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Taxi Guide: How to Avoid Getting Cheated in Asia

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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Af Emil Moe

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 living in both Thailand and Cambodia and traveling a lot in Vietnam, from time to time I still manage to fall into a tourist trap when I have to be transported in Asia. However, this primarily applies to private taxis. I will therefore try to review what I have learned from experience to avoid being cheated.

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Pay and move on

First, I would like to make it clear that despite the fact that I myself have been cheated several times, I have never had unpleasant experiences. However, I also always pay the price they ask for and move on. In the vast majority of cases, it is a matter of principle that I do not like to be cheated, but not an amount of major importance. Conversely, however, I like to tip to 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. As recently as the summer of 2019, I got rid of 4 times the price from the airport, in the Vietnamese city, Ho Chi Minh to the city center. A trip that should have cost 50 Danish kroner ended with 200 kroner. I noticed the taxi from the official stand at the airport. Yes, sometimes you have to pay to forget your own good advice.

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Use the Grab app

In Asia, you can use the app in most countries - and especially in the cities Grave. In the 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 motorcycles - and is perfectly fine in the vast majority of cases. Grab will also inform the price in advance, and I have not yet experienced that the price deviated from that - except when I in Bangkok accept that the driver takes a toll road.

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. This can remove the charm for some, and you can also choose not to specify 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, baht must be divided by 5, so 20 baht is 4 kroner, 100 baht 20 kroner, etc.

In Thailand and Bangkok, it is not my experience that cheating with taxis is quite common as long as one stays away from 'tuk-tuks' in Bangkok. When I book from the street, I always ask the driver if he drives with a "meter" - in English of course. If the answer is no or an apology, like it's broken, then I'll find the next one. If, on the other hand, he says yes, I have never experienced any problems. If I book a motorcycle on the street, of course I make sure to agree on a price in advance. It should be 50-200 baht (10-40 kroner) depending on the distance.

The eternal question about gratuity - if I give gratuity, it is usually 25-50 baht, ie 5-10 kroner. Tips can be given directly in Grab after the trip.

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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 as Thailand applies here, that one can take advantage of Grab to avoid unpleasant surprises.

In Ho Chi Minh City, I have tried everything from the taximeter talking up too fast to the driver pressing a button that caused the price to rise every time. The last time I was in Ho Chi Minh City, as previously mentioned, I took a taxi from the official booth at the airport to my hotel, but still had to get rid of 4 times the price. My advice is to simply stay away from the taxi rank just outside the terminal.

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If you are leaving the airport in Ho Chi Minh City, you should therefore either order a limousine service inside the terminal. This costs about 60 kroner, where a real taxi will cost 40 kroner. 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 take. 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 the Vietnamese 'dong' (VND). Approximately 10.000 VND goes for 3 kroner. And what about gratuity in Vietnam? Would I tip, it is usually in the vicinity of 5-10%, so it is often 5.000-10.000 VND. Tips can again be given directly in Grab after the trip.

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

The dollar rate is $ 1 to $ 6,5 and $ 1 is about $ 4.100. 6.100 riel is 10 kroner. A little confusing, but a good piece of advice is to think it in dollars and calculate from there. If I want to tip, I often round up and give in whole dollars. So if the trip costs 5.000 riel, I pay $ 2, ie almost $ 0.75 in gratuity.

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PassApp - both in Cambodia and Copenhagen

In the larger cities of Cambodia, in the rest of Asia, you can use Grab. However, it is far more common to use the app PassApp. The app works much like Grab, however, you can not pay through the app here, but you must always pay in cash. The amount is in PassApp when the trip is over, but is rarely more than 10-15 kroner. Some drivers try to come up with the wrong price after the trip, and of course you should not accept that. I have thus tried that it cost well $ 1, but he asked for $ 2. Of course he got $ 1 and no gratuity.

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.

Have a good trip to Southeast Asia!

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About the travel writer

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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