How Much Money Do You Tip in Thailand


On many occasions in the Land of Smiles I’ve booked into a hotel for an overnight stay. Wonderful Wi and I tend to do so when we fancy a night out in Udon Thani for whatever reason. The scenario as we approach the hotel entrance is nearly always the same.

We jump out the samlor with me clutching our solitary overnight sports bag. I tip the driver (20 baht) and we then head up the steps to the hotel doors. You can guarantee before you can push one of the doors open a bell boy has appeared out of nowhere, grabbed your bag and is stood in front of you holding the door open. He then ushers you to reception like the complete professional he is, check out the top photo for devotion to duty.

After you’ve checked in, the receptionist always hands your key over to the bell boy who guides you to the lift and up to your room. He switches on the air con, turns on the TV and opens and shuts the refrigerator door. I always get the feeling he thinks I’m a complete and utter fool. He then stands motionless and looks at the fool. After comes the moment I really don’t like.

I’m forced out of what I would quite plainly put down as etiquette to hand over a tip (20 baht) to someone who five minutes earlier mugged me on the hotel steps, took my hotel key when he knew it was mine and then carried my bag with sod all in it up to my room. To cap it all he then has the goddamn audacity to make out I don’t know how to turn on a TV and I’m clueless as to the square white thing with a door is a bloody refrigerator. I must admit air con systems do confuse me. He must think I’ve just arrived from an Isaan village.

Now being a little more serious I realize bell boys do need tips to bolster their low salaries but I’d really like them to give me a chance to take up or refuse the offer. Carrying a sports bag with hardly anything in it is hardly playing the game and come check out time the following morning it starts all over again.

I’ll quite often give a 20 baht tip to a bell boy to go over the road to the nearest 7-Eleven and buy me a packet of cigarettes. Many times late at night when the hotel has been quiet I’ve bought the bell boy a bottle of beer, I like to offer rather than be backed into a corner with no way out. If I’m loaded up with suitcases and bags then I can fully understand their purpose and intent.

When packing my bags to leave I make it a regular rule to leave 50 baht (100 baht for a longer stay) for the room maid, though I do wonder which member of staff gets to it first and by that I don’t mean the bell boy.

Eating out at the numerous restaurants that every Thai resort and major city has is a completely different matter. I believe in these type of places tipping is a way of showing your appreciation for the effort put into preparing and serving your meal and any drinks you may consume.

Once again as with the hotel bell boys, staff wages in Thai restaurants are not overly high and the employees rely heavily on the goodwill of their customers to boost their income in the form of tips.

I set myself a minimum 10% service charge. If a restaurant bill amounts to 800 baht then assuming myself and everyone else in my company is contented with the service provided I’ll happily leave 80 baht as a tip.

If the meal has been eaten at one of the smaller type cafes and only prices around the 100 baht or less mark then I’ll normally leave a 20 baht tip and not anything smaller. The street vendors are the ones to lose out with me as I very rarely leave a tip unless I’ve sat down at a table place and eaten.

Tipping in the beer bars is a place where peoples generosity increases as the night wears on. Sometimes I have a tendency to flit from bar to bar only having the one drink in each. Settling the bar bill with a 20 baht tip which is the minimum I like to leave makes the one beer rather expensive. I have tried walking away with just a 5 baht coin left on the table but I tend to find my walk shapes to one of a sheepish appearance. It’s a 5 baht habit I really should try and get into.

There is a huge difference in being on holiday as to living in a country as an ex pat where coming across the tipping sector can be a daily occurrence. Thai people are not big tippers as a rule of thumb (sweetener is a better word) and the tourist industry is the area where tourist and ex pat activities do intersect, but for the retired or working ex pat adopting a more Thai like tipping mindset is probably with time almost second nature.

As an ex pat or tourist I’d like to know about your tipping habits in the Land of Smiles. Are you generous to a fault or do you see generosity as a weakness which places others under undue pressure to do the same. If you have any views on tipping in Thailand then please drop them in the comments box below.

© 2010 – 2011, Martyn. All rights reserved.

31 thoughts on “How Much Money Do You Tip in Thailand

  1. Hi Martyn I do it Thai style, which is a little or nothing. Usually its 20 Baht when we eat out. We don’t stay in hotels, preferring instead apartments so the issue never arises there.

    To be quite honest I hate the service in most Thai eating places, its either none existent or they are all over you putting ice in your beer if you put your glass down.

