Tipping is a relatively new term for a developing economy like Vietnam. Small-sized businesses, mostly family-owned, account for a large part of the service industry, so tipping has not yet become the norm compared to developed countries. However, as the service industry grows, new models of businesses are established, and tipping, like most countries, is now a way to compliment the providers on their service quality and encourage them to improve it.
As a rule of thumb, always tip when you receive good service.
Tipping is more common in the cities than in the countryside.
Tipping is more common in expensive restaurants than in food stalls. Tips are usually included in bills of high-class service of restaurants and spas.
People who expect tips:
· Hotel staffs
· Tour guides
· Private car drivers
· Waiters/waitresses in high-end restaurants (service charge is usually added to the bill)
Places to leave your tip:
· Give directly to the staff
· Leave it in the leather cover of the bill
· Give it to the manager
· Leave at the cashier counter (it is common to see tip jars at cashier counters in Vietnamese coffee shops)
The change: some taxi drivers, hotel staff, waiters/waitresses, and tour guides may ask you for a tip. For example, taxi drivers will keep the change in taxi fare. State clearly to them if you don’t feel they deserve it and don’t want to tip them. From professional service providers, the staff is trained not to ask for a tip as it could make you uncomfortable, and you should only tip when you receive good service.
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In Vietnam, people call tip “tien tip”, or “ tien bo/boa” in the South. The first has the origin in “tip” in English – money rewarding good service, and the latter has the origin in “pourboire” in French – which means “money for drinking”. This could be a guideline to how much you should pay for a service; you give a gratuity for people who deserve it the amount that allows them to be able to get “drinks”, depending on where they might get their “drink”.
You can use the price of some commodities in Vietnam to know what your money is worth (in big cities).
VND 10,000 - a bottle of water or carbonated drinks
VND 20,000 - banh mi, a can of beer, coconut juice, coconut jelly, coffee, or street foods standard
VND 50,000 - a bowl of pho, broken rice, anything for standard breakfast and lunch, some gas money
VND 100,000 - movie ticket
If you travel in a private group and use the services for at least a half-day and longer, tipping 10 - 15% of the invoice is considered a good and reasonable tip.
And when you tip, you should also be careful because some of the colors of the notes are similar but the value is very different like VND 10,000 and VND 200,000, and VND 20,000 and VND 500,000.
Read our Vietnamese currency guide to know more tips when using money in Vietnam. If you don’t have Vietnamese money ready, you can use foreign currencies to tip; the common ones are USD, AUD, and EUR. Please note that currency exchanges don't accept torn or old bills, so when you tip foreign currencies, please don't give torn bills as the locals won't be able to exchange them.
For Local Guides
If you find the local guides friendly, communicative, helpful, and they had to go the extra miles to adapt to all of your requests in the tours, the tips at the end of the tour would make them happy. About VND 100,000 - 500,000 (depending on the group size) per day.
For Drivers in Private Tours
The driver for a private tour is a tough job, especially on long and challenging roads. About VND 100,000 - 200,000 should be able to reward the drivers for their excellent job done. On a night trip, you can also buy them a cup of coffee, or buy them breakfast the next morning to keep their spirit up and awake during the travel.
When you ask the staff to do something more than their responsibility, or you think that they have done an excellent job of providing quality service, you should give them a tip. It is best to give it directly to the staff you think he/she had provided good service. In case you find the overall service is excellent, you can tell that everyone had done a great job to the manager or the receptionist and leave a tip. The amount would be about VND 20,000 - 50,000 depending on what have you asked them to do.
Many staff in the hotel will expect a tip from you such as the doorman, driver, bellboy, housekeeper, receptionist, waiter/waitress, and cook. In the case of the cook, besides a tip that should be given to the manager or given at the end of the meal in the bill rather than delivering directly, a compliment from you is a great way to reward their hard work.
In hostels or at smaller accommodations, compliments and feedback should be valuable to them in maintaining and improving their service quality. There is a small number of staff, or usually, one person will take care of everything in these places, so you can give it to them directly or give the tip at the reception when you check out.
If you are staying with a host, the best is to help them tidy a bit of your place, compliment their hospitality, and give them a small gift from your country is the best.
In fancy restaurants, the service fee is usually included in the bill, typically about 5% of the total price.
In restaurants where they have many decorations and a nice setup, and the staff are trained at welcoming, showing you to the table, smiling, thanking you, and seeing you off, you can give them a tip based on how much you are pleased with the service. Usually, about VND 20,000 should be enough to keep them happy. Check out the bill if the service has already been charged.
