What is the tipping foe-paw while traveling in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos? I'm in the tipping industry in America and not sure if you tip or not in Asia? And if so how much????
Input wound be very appreciate!
#1 jbarney has been a member since 9/10/2012. Posts: 3
This is a big variable in Thailand depending on what the service is. If I get a massage, then I usually tip 100 baht for one hour of service. If I go to a decent restaraunt, I use the US standard of 15%. If it's a street food place, I round off to the nearest ten baht (which my wife considers excessive - she's Thai). Taxi drivers I usually do about 15% as well. Sometimes a bit more if the guy was cool and didn't try and rip me off. I can only speak to Thailand on this one though.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I agree with MADMAC's guidelines and largely do the same when I am travelling in Thailand. The only thing I'd add is that I also leave 20 baht or so for the maid at the guesthouse. I usually tip on a similar scale in Cambodia and Laos. Regards.
Madmac - would your wife typically tip? Just trying to understand whether you guys do it as it's the custom in the US where you and exacto are from - or whether it's a typical expectation or behavious amongst the native Thai's. If I tip, is it considered an unepxected bonus? If I don't tip, is it considered rude?
Yes Liz, my wife tips in line with what I just wrote above. But she is, by standards, pretty generous. And yes, Exacto, I also tip the hotel 20 baht per day which it is cleaned.
#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Obviously how much you tip is up to you. My understanding, though, is that widespread tipping is not usual in Thailand or the rest of SE Asia. Of course it is very common in North America to leave large tips and therefore people from there take their culture with them when they travel. However, I'm not sure whether large tips are helpful in every society and can possibly distort the ways tourists are seen.
Having said all that I do tip, though not as high as our American friends above. Up to 10% in restaurants if the service is good, maybe 50B for a massage. Taxi drivers I tend not to tip much as too often they are looking to try it on. It annoys me every time at the airport when the driver tries to do a flat rate deal (expensive) rather than going by the meter. (No tip for this guy). I will leave a small amount in a cafe after a coffee or a beer, maybe 10 or 20B. It all depends. In guesthouses I tend to leave a tip in the tipbox to be shared by all staff.
The most difficult area for me is someone who maybe has looked after you all day. The tuktuk driver in Siem Reap; the trekking guide in Laos, the cook on the boat in Halong Bay. These guys cause me much more problems on where to pitch things and I probably always end up giving them more than the going rate - but by the time I get to pay invariably they have become more like a friend.
I didn't mean to suggest that you didn't tip at the hotel, but figured that since you live there, you don't stay at hotels nearly as much as most visitors and that it doesn't come up as often.
Lizzy and Nokka,
Tipping is definitely a part of the culture here in the states and that certainly influences my view. But when I tip in southeast Asia it is more a function of the patron/client system that still governs most relationships there. Like it or not, as a tourist you fall into the wealthy category, since odds are the person serving you isn't planning a month-long foreign holiday anytime soon.
From my observations, Thais do tip, and wealthy Thais often tip generously. But even if they didn't, I still would. It is too easy to say that tipping isn't the local culture, so I don't have to do it. I can afford to, so I do. Here at home, we tip because servers don't make a decent wage otherwise, and because knowing good service brings a better tip, we set the stage for better service. I know that servers in Thailand don't make a decent wage either, but I also know that service in the places travellers visit is typically better than average.
By the way, tipping doesn't seem to be the norm in New Zealand, but I tip there as well, and it is usually received with a bit of confusion but mostly appreciation. Cheers.
You're right, exacto, in that tipping isn't the norm here, which is why I struggle with the concept. The expectation here is that employers should be paying the staff a decent enough wage to live on. Having said that, there are occasions where we DO tip - but it's primarily at restaurants when you're out in a large group and you know that you've probably made life hell for the poor waiters serving you. [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img] But anything beyond that (hotels, hairdressers, taxis, etc) would be very rare I think.
I do tip at times in Asia, but normally only if I have had particularly good service 'over and above' expectations - like in Nokka's examples, of having a tuktuk driver spent the entire day with you. It's not about being 'mean and stingy' - but more about having an expectation (hope?) that the person is already being adequately paid to do their job - which is what we are used to here in NZ. And by adequately, I mean in terms of local standards. And for what it's worth, I'm not a hard bargainer - I'd rather pay a fair price and have a quality experience, so in some cases, the 'tip' is built into a bargained price.
