There are even some rules and laws regulating that gratuity is counted as a taxable personal income. In fact, tipping is an etiquette that varies from country to country, and newcomers in Vietnam are usually confused by this subject. So learning about the basic tipping guide before traveling to new countries is essential so as to not offend any locals.
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 is seemly becoming more familiar in tourist cities, like Saigon, Hanoi, Hoi An, etc. More and more high-end services include a service fee in customer’s bills, ranging from 5% to 15%. Unfortunately, not always does this amount of money find its own way to the service staff. Therefore, tipping personally whenever you experience an excellent service that exceeds your expectations is still welcomed.
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. They would not mind if you give them the exact amount of money displayed on the kilometer clock. This 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, the total amount is VND 42,000 (~ USD 2), then you can give VND 50,000 and request the driver to keep the change.
Do note that some taxi drivers may assume passengers would not bother if they keep it all and act like they have no change, while the service they provide is only at the mediocre level. Then, by all means, require the change back because they have no right to do so. You can also prepare some odd little money 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, don’t tip the owners because some will give it back and it will be awkward. However, you can still show your appreciation of the excellent food or service by tipping the staff serving you 1 dollar and they wouldn’t hesitate to accept it.
Meanwhile, upscale restaurants in Vietnam have significant differences when it comes to tipping. A service charge of approximately 10% is certainly added to customer’s bills. However, despite being referred to as the “service charge”, who this sum will belong to is still an uncertainty. Some might think that this would directly go to the waiter or waitress serving them but sometimes the money, will be split and distributed to all employees, so the one serving you may end up with a smaller cut. Therefore, an extra bonus of VND 50,000 – VND 100,000 (USD 2 – USD 5) per person seems suitable to award outstanding staffs, 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 come from tips and not the salary. A tip of around VND 50,000 to round your bill is not something unreasonable. 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 un-wealthy families and rural areas. They are usually underpaid for workload they have to manage and rely mainly on guest’s tips. So if a masseuse openly askes for tips, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. He/she will be very grateful to receive a tip of VND 50,000 – VND 100,000.
Similarly 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 their family and friends for a long time and working no matter what the weather is. 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 USD 10.
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 1 or 2 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. VND 20,000 may be less than USD 1; not much for you but maybe a whole meal for the staff member that served you.