Tipping Etiquette around the World: Asia Travel

According to all the dictionaries, tips are something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service. What we experience however is the expectation of a tip, whether or not the service has been exemplary. In the United States we are used to tipping in restaurants and taxi cabs. We tip for personal services such as deliveries, doormen, massages, manicures and hairdressing. If we live in a large city we generally tip between 15 and 20 percent. In smaller towns 10 percent is often the norm but 15 percent is especially appreciated. However, when we travel, the rules change and if we are not aware of them, our experiences may be less satisfying and more expensive than you needed to pay. Generally, if you do some research before you go, you will find your travelling spirit more confident.

Asia Travel

While for some protocols, each Asian country has their own, tipping is fairly uniform across the region — there isn’t much of it done. But as in any sweeping generalization, there are exceptions.

BANGKOK

If you are in an establishment that is more westernized, then tip as you would in the US or in Europe. If it caters mostly to locals, then a tip is not expected. I have yet to see someone turn one down though. Tips are especially expected for massage services and 15 percent is common.

Some upscale restaurants will add a 10 percent service charge to the bill. If not, waiters will still expect a tip of 10 percent given directly to them. However, if you’re eating at a restaurant catering to locals a tip is not necessary. If you stay at one of Bangkok’s many five-star establishments, expect to tip the porter 20 to 50 baht, depending on how many bags you have; the more bags, the higher tip per bag. Bangkok cabs are metered, so there’s no haggling over your fare. Local custom is to round the fare up to the nearest five baht.

HONG KONG

While in Mainland China you will not usually be leaving a tip as it is generally frowned upon, gratuity is absolutely necessary in this money-focused city at all but the lowest establishments. Even bathrooms in hotels have followed the European custom of having gratuity dishes. If you see one, mimic the highest coin for your tip.

Distribute a newsletter. A reunion newsletter is an excellent way to keep the family up-to-date on the planning process, who will be attending and what activities are planned.

Most restaurants automatically add a 10 percent service charge to the bill, but the surcharge is often kept b the owner. If the service is good, add another 10 percent to the bill, up to HK$100 if you’re in an especially nice place. Remember to give the additional tip directly to your server.

Baggage Handling: HK$10 should do at most hotels. However at a 5 star hotel, a crisp HK$20 bill would be more acceptable. From Americans $5 per bag is usually expected.

Taxi drivers often round up to the nearest dollar when making change. They keep the difference between the actual fare and the next even bill. If you are paying with exact fare, you should do the rounding up too.

INDONESIA

While tipping is not the norm, many who serve tourist and international business clientele expect a little some extra. It is alright though if you don’t tip. At major hotels and high-end restaurants, a service charge and tax are added to your bill (10 percent service and 10 percent tax). You don’t have to tip for porters at hotels or wait staff unless you feel the service is exceptional.

At the airport, you could get through on your own but to make your life easier, I suggest paying a porter about 5000rp per bag and letting them help you through customs. Your trip will start off happier if you do. If you just want them to get your luggage to your transport, 2,000rp for small bags and 3,000rp for large bags is expected.

Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip but if they are helpful to you with luggage or with directions, a 1,000rp tip is appropriate. If you use a car-hire service, a 3,000rp tip is more appropriate. Be careful though. Some taxi drivers will claim they have no change in order to “encourage” you to give a tip. Don’t allow more than a 1,000rp markup.

Bali is the only island where tips are they expect to be tipped for all services. But even there, if you are not used to tipping or have run out of change, they will not snub you for not tipping.

MALAYSIA

Like its neighbors, tipping is not generally expected. However as in everywhere, if you have received particularly good service, a tip can go a long way the next time you see them. In the best establishments, a 10 percent service charge is added to both your meal and hotel room.

Partying in pubs/bars/clubs is a common evening pastime. You will find the better ones quite crowded and tips can go a long way towards your comfort for the evening. A tip of RM5 or RM10 can get you chair and better service from your waiter. This is a perfect example of “to insure promptness” or “to insure pleasure” as your incentive.

At five-star hotels, one or two ringgit will suffice for baggage handlers. At lower-end establishments, don’t feel compelled to tip

Taxis: Many taxis are now metered, so you can just round up to the nearest ringgit. In unmetered taxis, expect hard bargaining with your driver for the ride. Include your tip in your end of the bargain.

A couple of final "tips"...