I do struggle with the concept of tipping in the US just because someone is doing their job - ie taking my order, and bringing it to my table. And it galls me if I am expected to tip if service has been a bit surly. But I know that's the accepted culture in the US, so I go with it. In a country where it's not the accepted norm, then I'm not sure that normal service should be tipped. It sets an expectation that 'wealthy tourists' will just hand over money. But... if that's what the typical done in that country by the locals, then I'm OK with it. (Hence why I asked the question of Mac).
On a side note, I have to say I am often repelled by the 'over the top' gushy service that you get at American restaurants, presumably with the goal of scoring a good tip. I do prefer our more laid-back style here in NZ.... (Caveat to those not in the know: I'm American by birth, but Kiwi by nature. I've lived here since my early teens hence this is where my cultural norms have developed.)
your comment about "over-the-top" service reminded me of the movie Office Space, where Jennifer Aniston's character got in trouble for not wearing enough "flair". i avoid those kinds of restaurants too exactly because of that "gushy" service. but my kiwi friends from Christchurch love travelling here in the states, and one of the reasons is because of what they call the high level of service they get in restaurants and shops here.
i understand that in civilized countries like new zealand, the wait staff makes a decent wage. that was true in turkey when i lived there too. but it isn't true in the states. i don't know if it is still true, but it used to be that a restaurant could legally pay wait staff less than the minimum wage. in those instances, the only real money the wait staff got was the tips. i've had it explained to me that in the states, you as the customer are paying directly for the service. that's why it is in the 15-20% range. it shows too. when you go to nicer places where folks make good money, you get great service. but try to eat at a mcdonald's here. most of the time the service is just awful, and no surprise, because the folks make squat and aren't rewarded for trying. now compare that to the service in thailand at a mcdonald's or burger king. it's usually great service and a smile too.
from what my thai friends have told me, a job at mcdonalds or burger king in thailand pays reasonably well. but i'd bet money that most jobs in thailand don't, and it would be inaccurate to expect that people are being adequately paid for their jobs.
i usually make it a point to tip cab drivers the most, because those poor guys work hard all day in crappy traffic and don't often have much to show for it after expenses. sorry to hear about nokka's string of bad experiences, because in the 6+ years i've spent in thailand, i can count on one hand the number of times a cabbie tried to rip me off.
anyway, being generous leads to good karma, which goes a long way in life. take care.
I have a friend who owns a restaraunt / bar here. He's Thai - it's Thai place. He has one waitress and she earns between 4-6 thousand baht a month in tips which she needs because the job only pays 4,000 baht a month.
#12 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Fair point about the cabbies, Exacto. I take very few cabs in Thailand, but always use one when arriving at the airport. Maybe its an airport thing - these guys see a jet lagged tourist and try it on. Its the same the world over in my experience. I prefer other modes of transport on the ground, including tuktuks sometimes. At least with those guys you know the price before setting off - I will usually then also give them a tip.
In Vietnam, though, I did use cabs quite a lot and can't remember many rides which didn't include some attempt by the cabbie to obtain money by deception. Short changing, going the long way round, knocking off the meter, going back on a pre-arranged price - they tried it all. Strangely enough I never felt the compulsion to give those guys a tip.
busylizzy....The wait staff in the states are paid about half the minimum wage, the other comes from tips. It doesn't mean you have to tip if you get crappy service.
As for here in Thailand, with me it varies. I almost never tip at guesthouses or hotels unless I was doing a long stay somewhere and the staff was good. Cabs and such...it varies. Restrauants....varies, no set rule. As anybody here can tell you in some places the staff can look right at you while you stand up and wave the flag and they still don't seem to see you. No tip.
I had a waiter in Hue, Vietnam tell me to tip him very secretly as the manager/owner took all the tips. Anybody else had that?
