Uber Alternatives in Thailand (Findings After 8 Months of Travel in Asia)

Uber was once a popular transportation option in Thailand, but Uber has ceased its operations in the country. So, what are your alternatives for getting around Thailand? Thailand has a range of other ridesharing apps including Grab, Bolt, and InDriver. Out of these 3 Bolt is the best value for money and is very reliable. I’ll explain why in this article, and share some traditional transportation methods that are not only reliable but also often more affordable than Uber. Why trust me? During my trip to Thailand, I spent 4 months using taxis for both short and long-distance travel. I’ll discuss which I think is best and why.

Uber Alternatives in Thailand | Ride-Hailing Apps in Thailand

The best apps like Uber in Thailand are:

  • Bolt – Best for price, but reliability not as good as Grab
  • Grab App – Also good, bigger pool of drivers, higher prices
  • InDrive – Very cheap, but also difficult to get rides

So, Bolt vs Grab vs InDrive, which is best?

Bolt is generally best, in terms of value for money and reliability. During rush hour or heavy rain (Thailand pretty much floods every week), you’re better off using Grab as there are more drivers. In our experience, InDrive was hard to find a ride and wasn’t worth it (this may have changed since they updated the way their app is used)

You can pay by card on both Bolt and Grab in Thailand, but cash is preferred by most.

Bolt

Bolt, originally known as Taxify, has rapidly gained popularity in Thailand, particularly in urban areas like Bangkok and Chiang Mai. One of the reasons many people prefer Bolt is its cost-effectiveness. Generally, Bolt offers a cheaper ride compared to other alternatives. In terms of safety, Bolt has various measures in place, such as driver screening and in-app emergency buttons.

For a 5km trip in Bangkok using a Bolt taxi expect to pay:

  • On rainy days it can be around 200-400 baht ($5-12)
  • On any other day, it can cost 100-200 baht ($3-5)

Grab App

While Grab tends to be a bit pricier than Bolt, it offers a broader range of services, including food delivery and parcel services. Grab also scores high on the safety index, offering features like ride-tracking and a panic button in the app.

Often (if you stay in an Airbnb in Thailand), the owner will use Grab’s parcel delivery service to send you the key for check-in. The parcel delivery service really is fantastic for short delivery across town. For instance, if you’re friend left something at your hotel, you can send them a Grab delivery instead of having to go yourself of them coming to you.

For a 5km trip in Bangkok using a Grab car expect to pay:

  • On rainy days it can be around 300-500 baht ($8-14)
  • On any other day, it can cost 150-250 baht ($4-7)

InDrive

InDrive used to work a little differently to the other two. You had to send a bid for a taxi and choose the amount you paid. This alerted drivers nearby and they would offer a counter-bid or accept to come pick you up. In my experience, InDrive was pretty slow and not good to use in Bangkok when it was like this. Now it seems they have updated their app and you no longer send a bid out.

There seem to be many more drivers on InDrive in Bangkok now looking at the activity map on the app, so I wouldn’t discard downloading the app. However, since they have changed this it appears to be more expensive than using both Bolt and Grab.

Are Ridesharing Apps Safe in Thailand?

Ridesharing services such as the Uber alternatives Grab, Bolt & InDrive are extremely safe to use. During our 4 months using them we never had any issues. Bolt and Grab have invested heavily in safety measures, such as emergency SOS features within the app and extensive background checks on drivers. InDriver, being a newer platform, also maintains a standard level of safety but is yet to build a reputation as strong as Grab and Bolt.

Tips for Safety

  • Always check the driver’s credentials on the app before starting the ride
  • Check the reviews of the driver before accepting and getting in
  • Share your ride details with someone you trust
  • Opt for cars rather than bike taxis, motorbike taxis are pretty dangerous (but extremely fun!)
  • Check the number plate matches the car you are getting in
  • Travel with good travel insurance, road accidents are very common in Thailand, we saw 3 crashes in 2 weeks in BKK alone!

How Much Do Ridesharing Taxis Cost in Thailand?

When it comes to cost, Bolt leads the pack for short-distance rides. Here’s a quick price comparison for a 5km ride:

  • Bolt: 150 baht ($4.50)
  • Grab: 200 baht ($6.00)
  • InDriver: Negotiable, but typically around 180 baht ($5.40)

Bolt offers the best price but also tends to be less available during peak hours or heavy rain. To give you an example of how much Bolt, Grab, and InDrive cost, I’ve left some images below of journeys I’ve taken in Thailand. These are all Bolt & Grab because I could never find a taxi on InDrive, although it is becoming more popular.

Tipping Etiquette for Ridesharing in Thailand

While tipping is not mandatory in Thailand, it is very much appreciated. If you’ve had an excellent service experience, rounding up the fare or giving an extra 20-30 baht can go a long way. Thai people do not often get tips so they are very, very thankful when they do so.

You can also say “pom hai tip krap” (or “ka” for women), which means “I’m giving you a tip” in Thai.

Remember to say “korp kuun krap” and “sa wat dee krap” (“ka” for women) to say “thank you” and “goodbye”.

