The Top Four Reasons for Using Grab in Bangkok


Whether you have been to Bangkok before or not you will have likely heard something about the traffic congestion. And maybe the ‘people congestion’. It’s even possible that you may even have heard some inkling that communication in Thailand is not necessarily always that straightforward — or successful –- and it’s not just because of language barriers.

So travelling in Thailand has always been something of a ‘trial of errors’ in many ways –- which is probably one of the reasons that some visitors love it (the ‘embrace challenge’ types) while others find it somewhat confusing, and even infuriating (!)…

But somethings have happened in recent years that have gone some way towards bridging gaps between different languages and culture – namely the internet, and of course applications (or ‘apps’ as they are most commonly known).

And there is one app in particular that has caught on big time in Thailand, and especially in the chaotic thrall that is Bangkok – Grab.

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Grab was one of the first transportation apps to appear in Bangkok along with Uber, with the latter having been ushered out completely in some kind of takeover deal by the company responsible for the former.

This Singaporean-developed Grab application offers very similar options to those of its former competitor, and it quickly proved its worth in a city where the taxis are notoriously unreliable, unprofessional, and to the consternation of many visitors, usually non-English-speaking.

Moving about in Bangkok has never really been that easy a thing to achieve, with even seasoned locals and expats ‘coming a cropper’ to anything from a seemingly endless list of possible issues that might just ‘pop up’ and get in the way of whatever it is you want to do or wherever you need to go.

This could be anything from the familiar mass congestion on both the roads and on public transportation during ‘rush hours’ that can also occur at random times for no reason whatsoever. This same ‘people congestion’ is a common occurrence during particular times in supermarkets, as the Thais, as seeming creatures of habit, all seem to get up/go out, go to and from work, and do their shopping at the same time.

This means that if you pick the ‘wrong’ time of day to go about your business, whether it be travelling to work, doing a bit of sightseeing, or even picking up a few groceries – well, things can sometimes start to go very much downhill.

Which can be something of a daunting and upsetting experience to say the least, even for the best of us.

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Or, it could be a trip out in a taxi driven by someone with no command of any other language but his own, or of any navigation system, who will likely ask YOU for directions. The majority of Bangkok taxi drivers, you may note, actually hail from rural areas and thus have no real clue about any of the destinations that they are given from tourists or other visitors.

Then there is the rain. With anything between 3 and 6 months of monsoon season showering across the Thai capital, this can also bring about its own range of issues. Taxis will either be taken or they won’t stop (they don’t want to get stranded in floods and congestion), and the same goes for the other ‘quick’ transport option – taking a motorcycle taxi — which you won’t find for love nor money once the heavens have started to open.

And then there is the BTS system, the Skytrain – which seems to get more expensive every year, with poorer service and seemingly less drive towards providing value for money or hiring staff with any degree of customer service or communication ability. This system will most often be so full of people that you’ll either be physically unable to squeeze yourself into any of the carriages and/or it will be malfunctioning (specifically during rainy season, just to add to the chaos).

Image by Kallerna sourced from wiki media commons

And while we have no intention of painting a glum or harrowing picture of life in Bangkok, much of the aforementioned occurrences are considered normal life for the majority of locals who, to their credit, largely seem to shrug it off and just go about their business (at least outwardly).

But thankfully –- and this is where it starts to sound a little more positive –- the Grab app has a list of services and options that will ease the burden of day-to-day living in the Thai capital for both locals and visitors alike.

The app has been the Bangkok resident’s ride-hailing service of choice for a while now, with numbers ever-increasing as people are bored with taxi drivers picking and choosing their fares, and the application developing and progressing its options continuously to seem more appealing.

Image by Grab Holdings from wikimedia commons

Grab offers other modes of transportation by way of motorbikes (GrabBike) private cars (GrabCar), and a dedicated driver service. There is now also the hugely-popular GrabFood delivery service which probably forms the majority of the apps business and employs the most drivers, along with GrabMart for grocery shopping deliveries – which is why you will see so many motorbikes darting about all over the city emblazoned with the Grab logo.

There are always a few other ever-expanding, innovate options being added to the range of services that the app is able to provide, with convenience (which the Thais love) being the main name of the game.

So let’s have a deeper delve into the Grab application to give you some ideas about how to optimize your experience during your time in Bangkok, with 4 top reasons for using the app..


1. Transport

After downloading the app and registering a few details (which allow the drivers to identify you), you’ll notice the various options for transport, food, shopping etc., and if you select the transport option then you’ll get the choice of a ‘Just Grab’, a ‘Grab Car’ a ‘Grab Taxi’ or a ‘Grab Motorbike’.

