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Tipping Customs in Vietnam

On many travel forums, we found the debates about tipping in Vietnam. Many say that it is not compulsory, there is no need to tip. 

Others say you should tip toward the good services or service that exceeds your expectations.

Hence, tipping is a hot topic amongst travellers to Vietnam. Should you tip? If so, who should you tip? And how much?

In some parts of the world, particularly the US, tips are expected and taken for granted, and in some establishments a tip is even included in the bill, meaning the customer is obliged to tip even when they might feel that it is not deserved.

In Vietnam, this isn’t the case, and the culture of tipping is still in its infancy. The Vietnamese rarely tip in restaurants or bars, though women usually tip in hairdressers or spas.

What should you do?

Here are our guidelines for tipping in Vietnam.

Are you supposed to tip in Vietnam?

If you are travelling to Vietnam, you must be familiar with the tipping etiquette there. Generally, tipping is not expected in Vietnam, but is very much appreciated. Many Vietnam workers do not earn much money and always appreciate the extra money to be made in tips.

The official currency in Vietnam is the Vietnam Dong (VND). However, United States dollars are also accepted in most places. If you are travelling to Vietnam, make sure you exchange your money to their currency so you will have plenty of spending money. 

Also, it is important to note that at most tourist attractions, people buy items through bargaining. When bargaining, be polite and never argue. Always try to get the best price for what you want, but if you can’t, don’t get upset.

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 ten thousand Vietnamese dong.

Doing as the locals do is sound advice for any travellers, 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 dong 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, 230 thousand dong, then it’s common to simply leave behind the remaining 20 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 Vietnam, and certainly in the touristy areas in Hanoi, 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 91 thousand dong for example, give him 100 thousand dong 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 Vietnam 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 50-100 thousand dong on a bill of 500 thousand dong, 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 20 thousand dong per bag carried or per room cleaned can go a long way.

Tour guides can be very hit and miss in Vietnam. 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 1 million dong – a large amount for someone who will only earn around 15 million dong 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?

Here is the list of who you should tip for and how much for each case.

Tipping for tour guide & driver

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 family and friends for a long time and working no matter the weather.

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 $6-8 per person per day.

Regarding the driver, $3-4 per person per day is enough.

Tipping for Halong Cruise or Mekong Cruise

When you join a cruise (Halong or Mekong), you will have cruise guides, bartenders, waiters/waitress, or housekeepers. If you enjoy the services, you can leave tip in sum of about $10 after the cruise. There is also tipping box for you to do it. Of course, if you really satisfy with the services of the cruise guide, you can give him some more directly.

Tipping at hotel

Tipping at hotels in Vietnam will all depend on the quality of service. If you receive good service, you should leave the housekeepers around 1-2 dollars per day. If a bellman carries your bag, tip him 1 dollar per bag.

Before you leave, if you wanted, you could also leave a few dollars to the individual at the desk. However, if you did not receive good service, don’t feel as though you need to tip at all.

Tipping at restaurant

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, you should not tip the owners of these stalls because they’ll feel awkward, or even worse, offended.

If the latter is the case, they can be quite aggressive and heavily insist that you take back the tip. So when you want to show your appreciation to these mom-and-pop store owners and street vendors, giving them an uplifting and truthful compliment about their excellent food or service is more than enough.

However, some small restaurants might accept tips so it highly depends on which place you go to as well. Generally, expect that the majority of small restaurant and stall owners will reject your tip, so don’t be too surprised!

Meanwhile, upscale restaurants do it a little differently. A service charge of approximately 10% is almost always added to the customer’s bills. Often times this “service charge” is split between the employees, this fee does not directly go to your server.

Therefore, an extra bonus of 50,000 VND – 100,000 VND (2 USD – 5 USD) per person is suitable to gift outstanding staff, and make sure you hand this to them personally.

Tipping at 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 comes from tips and not their salary. A tip of around 50,000 VND to round off your bill is expected. 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 at Spa saloon

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 less than wealthy families and rural areas.

They are usually underpaid for their workload and therefore rely mainly on guest tips. So if a masseuse openly asks for tips, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. He/she will be very grateful to receive a tip of 50,000 VND – 100,000 VND.

Similar 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.

Tipping for taxi

One of the important things to remember is that customers are not required to leave a tip for taxi drivers. Taxi drivers expect to receive the exact amount of money displayed on the kilometer clock.

But this also 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, if the total amount is VND42,000 (2 USD), then give the driver VND50,000 and request that he/she keeps the change.

Do note that some taxi drivers assume that passengers might not pay attention to the change and they may just try to keep it, while the service they provide is only at the mediocre level.

Then, by all means, ask for the change back because they have no right to do so. You can also prepare some odd smaller bills to deal with these greedy drivers.

Temple & Pagoda

It is not a question of tip, but of contribution to the worship, the maintenance of the places, etc. It is judicious to leave some Dongs, the local currency, in the urn.

There is also no need to leave your donation into every urn, just give to 1-2 urn that you find suitable.

***********

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. 20,000 VND may be less than 1 USD; not much for you but maybe a whole meal for the staff member that served you.

Frequently asked questions for Tipping in Vietnam

Q. Is it customary to tip in Vietnam?

A. As said above, 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 Vietnam?

A. The average monthly salary of a worker in Vietnam is about $148 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 Vietnam?

A. For the guided organized tour for the group of 2 pax in Vietnam, 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 Vietnam trip cost

Q. When is the best time to visit Vietnam?

The best time of year to visit the whole Vietnam is spring (February to April) and autumn (September to November). The temperatures are more moderate, and rainfall is lighter. In spring, March and April have the lowest rainfall across all destinations and temperatures are pleasant, though still cool in the far north.

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

Q. How to book cheap ticket to Vietnam?

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

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