How To Book and Pay for Ridesharing in Thailand

Booking a ride on Grab, Bolt & InDrive are all slightly different processes, but it’s mostly just as simple as opening the app and inputting the destination you want to go. With Grab, because there are more options, you’ll have to make sure you’ve clicked on “transportation” first.

There have been many times I’ve been on the food section of the app trying to put where I want to go into the food delivery address!

Important note: if going to a hotel do not directly paste from Google Maps. Bolt & Grab usually cannot find the place if you do this. If you have pasted from Google Maps, remove everything but the 1st line of the address, this usually finds it. If you can’t locate it (sometimes the case), copy & paste the Thai language from Google Maps.

Payment can usually be made via the app using a debit or credit card, in both Bolt and Grab, but cash payments are also accepted and preferred by most Thai people. Try to keep lower amounts of baht, it’s very rare that taxis have change for 1000 baht bills, so keep 100s and 500s. If you need change, go into any 7/11, say “daek ngern krap” (“change money please”) and they will usually help.

With InDriver you will have to pay in cash, and with Bolt, you usually have to pay in cash, but they seem to have started to offer card functionality in the app. Some foreign cards will not be accepted for payment in Bolt either, so if it doesn’t work then just pay cash – 99% of Thai people take payment in cash (or QR code scan-pay) everywhere and it’s rare to find card options.

Sidenote: you can’t get the QR scan-pay as a foreigner unless you have a bank in Thailand. Most places don’t take debit or credit cards and take scan-pay or cash. We wouldn’t recommend getting a Thai bank either, after someone we know was caught in the 2014 military coup and they drained everything from his account.

Grab & Bolt vs. Taxis in Thailand

In terms of cost, Bolt and Grab are usually cheaper than metered taxis for both long and short distances. Bolt is the cheapest out of all of the apps, and we’ve personally used Bolt to get long-haul rides of 5hrs (to the Laos border in an emergency) and 10hrs (I left my passport in Kanchanaburi after 10 day Vipassana). Both were far cheaper than getting a private taxi as they provided the price upfront.

For my 5hr trip to the Laos border, it cost $38-$40. I tipped my driver an extra $30. If you paid a metered taxi you’d pay so much more.

Most Bolts/Grabs will cancel the ride and give you their phone number to sort the ride out due to the commission taken. It’s perfectly safe to do so as I did this myself, it just gives them a bit more money.

At airports and other crowded locations, you might find metered taxis the better option, they are more readily available than Bolt or Grab and they also have a designated pick-up zone right outside the airport. It’s worth paying the extra in this scenario.

Can You Use Grab or Bolt At The Airport in Thailand?

Yes, you can book Bolt or Grab from the airport, but you’ll likely have to walk a short distance to a designated pick-up point. If you’re carrying a lot of luggage or prefer immediate service, a metered taxi may be more convenient in this case.

In Bangkok, the pickup point is quite far away and quite difficult to find if you’re new to the area. Grab, Bolt, and InDrive are not allowed to come to the main pickup point where all the taxis are. This is the same in Chiang Mai and Phuket too. You will have to walk out a fair bit to find your driver, this can sometimes be a 10-15 minute walk depending on the airport.

None of the ridesharing services have a designated pick-up spot at any of the airports like Uber has in other countries.

In Bangkok’s main airport, after you’ve gone past immigration, you can go to “Exit 1” and then to the car park, where your Grab will be able to wait for you.

uber thailand airport

Top tip: get the MRT metro link from Bangkok airport to any station outside, then order a taxi from there to avoid the inflated prices at the airport.

Alternative Ways To Get Around in Thailand | Transportation Options in Thailand

Here’s a list of the main forms of public transportation in Thailand:

  • Boat
  • Tuk Tuk
  • Songtaew
  • Local Bus
  • BTS & MTS
  • Metered Taxi

On most forms of public transport it’s required to wear a mask, so please take one with you. It’s generally more enforced on the AC versions of travel.

Boat (Bangkok Only)

All around Bangkok’s river, you can get boats. This is an amazing way to ride around the center and get off at all the main important touristy spots on the way. Wat Arun, Royal Palace, and other major attractions use boats to get there.

There are 2-3 types of boats in Bangkok that you can use:

  • Smart ferry (30 baht $0.80 USD) more expensive, closed windows and AC
  • Long motor boat (8 baht $0.20 USD)very cheap, windows open, and no AC (much more fun, bounce-y ride and much cheaper)
This is the cheaper open-air boat. Click to enlarge to see map. There are 4 coloured routes (green, yellow, orange and no coloured flag)

On the AC boat, it’s more frowned upon if you don’t wear a mask. If you don’t on the non-AC no one really cares. Wearing a mask is a big thing in Thailand, so you should have one with you.

Metered Taxi

Metered Taxi is an expensive way to get around but you can use it as an option. We had to use a metered taxi on NYE in Bangkok due to the overload on Grab and Bolt (it was impossible to book a taxi). It cost around 2x what a Bolt/Grab would have.

To get a metered taxi you’ll have to wave them down. Some will ignore you as they are already en route with a passenger.