    Although the worst part by far is the hovering waitress who arrives just as you are seated and have not even looked at the menu, pen and pad poised to take your order.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Coconuts in Thailand -Farming Photo/Image =-.

  2. I’m in the 20 baht category. if staying at a hotel with an overnight bag, I don’t let them take my bag. At a bar if I’ve only had a drink I don’t tip unless service was exceptional (although if the bill was say 79Bht I’ll leave the one baht). And anyway I normally leave it to Nit

  3. Mike I would expect most expats to have settled into the Thai style of tipping, it makes a lot of sense. The hovering waitress with the notepad gets my goat as well especially if the menu is in Thai text only. She’s there hovering and you haven’t got a clue what’s on the menu and in my case I just have to leave it to Wi to order something for me rather than discuss it.

  4. Jame I must start taking the one drink no tip approach because quite often I’ll pop into a bar because it’s cheap but after leaving a 20 baht tip it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m not sure I could do the one baht trick, I’d have to top it up with a few coins.

  5. When I’m in the tourist areas I do tip and more than one baht…that’s just cheap, sorry. The Thai’s that work in the tourist areas work long hours and 6-7 days a week and I have no problem giving the 20-50 baht tip.

    When I’m in Issan I tip accordingly but I still won’t leave less than 20 baht for service. Again they are working for very small wages and there is no reason to be cheap…expat or not.

    As for the room maid of a hotel , I take care of them because most tourists are slobs and thanks to the many people spreading the word that they shouldn’t be tipped they don’t get much money. I usually leave 100 baht every 3 days or so and I never want for fresh towels or pillow.

    100 baht is small change for a few days cleaning. Seriously, if you can’t afford a small tip then maybe you can’t afford to live or play in Thailand.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..A Thai Superstition is Born…Again =-.

  6. Martyn, another excellent subject…

    When in doubt: 20 baht

    Noodle shops: nothing to small change
    Small restaurants: 20 baht
    Medium and up Thai restaurants: 40+ baht
    L’Opera type restaurants: 50-100+ baht (depending)
    Canteens/food courts: no tipping
    Membership clubs: not allowed to tip

    7’s: dream on (but I hear they are putting out tip jars)

    Delivery boys: 20 baht
    Hotel bellboys: 20 baht

    Grocery store boys (store to taxi): 20 baht
    Grocery delivery boys (store to condo): 50-100 baht (depending on weather and amount of groceries)

    Hairdresser: 100 baht to share around the gals (I get an average of three)

    Condo doorman/security guards: nothing (I pay their salary) but I am considering a yearly tip IF they can stay out of trouble.

    Taxis with seat belts: 20 baht extra

    I was told before moving to Thailand that there is no such thing as tipping a percentage of the final bill.

    And really, tipping is an American habit, not Thai. Even the Brits I know start acting like the Scots.

    The majority of the Thais in my circle do not tip. They leave a smattering of change from the bill is all.

    Ditto with taxis. They ask for 20 baht/40 baht (whatever) back from a large bill and let the driver keep the small (teensy) change.

    Today at lunch with 2 Thai friends I was warned NO tip!

    But I am not Thai…
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Thai Language Thai Culture: Talking About the Weather =-.

  7. John I’d say 10% is fair in anyones language and if every customer tipped 20 baht which they don’t then the staff would get a nice daily bonus. When’s your next trip John, you must be due one.

  8. Talen your tipping range is very similar to mine but I do wonder if I’d change mine if I were now an ex pat and I probably would.

    I rarely stay in a hotel for more than 4 days at a time nowadays, but in my Pattaya days I’d stay a month or more at a time and the regular tip to the room maid was something I did. It was money well appreciated by the maid and my room was always pristine and well stocked. Your comment is a valuable tip to any prospective Thailand newbie but I daresay most would ignore it and feel sure they know better.

  9. Catherine I wrote this partly as a hopeful guide to Thailand newbies (see reply to Talen) as I thought my post and any comments might give them a basic idea to the tipping culture of Thailand. I was also expecting and have so far received some solid advice in the comments regarding just that and yours reads absolutely perfect. I don’t think you’ve missed anything out and I must add I reckon your tips as an ex pat are very generous indeed. The perfect guide to tipping in Bangkok.