  • Don’t tip on the tax. Add up your bill without tax and then figure your tip.
  • If you ordered wine through the suggestion of a wine steward or sommelier, add 10 percent of the cost of the bottle as a tip just for them. Don’t forget to give it to them directly if you have the cash or to mark it on the bill to go to them.
  • If you are entertaining friends or for business, try tipping before you start being served. Look at the menu, see if an automatic tip will be charged, figure out an additional per person tip based upon menu prices and give it to your waiter before you start ordering. I have done this several times in Europe and in South America and the service couldn’t have been better.
  • The hotel pool is a great place to offer small tips to the staff. You will probably get a better lounge location and maybe your desired “cold drink” will be brought to you quicker.
  • Housekeeping staff should be tipped the equivalent of $2-3 per person per night’s stay. I tip at the beginning of my stay so the housekeeper knows I appreciate a clean room.
  • TIP is supposed to mean “To Insure Promptness”. Sometimes giving it before might actually do that in the end.

Tipping Etiquette around the World: Europe Travel

According to all the dictionaries, tips are something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service. What we experience however is the expectation of a tip, whether or not the service has been exemplary. In the United States we are used to tipping in restaurants and taxi cabs. We tip for personal services such as deliveries,doormen, massages, manicures and hairdressing. If we live in a large city we generally tip between 15 and 20 percent. In smaller towns 10 percent is often the norm but 15 percent is especially appreciated. However, when we travel, the rules change and if we are not aware of them, our experiences may be less satisfying and more expensive than you needed to pay. Generally, if you do some research before you go, you will find your travelling spirit more confident.

Europe Travel

In Europe, tipping isn’t automatic or as generous as in the United States. In restaurants, 5- 10 percent is the norm but of course if someone was particularly attentive, you can give more. Check the restaurant bill. Often the gratuity (15 percent) is figured with the total and it will be stated at the bottom of the menu. A couple of extra Euros is appreciated if the service has been outstanding. In France gratuity is often not included (service non compris or s.n.c.), tip 5-10 percent by rounding up or leave the change from your bill

It’s best to hand the tip directly to the waiter rather than leaving it on the table, especially in busy restaurants. Especially In Austria,Belgium, Denmark,Iceland,Germany, Liechtenstein,Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway,Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, you should be discreet and well-mannered and say the total number of Euros you’d like the waiter to keep (including his tip) when paying. For instance, if the bill is €75, you hand him €100 while saying, “€85”. You will have €10 returned and he has his tip. If you are paying by credit card, the rule of thumb is to pay the tip in cash so you can be sure the wait person receives it. If the service is bad and you have the choice what to tip, it is considered poor manners not to tip something. 5 percent is the minimum. Be sure if it has been a really bad experience that you let the manager know the trouble discreetly, not bringing attention to yourself. Loud and boisterous is not looked upon well in restaurants and is often the catalyst for the “Ugly American” moniker.

For taxis in the US the standard is 15 percent but in Europe tip 10 percent or round up the fare and you should be alright. Tour guides expect something extra. At the time of booking your tour, ask the company if gratuities are additional. If they are, plan on a euro or two.

At hotels, a Euro or two per bag is generous for the porter. For the room maid, a couple of Euros at the end of your stay is appropriate if your room was kept clean. I have found that if you give the tip on the first day, the service you receive is friendlier the rest of your stay.

Hairdressers in France and Britain are generally tipped 15 percent. In Denmark and Sweden tips are not usual. When I gave a tip of the equivalent of $5 US to my shampoo attendant in Paris, she told me that she is often forgotten when it comes to tips, especially from foreigners. She said my gesture changed her thinking about Americans as being cheap. For the accepted standards where you are, the hotel concierge knows best what is considered apropos when it comes to personal attendants.

A couple of final "tips"...

  • Don’t tip on the tax. Add up your bill without tax and then figure your tip.
  • If you ordered wine through the suggestion of a wine steward or sommelier, add 10 percent of the cost of the bottle as a tip just for them. Don’t forget to give it to them directly if you have the cash or to mark it on the bill to go to them.
  • If you are entertaining friends or for business, try tipping before you start being served. Look at the menu, see if an automatic tip will be charged, figure out an additional per person tip based upon menu prices and give it to your waiter before you start ordering. I have done this several times in Europe and in South America and the service couldn’t have been better.
  • The hotel pool is a great place to offer small tips to the staff. You will probably get a better lounge location and maybe your desired “cold drink” will be brought to you quicker.
  • Housekeeping staff should be tipped the equivalent of $2-3 per person per night’s stay. I tip at the beginning of my stay so the housekeeper knows I appreciate a clean room.
  • TIP is supposed to mean “To Insure Promptness”. Sometimes giving it before might actually do that in the end.