Something to note: you might get dishonest metered taxi drivers who will try to charge you tourist tax. Always make sure the meter works before getting in and work out the price using that. My Thai friend told me he only uses Grab and Bolt because they even try to rip off Thai tourists.

Local Bus (Only Bangkok)

You can also get around Bangkok using the local bus. Like the boats, there are 2 options in Bangkok:

  • Non AC
  • AC

Non-AC is the cheapest option, but is extremely slow and the ride is quite uncomfortable. I personally loved this method of travel as the buses go incredibly fast, the windows are open and you feel the air in your hair and it’s extremely cheap. On Non-AC you pay 8 baht ($0.20) to go anywhere (there is no charge based on where you get off).

For the AC bus, they usually cost around 30 baht per ticket ($0.80). The ride is a lot smoother and more comfortable. You will be expected to wear a mask on AC buses. On Non-AC buses it’s okay to not wear a mask.

Songtaew

Pretty much everywhere in Thailand (outside of Bangkok) has what they call Songtaews. These are similar to the local buses above, but they are pick-up trucks that have been modified to take passengers in the back. For most Songtaews you will pay 30-40 baht for a ticket no matter your stop. Some songtaews will wait at locations until the bus fills up completely. Other Songtaews follow set routes

Getting around Chiang Mai by SongtaewPattaya or any other of the major cities is usually different from the last. Some have routes, some do not. Some work like taxis, and some do not.

BTS & MRT (Bangkok Only)

In Bangkok, the BTS & MRT are great ways to get around. The trains are extremely clean, and quiet and have great AC on them. It’s a more expensive option compared to the buses and the boats, but it’s well worth it with tickets usually ranging between 30-80 baht ($1-2 USD), depending on the location. You only buy single tickets on the BTS & MRT, so if you’re out all day traveling from place to place, this can mount up a bit.

BTS & MRT do not cover the whole of Bangkok, and will only cover the inner-city. If you want to venture out, you can use the overground trains or other forms of transport listed in this article.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk is probably the most expensive form of travel on this list. However, they are great if you’re in a group and want to zip around the city quickly. Because they’re smaller than cars, they can fit through tighter gaps and you’re less likely to get stuck in traffic. So, if you’re in a group it’s better to opt for a Tuk Tuk. They are open-air, don’t have AC, and are generally more dangerous to ride than a car, but they are fun.

If you’re on your own it’s better to use Grab or Bolt to get a motorbike taxi. They’re far cheaper and they weave through traffic much easier. They are far more dangerous though and most do not provide a helmet for you.

Is Uber Eats in Thailand?

No, Uber Eats is not available in Thailand. However, you can use GrabFood or Food Panda which are both very similar and quite popular. With Grab Food you earn points for each order, and you can also unlock special discounts on your delivery. This is really useful when you’re ordering for more than one person. It works by unlocking discounts when you go over a certain amount of baht. Some of them offer free delivery, a percent off your order, among other things.

Personally, I preferred using Grab food delivery in Thailand as there were more promotions and incentives and it generally saved more money.

There are 2 alternatives to Uber Eats in Thailand:

  • Grab Food
  • Food Panda

Wrapping Up – Is Using Uber in Thailand Convenient?

While Uber’s absence might initially seem like a drawback, Thailand’s other ridesharing and traditional transportation options have stepped up to offer both convenience and variety. Based on my 4 months in Thailand using these services, Bolt generally offers the best value for short rides, while Grab’s reliability and extra features makes it a close second.

The best, cheapest, fastest way to get around is using motorbike taxis. Although these are more dangerous they cut through the traffic and are incredibly fun to ride. Beyond that, BTS is the most useful, safe, easy way to travel, with the buses and boats being 2nd options due to traffic and route availability (although the boats and the buses are incredibly fun and I’d highly recommend).

Getting around Thailand is easy, cheap and fun you just have to know how.

FAQ

Is there Uber in Thailand?

No, Uber is not available in Thailand. As of 2018, Uber pulled out of the kingdom. You can use other apps such as Grab, Bolt, or InDrive, with Grab being the most popular, reliable option and Bolt being the cheapest while still being reliable. You can also use public transport like Songtaews, Buses, Tuk Tuks, Trains, and Boats.

Can you use Lyft in Thailand?

No, Lyft also does not operate in Thailand. You can use other similar services such as Grab, Bolt, and InDrive (or metered taxis).

What are the alternatives to Uber in Thailand?

Bolt and Grab are the main alternatives, with InDriver also making an entry into the market. Bolt is the cheapest and most reliable for the price, while Grab is much more reliable and more expensive as well as offers other services like food delivery and parcel delivery.

Is ridesharing (Uber) safe in Thailand?

Ridesharing in Thailand is completely safe and you have nothing to worry about. Both Bolt and Grab have safety features, such as in-app emergency buttons and driver screenings as well as review systems.

How much do rides cost in Thailand?

Prices vary but Bolt generally offers the best prices for short-distance rides, averaging around 150 baht ($4.50) for a 5km ride.

Why did Uber fail in Thailand?

Uber failed in Thailand because of the already dominant market share both Grab and Bolt have. Uber in Bangkok was originally trialed and people preferred the alternative options available.

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