  10. 20 baht is at least what as talen say you should leave
    i must say many guys dont tip at all and there the older ones normally with more spare cash
    when your paying the bill i guess 10 percent is fair but only if you get decent service
    hoo don iam not sure of my plans at the moment got a lot of balls in the air it just means a longer trip is all
    which is good news
    .-= john´s last blog ..money and new year expat udon thani issan =-.

  11. I believe Catherine is correct that tipping is mostly an American thing. When here in the U.S. I will typically leave 15-20% as a tip assuming the service was acceptable. Worse service = lower tip occasionally as low as nothing.

    My tipping in Thailand is considerably different although that wasn’t always the case. When I was a Thailand newb I was tipping much in the American style of 15% in restaurants, 100 baht for bellboys, 10-15% in cabs, etc. As my experience with Thailand continued my tips started to drop and once Golf and I were married my tipping approached the Thai level.

    Cabs and restaurants typically get whatever small change is left. For example, if the fare is 89 baht I will simply give them 100 and leave it at that. Same in restaurants, the tip rarely exceeds 15-20 baht and Golf thinks that even that is generous in most cases. To be honest I’ve never had what I consider stellar service in a Thai restaurant. Bellboys typically get 10 or 20 baht, depends what I have in my pockets at the time. If I had nothing smaller than a 100 I would skip the tip (something I would never dream of doing in the U.S.).

    I suppose my attitude towards tipping in the LOS can be summed up by saying “When in Thailand do as the Thai’s”. Perhaps that means I am viewed as kee neow, but since I’ll likely never see the wait person/cab driver/bellboy again I’m ok with that perception.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Ben From Thai Pirate =-.

  12. I usually don’t tip. Because they don’t expect it from me anyway for some place. Some restaurants if they have change for me I would leave the coins and take all the bills back.

    For the taxi, sometimes I will leave some change but it all depends on the driver too, if they are rude and didn’t do a good job I would not leave any and I will wait and ask for the change too.

    As for the hotel, for the last couple times we went there. We sort of have to tip because my husband is a foreigner and seems like they were expecting us to tip(because of foreigner custom,I assume). Anyway I don’t like it very much though because it’s really annoying things to do. Like the guys who carry our bags wouldn’t leave the room, he will show us everything like where to find the switch, fridge or even the bathroom. And really obvious that they want the tip so bad, so we had to tip them because we wanted them to leave.

  13. John I hope you are a very good juggler of balls and don’t drop any. A longer trip is something I want to do again but at the moment work dominates towards that issue. Yes, 10% is fair provided the service has been good and as with some hotels a service charge hasn’t already been included.

  14. Steve here in the UK tipping is not a practice we employ, very rarely at best if at all. I think this makes the Brit tourist in Thailand tip from one extreme to the other, all or nothing if you like. I would put myself towards the top end but with the experience I’ve gained and am gaining I think I’m slowly sliding down the scale to the point of moderation. Thanks for your comment and like the others one which should provide a good base for any newbie readers.

  15. Golf, nice to hear from you and especially as it puts a true Thai angle on the post, straight from the horse’s mouth if you’ll excuse the expression. Wilai (my partner) tends to encourage me to tip but I think it’s more of a face saver on our point due to the fact we are a Western/Thai couple. The switch, fridge, TV scenario really gets me as well and then the awkward stand off. I do try and make sure at least one of us has some kind of small change about. Thanks a million.

  16. My tipping is Thai style and in general doesn’t exceed 20THB most of the times. Small restaurants I don’t tip, just like the Thais.
    In hotels I leave each morning a 20THB note on the bed for the cleaners.

    What hotel in Udon do you use by the way?
    .-= Camille´s last blog ..29th January, 2010 =-.

  17. Hi Martyn, I’m sure this is a very useful guide for tourists and newcomers, both the post and the comments. I was a bit surprised how much agreement there was on the subject. Makes me feel better, because like lots of people I’m never sure if I’m tipping too much or too little.

    Catherine’s detailed list offered a fascinating insight into her life! Delivery boys? Membership clubs? L’Opera? Security guards? Oh to be in Bangkok. Incidentally, my hairdresser (yes, I don’t go to a barber) only charges me 40 baht for hair + beard (that should be beard + hair) but I guess Cat has more than both my lots combined.
    .-= Lawrence´s last blog ..Eating out in Ubon =-.

