Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia and shares borders with China, Laos, and Combodia. Over the years, the country has attracted travellers, visitor and expats in large numbers. Vietnam has had a history of foreign occupation and warfare, and the nation still bears visible signs of this. However, expats will find that Vietnamese society is hospitable and the local people are warm and welcoming towards foreigners.
Tipping culture in Vietnam
The custom of tipping varies widely between countries, but it is usually the standard of service that determines tips. Foreigners are often confused about the tipping culture in Vietnam. The practice of tipping was not common at all in Vietnam, until the waves of tourism brought with it many western influences, including the concept of tipping. Today, although tips are not expected, they are much appreciated. Tipping is especially common in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and certain other major cities. Most workers in Vietnam earn low wages, and tips are their only way of making extra money. Vietnam’s official currency is the Vietnam Dong, but US dollars are accepted at most places, and can also be used for tips.
Expats may have to exercise some sensitivity when it comes to tipping, because the Vietnamese are a people with great pride and there may be rare cases where tipping can cause offence.
Many of the upscale hotels and eateries include a service charge in the bills, and this could be anywhere between 5 and 10 percent. However, this amount rarely reaches the service staff. If the managementdoes send some of it their way, it’s most likely to be a meagre amount. An extra tip of 100,000VN?/person is customary when the service has been outstanding. This amount usually applies to higher priced services.
Sampling Vietnamese street food is something all expats are bound to do during their stay. In fact, some of the most delicious food in the country can be found at street stalls. It is not customary to tip at street food stops, but you can still leave a tip if you receive excellent service. This would generally be a tip of about 20,000 VN?.
As an expat, you may need to stay at hotels in either during your initial days in the country or while travelling around it later. When it comes to tipping at hotels, the level of service is the determining factor. If you’re not particularly happy with the service, you are not obligated to leave a tip at all. But in other cases, leaving a couple of dollars for good housekeeping service is appropriate. You can also give the bellman a dollar for each bag he carries. If you have been satisfied with the overall service at the hotel, you can leave a small amount at the desk before you check out.
You are not required to tip taxi drivers in Vietnam, and so your driver will not be offended if you don’t leave a tip. However, many foreigners do decide to round off the total amount and request the driver to keep the change, if they feel that the driver was particularly helpful or efficient.
Bar staff are generally paid very little and make up their wages with tips, so if you get good service, tip by rounding up your bill – again, 15,000-30,000VND is reasonable.
Spa services in Vietnam are not as expensive as they are in western countries. This actually makes it confusing for foreigners who don’t know whether to tip or not in such situations. The common custom is to leave just a few dollars at the less expensive spas. The more upscale ones will most likely include the 5 to 10 percent service charge in their bills, which essentially covers your tip. But here too, if you feel your refreshing spa experience deserves a small reward, go ahead and leave an extra tip!
If you’re on a tour with a guide & driver, and you feel they’ve really done a good job of making your trip memorable, then a tip of $10 per day (total) is reasonable. Tips probably account for 60% of their earnings and they have a hard job, being away from home for long periods of time. However, if the service is indifferent or unremarkable, or if they openly ask for tips, give them nothing.
In all the above cases, you should only reward good service. Tipping for poor or indifferent service provides staff with little motivation to improve the way they treat customers. If the message that great service = big tips starts to get across, the country’s currently poor standards of service will hopefully improve, and more tourists will come back for repeat visits. However, if the message is foreigners are going to tip me whatever I do, things will not improve and Vietnam will continue to have a reputation for offering poor service. So, please tip with care and only when it’s deserved!