May 28, 2016
While the Land of Smiles is one of the most welcoming of Asian countries, for those new to its shores the experiences of tipping is fraught with the unknown.
Most of the Western World is accustomed to leaving a tip dependent on the quality of the service, but here in Thailand tipping is NOT customary, that said the years of tourism has left far too many Thai’s in the service industry believing that it is the right to be tipped whether or not they have gone that extra mile in the level of service they provide.
One thing is for sure you will never see a Thai service provider with his hand out waiting for a tip.
For those new to the Kingdom here is a simple guide to the Art of Tipping and while it is based on what the Thai people consider fair it should keep visitors the right side of being seen as a “khee niao” or ‘Cheap Charlie’.
Restaurants & Street Vendors
Street vendors are without doubt the most common providers of food in the Kingdom and can be found every-where, from the beaches in the deep south to the highest mountains of the North (do not be surprised if you thing you have found the most secluded of spots in the country only to find a hawker is already in situ). Most meals run at about 30-40 baht ($1 – $1.33) per dish, it’s pretty uncommon for Thai people to leave a tip unless it’s simply too much hard work picking up the few satang from the change.
In the middle band of restaurants, (around the $2-10), it is customary for most Thai’s to leave 20 baht (66 cents), regardless of how much the bill is. So much so that waiting staff are genuinely surprised if they are left any more than this. Many rural Thai people simply don’t tip at all.
It is when Thai people splash out on the better Restaurants that you see the most tipping, normally around 10% of the bill/bin. This in part comes down to the ‘Face’ thing in Asia which is all consuming, see more about “losing face” or “saving face”
In the high-end establishments, a 10% charge is already added to the bill (Thai call them bins) and so, in that regard, you have little choice.
Tipping in most bars is the norm for most Thai people, but is rarely more than 20 baht (any more than this certainly does bring a smile to those serving). This is even the case when most bars and clubs in the Kingdom provide their patrons with running bar bills (bins) to which additional drinks are added and which is only settled just before you leave.
All public taxi rates are metered, and both Thais and ex-pats commonly round up the fare (i.e. 61 baht fare rounded up to 70 baht)
Tipping in hotels is not expected, but again is always appreciated, for instance 20 baht for the porter that carried your bags up to your room, or 20 baht left for the cleaner makes all the difference, especially as both set of workers are probably on the minimum daily wage of 300 or just US $9 (this is to be scrapped in 2016, when wages revert to the former system, where minimum wages across Thailand were set depending on the cost of living and the economy of each province, the national average wage on this old system was far less).
Beauty and massage parlors
Smaller beauty parlors are normally run by a family unit and so any tip is welcome but not normally paid by Thai’s, while Massage ladies commonly get a more substantial tip of 100 baht simply due to the fact that they get only a pittance out of what you pay the house, and often wait around all day for a customer.