  18. ‘The switch, fridge, TV scenario really gets me’

    Ditto on that one. Nothing irks me more than having someone show me where the bathroom is in my hotel room. But the Thais I’ve run across are not bad at all. India, on the other hand, tops the list for hotel bellboys standing around with their hands out after pointing to the light switches. They are obsequiously insistent (and a joy to ignore).

    From what I’ve seen of expats in Thailand, if you come from a tipping culture, you will tip here too. Just not as much after seeing what others do. And certainly not if you have Thai friends showing you Thai ways. But it is still hard to resist leaving the teensy money! (I hate dragging that stuff around).

    I came to Thailand from another SE Asian country that had its own no tipping rules. It was generally assumed no, except for hairdressers and a few restaurants. But the level of service was way lower than it is here (it was almost nonexistent, and never with a smile). So after I got used to it, I was not fussed at all. It’s only here that I do want to leave something.

    Shrug. Maybe after I’ve been here 20 years I’ll get it… or it’ll change… or I’ll be gone.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Thai Language Thai Culture: Talking About the Weather =-.

  19. Camille I used to use the Napalais Hotel (900 baht) in Udon Thani but we found a better one at the same price and started staying at the President Hotel, both have decent swimming pools. On my last trip we tried the Heritage Apartment (400 baht) and Wilai really liked it there so I’ll probably stay at the latter next time.

  20. Lawrence thanks for saying the post is serving a purpose and yes Catherine does appear to live the life of Mrs Riley but she does have to contend with the traffic and claustrophobic world of Bangkok. I had to recheck Catherine’s avatar after reading your last sentence but now I get what you mean.

    Sticky keypads….I did a quick edit on your comment, I hope I haven’t missed anything.

  21. Catherine the ‘annoying scenario’ is best played out with a forced smile and a 20 baht note although arriving at two in the morning after an airport run makes the whole game harder to play. I will say despite some comments contrary to this next point that I’ve always found service in Thailand’s restaurants, hotels and bars to be exceptional (unlike the UK) and for me that makes tipping seem a much more natural practice to carry out.

  22. Good subject HD, for me, it all depends on how flush I am! If I have it, I’ll leave some (if deserved). If I’m a bit hard up, they get nada…. simple!
    .-= Ben Shingleton´s last blog ..Great place to stop in Pattaya – Aiyara Palace Hotel =-.

  23. Ben – Flushability, that makes sense. I assume you handed over a few tips in Pattaya as that’s a city with a real tipping expectancy if I’ve ever seen one. They don’t ask but you just know it’s expected of you.

  24. Wow! You sure gave them a fair amount of tips! I have never tried to travel outside our country so it’s hard for me to give some answers to your questions.. But usually here in our place, i give fair amount of tip if i am satisfied with the service. Otherwise, not a cent if i’m not. 🙂
    .-= Kathy Holiday´s last blog ..Holiday Cottage in Cornwall =-.

  25. Kathy thanks for your comment and your tips in the UK must be most welcome as we are not traditionally a tipping nation. When it comes to good service and with a smile you would find the Thai people second to none. Perhaps you should spread your wings and fly although your browser url coming from Asia does confuse me as to whether your tips do refer to the UK or elsewhere. Ham or spam sandwiches, I’m confused.

  26. Excellent column Martyn.

    I, like others, tipped too heavily at the beginning, just like a westerner. I became somewhat Thai, somewhat westerner as the visits mounted. I am a little more generous if I can detect that the tips are going to the staff and not the owner. At a couple of bars I frequent, I can plainly see the tip money go directly into the tip box and I’ve seen it divvied up at the end of the evening.

    The over-service — constantly serving and icing beer, hovering around the table — drives me bananas and I reduce my tip and/or signal them to buzz off.

    Overall, I go with Catherine’s tip menu, to a T.
    .-= Siam.Rick´s last blog ..Thanks to all the wonderful Thai people who helped =-.

  27. Rick thanks for the read as I know you must be busy pointing your new camera at the pretty sights. The feeling seems to be the over-service is not well liked by us westerners which surprises me a touch. I thought we all enjoyed being pampered, obviously not. Catherine’s tipping menu should be set in stone and placed in arrivals at Suvarnabhumi airport.

  28. I can’t believe how cheap you people are! If you get bad service, I can understand low or no tip. Try imagining how it would feel if you were them… If you have money, why not make someone’s day by tipping a couple of bucks!

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