#14 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
Yup. I've had that same problem at the airport a few times too where they sized up a jet-lagged farang, but not so much since they went to the queue system where they hand you a piece of paper with the cab's license plate number on it. Strangely enough, I had more problems with the taxis in Turkey, where there was a well-known scam of meter tampering.
In Nepal. I saw a hotel manager taking tips left for bar staff and maids. So I started hiding tips under pillows or plates or other places that only the person doing the actual work would find them. It is a shame what some people do when they think nobody is watching or they can get away with it.
Thanks for the "tip" exacto, it never occured to me someone else would lift the tip.
#16 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
IF a Thai nowadays pays his staff only 4/5/6k/month-THEN he is in flagrant default, as the min. wage is nows 300 bt/day.
In Thai only stalls/roadside eatingplaces, tipping maybe brings 1/200 in a month. Strangely I find that returning to some place for a new meal/whatever they do, seems to be more ''appreciated'' (another US-inflated word) as the small tip-often of 0 bt in fact.
#17 captainbkk has been a member since 16/2/2012. Posts: 472
"IF a Thai nowadays pays his staff only 4/5/6k/month-THEN he is in flagrant default, as the min. wage is nows 300 bt/day."
Captain - the law and regulations here don't mean a whole lot. I am sure you know that. Being in "flagrant default" - so what? It is what it is. Bottom line is the numbers you highlighted here are what they are. The law? We're talking about Thailand here. You either want to supplament the coin because you think it's the right thing to do or you don't. If you are expecting laws to be followed and you are not going to tip because they are not, dude, this isn't a legalistic place. Simple as that. You either want to tip for good service or you don't. Pretty simple really.
#18 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
15% of your service price should go for tip. i don't know what percentage you give. it depends on the service quality.
#19 buland has been a member since 28/11/2012. Posts: 9
Buland - 15% is the standard for the US. In most of Europe, the gratuity is included in your bill. I always tip something if the service is good. But in Europe, rounding off to the nearest Euro is common practice. This is why Europeans sometimes resent tipping - some of them see it as an indicator of something wrong with a society on a larger scale and an imposition on them.
#20 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Just to add my 2 cents here (er, 15% I mean?)...
"i don't know if it is still true, but it used to be that a restaurant could legally pay wait staff less than the minimum wage (in the US)."
I worked in the service industry in the US for several years. Restaurant servers in ALL 50 states are paid about 1/4 or 1/3 of minimum wage by their employer - that's the legal rules... In the worst states that comes out to around US$2 per hour. In the best it's around $3.50 per hour. So assuming that employers "should" pay their staff well enough when eating out in the US is faulty as that's not the reality, the custom or the law. (Not saying that anyone in this thread said or alluded to that but just making it clear as my old co-workers back home would appreciate it!). Note that I'm talking about restaurant servers (bartenders get paid a little better but still less than minimum wage). Taxi drivers, doormen and such get paid a more normal hourly wage from what I understand. Also note that Canada plays by a different set of rules - meaning they actually pay servers a decent wage so they don't have to scrape for tips.
I tip a little more than Thais do in Thailand. At a cheap street restaurant 20 baht is more than enough and no tip is perfectly acceptable if all you get is a 30 baht bowl of noodles. At a nice restaurant I tip 10 to 15%, but it's important to always check the bill in such places as they often pre-add a service charge.
I used to tip 20% virtually anywhere but that's really too much for Thailand - I've found servers often thought I made a mistake and got confused. For taxis and tuk tuks I always leave something and, like others have said, I'm quick to be generous if the driver is good-natured and friendly. However I've found that most Thais in Bangkok don't normally tip taxi drivers more than a few baht unless it's a long ride. Also I used to throw an extra 5 baht on top of the 20 baht motorbike fare from my apartment to the BTS, but a few drivers started giving it back to me - so that tells you they don't expect or want a tip for such a small fare.
I also don't think that "taking your generous tipping custom" with you to other countries is always the right way to go. For instance, I've been told by a Japanese friend that tipping in Japan can be insulting, as if to say, "I'm sure you can use this more than me." The same goes for Thailand depending on the situation. For instance, if a hotel owner goes out of their way for you, tipping someone like that can be insulting as they might consider themselves to be at a high stature of society and by tipping it can be seen in a similar light, as if to say, "we know we have more money than you so you should take this extra..." In a case like that, the better way to approach it is to give them a gift, like some Thai sweets for instance. Or if you have something from your home country (even just a key chain or something small), that's an especially good way to show your appreciation. On the other hand, tour guides always appreciate an extra 50 or 100 baht if they do a good job.
