Tipping in Sapa is by no means mandatory or even, at times, expected. However, you’ll find absolutely outstanding service in Vietnam and tipping is a nice way to say “thanks”. Here’s your guide for how and how much to tip in Vietnam.
Tipping is still a relatively new concept in Vietnam’s growing economy. However, in major tourist destinations and the big cities, it is quickly becoming the norm. Service in Vietnam tends to be exceptional, and if you receive great service, a tip is highly appreciated and valued.
This is partly because wages in Vietnam tend to be very low, even when compared with the low cost of living. A recent survey suggests that an average worker’s minimum monthly costs are VND 6.5 million ($280), which is more than their basic average salary of only VND 4.6 million ($198).
This means many workers do overtime or don’t take days off. Leaving a tip, even as little as $1, can make a big difference in a service worker’s day.
So if you want to be able to tip appropriately in Vietnam, read on for our guide to…
Tipping in Sapa – Who to Tip, How to Tip, and How Much to Give
UNDERSTANDING VIETNAMESE CURRENCY
The Vietnamese Dong (VND) can be confusing for tourists because there are just so many zeros involved.
The exchange rate is around 23,000 VND to 1 USD.
That means that a bottle of water will cost around 10,000 VND (less than 50 cents), and an average meal costs around 50,000 VND ($2). You will always need to pay in the local currency but we’ve heard that US dollars are being used as tips in some of the major centres. However, to show respect to the locals, please don’t throw around US dollars — stick with the local currency.
Just make sure to keep your zeros straight, or you could end up leaving an insultingly low tip or a huge tip that makes your tipee’s whole month!
ETIQUETTE FOR TIPPING IN VIETNAM
Depending on the service, tipping etiquette can vary.
Check out our tipping tips below for the most common range of tourist services.
Tipping in Restaurants
Vietnamese food is usually made with fresh food bought from the market that morning. Each dish is supposed to balance the five flavours (sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, and salty), include five colours (red, green, yellow, white, and black) and should stimulate your five senses (hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste). This complex foundation is what makes Vietnamese food so incredibly delicious.
There are a huge range of restaurants and eateries in Vietnam, from basic street stalls to upscale restaurants. As a typical tourists, you’ll probably eat mostly in open-air family owned restaurants, or small tourist-oriented restaurants with air conditioning.
We encourage you to branch out in both directions: experience Vietnam’s incredible street food and also treat yourself to at least one fancy meal in a restaurant where locals go to splash out.
Tipping etiquette in Vietnam varies depending on what type of restaurant you visit.
Tip around 10%
Upscale restaurants may add a 5–10% tip onto your bill automatically.
Sadly, this money often just goes to the owners and the servers don’t see a penny of it. So, if you enjoyed your experience, tip your waiter or waitress about 10% of the total bill. Hand the money directly to the person you want to tip — don’t leave it on the table.
No tip expected. Leave your change or tip 10%
In mid-range restaurants and cafes, which are often family owned and operated, a tip is generally not expected. You will often be served by several different people and will pay your bill at a counter where the owner sits to collect the money.
However, if you have a server who has gone the extra mile, handing a tip directly to them as you leave will always be appreciated. Make sure to thank them and compliment their service as you give them the tip, so they know why you’re handing them money.
It’s also a nice touch to tell the owner or the person who collects your money if you loved the service, the food, or something else about the restaurant.
No tip expected
Vietnam is street food heaven, especially for adventurous omnivores! You can try most of the country’s most famous dishes on the street at local prices. Full meals can cost less than a dollar.
Usually, you won’t tip for street food. If you try to tip, the vendor might even give the money back, thinking you made a mistake. However, if you really want to show your appreciation, pay an extra 10,000 or 20,000 VND and indicate that they should keep the change.
Tipping in Vietnam in Hotels
In high-end hotels only, tips vary depending on the service
No matter what your budget, from backpacker to luxury, Vietnamese hotels tend to be spotlessly clean and staffed by exceptionally helpful and friendly people. There is fierce competition among hotel owners in the country, so prices tend to be low and quality high.
You can get a bed in a hostel for as little as $3 per night, or you can spend $300 per night for a luxury room at a resort. There is plenty in-between. We usually spend less than $20 per night in Vietnam for a private room in a family-owned hotel.
