Slowly, I’ve evolved to be more of a tipper (as I was in America, which I’m proud of).
Getting decent service is the standard in the south of Vietnam. And, generally, Southern Vietnamese are quite helpful and friendly (I have… other thoughts… about the few Hanoi residents I’ve met). If you encounter a situation where you have messy or outright terrible service, I trust you’ll recognize that and tip accordingly (0.00 USD).
So what’s the best way to approach service situations?
The service I receive from staff in cafes and restaurants in the big cities is usually great. You don’t have to have a problem for them to solve to leave a deserved tip, though. Simply being welcomed with a smile, despite their certainty you don’t speak a lick of Vietnamese, is a nice gesture – as is having a perpetually full glass of iced tea. If they’re inclined to make conversation, so much the better! (Usually!) And if you can speak a little Vietnamese AND tip a buck? These are the things international understandings are made of.
|This is = ~$5. It’s a lot of money here.|
The bottom line is that you can make someone’s DAY with a single USD… or less. If you think 10% of your bill is too much, just think about this example:
- 1 coffee 30k VND
- 1 banh mi op la 45k VND
Total: 75k VND. 10% Tip: 7.5k VND = .35 cents USD
TRULY, this is ridiculously cheap for good service, especially if you stay for a longer time.
(It should be pointed out that in certain retail/restaurant cases, VAT applies (or maybe does but then is refunded)… but I’ll get into that in another post soon, because it’s weird. Thanks, French!)
My standard practices is to just let go of the percentage method, and focus on the quality of the experience you’ve had. It’s all about you, anyway, so let them know you appreciate the attention!
Check out my new, improved tipping guidelines:
Anything from 20k-100k (although if you’re in a spa, they may ask for more, as masseuses can depend quite heavily on tips to augment their anemic wages). On the other hand, my barber never asks for a tip, but getting my hair did is such a chore for me that I want to make a good name for myself there. (Really, there’s just a standard ‘White Guy’ haircut that I’m getting without having to ask – as if I could – …but just in case things go pear-shaped in the barber seat someday, I’ll have a little bit of good karma.)
Either leave them the change from your bill, or 15-30k.
Were they friendly? Talkative? Helpful? Sure, go ahead, 10-20k or the rest of the change. But I never, ever tip if they ask for it… that’s just rude, and they know it. Also, stick to VinaSun and Mai Linh taxi companies – these guys are professionals and will rarely be assholes (I say, having encountered a seriously grouchy Vinasun driver just last week who proceeded to ask for a tip).
|Sorry, I don’t tip on food from food stands. Or food that costs less than a buck.|
If it’s fancy and service was exceptional, 15% or up to 40-60k.
If it’s street food I do not tip, since it’s essentially just a kitchen to go with no service aspect to it.
The thing I have to remind myself about tour operators is that they essentially never get a break, even for national holidays. These young people are working extremely hard, for little pay, far from their homes and family for the vast majority of the year – if they’re good at their job, 50-100k/day is very welcome.
If you’re in a hotel and it’s not a cockroach-infested nightmare, thank your maids. These people are (usually) dedicated workers that are both invisible and necessary, and often friendly. 20k/day is a good way to indicate your appreciation and that the positive attitude continues.
These are my simple, personal guidelines to tipping in Vietnam. Return kindness and good service with a kindness that really means a lot.
The bottom line is that you are an ambassador for your nationality, and probably relatively wealthy (take a look at the cost of living if you don’t believe me). You don’t have to tip because you feel bad, but if you receive excellent service and still don’t tip, well, that’s sad. By tipping just a small bit, you can engender goodwill for yourself and your fellow countrypeople as well as making yourself feel really good – because you’ve done something really good for someone that almost certainly needs it.
In the end, tipping is it’s own reward. It might not be a lot of money for you (an average tip: 15k-30k = .75-1.50 USD) but it can make a difference in someone’s personal or family life.
Vietnamese will hustle for you, and they’re proud of the experiences you’ll have in their country. So go ahead… when you’re happy, make it rain!
If you’re looking for a few more mini tips for getting around Vietnam: