Tips Tips

Knowing how much to tip and even if it is appropriate is a dilemma that both tourists and ex-pats experience. Certainly some things are cut and dry but there are so may unanswered questions. This page will cover massage, restaurants, taxis, Tuk Tuks, hotels, and most certainly bars.

First understand the practice of tipping is a western custom and not a Thai custom, however if it means money coming in the Thais will and did adapt quickly. Tips are and should be directly tied to quality of service. If the service is good then you can tip. If the service is terrible or non existent then just tip a minimal amount. By under tipping it sends a powerful message that you are unhappy with the service, it is that simple.

Thais that speak English simply tend to make more money because they are more valuable employees simply because English is the language of commerce. They should at least know the work related words such as menu items or services in English. Today all Thais have the opportunity to learn English in school. If they decided not to bother learning English and then they are trying to work where English is necessary, you consider your tip carefully. Being able to communicate with customers is part of customer service. Remember it was their choice on Learning or not learning English.

To help understand how much to tip it is best to know what the wages are for each type of work. Thailand has generally low wages when you compare them to other countries. That is why Thailand is rapidly growing to be the destination of choice for elective surgeries. Why pay $6000.00 + for breast augmentation in the USA when you can have it done in Thailand for often under $2000.00. Even if you factor in the price of airfare it is cheaper to do surgery in Thailand. The savings is directly related to wages paid to the Thais.

Below are some sample monthly base wage ranges paid in Bangkok.

Keep in mind the wages are less in other parts of Thailand. Commissions are not included.

Sales associate small store or department store4,500 – 9,000 baht
Restaurants3,000 – 8,000 baht
Police6,300 baht
Hotels4,000 – 9,000 baht

Below are average monthly wages in Thailand for 2005

Agriculture, hunting and forestry3,019 baht
Fishing2,068 baht
Mining and quarrying7,646 baht
Manufacturing6,420 baht
Electricity, gas and water supply17,841 baht
Construction4,706 baht
Wholesale and retail trade, repair business6,760 baht
Hotels and restaurant5,680 baht
Transport, storage and communication11,752 baht
Financial intermediation19,325 baht
Real estate, renting and business activities9,571 baht
Public administration and defense11,375 baht
Education14,883 baht
Health and social work10,804 baht
Other community and social work6,311 baht
Private households with employed persons4,068 baht
Extra-territorial organizations and bodies5,753 baht

Dangers of Over Tipping

The value of a tip compared to US dollars is a 20 baht tip to a Thai is roughly the equivalent of $4.00 – $6.00 to someone living in the USA. It all depends how thrifty one is as how far they can make 20 baht go. Over tipping has caused the Thais to raise their prices thinking that they were pricing too low. There is already a significant double standard in prices in Thailand for Thais and non Thais. Over tipping simply causes that gap to widen. Tourist from Japan grossly over tip in bars and as a result the Thai entertainment venues and restaurants that cater to Japanese have compensated by raising some prices to be in line with Japanese incomes.

Restaurants

The first thing to do is take note if the restaurant has a service charge on the bill. If they do then they have already deducted the tip. Do not confuse the service charge with VAT tax. This practice is more commonly found in restaurants in and around the more expensive hotels. However if you do decide to tip 10 to 20 baht is usually enough as you are tipping for service. If you want the tip to go directly to the waitress/waiter then you must put it in their hand and not on the tray. If you put it on the tray then it more than likely goes into a pool that will be split evenly among all the service staff. Tipping is not required for street vendor type eating, the Thais don’t tip so neither should you. This is because it is a family type business and they get all the money anyway.

Taxies

Taxies run by the meter or a flat rate to a more distant destination. If it is a flat rate then that is all you should pay. If it is a meter then rounding up to the next 5 or 10 is fine. Example if the meter is 71 baht to 74 baht then paying 75 baht is fine. Some taxies may even only charge you 70 if the meter is 71.

Tuk Tuk

This fare is negotiated so pay what you negotiate. Don’t be afraid to negotiate to about 75% of what the driver offers for first quote. Example if the driver quotes 100 baht then negotiate to about 75 baht and you should be in the correct price range. If the Tuk Tuk is making flat rate runs up and down a soi then pay what is asked. Tuk Tuk fares tend to be a bit higher than taxies but the drivers buy and maintain their own Tuk Tuk so the cost difference is justified. A Tuk Tuk is a short distance type of taxi in most cases less than 3 km. Fares over 100 baht should be questioned. A 3 km fare in a regular taxi by meter without traffic delays is about 40 baht. The key word here is delays. Depending on the time of day particularly during afternoon rush hour the fares may be higher or some may even refuse to go because of the heavy traffic.

Massage

Thai foot massages range from about 140 baht in the Thai areas of town to a ridiculous 500 baht in some hotels. The going rate for most places is between 200 and 250 baht. The person working on you gets half the take and the remainder goes to the house. You also need to consider the money earned depends on the number of customers. In the Thai areas the Thais may tip 20 baht for a foot massage. Typically tipping 40 to 60 baht is a good range for a foot massage.

Thai massages range from 300 to 700 for a two hour massage. The person working on you gets half the take and the remainder goes to the house. Here you need to use your best judgment on the skill of the person working on you and not how cute she is. The idea behind a Thai massage is to remove the knots and kinks and not put them in. Considering it may be wonderful for you, the person working on you is having a bit of a workout. Tipping between 100 and 150 baht is a very generous tip. If happy endings are offered then the tip is negotiated.

Oil massages typically require the least amount of skill and also often provides a more intimate contact. The person working on you gets half the take and the remainder goes to the house. Typically a tip of 40 to 60 baht is good unless happy endings are involved. As for happy endings the tip is negotiated.

