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TIPPING IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: A Guide for Business Travelers

Tipping etiquette varies all over the world, so how about tipping culture in Asia? Tip or not to tip? Here is your ultimate guide in Southeast Asia.

January 8, 2021

Tipping is a custom which varies from one place to another. You might be used to tipping around 15% to 30% in the USA. This practice is also similar when you’re on a business trip in Canada. Although this is a common gesture, it can be seen as the complete opposite in other cultures. 

Tipping is considered mandatory in the US, knowing that this supplements the lower hourly rates received by the staff. But in Asia this is not the case, especially in eastern countries. 

In China specifically, people might be reluctant if you even try to tip. They might misunderstand your intentions. Some business travelers in Japan were shocked that tipping is actually considered an insult.  

If you regularly travel, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with tipping, whether you’re paying for a hotel room, food in a restaurant, drinks in a bar, or riding a taxi. So how much should you tip when on a business trip in South East Asia?

The general rule is that tipping is not exactly part of the Asian culture. But because of an influx in Asian tourism it is starting to be an expectation, but mostly not a requirement. Take note of the following tipping rules if you are going on business travel in Asia. 

Singapore 🇸🇬

Singapore is one of the go-to place for business travel. It doesn’t have an established tipping culture so they wouldn’t mind if you leave a tip or not. But Singapore has been having an influx of tourist from western countries where tipping is accustomed. There is no need to tip tour guides and drivers. But if you prefer, they can share a 10%. But for fixed-fare rides, you can just tell the driver to keep the change, the amount is up to you. In hotels, restaurants, bars, and other business trip destination, no more than 10% is recommended. 

Malaysia 🇲🇾

Tipping restaurants and bars is also not customary here, because it already reflects as 10% service charge in the bill. When riding a taxi you can just round up the fare. For tour guides, travelers in Malaysia can give $10 for a day-long tour.

Indonesia 🇮🇩

It’s uncommon but ok to tip in Indonesia. Tipping housekeeping staff is probably one of the least common because hotels often add 10% service charge, but can still be practiced. You can give a minimum of $1 whenever you’re satisfied of their service.

Philippines 🇵🇭

Tips are normally included in the bill as service charge. But traveling in the Philippines, you can still hand over a small sum. Filipinos see tipping as an act of goodwill. For instance, you can tip a minimum of $1 per bag to porter at the hotel. A standard of 10% tip is given to drivers. At hotels, you tip whoever is most useful to you, which normally ranges $1-$3. 

Thailand 🇹🇭

When going on a trip in Thailand, know that tipping is not expected but will be much appreciated. It’s a personal choice. You can simply add a little extra when you pay your bill, as gratuity. Tip approximately 10%. 

Vietnam 🇻🇳

Tipping is optional in Vietnam, but it’s suggested giving 5%-10%, even if locals don’t demand for it. Tips for excellent services range from 10%-15%.  Hotel porters and staff can be given $1-$2 per day. It’s not necessary to tip drivers, but tour guides would be expecting around $8-$10 for a full-day tour service. 

Cambodia 🇰🇭

It’s not necessary to tip in Cambodia, but they are becoming more accustomed to it. Service workers are also very appreciative. You can tip in a bar or restaurant around 5%, but you can give a higher gratuity if their service is excellent. Tour guides would expect a 10% tip. As for your driver, you can simply pay for his meals.

Laos 🇱🇦

Tipping is not custom in Laos. In Laos, tipping can be observed in high-end western establishments. In restaurants, a 10% tip is considered generous. Taxi drivers and hotel staff will hardly expect a tip, unless they go out of their ways to do you a favor. The tip depends on what you asked them to do. Tour guides would expect a minimum of $10 tip for a whole-day tour. 

Myanmar 🇲🇲

When on business travel in Myanmar, a gratuity of 10% will be expected in restaurants, bars, spas and salons. Higher tips are given to tour guides ($10-$15), and tour private drivers ($4-$5).

Hong Kong 🇭🇰

Taxi drivers won’t ask for a tip. But you can round up the fare and let the driver keep the change. Spas and salons won’t expect any tips as well. Tour guides, on the others hand, commonly expects a tip which mostly depends on your generosity.

As consumers, we accept tipping as a form of giving monetary value to good service. It is a social norm, not written in any law and we accept them. Whenever you’re on a business trip or leisure, it’s important to acknowledge that the custom of tipping is continuously morphing and changing because of the development of the tourism industry. 

 Keep yourself updated so you would know how to adjust your tipping in your next trip to Asia. Do your research before making a business trip. As some countries practice, and encourage the custom of tipping, it can be offending in other countries, and could cause unexpected repercussions.