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Top Tips for Tipping in Asia

Tipping can make even the most experienced of travellers a little uneasy: Is it appropriate to tip? If so, how much? And who should you tip? It can be a minefield of bad etiquette, which is why we’ve put together a rough guide to tipping in Asia.

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Cultural research

When it comes to tipping, always do your research. In Japan, tipping is very bad form; in the US, it’s more or less compulsory and makes up the bulk of a waiter or bartender’s pay.

When you arrive in country, watch what others are doing. Perhaps ask at the hotel’s front desk if you need a local perspective. Also, some hotels have a no-tipping policy, so make sure you check (either with your agent, or with the hotel directly), so you don’t get anyone in trouble.

Exchange rates

A good grasp of exchange rates is crucial to make sure you’re tipping the right amount and make sure you have some local currency in small denominations. Use a website like xe.com for up-to-date rates.

If you’re the type to have an app for everything, try Globe Tipping, a tip calculator that works out what you should tip in over 200 countries.

US dollars

If you have US dollars and it’s not the local currency, find out if locals accept them or not. Generally, the US dollar is the only currency accepted internationally (as opposed to the pound or euro, for example). For most high-end hotels it will be fine, but for many locals dollars might be difficult to exchange.

Most of the figures suggested below are in US dollars, but this for consistency and so as to avoid confusion with fluctuating exchange rates.

To tip or not to tip?

Tipping should always be a choice and never an obligation. Although many places now include service charges as standard, if you’ve had a bad experience, don’t feel bad about asking for it to be taken off. Likewise, if you have had incredible service from somebody, feel free to tip them over the recommended amounts. Avoid tipping over the included 10% unless you feel it was worth it.

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Asia

In Asia, the tipping etiquette varies across countries and hotels.

In local bars and restaurants, tips are rarely expected, but in luxury hotels and restaurants, tipping will be the norm. If there is a service charge added to your bill, bear in mind that it will rarely go to the service staff. If you wish to thank your waiter personally, discreetly pass them the cash tip, on top of the total of the bill.

Cambodia

You can tip with US dollars in Cambodia, so make sure you have a supply of $1 and $2 notes (the $2 notes are rare, so are very much appreciated).

Tip a dollar to your waiter, $1 or $2 to the hotel porter, $1 to taxi drivers, $2 for private car drivers, and around $10 to $20 to tour guides on full-day tours.

Indonesia

Again, tipping isn’t always the local custom, but it will be expected in luxury establishments; leave any loose change you have alongside the 10% service charge included in the bill. Tip waiters 5-10% on top of the bill, give taxi drivers about 10%, and tip porters and hotel staff a dollar or two.

Private drivers and guides should get about $10 a day, and for spa services you might want to give about 15-20%.

Make sure you have a few 1000 rupiah notes to hand, although dollars are accepted too.

Malaysia

With a tipping practise very similar to Thailand, in Malaysia you only tip in western restaurants in tourist hubs. As 10% is usually included in the bill, there’s no need to tip extra unless you really want to, in which case you can bring the total tip up to about 15%.

Tip the porters about $1 per bag, but there is no need to tip anyone else in the hotel. Private drivers and guides can be tipped between $5 and $10 a day.

Use ringgits as opposed to dollars, although the latter will usually be accepted.

Singapore

Tipping is strongly discouraged in Singapore, as it is believed that a no-tipping policy encourages consistently good service. If you want to tip in certain high-end restaurants, don’t tip above 10%, and remember that tipping is actually forbidden at the airport.

Hotel porters usually get $1 a bag.

For guides and drivers, you can give about $15 to $20 for a full day, but taxi drivers rarely accept any tips.

Do not use US dollars.

Thailand

Locals don’t tip in Thailand, but you will be expected to tip in high-end hotels and restaurants. Leave a couple of dollars on top of the service charge for your waiter, round up the taxi fare to the nearest multiple of ten, and tip hotel porters and parking staff about a dollar each.

Service charge is usually included at hotels, so there isn’t any need to tip cleaning staff. Tour guides should get around $10 to $20 per day (and they will tip the driver). You can use US dollars.

Vietnam

Service isn’t as commonly included as it is elsewhere, so leave 10% at high-end restaurants.

In the hotel, you can tip the cleaning staff a couple of dollars a day. Private guides will get about $10 a day and drivers about $5 a day. Round up the fare in taxis.

Dollars are accepted, with $2 notes being very popular.

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Please remember that this is a guide only. Ultimately, gratuities are always going to be a matter of discretion.