Bars

Going to a bar depending on the type of venue you will find a variety of tips. In a gogo bar if you buy a dancer or service staff a lady drink they make money on it. If the girl asks for a tip after you buy her a drink you can simply state her tip was in the lady drink. Placing a tip on the tray goes to the service staff, so remember to take care of both. A tip of 10 baht would be the minimum for good service but certainly not over 100 baht. If the service was very bad then simply don’t tip and tell them that’s why you did not tip. Hopefully the service will improve based on that. If you want the tip to go directly to a particular member of the service staff you must put it in her hand and not on the tray. Placing it on the tray will split the tip between all service staff. Many service staff only make about 4,000 baht per month so don’t be afraid to be generous to them. As a general rule 20 baht in Bangkok, 15 baht in Pattaya and other resort type locations, and 10 baht up country or in Thai areas would be the average tip.

Hotels

In hotels it is not necessary to tip however it is your own choice. If you have a lot of heavy bags. then a 10 to 20 bat tip for the bellboy is more than enough. Consider that it is his job to help you, and for a hotel of 300 rooms he may make 500 to 1000 baht in tips per day.

Keeping your tips in line with the local economy is very important. Even if you feel your tip is small by your home country standards, it is correct for Thailand. Over tipping causes greed and will take some of the charm out of Thailand.

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6 Responses to “Tips Tips”

  1. Regarding tipping in restaurants associated with high-class hotels: the 10% service charge often does not go to the server staff at all. In one restaurant associated with a well-known international hotel found near the Nana area, we suspect the 10% is being used to pay the rent to the hotel, which we figure to be 10% of gross receipts. I generally ask my server if he or she is getting the 10% (or a portion of it). If not, I give a tip directly to the server, and don’t eat at the establishment again.

  2. Hello Geoff, thanks for your comments. This is a good point that you have raised here. I have noticed this “government tax” and “service charge” creeping in more and more establishments. It will get really ridiculous when a lady of the night hands you a bill that says, “service charge and government tax included.”

  3. David Peters says:

    I can confirm what Geoff Alexander said in his post. My Thai finacee works in a restaurant not far from the “well-known international hotel found near the Nana area” he mentions. They also charge a 10% service charge in addition to VAT. The waitresses do not see any of it, but the customers don’t know this; the customers think they have already tipped the waitresses with the service charge but that’s not the case. In her workplace, cash tips on the change plate go into a bottle to be divided up among staff at the end of the evening; tips handed directly to the waitresses are kept by them individually.

    I think the 10% service charge is a con that’s robbing lots of hardworking wait staff of hard earned tips.

  4. Thanks David, again an excellent point that you are making here. Nowadays we have to be careful of “multiple tipping” and not being aware until it is too late. Yes guys, I do agree that when you add up the VAT, 10%service charge and then the staff tip in addition, that is a considerable amount.

  5. Here’s something I published nearly 7 years ago. It’s strange that in all that time, the tip amounts, at least in the Angeles City/Subic area have not increased significantly.

    Mo’s Guide to Tipping
    By: Mo
    Thursday, 14 September 2000

    If my memory is correct, TIP stands for To Insure Promptness, but has evolved to a slightly different level. What to tip? It’s really up to you. My thinking is that no matter how much (or little) you leave you will not spoil the market. Much has been said here about the foolishness of over tipping, but I don’t see it. There are customers that leave far too much for what they receive and, conversely, there are many times when a customer is very well treated and empties the tray. Go figure? Anyway, the staff are used to both.

    You won’t be seen as a “Cheap Charlie” nor will you be treated any worse if you are a conservative tipper. But, for sure, the guys who leave larger tips get more attention. Here’s what I think about specifics:

    – Bar girls in the morning. – Entirely up to you. The conventional wisdom on the esteemed forum runs from P0 to trike fare to P1,000 – and more. You decide. If services were good reward them accordingly.

    – Waitress in the bar after buying myself a drink. – Tip according to the quality of service. If she was attentive and made sure your glass was full when you needed another, brought you a companion, emptied the ashtray, etc. P20 – 30 is not unreasonable. If you had only 1 drink and decided to wander on, the loose change if fine.

    – Mamasan in the bar. – Nothing. Buy her a drink if she was helpful.

    – Waitress in the restaurant. – Ditto waitresses in the bar.

    – Trike. – Nothing. Negotiate the fare before leaving and that’s the fare. Anyway, the trike fares up here are so out of line with what they should be, there’s no reason to give them more.

    – Cleaning maid in the hotel. – A small gift. Perhaps an imported chocolate bar or a small bottle of perfume (you can buy copy designer purse sized spray perfume for P150 and it’s pretty damn good). If not, P10 for each day’s stay. Again, it depends on the service. Was the room properly made up, were there always clean towels and a new bar of soap? Did you require any additional services (like making up the room twice)?

    – Doorman in the hotel. – Not much. If he flags a trike for you, carries your parcels, does the odd errand, P10 is sufficient.

    – Waitress whom bring you food to your room. – P10 to P20 depending on the amount of the order.

    Again, there is no hard and fast rule. Pay for services rendered.

  6. Thanks for contributing Mo, I am sure that quite a lot of guys will appreciate your input as a bar owner in Angeles City. I hope the guys on http://www.ClubHombre.com notice that you are posting here.

    What I will say is that Angeles City is no doubt a very different place to Bangkok. The Thais have been spoilt by decades of Western visitors, which dates back to the American GI’s during the Vietnam War. That is over 40 years worth of getting spoiled and pampered by Westerners! A Thais expectations are much higher these days in Bangkok, so tipping is something of a big deal. During staff disputes over the tips, we almost had a HUGE fight erupt in Hollywood Strip some years back. In some Thais eyes if they steal from the Boss that is accepted, but to steal from the staff tips would be a declaration of war!

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