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Tipping Customs in Myanmar

To tip or not to tip? That is the question on many travelers’ minds when they visit a new country. 

If you are traveling to Myanmar, then you should make yourself familiar with the currency and tipping etiquette. 

Whether you are in a restaurant, in a spa, in a hotel or in a taxi you might wonder if you should give the waitress, masseuse, porter or driver a tip, right? You will also likely ask yourself what is the correct amount to give?

You will have all the answers below

Are you supposed to tip in Myanmar?

First things first, remember that tipping is never compulsory in Myanmar and that you should think of it only when you are really satisfied by someone’s service. It is an individual reward that aims at supporting high-level service, helpfulness and friendliness.

Contrary to many others Asian countries, tipping in Myanmar is not traditionally expected, but in such a poor country, a small tip can go a long way.

There are no hard and fast rules about tipping in Myanmar, and travelers who decide not to will not be frowned upon. 

Below are some guidelines regarding tipping customs in the Golden Land as well as suitable amount to tip according to the place you are

Something to keep in mind

Before continuing further on who and how much to tip, there is something you should keep in mind.

Keep the change?

Depending on where you’re eating, the tipping culture could be vastly different. If you were to order street food and tell the vendor to keep the change, there’s a high chance that they might insist you take it back – whether through humility or confusion at a perceived overpayment – even if it’s just MMK1,000

Doing as the locals do is sound advice for any travelers, and you’re unlikely to see a local tipping a street food joint so don’t worry about it too much. If the food really was that delicious, order another one or leave a few thousand kyats on the side and make your escape before they have the chance to thrust it back into your palm.

Eating in restaurants or cafes is another story. It’s worth keeping in mind that the waiting staff in such places often work long hours with little breaks for less than $10 a day.

If you order a snack and a coffee that comes to, for example, 19 thousand MMK, then it’s common to simply leave behind the remaining 1 thousand change that you’re unlikely to miss, but which could help to make all the difference for a young waitress with a family or a university course.

If you’re heading to an area for a prolonged amount of time, leaving a tip each time isn’t necessary but can see you rewarded with better service and preferential treatment as a regular.

Naturally, the pricier the restaurant, the more you’ll be expected to tip. Once you start to hit the high hundreds with your bill, you can start to think about tipping 10% and up for good service, though make sure that service charge isn’t included in your bill already.

Fair fares and the knead for tips

In any big city in Myanmar, and certainly in the touristy areas in Bagan, finding a taxi driver that will actually use the taxi meter can be a real pain. With that in mind, it’s worth rewarding the drivers who do, with a small tip.

There’s no need to break the bank; if it comes to 39 thousand kyats for example, give him 40 thousand kyats and don’t expect the change.

They’ll be grateful for it and it might convince them to continue earning an honest living and not quote $30 for a trip that’s virtually around the corner.

As anyone who has visited Myanmar will know, massage shops can be found on virtually every corner, making for fierce competition between shops and price wars that can make it easily affordable for a tourist.

Massages are personal and catered for the receiver and can be tiring work. Not only that, the competition means that more often than not the masseurs can wait around for hours without a single customer, only to receive a pittance of the massage fee once the house has taken their cut.

Again, tipping isn’t expected but it’s more than appreciated, so you may want to consider tipping the masseur perhaps 8-10 thousand kyats on a bill of 50 thousand kyats and giving it directly to them.

It won’t break the bank, but it can make a person’s day.

Sweet dreams and the guide price

There aren’t many things worse than not double checking your booking and arriving at your hotel weary and jet-lagged, only to discover you’re on the fourth floor and there’s no elevator.

Spare a thought for the poor bell boys and porters who’ll have to lug your luggage up there! These jobs, along with housekeeping jobs in a hotel, are quite often low paying with long hours and high standards, so a tip of 2 thousand kyats per bag carried or per room cleaned can go a long way.

Tour guides can be very hit and miss in Myanmar. Some can absolutely make a trip, while others may carry a vibe that they’d rather be anywhere else. The amount you tip should vary with the service and length of time the tour guide is with you.

For great guides who have been with a group the whole day, it’s not unusual for them to be given upwards of 50 thousand kyats – a large amount for someone who will only earn around 1 million kyats per month.

If you’re not happy with the service, there’s no obligation to tip but keep in mind that everyone has good and bad days, and the hours can be long and exhausting.

Use your own judgement

As the locals say, it really is “up to you”. There’s no expectation of tourists to tip but it will certainly be appreciated.

It can be easy to pass through a town that you’ll never visit again without tipping, but good service and satisfaction should always be rewarded.

Keep in mind the amount of money people in restaurants and hotels earn and think twice before scooping those coins out of the change tray.

Who to tip and how much?

Below is the detailed guide of who you should tip and how much. Note that it is just the general recommendation. Who you tip and how much you give them all depend on your satisfaction of the services.

Restaurants

With the average starting salary for waiting staff sitting at about US $100 a month, with employees working six days a week, leaving a small sum of money will sure be more than welcomed.

There is no standard amount of gratuity to leave at a Myanmar’s restaurant, but 10% of the total bill is probably around average. Feel free to leave more if you felt that the service was excellent.

An increasing number of more upmarket establishments are already slapping a seven percent service charge onto the bill. However, how much of this makes it into employees’ pockets vastly varies.

