When to tip and how much to tip are common questions for many visitors to Thailand. I’ve listed a number of different scenarios with suggested advice on how much to tip, but really it’s a case of whatever you feel comfortable with. The old advice about leaving a tip of 10% of the charge is a reasonable benchmark in many instances. It’s worth bearing in mind that many workers in Thailand earn less than $6 a day (£3). That doesn’t mean you should feel guilty and leave everybody huge tips, but it does give some perspective.
As a rule, taxi drivers don’t expect tips so it’s up to you whether you want to leave one or not. Personally, I always feel more comfortable leaving a tip when the driver has been pleasant and courteous. For instance, if my fare is 250 Baht on the meter I would normally hand over 300 Baht and tell the driver to keep the change although a 20 or 30 Baht tip would also be reasonable. On the other hand, some taxi drivers (particularly in Bangkok) will try and get the passenger to negotiate a fare in advance rather than go on the meter. In effect, what they are doing is trying to bump up the fare and make a bit extra out of you. In cases like this I wouldn’t normally leave a tip.
There’s no need to tip tuk-tuk drivers, but if he’s particularly chatty or makes me laugh I will usually leave an extra 20 Baht. If he’s surly and abrupt I won’t.
A 20 Baht tip for the bell-boy or porter who carries your bags to your room is fairly standard. I also think it’s nice to leave a small tip for the room maid at the end of your stay. Hotel workers may only make 200 Baht a day or less and although they won’t always expect a tip it will be appreciated. Some guests leave a tip each day by placing small change on the pillow of their unmade bed.
Certain places will already include a service charge on the bill and there’s no need to leave a tip. For most moderate to expensive restaurants leaving a tip which equates to 10% of the total charge is quite common. For small roadside stalls and eateries there is no need to leave a tip, but rounding the amount up is not unusual. So if your roadside rice and chicken costs 35 Baht, hand over 40 Baht and don’t worry about the change.
Bars and clubs
The price of drinks in Thailand is cheap compared to the West and the service is usually far better too. These two factors alone should be good enough reason to leave a tip.
The one baht insult
Leaving one Baht as a tip can be viewed as a deliberate insult and is best avoided.