. That is illegal. They prefer to negotiate rip-off fares of their own imaginings, starting in the hundreds of baht.
As a result, people don’t want to flag them down on the street; and they have all the more reason to congregate, uselessly, at the airport: and I mean by the score!
To remedy all this, Chiang Mai’s city authorities need to decrease the specially-high airport transfer fees; and to instigate regular checks to identify taxi drivers not using their meters on other routes – and to sternly prosecute miscreants. A few exemplary heavy fines would go a long way to encouraging more widespread usage of the official taxi meter.
And that, in turn, would make Chiang Mai an easier town to get around for the elderly, the infirm, the hot, the wet, the baggage-laden and the lost – all groups of potential customers who at the moment do not often get the option of travelling by taxi, for the lamantable list of reasons given above.
Better-off tourists and business visitors often complain of the dearth of taxis in downtown Chiang Mai, and with good reason. Were better provision made, as suggested above, then tourist satisfaction rates would improve.

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Dearth of taxis in Chiang Mai