Travelling in Asia is becoming more and more affordable for ‘travelling-retirees’. However, tipping in Asia can be a tricky matter; what is meant to be an act of generosity could potentially be misconstrued as an insult. While growing tourism from Western countries has changed the rules and expectations for tipping etiquette, knowing when and when not to add gratuity can save you some money – and possible embarrassment!
While tips are generally much smaller than the 10 per cent expected in Australia, tipping in Asia largely depends on the luxury level of the hotel or restaurant. Tips are never expected at hostels, backpacker guesthouses, street food stalls, or local eateries.Four-star and higher restaurants and hotels may vary, however. A constant stream of Western Tourists with higher budgets has created an expectation for gratuities. If you are staying for a week or longer, a generous tip early in the stay will land you better service and treatment for the remainder of your trip.
Keep in mind that the 10 per cent service charge often added to your bill in hotels and restaurants usually goes in the owner’s pocket rather than to the staff. You can tip above that amount if you wish to thank your server. By default, round up your fare to the nearest whole amount for taxi drivers; they will often claim to not have the change anyway.
Tipping in China
Not only is tipping in China uncommon, it is against the law in some places. Tipping a server in local eateries is frowned upon; you are effectively viewed as giving a hand out like you would to someone who cannot make ends meet. The only exception is that you will be expected to tip your independent guide and driver at the end of a tour. By default, do not tip in China and Taiwan. Instead, try giving the hotel staff some chocolates, a coin from home, or anything small to show your appreciation.
- Restaurants: No
- Hotel Staff: A small token of gratitude
- Taxi Drivers: Allow them to keep the small change
Tipping in Hong Kong
Tipping in Hong Kong is the opposite of Mainland China. Tips are socially acceptable, and often are an important part of etiquette. While tipping in local eateries isn’t expected, tips in Western or upscale restaurants are happily accepted without offense. Depending on your bill, a tip of HKD 50 to 100 is adequate.
- Restaurants: HKD 100 in nicer places
- Hotel Staff: HKD 20 for porters depending on your luggage
- Taxi Drivers: They will round up the fare for you
Tipping in Thailand
Locals in Thailand generally do not tip each other, however, tourists are often expected to tip in luxury hotels and restaurants. Even the parking attendants in luxury establishments will expect a 20-baht tip. Regardless, few in Thailand will turn down an offer of free money – use your discretion.
- Restaurants: Add something small for your server above the 10% service charge
- Hotel Staff: Tip 20 baht to porters who handle your luggage and to parking attendants
- Taxi Drivers: Round up to the nearest multiple of ten, or allow them to keep the change
Reference: Travel Writer and Photographer