Thailand is an exotic land filled with new flavors and experiences that you simply cannot find anywhere else. However, those travelers who are fortunate enough to visit Thailand might find themselves curious about tipping in Thailand. There are no absolute rules when it comes to tipping, yet WeExpats has put together some loose guidelines that can help you whenever you are curious about how much to tip in Thailand.
DO PEOPLE TIP IN THAILAND?
Thailand is not a tipping culture, therefore it is not mandatory to tip in Thailand—yet it is certainly welcome. You may notice that Thais rarely tip, however tipping has become a more commonly accepted practice in Thailand.
When you consider that the average Thai person earns roughly $3,000 USD per year, then tipping in Thailand can be the difference between just scraping by and being able to live a higher quality of life. Remember that service staff work long hours with few breaks, and they almost always manage to keep a positive demeanor about them. If you receive delicious food or stellar service—which is so common in Thailand—then showing your appreciation with a small tip can have a big impact in the long run.
If you do tip in Thailand because of the service staff, try to give your server the money directly. If you give it to a manager or leave it on the card, your server may not receive it. Tipping in Thailand does not have the infrastructure to dispense tips the way they are so often dispensed in tipping cultures. Establishments in Thailand do not have a culture of counting tips and redistributing them at the end of the shift between both front and back of the house.
TIPPING AT STREET STALLS IN THAILAND:
Eating food at street stalls is a very common practice in Thailand. Even in rural areas, you can trust locals to cook with care because when people get sick, then they get a bad reputation, which can be disastrous to their business. Always eat where the locals eat, and try and eat food that is cooked in front of you.
Since street stalls are informal essentially take away businesses, it’s not necessary to tip at street stall in Thailand. Tipping just isn’t in their business model. Their overhead costs are lower than a brick and mortar establishment, and any profits that the business garners go directly into the pockets of the service individuals.
By all means, if you really enjoy the service of a particular stall, and you frequent it often, feel free to leave behind some baht to let them know how much you appreciate their service. We are simply saying it isn’t expected.
TIPPING AT MIDRANGE RESTAURANTS IN THAILAND:
These establishments are tricky to pin down, because they run the gambit from homes that prop up a few tables in the street, or mall kiosks that serve noodle soup, to chains like MK and Black Canyon. You will have to use your judgment to determine whatever you think is best. However, we can offer some tips to guide you in your decision.
First of all, these establishments are not expecting to receive a percentage of the total bill. If you order a meal for 45 THB and you would like to leave a coin or two to the establishment, then this is certainly welcome, and it can add up at the end of the week. However, if you have a 200 – 400 THB meal, then you are expected to leave something. A good policy is to leave behind any coins you received in change, and even add a 20 THB bill if you got a great meal.
Of course, just like you would in your home country, if you disliked the food or the service seemed poor, then by all means, leave less of a tip—or no tip at all. However, these occurrences are so rare that you will likely find yourself tipping in Thailand more often than not at midrange restaurants.
TIPPING AT HIGH-END RESTAURANTS IN THAILAND:
If you are eating at a fine-dining restaurant, then tipping is expected. In a way, you are saying that you are wealthy enough to eat at an establishment with high overhead costs, extensive service staff, and stellar food—often with rare and imported ingredients. If you are having an experience for several hours, listening to live music, or being served several courses of food at a restaurant for hours on end, then you should tip by percentage.
That said, the typical 15% – 20% tip so common in countries like the United States is unnecessary in countries like Thailand. 10% is considered a hefty tip, and you will not engender the glares that you would get in more affluent countries. Of course, if you want to show your wealth, or you simply just feel bad tipping 10%, then by all means do so. You will likely set yourself apart from the rest of the clientele and receive VIP treatment the next time you frequent that establishment. However, do not feel obligated to do so.
Often the nicest restaurants will add a service charge already to the bill, so be sure to take a look at the check first. No one expects you to tip twice.
