Quick guidelines for getting around
1. Seat belts are not so common – there are usually grab bars
2. Open air transport -keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times
3. You may or may not end up exactly where you asked – even if they understand you
4. There is [almost] always another cab/songtheaw/tuktuk around the corner – you have other options
5. Pick your vehicle, don’t just let them pick you- they just want you for your money, especially around tourist attractions and transport hubs
6. Use landmarks- between your accent and constant new hotels/businesses going up, knowing a significant landmark is your best show of getting where you actually want to go
7. Transportation is generally quite affordable- ike so many other things you can pay as much as you want or as little- you just have to be flexible
Metered Taxis: If your taxi driver says his meter is broken, get out and get another cab.
Private Cars: Want to feel a little fancy? Private drivers and cars are available for hire at the airport and hotels. You can get as ritzy as you want, just expect to pay for it.
Motor-bikes- Thai ladies riding side-saddle, texting and holding 16 shopping bags made me gape at their balancing skills. The cost is basically on-par with taking a taxi.
Public transit: Called BTS (Bangkok Transit System) there are extensive bus routes and an efficient monorail system through downtown.
In Chiang Mai
Songtheaw: Red pickup trucks with benches on the bed are covered with a red roof. Mostly likely the drivers will take you as a “farong” (foreigner) because you are. They’ll let you haggle down an inflated price just for fun. If they believe you belong there, you can get the day-time local price; right now this is about 20baht/person. That’s less than a dollar to get anywhere across town.
Other Songtheaws, painted yellow, blue or white sit on the edges of town. These songtheaws will drive commuters to Chiang Mai from the bordering towns and return them when the work day is through.
Tuk-tuks: Three wheeled vehicles only slightly larger than the motorbikes they share the road with. Iconic to Southeast Asia, they’re fun to ride in and are there for the tourists. The cost is a bit more than a Sontheaw, usually closer around $4-6usd. Lots of times you’ll see them custom painted with flames or the backs covered in ads. Riding in one is a must, at least once while in Thailand.
Private Cars: privately owned cabs and cars are available as well, it’s usually best to agree on a price before entering, although in general you’ll have less trouble with getting ripped off in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok.
A list of common scams and how to avoid them: United States Embassy Site