Every country has different customs surrounding tipping. There are even some rules and laws regulating that gratuity is counted as a taxable personal income. So learning about the basic tipping guide before traveling to new countries is essential so as to not offend any locals. Here in Vietnam, we do a few things differently.
So… Are We Supposed to Tip in Vietnam?
Tipping is not customary in Vietnam though it is highly appreciated.
Many travelers usually ask themselves: “Are we supposed to tip in Vietnam?” In actuality, there are completely contrasting answers to this question. However, we believe the most common answer is that tipping is not customary in Vietnam though it is highly appreciated. In fact, tipping is not a habit of the citizens, unless you go to spas for a massage or upscale restaurants. In this case, it can be said that the country’s culture of tipping is still in its infancy.
On the other hand, tipping has become more regular in cities that see a lot of tourists, like Saigon, Hanoi, and Hoi An. More and more high-end services include a service fee in their customer’s bills, ranging from 5% to 15%. Unfortunately, this money does not always find its way to the service staff. Therefore, if you do receive a service that completely exceeded your expectation, then a tip is welcome.
Here are our recommendations on when to tip in Vietnam.
Tipping Guide for Taxis
One of the important things to remember is that customers are not required to leave a tip for taxi drivers. Taxi drivers expect to receive the exact amount of money displayed on the kilometer clock. But this also depends on your desire and whether the taxi driver is polite, honest, and helpful or not. If you do want to give the taxi driver a tip, the best way is to round off the taxi fare and ask the driver to keep the change. For instance, if the total amount is 42,000 VND(2 USD), then give the driver 50,000 VND and request that he/she keeps the change.
Do note that some taxi drivers assume that passengers might not pay attention to the change and they may just try to keep it, while the service they provide is only at the mediocre level. Then, by all means, ask for the change back because they have no right to do so. You can also prepare some odd smaller bills to deal with these greedy drivers.
Tipping Guide for Restaurants / Coffee Shops
Vietnam is undoubtedly a paradise for street food lovers. Believe it or not, most of the country’s signature dishes originated from the sidewalk. Normally, you should not tip the owners of these stalls because they’ll feel awkward, or even worse, offended. If the latter is the case, they can be quite aggressive and heavily insist that you take back the tip. So when you want to show your appreciation to these mom-and-pop store owners and street vendors, giving them an uplifting and truthful compliment about their excellent food or service is more than enough. However, some small restaurants might accept tips so it highly depends on which place you go to as well. Generally, expect that the majority of small restaurant and stall owners will reject your tip, so don’t be too surprised!
Meanwhile, upscale restaurants do it a little differently. A service charge of approximately 10% is almost always added to the customer’s bills. Often times this “service charge” is split between the employees, this fee does not directly go to your server. Therefore, an extra bonus of 50,000 VND – 100,000 VND (2 USD – 5 USD) per person is suitable to gift outstanding staff, and make sure you hand this to them personally.
Read more: Review The Joi Factory Restaurant & Bar
Tipping Guide for Bars
In Vietnam, tipping the bartender is a fairly common custom. In fact, bar staff are normally paid very little and most of their income comes from tips and not their salary. A tip of around 50,000 VND to round off your bill is expected. Besides, a small tip may give you some privileges, such as being seated at a better spot or an exclusive drink from the bartender, sometimes even on the house.
Tipping Guide for Spas
Spas and beauty services in Vietnam are considerably cheaper compared to similar services in other countries. This is one of the few services to which Vietnamese generally tip. As a matter of fact, girls working in spas usually come from less than wealthy families and rural areas. They are usually underpaid for their workload and therefore rely mainly on guest tips. So if a masseuse openly asks for tips, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. He/she will be very grateful to receive a tip of 50,000 VND – 100,000 VND.
Similar to restaurants, at some luxurious spas, a service charge ranging from 5 – 10% is sometimes covered in the price. Again, like most situations in Vietnam, if you are pleased with your massage, you can tip the spa staff another extra tip because we don’t really know whose pocket the service charge reaches eventually.
Read more: The Best Massage and Spas in Saigon
Tipping Guide for Tour Guides
Tipping tour guides has become a must since tips probably account for half of their earnings. Being a tour guide means having to stay far from family and friends for a long time and working no matter the weather. Tour guides also play a big role in making a tour successful and they may become a good friend of yours during your journey. So if the adventure you experienced is truly awesome, you can let the guides know by giving them a tip of around 10 USD.
Tipping Guide for Accommodations
In Vietnam, people do not tip hotel services as frequently as they do with tour guides or spas. Tipping the bellmen or the housekeepers is not compulsory like it is in some other countries, and it all depends on the quality of the accommodation service. The suitable tips for hotel staff are around one or two dollars, and you can give the money to them directly or put it on the desk in your room before leaving.
Vietnam is a developing economy, which means that the majority of the population is still living on an average wage. If you truly enjoy the service, a small tip will perfectly represent your gratuity for the service provided. 20,000 VND may be less than 1 USD; not much for you but maybe a whole meal for the staff member that served you.