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Expat 101: Tipping Culture in Thailand

Author : Vivian Lee (November 14, 2016)

To tip or not to tip, that is the question. Tipping can be challenging when you move to a new country, especially when you definitely don’t want to be that cheap person all the servers despise. Check out our personal tips (pun intended) on how the tipping culture works here in Thailand!

Rule# 1: There are no rules.

Tipping expectations differ depending on where you are at. Some fancier restaurants may already include service charge on your check and don’t really expect you to leave anything more. On the other hand, most smaller/local fast-dish places neither include service charge nor expect gratuities. As a rule of thumb, if the restaurant doesn’t use a receipt holder (that black folder thingy or its alternatives) and simply tells you your total when you ask for a check, it is safe to assume that no tips are expected.

For mid-sized restaurants that are neither fast-dish style nor fancy, Thais usually give a flat rate of 20-50 baht depending on the quality of service or the fanciness of the restaurant. If you have a large party, an average of 20 baht per person for your party should be acceptable. As opposed to American tipping culture, very rarely do Thais tip a percentage amount of their check.

Rule# 2: If you like someone in particular, tip that person directly.

As opposed to the States where each server is assigned their own “zone” to take care of, Thai servers usually help each other run the whole place. Notice that when you want to ask for something, you can usually just grab any servers’ attention for help without having to wait for a particular person. Because of this, tips left in the holder or on the table usually go the pool then equally divided among the servers. So if you are particularly impressed by someone’s service, tip them directly.

Rule# 3: Tip boxes are up to your own discretion.

Some restaurants may give you a receipt or table number and have you pay at the cashier station yourself. In these cases, tipping is totally up to your discretion. You will notice a tip box at the station and most of the times they aren’t exactly filled. Thais often put coins in the box just because they don’t want to deal with them. However, there are some that would put in a 20 if they are impressed with the service.

Rule# 4: Cash only.

Paying for meals with credit cards is rare in general unless you dine at a more expensive place. This is due to high transactions fee charged by banks, so most places will have a required minimum for credit cards. In the case where you do pay with cards, just remember that most places in Thailand have no function in which you write extra gratuity on to the check when you sign it. Thus, if you want to tip you will have to do so in cash.

Rule# 5: Taxis should always give you exact change, unless you tell them otherwise.

Understand that by law, taxi drivers are expected to give you exact change according to the meter. However, there are some that will try to round up to the nearest 10s and assume the extra money as tips. It is your right to ask for change, but most people usually don’t bother simply because they don’t have time to wait.

Regardless of these rules, remember that just like any other country, you are never forced to tip if you don’t want to. Tipping is a personal preference and it really differs for everyone. These rules are simply basic guidelines for those new to the city, curious how tipping culture works here. Of course you might encounter places that don’t apply to any of these, but trust your judgement and you will be just fine. Remember to always be nice and courteous no matter where you are, and you should be guaranteed a good service. 🙂

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