If eating from street stalls or fast-food joints, no tip is necessary.

Tour guide & driver

Guides will accompany you throughout the entire tour, while giving you cultural and local knowledge and they will also serve as your translator if you need it.

As mentioned earlier, tipping is not compulsory but can be given at your discretion, with some guides more than others hinting towards a tip at the end of a trip.

If they have pulled off an impressive performance and made your trip informative and fun, then giving a little extra at the end will go a long way. It is good tipping etiquette to leave around 10% for your tour guide.

And if you are with a group, then a quick whip round at the end for a good guide will make that smile even wider.

Finally, leave a gratuity for the driver (if this person is separate from the tour guide) of around US $1 or 2 per day.

Hotels

If you are staying in a hotel in Myanmar, generally, give the bellman around US $1 per bag that he carries to your room and give the maid around US $1 a day. You are not obligated to tip any of the other hotel staff unless you feel led to do so. 

Remember that Burmese workers do not make much money and rely on gratuities. A one US dollar tip may not seem like much to you, but it be almost half of a typical worker’s daily income.

And contrary to what you might think at first, tips are more welcomed in high-end establishments since staff wages are usually rather low.

Also note that many of the upmarket hotels levy a 10% service charge, but unfortunately this does not always make it to the staff.

Spas and massage

Massage parlors and spas are plentiful and affordable in Myanmar. Most of the staffs working in massage parlors are young people coming from the countryside who send most of their meager wages to support their family back home.

If you are happy with your spa services, then tip your therapists as much or as little as you like will be a great way to show your appreciation.

Taxis

Tipping your taxi driver is up to you. Do keep in mind that Burmese taxi drivers will not necessarily expect tips, but because they do not make much money, they will appreciate them.

If you feel as though your taxi driver went out of his way to help you or was extra friendly, consider leaving him a few dollars. Another option is to let him keep the change after rounding up to the nearest dollar. 

Tuk tuk & Motorbike Drivers

For tuk-tuk and moto drivers, tips again are not expected – especially seeing as you, as a foreigner, are probably already being drastically over-charged.

Of course, you can use your own discretion, but if you have hired transport for the day to explore Angkor Wat or Phnom Penh and your driver has impressed you, then feel free to dish out an extra couple of dollars.

And if you have hired a private vehicle for the day and paid a set fee to your hotel or a tour operator, a tip at the end of the day will go a long way as the chances are they only receive a very small portion of the cost you have paid for the car.

Temples and religious sites

Wats, temples, and pagodas are usually free to explore but often have contribution boxes at the entrances for the worship, the maintenance of the places, etc.

If someone shows you around or a monk blesses you, it is polite to leave a few thousand Kyats, the local currency, in the contribution boxes at the end of the visit.

Extra tips

It is important to not tip everywhere. If the service is poor, or if they demand for tipping and you feel like it is not worth it, keep your money for yourself.

In many Burmese restaurants, change will be returned in some sort of bill holder. If you leave the change, there it will often be taken by the restaurant proprietor. If you want to make sure the tip goes to the staff who have served you, leave the tip on the table or give it to the individuals directly. 

Tips is also appreciated by parking watchmen, especially for parking that are “free” and not asking you ticket fees.

If a local helps you out like taking you somewhere or finds an important person for you, or allow you to take some photo, they would be looking for you to provide a small amount. It is probably wise to always have some small Kyat notes for when these occasions arise.

If possible, it is nicer to give the tip in a small envelope rather than just handing the person loose cash, especially for package tour guides.

Small gifts are also appreciated, such as pens, cigarettes, t-shirts or perfumes. Burmese are fond of western products that are usually difficult to obtain in the country. When offering presents, note that they might initially refuse it. This is just politeness.

Myanmar 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. K1000 may be less than USD1; not much for you but maybe a whole meal for the staff member that served you.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Is it customary to tip in Myanmar?

A. That said, it is not customary but highly recommended especially at the tourist sites. Do give some small tips if you satisfy with the services that you have.

Q. What is the average local salary in Myanmar?

A. The average monthly salary of a worker in Myanmar is about $250 per month; those in high paying jobs bring home around $500 per month.

Q. How much budget do I need per day to travel in Myanmar?

A. For the guided organized tour for the group of 2 pax in Myanmar, the expected budget will start from $80-90 per person per day. Depending on the accommodation, the restaurant, or the activities you will join, the budget can go up to $150-200 per person per day.

Check out the detailed Myanmar trip cost here

Q. When is the best time to visit Myanmar?

The best time to visit Myanmar (Burma) is during the drier winter months of November to February. It's hot during the daytime, and lowland temperatures remain pleasant at night – although bring much warmer layers for the highlands and hill stations as they are chilly in the evenings. 

Bagan and Mandalay are the hottest, driest regions – temperatures can peak at over 40°C – but rainfall is still light here in the wetter season, and with more bearable temperatures this is the best time to visit Burma to avoid the winter crowds.

Within this article, we will guide you from the seasonal to monthly weather guide; from things to do and best time for it to the highlighted festivals; and much more.

Check our full guide about Myanmar weather and best time to visit

Q. How to book cheap ticket to Myanmar?

This requires some simple efforts and skills. Read our full guide on how to get the cheapest ticket possible to Myanmar

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