As a side point, while I agree that servers in the States can sometimes be overly "gushy", I find service in Thailand - even at most decent restaurants - to be absolutely awful. I'm used to it, but just saying I do miss the great service often offered when a great tip is in the cards for the server. And it's not that service is Thailand is more "laid back", it's that it's often nonexistent, even when there are 10 staff members taking care of 3 customers!
"As a side point, while I agree that servers in the States can sometimes be overly "gushy", I find service in Thailand - even at most decent restaurants - to be absolutely awful."
Dave that's funny, because my experience here has been exactly the opposite. In the US I often have (well, often relative to going there - which isn't often I'll admit) some frumpy middle aged women frowning at me. Here I have a couple of lovely ladies doting on me. Now you've met me. It's not like I'm tall, dark and handsome... With my daughter it's even more so. A waitress is dedicated just to amusing her for the duration of the meal.
At the Honda dealer where I bought my motorcycle. I got free oil changes the first 12,000 km. I got a free chain and sprocket replacement after 20,000 km (and that wasn't even in the warranty). I've had great service from those guys and the bike runs like a champ.
So my customer service experience out here has been really good.
I've heard others have had it worse in Bangkok and other locals, but that doesn't reflect my experience.
#22 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"In most of Europe, the gratuity is included in your bill. In Europe, rounding off to the nearest Euro is common practice. This is why Europeans sometimes resent tipping - some of them see it as an indicator of something wrong with a society on a larger scale and an imposition on them."
I am "European" and I would consider all of the above to be completely factually inaccurate and a misrepresentation of the generosity of myself and many other Europeans I have encountered.
#23 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740
it seems that lately all you do is disagree with whatever MADMAC says. what's up with that? i don't think anyone was suggesting that europeans are not generous. in fact, it reads to me as just the opposite. in europe and many other places in the world, tipping is not a part of the culture because the cost of the service is built into the price of the meal or service as it should be. in other words, people already make a fair wage. as an american, i think it is shameful that waitstaff can be paid less than the legal minimum wage (as DLuek confirmed above), which is already too low as it is.
It's not my intention to argue with MM but where I think he's talking out his behind then I will call him on it. I find his posts interesting but occassionally a little out of leftfield, like the one above. That's all really.
To go back to the issue at hand, and not that it even bothers me too much either way, but tipping in Europe is common, very common in fact, and the service charge is not universally built into the meal price. Similar theories apply here as to the staff getting grossly underpaid and being very dependant on tips to make ends meet. For example, I am Irish and would tip 10-15% for a good meal out.
#25 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740
Hi MadMac, your restaurant and motobike experience is interesting. I'd like to know if this kind of excellent customer service is also given to any other joe public Thai customer?
#26 chopin has been a member since 28/4/2007. Posts: 154
Well, for the restaraunt thing, I'd say yes. But for other services, I don't honestly know. I know that where I live I have an experience inverted from perception. That is, I pay less than a Thai for my Tae Kwon Doe lessons. One of my students provides me free beer. I kind of get over in a lot of ways. Maybe I'm just lucky.
I lived in Germany for 18 years. Now I'd be loathe to say "everywhere in Europe" so perhaps I should narrow it down to central Europe / Germany. But there, what I wrote is correct.
#27 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
That's right MADMAC. Your experience can only be applied to westerners (the farangs) in SEA (and mostly likely in the whole of Asia). As a true Asian myself, my observation is that Westerners would get easier treatment from the locals here. No matter what we want to believe about everyone being equal, the current state of affairs is that Asians still have an inferiority complex toward Westerners esp. the whites. Your patronizing them (kungfu class, a meal, or whatever) is an honour to them, and some of them won't mind giving you extras or charging you less, just to have you seen with them is good enough. Good or bad is another matter, that's just the way it is at least for now. That said, even as an Asian, I feel completely comfortable in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos (while Vietnam is a mixed feeling), these peoples are as true as I can imagine them to be. Even without these extra nice treatment given, I still like them tremendously.
