April 8th, 2015, Bangkok
There are expats in Bangkok whose cushy corporate packages include a car and a driver, and then there are…the rest of us.
Either by choice or due to being lower on the totem pole, plenty of expats hop on the arctic BTS or wrangle with the fun and games of the city’s notorious taxis for their daily commutes. Entire tomes could be filled with lamentations about Bangkok’s taxi service, but fortunately a few years ago mobile apps such as GrabTaxi entered the scene to alleviate some of our transportation woes, such as being turned down or totally ignored by unengaged taxis.
GrabTaxi, which launched in 2012, was a genius idea for a city with congested traffic and finicky taxi drivers. The ability to order a taxi in advance with a few taps of a touch screen revolutionized the way passengers and taxi drivers connect, giving passengers peace of mind that they will have a ride when they need it, and giving drivers the chance to land – well, drive – more customers.
On April 8th, 2015 GrabTaxi announced the Bangkok launch of GrabCar, a premium service that goes hand-in-hand with Southeast Asia’s largest taxi booking mobile app. Co-founder of GrabTaxi, Hooi Ling Tan, along with GrabTaxi Thailand Country Manager Vee Charununsiri and GrabCar Deputy General Manager Vichakorn Varavarn Na Ayudhaya, presented the new service, which still focuses on the company’s core values of safety, certainty, and speed.
To use GrabCar, users will open their GrabTaxi app and choose GrabCar from the bottom of the screen. Bookings must be made at least two hours in advance and can be made up to one week in advance. Passengers enjoy newer cars with models including Camry, Teana, Accord, Fortuner, and Mercedes-Benz and excellent customer service through GrabCar.
At the outset, GrabCar sounds a lot like Uber and in many ways it is. Both allow users to book chauffeured cars via their smartphones, but there are a few key differences, the most important of which is that GrabCar passengers will always know the cost of their trip up front. With Uber, fares are determined post-trip and can fluctuate depending on traffic.
GrabCar’s starting rate is 75 baht. The first ten kilometers are charged at 12.5 baht per kilometer and from ten kilometers onwards, the rate increases to 13.5 baht per kilometer. At the launch, the company also announced the introduction of a 600 baht flat rate service from anywhere in Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi airport – something which expats with guests visiting from out of town might find particularly convenient.
Currently, GrabCar only accepts cash payments but they are working rapidly on a cashless option as well, as they continue to improve the technology used for the service.
At the end of the launch, guests were invited to try GrabCar free of charge as they continued to their next destinations. Being escorted by a driver with white shirt and black vest into a new Toyota Camry with leather interiors is certainly much better than sinking into the old, garlicky smelling seats of your average hot pink taxi. It’s something you could get used to, for sure.
With a two-hour minimum to book, GrabCar is not for the spontaneity in your life but rather for trips you know you have coming up – to work, to school, to the airport, to scheduled meetings. For everything in between, there’s always GrabTaxi or good old hailing cabs on the streets of Bangkok, in a pinch, that is.