TIPPING AT BARS IN THAILAND:
Whether you’re having a few cocktails over dinner, or raging on the Thai islands, most tourists find themselves frequenting at least one bar when they travel to Thailand. How much you end up tipping will really depend on what kind of bar you frequent.
If you’re at an island, then tipping on the first drink can mean that your server will check on you again. Tipping in Thailand can be the difference between a hot, parched experience in the service doldrums, and a cool, refreshing beach experience where you are tended to in lavish fashion. The more you drop on that first drink, the more your server will check on you. It is a good idea to drop a tip as well at the end of your beach experience.
I recommend tipping 50 THB that first drink, and then 5 THB for every drink you ended up getting after that, however this is just a rough suggestion. If you and nine other comrades are at a beach resort for seven hours ordering drinks and food until sunset, then you should consider tipping about 10% of the total bill. Remember that when you are having an experience—not just taking in sustenance—then you should consider tipping more. This also applies to whether you are in a jazz club in Phuket, or at a burlesque show in Bangkok.
Your ordinary run-of-the-mill bar is a bit different however. If you’re just stopping by a bar that has no wait service, and you’re just walking up to the bar to order a Singha to enjoy with a stunning sunset view, then you are not culturally obligated to leave a tip. However, if you are planning on staying at the bar for several hours and you´re not necessarily certain how long you will be there, then I would recommend tipping a hefty tip on the first drink. This will cover you for the rest of the night.
However, if your drinks are 55 THB and you want to leave the extra 5 THB, then that is never a bad idea. Bartenders work long hours late into the night, and many bartenders also have day jobs, so leaving a tip for them can help show them how much you appreciate their service—and it might help you to avoid long waits when the bar gets busier.
Some high-end sky bars will already include a service fee, so always check the bill when you receive it if you´re at a swanky location. If not, then dropping a 100 THB bill can ensure unnecessary faux pas in finer establishments.
TIPPING TAXIS IN THAILAND:
Taxis are another deal entirely when it comes to tipping in Thailand. It really depends on what type of taxi you are riding. There are many ways to get around, and they all have their own benefits and downsides.
– Traditional Taxicabs –
If you’re riding a taxicab like those in Bangkok, then you will most likely be paying a flat fare. These taxi drivers will charge you rates of 150 THB – 200 THB to go only a short distance. You certainly do not need to tip these taxi drivers.
– Meter Taxicabs –
If you are fortunate enough to find a taxicab driver in a major Thai city like Bangkok who gives you a ride using the meter—which is a feat in itself because you will have to ask several taxicab drivers—then you certainly should tip these individuals. Especially for Westerners, taxicab drivers who are willing to give you a lift on the meter are becoming more rare with every year. They deserve a tip because they just saved you 100 THB.
– Tuk Tuk Rickshaws –
Similarly, when riding in a Tuk Tuk, you do not have to tip the Tuk Tuk driver. They are often charging you even more than a taxicab driver. You are likely riding in a Tuk Tuk for the experience—as well as their convenience. Tuk Tuk drivers will often get a commission for taking you to a certain restaurant, shop, or bar—and they are infamous for their scams. Also, be sure to negotiate the price beforehand. If not, you may find yourself paying an exorbitant fee afterwards.
– Songthaews/Rot Si Daeng –
These taxis are more common in rural areas and the north of Thailand—though they are found throughout Thailand and Laos. In Chiang Mai, they are often just called “si rot” or “rot daeng”. These open-air taxis are one of the most economical ways to get around cities, or even between towns in rural areas. These taxis can be spotted by their distinctive open-air cabins with two benches where their passengers sit. These taxis will hardly ever take you directly to your destination, instead you should pinpoint a location near you—a shopping center, or famous street for example—and they will take you there for a very minimal fee.
Always negotiate the price beforehand, however they are generally only about 40 or 50 THB. They may try and get away with more, just refuse the offer. Because you pay beforehand, and then disembark, then you do not tip the driver. However, if the driver seems friendly and genuine, or is offering you a great deal, feel free to leave them a little extra for their troubles. They often go hours during the day without a client, and then feverishly rush during rush hour—and many of them work late into the night. Paying them a little bit extra when they quote you a price will not get you there any faster, but it will be paying a kindness in a country that firmly believes in karma.