#28 chopin has been a member since 28/4/2007. Posts: 154
I should also caveat I am talking about restaraunts that actually have wait staff. A lot of backpackers are doing the cheap little hole in the wall thing - obviously that's different. But in restaraunts that have wait staff, that's been my experience. Also, I am a known personality here. The city isn't that big. And I'm a good tipper. So all the factors might well come into play.
#29 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I've often wondered about the inferiority issue chopin mentions, but I think there may be other cultural factors that better explain this. One is that western culture tends to treat wait staff more as equals in a business transaction than asian norms do. Just think about the terms Thais use to address the staff. It isn't "excuse me miss" so much as nong, dek, or nuu.
But there is also the novelty factor of westerners, particularly for someone like MADMAC who is a Thai-speaking westerner living where few other westerners live. As travellers, we can tap into that novelty factor. My experience all over asia, even in places where I'm not know and don't speak the language, is that the novelty of my being in a place where westerners don't typically go often leads to special treatment.
In chopin's case, it sounds like you don't get the immediate benefit of the doubt that a more obviously western-looking person might, but it also sounds like your western friendliness and cultural behavior norms definitely work in your favor.
In MADMAC's case, I'd bet a big chunk of change that local wait staff see him as a fun, friendly, and generous person and a preferred customer. I suspect they also view him a patron in the Thai patron-client cultural sense too.
In any case, as travellers in asia, I think we often do get special treatment - even in the little hole in the wall places, because of the different cultural behavior norms we bring with us and because of that (albeit rapidly decreasing) novelty factor. I think that is a large reason I still love living and travelling in asia so much.
I can't remember being in a restaurant in Asia over the past ten or twelve years and tipping, or being in any restaurants where it was done. I don't go to backpacker restaurants as a rule or any place with a menu. Generally the person bringing the food is the owner or a relative. Almost never another foreigner around.
In America I've seen people yell and send things back to the kitchen. I'd be as surprised to see that in Asia as tipping. I don't smooch my wife in public either.
I take it back. Went to a restaurant at the airport, mom in law tipped. Not my choice in restaurants.
I don't consciously do so but I just do as is natural and as everyone else is doing, and yes that means calling the server nong and nu, but I also smile my thanks often, just like others do.
Asians often ask me, "why is so and so always so angry?" I'd say smiling is more important than tipping.
Somsai, your descrption sounds a lot like the restaraunt I eat at whenever I go to my wife's village in Yasothon. It's a mom and pop place, I am the only one who tips (and I go with my father in law, almost never my wife who doesn't like the food there but dad does). At least the only one I've seen. I don't give big tips, but the daughter (who usually serves) is always appreciative. I give my customary 15% and am happy to do so. But you are absolutely right, in that environment it's not expected.
I live in a city here, so my range of options is wider and I have enough capital to eat in restaraunts with ambience. I prefer that. But as you correctly imply, many backpackers will not. They'll be eating cheap and the small places. In those places I don't think a tip is expected.
As for people being surly and difficult, I have seen it here too among wealthy Thais, but it is less common than back home, where being polite is not valued as highly as it is here (sadly).
#32 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Had great experience today and thought of this thread. My wife was sick and asked me to get her some "Joke" (like rice porridge - I hate it, but the wife likes it) after I took my daughter to school. The young lady who runs the place where I buy it I've known a long time. Lovely girl. Anyway, I order the Joke, but wife doesn't want anything in it. No egg, no nada. The girl gives me a quizical look and I explain the wife doesn't feel well. So she bags it up and gives it to me "No charge" because there was nothing added to it. I refused the gesture, but it was sweet.
#33 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Wow. That was nice. Tipping is very much still at the customer's discretion. However, I don't like how this culture is held hostage by guilt when it comes to tipping. The pay should be worked out, right? It's used to be a reward for good service. Nobody else gets tipped unless they are doing something special to deserve it, like manual labor or an extra errand, or giving me some sort of special treatment.
#35 faygdknight has been a member since 15/6/2013. Posts: 1