If you live in the west, you know that tipping is a must. No matter what kind of service you pay for, you always give extra to show your appreciation. But does this culture apply to Thailand too? Do Thai people expect tips?
Tipping is foreign in Thailand. Nobody expected to be tipped for their service until recently — and the expectation is still low. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t. If you love the service, feel free to pay extra. Tipping is more of a way to express gratitude rather than an obligation.
But of course, there is much more to tipping than just a matter of can and can’t. Read on and learn more about the Thai tipping culture and how to approach it.
Is tipping customary in Thailand?
Short answer: NO.
As mentioned, tipping is a foreign concept for Thai people. Before the boom of international tourism, Thai people never paid more than what appeared on the price tag. And it is still relatively true to this day.
You rarely spot a Thai person leaving change on the table in a restaurant for the waiter. Much less in a hotel room for the staff.
None of the waiters or staff would complain if you don’t tip them in this country. They are used to the “no tip” custom of the locals. Tipping, on the other hand, is considered uncommon and appreciated with big smiles.
It isn’t customary, but is it expected?
The answer would be “no” if this is the 19th century. However, in 2023, it has changed to “kind of.”
Tipping has become more well-known in tourist-focused businesses like hotels, massage parlors, and even restaurants. The industry realizes this custom is normalized in the western world. So, the staff would sometimes hope that you, a foreigner, would pay them extra.
On the other hand, Thai businesses have zero expectations for tips when their clients or customers are Thai. As mentioned, tips are foreign in This country. So, the hopes and dreams don’t fall on the locals’ shoulders.
This might sound like Thai people have double standards. And that is relatively true. After all, they can’t force the locals to start tipping after centuries of paying none. But they can make it understandable for those who are already familiar with the custom. They know that you are willing to pay… right?
But does this mean you must tip? The answer is still no.
You only tip when you feel like showing your appreciation for the service or think the staff deserves more than what appears on the receipt. Another occasion is when you feel like bragging about your wealth (like on a date or something similar).
Why is zero-tip okay in Thailand?
Many cultures in the world have no rationale to back it up. After all, customs are made up. They’re just what people do to live together. However, you can still try to give reasons to make sense of what’s going on.
The psychology of non-tipping in Thailand is best shown in a restaurant context.
Most restaurants in Thailand set their price based on the cost of ingredients, gas, electricity & water, staff salaries, and much more.
Basically, every dish has been calculated to be worth it for the business owner and all the staff involved. So, even if you don’t tip, everyone usually gets what they want.
Moreover, some restaurants even show the “service charge” in the bill. The food price doesn’t apply to the staff’s salary. Hence the extra charge for the waiter, cooks, and others.
You can look at this service charge as an obligatory tip. And it’s much more convenient since you don’t have to figure out how much is appropriate. The restaurant has done that for you.
This tipping logic applies to hotels, massage parlors, and other businesses. The owner has already calculated everything. You never have to take this responsibility for yourself.
Of course, the “no tip” custom also connects with the locals’ perspective on pricing. Most Thai see the price tag as final. If you want your customer to pay more, show it in the first place.
When and where should you tip in Thailand
When to tip?
As discussed earlier, Only tip when you really like the service. This could be every time, sometimes, and even never.
However, most services in Thailand are relatively cheap — especially for citizens of western countries where currency value is vastly higher. So, if your mind whispers, “this waiter deserves more than just 10% of the food price,” feel free to tip. It will always be appreciated.
Nevertheless, tips can be more cherished depending on the business type too. And the following list will help you decide.
Where to tip?
Tip expectation: low.
As explained, most restaurants have already calculated everything. So, you never need to tip.
Tip expectation: Moderate
There are many types of hotels, from low-budget to 5-star grand.
Most hotels would be fine without you tipping. However, if you stay at a higher-end place (more than 2,000 baht/night), the staff’s expectations would be higher. After all, these places are more exposed to foreigners who often tip.
So, it will be nice for you to tip. But it’s still not necessary since the price of the room and other services are already high.
#3 Taxi and other transportation.
Tip expectation: low – moderate.
You don’t have to worry much about tipping for transportation like taxis, buses, and vans. Their pricing is widely considered high for the locals.
However, if you use an online transportation app like Grab, you might want to pay extra.
After all, these drivers usually don’t drive full-time. They only do it to boost their income and keep up with their expenses. And besides, these apps’ rates are mostly lower than traditional taxis (after deducting the service charge). So, giving them extra is more appreciated.
#4 Food delivery
Tip expectation: High
In the pre-Covid world, food delivery is considered just another service job. So, only a few people tip these delivery men.
After Covid-19, however, Thai people appreciate food delivery services more than ever. These delivery men — often called “drivers” — risk their health by going outside for you. So, tips are encouraged.
Tip expectation: High
Most bar-goers in Thailand are well-to-do people. This means they usually tip since they have much more to spend and to show off their thick pocket.
Besides, most alcohol-focused places intentionally pay their staff low wages because they know that the customers would tip. And on a side note, many bars target foreign tourists. So, they aim for tips from the start.
In short, please tip the waiters or bartenders in these businesses.
#6 Tour guide
Tip expectation: low – moderate.
Most tour guides usually charge high (for Thai people). So, you don’t have to tip.
However, some tour guides love to go over the top with their services. In the restaurant, they sometimes serve your table themselves instead of letting the staff do their job. Of course, these extra efforts target tips from the start.
So, you can reward them with tips.
#7 Massage Parlor
Tip expectation: High
Many massages in Thailand can be considered cheap by international standards (e.g. 100 baht for 3 hours).
So, if you feel comfortable after a massage session, you should tip the staff. Most massage experts are underpaid for their mastery. They will appreciate your tip much more than any other business.
How much should you tip?
In Thailand, any amount works.
As mentioned many times, Thai people rarely tip. So whenever someone does, it will be appreciated — even with a tiny 5 baht. The higher the tip, the happier the receiver will be.
However, there is a caveat on high tips as well.
Can you tip too much?
Yes, you can. No matter how much you like the service, you shouldn’t tip more than the price tag.
Why? It’s just too much to receive. The Thai have a “Mai pen rai” mindset (or it’s okay mindset), preventing people from forcing burdens on others.
Tipping too much can be seen as a burden on the payer. So, most Thai people who can communicate in English would say “you don’t have to do that. It’s okay.”
Some businesses, whether it’s restaurants or massage parlors, can be prideful in their craft and art. Tipping can be considered a way you look down on them. So, you can ask if tips are appropriate before paying.
So, not tipping is okay, right?
In conclusion, it’s alright not to tip a single baht in Thailand. However, leaving the change is encouraged. After all, most people would appreciate the extra cash, especially those working in bars and massage parlors.
In the end, the decision to pay extra or leave not is yours. Obligatory tipping in this country doesn’t exist (except for the occasional service charge).
Like always, if you want to learn more about Thailand, stay with ThaiGuider. You might discover something you never knew about this unique country.