Tipping is only expected in boutique and luxury hotels in Vietnam, though you should feel free to leave a tip anywhere you stay if the service has been great.
Follow these guidelines for tipping in hotels in Vietnam.
- Porters. Tip around $1 for a porter who carries your bag to your room. Increase this amount if you’re staying in a very expensive hotel.
- Maids/cleaners. If your room is kept spotless, leave around $1 per day at the end of your stay. You can leave the tip on a table in your room. Again, if your hotel is very expensive, increase this amount accordingly.
- Reception/concierge. Hotel staff in Vietnam will go far out of their way to help you with any number of special requests. If you’ve received great service for an unusual request, feel free to tip a few dollars to the person who helped you.
Tipping in Taxis
No tips expected
Though tuk tuks are common in much of Southeast Asia, in Vietnam, you’re more likely to ride in cars or on motorbikes.
In the cities especially, taxi scams used to be quite common, with drivers not using the meter and demanding outrageous fees for their services. However, these days, with the rise of taxi-hailing apps, these scammers have found themselves being pushed out of business.
Still, in Vietnam, if we have to flag a taxi on the street, we try to get a VinaSun or MaiLinh taxi, which are the most reliable and can be trusted to use the meter. Usually, though, we use Grab to hail a car or a motorbike.
Taxis and motorbikes are an extremely cheap way to get around — you can ride across Ho Chi Minh City on a Grab Bike for less than a dollar. Tipping is not expected, but make sure to carry small bills, so you can pay without the driver needing to scramble around for change (or pretend he doesn’t have any).
We usually round up to the nearest 10–20,000 VND, so the driver gets a small tip and can hang onto his change.
Tipping Tour Guides in Vietnam
10–15% of the tour cost
From short street food tours , to all-day bicycle tours, and multi-day adventures, there is an endless range of tours in Vietnam. Tours can help you gain a deeper understanding of the culture and take you to spots that you would never discover on your own.
In general, tour guides in Vietnam receive low wages and rely on tips to round out their salary and help pay the bills. Being a tour guide is an “always on” job, too. Guides spend all day pouring their energy into the happiness of the group. Because of that, we encourage you to tip your guide!
Depending on the length and cost of the tour, tip your guide 10–15%. If there is a driver in addition to the guide, you should also give him a 5–10%, as he will be earning far less than the guide. Hand the tip discreetly to each person individually at the end of your tour.
Tipping in Vietnam at Spas & Salons
15% for good service
In Vietnam, there are a wide range of spas to choose from. On the high end, you can get world class treatments in many styles. But we recommend you try and find a traditional Vietnamese massage, which is an experience you will never forget.
At high-end spas in expensive resorts, a gratuity is sometimes included in the bill. These tips are not necessarily passed on to the service workers, so it’s best to hand them a tip directly at the end of the treatment.
Service providers in luxury spas are usually very good at what they do and sometimes speak perfect English as well.
In an inexpensive Vietnamese spa, the women working usually come from poor homes, don’t speak English, and have limited opportunities. They get paid very little and rely on tips to help them survive.
For any kind of spa, tip 15–20% of the total bill.
Should You Tip Your Hairdresser in Vietnam?
10–15% or round up the bill
I’ve had both the best and the worst haircuts in my life in Vietnam.
In one salon in Hanoi, I’m sure the woman cutting may hair had never held a pair of scissors before. But then, there’s a salon in Ho Chi Minh City where the owner is a master cutter — and the cost is $5.
In our experience, hairdressers don’t usually expect a tip in Vietnam. However, when we go to our favourite Ho Chi Minh City salons, we make sure to tip 10–15% of the bill.
Make sure you bring change, so you can hand the tip directly to the person who cut your hair.
A FINAL NOTE ABOUT TIPPING IN VIETNAM
Vietnam is not a tipping culture, and you’ll rarely find a service-provider with their hand out waiting for a gratuity like you do in some other countries. However, the service culture in Vietnam is exceptional. People will bend over backwards to give you the best possible experience at their business.
Most service industry workers are paid very little and the bosses get the majority of any money you pay for a service, so it’s always nice to tip when it is deserved. A dollar or two extra might seem like nothing to you but it can make a big difference for the person who receives it.
We hope this guide to tipping in Vietnam is useful for you. We’ve spent a lot of time in the country and absolutely love it there. So if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch and we’ll try to help you out.