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To Tip or Not To Tip when traveling in Asia?

Updated on July 5, 2019

Tipping Etiquette

Sipping a hot chocolate cup in my favorite coffee shop in district 9, I came across an interesting survey about the customs and expectations on the somewhat grey area of tipping.
Tipping culture here in Asia is markedly different to the western world, so I thought it may be useful to share some of the results with you in case you’re planning a trip to this part of the world.

A Snapshot of the survey results

Thais, who are considered very generous and expected to give tipping money after being served, are ranked at the top of the list with 84%. This number is slightly different from other countries such as 80% in Bangladesh, 74% in India, 73% in Philippine’s, 56% in Hong Kong, 42% in Myanmar, 33% in Indonesia, 31% in Malaysia, 20% in Singapore and Vietnam. Japan stood at the bottom of the list as tipping can be assumed to be insult in this country.

Of course in western culture, tipping is normal (generally around 5 – 15% of the bill) to show appreciation of good service. However in some Asian countries, tipping can be unknown and may cause misunderstandings.

Below, I’ve summarized the key point’s country by country to give a guide of where you should tip, which size it should be and how to give it.

Of course in western culture, tipping is normal (generally around 5 – 15% of the bill) to show appreciation of good service. However in some Asian countries, tipping in 2019 still can be unknown and may cause misunderstandings.

Below, I’ve summarized the key point’s country by country to give a guide of where you should tip, which size it should be and how to give it.

Vietnam Tipping Culture

Vietnamese customers often think the provision of good service is what they should naturally receive and as a result don’t always tip money to local staffs. However, Western customers are expected to tip between 1 and 5 dollars in restaurants or hotels, depending on the service quality. Tipping size for taxi drivers may be 1 dollar or less.

Cambodia Tipping Culture

Tipping is not customary in Cambodia - you don’t have to tip if you don’t want to. However, because of workers’ low salaries, tipping from foreigners is encouraged. How much depends on your satisfaction (around 10% is normal). This will be greatly appreciated by the local staff and can make a huge difference to their income.

Laos Tipping Culture

Historically Laos has not had a tipping culture. However, in line with the rapid development of the tourism industry since 2010 - 2020, it is increasingly common foreign customers to express their thanks for the great service. Tipping 10% of the total bill is suitable and will be greatly appreciated, just like in the western culture.

China Tipping Culture

Tipping is not only said to be unwelcome but also illegal in some places. It’s generally best to leave your tipping etiquette at home – in some rare cases; the worker can even be fired for accepting a tip. However, You may let taxi drivers keep the change.

Honk Kong Tipping Culture

In contrast to China, tipping has become common in Hong Kong and is standard practice, especially in luxurious restaurants and hotels.

Philippines Tipping Culture

The Philippines have more of a western tipping culture, which has become more and more popular in recent years. Apart from service fee in the bill, it’s good practice to tip more money for services in luxury places; approximately 10% - 12% of the total bill is a regular tipping etiquette in 2019.

Thailand Tipping Culture

The official currency of Thailand is the baht. Normally, you don’t have to tip in vender food stalls. However, in some Western restaurants, the customary tip is up to 10% of your total bill or 15% with the exceptional service. 20 – 50 baht will be fine in 5-star hotels. People often round up the taxi fare, but you can tip if the driver is kind and courteous.

Japan Tipping Culture

You may make Japanese confused if you tip them or insist them to keep the change. Unless you keep in mind “not tip in Japan”, your good deed can be construed as as an insult. Therefore, don’t be surprised when some staff runs after you to give the change you left on the table as they believed you forgot. Though tipping doesn’t exist in Japan, it still can be accepted, but not expected, in some foreign restaurants.

Indonesia Tipping Culture

Tipping is customary in Indonesia and a personal choice dependent on your satisfaction. Specifically, in cases where a standard 10% service charge has not been added to your bill, it’s good practice to tip around 5-10% of the total price in 5-star hotels and restaurants. For taxi drivers, a tip of around Rp5,000 is fine and will be well received.

Malaysia Tipping Culture

Tipping is common in Malaysia, especially for food, so it’s a good idea to bring some ringgits along with you. However, note that in many places a 10% service charge is added to the bill, so additional tips are not required unless you particularly wish to do so.

Singapore Tipping Culture

It’s unnecessary to tip in Singapore as they assume the 10% service fees are already included. Although Singapore does not have a strong tipping culture, you can tip on occasions if you’re really satisfied with the service.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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