TIPPING FOR MASSAGES IN THAILAND:
If you have ever visited Thailand, then you will know that there is a massage parlor on every street. Whether you are interested in a relaxing oil massage, a deep tissue foot massage, or an intense traditional Thai massage—it is crucial to try a massage at least once when experiencing the Thai culture. Thus, this is one of the most crucial jobs when it comes to tipping in Thailand.
Often Thai massages can last for hours—which is grueling work. Then masseuses will wait for hours on end without a client. Once they are paid, the massage house will take their cut of the profits, and leave the masseuse with only a portion of the profits. We highly recommend, not only tipping for massages in Thailand, but we recommend tipping well. If you want to channel your inner giving nature, this is the time to shine. An extra 50 or even 100 THB can make their day! And as mentioned previously, tip them in hand to ensure that they themselves get to keep it.
TIPPING HOUSEKEEPERS IN THAILAND:
Many hotels have an envelope for you to leave gratuity for your housekeeper. This is always welcome when tipping in Thailand because maids work long hours, doing hard work, for generally low wages.
Leaving behind a tip can ensure that your items are treated with extra care, as well as it can make a huge difference in someone’s day. I would recommend tipping as much as you feel is warranted for the cleanliness of the room, however I would tip something. If you left your room as a disaster and when you came back everything was tidy, then try and tip a little extra. However, if the place does not live up to your standards, then feel free to tip less—if anything at all. In nicer hotels however, this is a rarity.
Be sure to try and hand your money directly to the housekeeper or maid to ensure they know it is a tip. Sometimes there is an envelope—or I’ve even encountered a tip jar. Leaving money on the pillow is not part of Thai culture, and they might move it to the nightstand unaware that it was for them. So if you do leave it somewhere for them, leave a thank you note as well if you can.
TIPPING BELL BOYS IN THAILAND:
Many nicer hotels in the heart of the major cities like Bangkok will have a bellboy who will carry your luggage up to your room. These individuals usually work long hours for low wages, and they will gladly accept a tip. I personally offer them a 10 THB coin, or a 20 THB bill if they are carrying up multiple bags. However, tipping in Thailand is really a matter of how much money you have, and how you felt about the service. The amount is up to you.
TIPPING YOUR TOUR GUIDE IN THAILAND:
Tour guides in Thailand can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes you get a tour guide that can show you parts of Thailand that you would never get to see otherwise. Other times you can get a tour guide that would obviously rather be somewhere else. Some can transport you to another time and place, opening up the history and culture—while you struggle to understand anything another says.
No matter how your tour was, we recommend that you tip something. Often tour guides work solely on tips, for long hours under the hot sun. These individuals make about 15,000 THB on average, and a large tip can make their day—even their week.
Tipping in Thailand is often based on the quality of your experience, but also consider when you’re tipping a tour guide in Thailand the length of your tour. Of course, if you get a flat out rude person, then by all means don’t tip them anything. However, if the service was at all passable, we recommend tipping 50 – 100 THB an hour if the tour was exceptional. If it was a full-day tour, don’t feel that you need to tip the tour guide 600 THB, we understand. Perhaps, then you would only offer 50 THB an hour, however if you walk away happy, cultured, and content, then try and tip as much as you can afford.
TIPPING YOUR WATER DELIVERER IN THAILAND:
If you use a fresh water delivery service in Thailand, then you should consider tipping your water deliverer. Water jugs get heavy considering each liter weighs one kilogram. Water deliverers carry heavy burdens—often in hot weather—even on official Thai holidays! Their job prevents dehydration and heat stroke in the hottest months of the year.
We recommend tipping your water deliverer (if you use a water delivery service) 20 THB. Inn return, they will carry your heavy water jugs or bottles into your home and place them where you need them without you having to lift a finger. This can be a valuable help for the weak or elderly.
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