After keying in your destination and making sure your location is on, you can select your preferred mode of transport – and we would suggest here that although it’s the priciest option of the 3 main ones, Grab Car is undoubtedly the best.

This is a bit like having your own driver, in their own private car (identified by make, model and number plate along with Grab rating when you make the booking), and although they are probably not English-speaking, this really won’t matter as they have your information beforehand and use a transport navigation device, thus limiting any unnecessary talking or potential miscommunication which has always been one of the main issues with taxi drivers in the past.

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Grab Car is most certainly one of your best friends when in the city of Bangkok, as you tend to get drivers who know the routes, can navigate traffic, and operate clean, private cars.

If you hit the Grab Taxi option there is a slightly increased likelihood, though not much, of some of the usual ‘taxi problems’, and if you select ‘Just Grab’ it is the luck of the draw whether you get a car or a taxi – usually whoever is nearest – but it’s a real bonus if you do get the car as ‘Just Grab’ is a cheaper option than ‘Grab Car’!

Grab motorbikes are useful if you don’t want to go and find one or stand in a queue, but the drivers are often (but not always) just the standard motorcycle taxi drivers who are picking up extra fares by using the app.

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You are given the price of the journey — which cannot change once you have booked the ride, along with an ETA for the driver, who may contact you (often using Google translate) to tell you he is on his way or when he has arrived. You can then track his progress via the app with a visual Google Map-type view of the driver’s activity.

Once you have been connected with your Grab driver, you are given real-time updates of expected waiting time, which is usually not that long as drivers already in the area will likely accept the job. Drivers are not meant to cancel although on occasion it does happen – but they will be penalised by the company for doing so in terms of ratings or being allowed to use the app if repeatedly doing so.

One of the great things about Grab, and previously an uncommon occurrence in Thailand, is that you are asked to give feedback and provide any relevant comments after each ride in order for them to maintain or improve levels of service.


Different payment options such as cashless or cash are available, with the app preferring you to ‘go cashless’ by offering discounts –- but this is not necessarily the best way to go due to the fact that if you have to cancel for any reason you will be charged a fee that is automatically deducted. That may sound fair enough but one of the downsides to this app is that when you book the driver and are told that he will be with you in 5 minutes, you will often still see the same message after waiting for 30 minutes! Then, if you cancel because you can’t wait any longer, then the onus is on you to refund the driver’s efforts (!).


2. Grab Food Delivery

Image by Gmishra from wikimedia commons

This one is a real winner with the locals who like nothing better than pressing a few buttons on their phone before having their favourite food turn up on their doorstep.

The Grab delivery option gives you lists of restaurants and a few recommendations from which to order your delivery, along with the total price and ETA of delivery once you proceed with the order. You can add additional notes for the driver which he may translate using Google translate, so on occasion there can be slight miscommunications.

Image by Chainwit sourced from wikimedia commons

If, in the unfortunate event that you’ve picked the wrong driver though (usually a motorbike for this particular service) and he can’t be bothered trying to figure out what you mean, he may just cancel –- which can be annoying when you already thought your dinner was on its way. Otherwise, you can expect your delivery usually somewhere between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on the distance of the restaurant from your location.

Grab Delivery is giving its longer-established competitor FoodPanda a run for its money on the home delivery front, and it’s a fact that the erratic streams of motorbikes/scooters with Grab logo-clad drivers with Grab logo-emblazoned delivery boxes now far outnumber those of its counterpart.


3. Grab Mart

Now this is the real goodie if you happen to need some grocery shopping done for you by a dude on a motorbike who will, if you are lucky, advise you of any out of stock items that you order or even send pictures of items that don’t look too appetizing like wilted lettuce, for instance, asking if you still want it.

For this Grab option you’ll get a list of supermarkets and other stores that you might consider shopping from, with no real limits on distance although obviously delivery times will be affected by this.

Whether it’s a weekly shop or just a few bits and bobs that you could do with having picked up, this really is a useful option as a lot of supermarkets don’t do home delivery – or at least not to the standard of efficiency that you may have become accustomed to in your home country.

But it doesn’t stop at groceries – there’s also a whole range of other stores and items that can be visited and picked up for you including electrical items, cosmetics, books and stationary, clothes (not recommended in Thailand unless trying first) and so on and so forth.

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4. Grab Express

Another option which is again giving some of its counterparts a run for their money is Grab’s express delivery – a kind of rapid-fire courier service to get important items from A to B across congested rush-hour traffic or through streets that would be difficult to navigate by oneself.

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For this option you simply key in the details of the item and you’ll be given a price and ETA –couldn’t be simpler – and a very handy option if your other half has locked themselves out and is keyless!

So you can see why Grab is your best friend when spending any amount of time in Bangkok!