In high-class restaurants, mostly western restaurants, tipping is what they expect. First, see if there are charges on the bill. If you find overall services excellent, leave the change or more on the cover of the bill (about VND 50,000+ depending on the restaurant) or if you find the particular individual who deserves it, you can give a smaller amount at about VND 20,000 - 50,000.
In middle-class restaurants and family businesses where staff simply take your order and bring food to the table (quan com binh dan), they don’t expect to receive a tip from you as tipping is not an overall custom in Vietnam. The price of food and service is also low, so it could be quite awkward to give them a tip. However, again if they try to please you by pulling out a chair, providing you with things when you need them, or you order customization then tipping should be welcomed. When giving a tip in these restaurants, you should give it directly to the person who you think deserves it, explaining the reason you giving a tip. Compliments are also welcomed since this is the best way to keep the owners and their staff happy.
Where service is little to none
Food stalls are usually take-away shops; so they will sell, and you will go so there is no reason to pay a tip. However, some street vendors are very friendly; they might try to talk to you if you were waiting in line for too long or if the customers are not many. If you are happy with this conversation, you can give them a tip by providing the rounded-up number of money and tell them to keep the change. In another case, if they try their best to provide customized service; for example, when you buy a banh mi baguette, you want to make your version and order specific ingredients, like two slices of each meat, leave out the cilantro, cucumber, chili, soy sauce on one side only, put pickles in but leave out the daikon or carrot, etc. This is definitely when you have to give them a tip. You can give them a rounded-up number of money, or they already charge you extra for the customization – ask them about the originals’ price and the price you will have to pay to know this. In case you want to try to make the food yourself, take pictures, or take a video for your trip, you should give them a bit more than just change, about VND 20,000+.
Vietnam is the place to enjoy refreshing beers and not expensive alcoholic drinks, but bars are considered a fancy places by Vietnamese because they don’t drink at bars or pubs often (you can check out the places Vietnamese usually drink beers). But if you do drink at a bar, a VND 50,000+ tip for the bartender is not bad if he/she helps you have a great and comfortable time at the bar, or makes a delicious drink and gives a great performance.
There are cases dishonest masseurs try to make money from customers, asking them for tips, and wouldn’t let customers go until they open their wallets. The same thing can happen at some shady restaurants and when using the taxi as well, but staffs in high-end service are usually well trained and are told not to ask for tips. If you find the service satisfying, you can give the tip directly to the masseurs because they are the only person you would likely to interact with and receive service from. A tip about VND 100,000 per service should be enough.
Some spas already include tips in the menu pricing, and if this is the case, it is printed on the menu of the spa. Read more on What to expect from Vietnamese massage techniques.
For Taxi Drivers
You can leave the change with the taxi driver (under VND 20,000) as a tip if you think he has driven smoothly, safely, and helped you with your luggage. If you have too much luggage and he is still happy to help, then, of course, a little more than VND 20,000 wouldn’t hurt, about VND 50,000. However, while there are good taxi drivers, there are some dishonest ones; they want to make money out of you by refusing or hesitating when giving back the change by saying he has no chance to return. A piece of advice to help you prevent this situation is to always travel with a small change when using taxi services.
Read more on our blog about tips to avoid taxi scams.
Even though Vietnam is a low-tip-cost country and tipping is not even expected by some providers themselves, you may still need to make compliment and reward the hard work or excellence of the service you received, especially if you are from a country where tipping is more common. As a general cultural rule, it doesn't offend anyone if you leave a tip as a reward at the end of the service. As with any other country, give the tip to the person with the right amount you believe could keep them happy.
For more information on travel in Vietnam, check out some of our Vietnam guides like Typical Costs of Traveling in Ho Chi Minh City and Money Saving Tips in Ho Chi Minh City
© Written by Nhi Nguyen for itourvn.com
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I used an old $20 with the vendor at Ben Thanh Market and she wouldn't accept it. She asked if I had VND instead. I'm guessing old bills are not accepted? Is it better to have local currency?
Hi. Is it common that they ask for you to check off the box of fixated tips on the order? Or nearly forced to check one off. The options are: 100,000, 200,000 & 300,000vnd. I even wondered if I could write down my own amount cuz the the lowest amount of tip seems large (~35% of the total amount), but seems like you have no other options.
The one I went to is Soo Spa & Massage in Hanoi.
some tour services would expect the tips, like the sampan rides in the mekong delta
When SHOULDN'T I tip in Vietnam?
Not sure about using US currency to tip. Vietnam is pretty strict in not allowing foreign currencies, esp USD. I was there for over a month and never saw anything but VND.