Depending on how long you have been in Thailand and what nationality you are has a great deal to do with whether you tip or not.
For many people, tipping in Thailand is a subject fraught with confusion and disagreement as, on the whole, tipping for good service isn’t a big part of Thai culture.
But, if you will be spending some time in Thailand and want to at least make an attempt to tip correctly, here is what you need to know before you venture out.
Tipping in Restaurants in Thailand – In inexpensive restaurants and at food stalls where food is 30-40 baht ($1 – $1.33) per plate, it is uncommon to tip in Thailand. Just pay for your food and leave. Occasionally, a Thai will leave small change but, as that’s likely to only be four or five baht (less than 15 cents), it is hardly worth calling it a tip.
In more expensive restaurants (the $2-10 range), Thais and any westerner who’s lived in Thailand a long time, if they tip, will usually leave 20 baht (66 cents), regardless of how much the bill was. That is deemed enough by the tipper and the usual by the waitress, so anything more than that is likely to see you stared at a bit strangely.
And, as many people don’t tip at all, it is still not expected.
At more upscale restaurants of course, you will see more tipping going on but hardly anyone would tip in Thailand the same high amount (15-20%) that an American thinks is ‘normal’. Ten percent is seemed as completely sufficient, with many Thais and some westerners trying to get away with only 5%.
Of course, at the extremely high-end establishments, they’ll often add a 10% tip so, in that regard, you have little choice.
Don’t worry though. If you are with a Thai, they won’t let you over tip. Try it and you will suddenly find the amount that is too “extravagant” will be being picked up by the Thai you are with and shoved back into your hands.
Tipping Taxi Drivers – Most Thais don’t bother. In fact, so unlikely are they to leave a tip for a taxi driver many will often count out the correct change, even if it’s 59 baht, the taxi driver won’t get 60.
I usually tip up to the next note (ie: on a 50 baht fare, I would give 60 baht and tell the driver to “keep the change”) or I add a little extra (20 baht for an average taxi ride, 50 baht for a long one) if I get exceptional service or a really lovely driver.
Be aware in Thai taxis though, try to have the correct change if possible. Many taxi drivers, even if they have the change, will say they don’t, and you do not want to be stuck paying 100 baht for a 40 baht fare.
Tipping at the Hairdresser – In my years in Thailand I have rarely seen a Thai tip a hairdresser, even if they do a phenomenal job.
I normally tip 40 baht to the girl who washes my hair and 100 baht to the hairdresser. Considering a hair cut, shampoo and blow dry is only 250 baht, to give a hair stylist 350 baht means we paid a whopping $11.25 for a haircut, shampoo and blow dry, and often a scalp massage, including the tip.
But, in this case, it is entirely up to you how much you tip, just try not to be too stingy. Thai hairdressers do an incredible job, and they are dirt cheap.
Tipping the Doorman – Few of my Thai friends tip the doorman, even though I tip mine often. They open doors for you, carry heavy things up to your apartment, come up with the pizza guy when he delivers to make sure everything is safe, and ride a bike down the soi in the pouring rain to get you a taxi.
I tip my doorman 20 baht every time he does something for me. It’s 66 cents, I’m certainly not going to miss it but, on his salary, it makes a big difference to him. Oh and if you are around at Christmas or New Year, give the doorman a couple hundred baht each.
They will be thrilled and you will likely end up getting great service for the rest of the year too.
Tipping the Cleaner or Maid – Please tip your cleaner and maid. Many cleaners and maids in Thailand work 12 hours a day, 28 days a month. For these ungodly working hours, many of them make around 8,000 baht or $258 a month.
If you get your room cleaned, have extra cleaning needs, or have a maid who comes into clean, cook or just generally pick things up, tip at least 40-50 baht per time that you see her. It’s $1.33 to $1.66, they do an amazing job and, believe me, she needs it a lot more than you do.
In Thailand, when you tip, just remember don’t tip like Americans. It is deemed as extravagant and too much. But…. don’t tip like the British either, many of whom seem to be the stingiest people on the planet when it comes to thanking someone for offering great service.
In other words, leave a reasonable amount for a job well done, and everyone will be happy.