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As you prepare for your journey to Vietnam, the subject of tipping and gratuities for service providers is likely to arise. The question at hand: Is tipping a common practice in Vietnam, and if so, how does the country approach it?
In Vietnam, tipping is not the norm across the board, yet it isn't entirely unheard of either. While many Vietnamese individuals do not routinely tip, there are instances where tipping is prevalent. For instance, spa and massage services often expect gratuities. To navigate these intricacies, let's go into some insights.
In general, wages in Vietnam tend to be quite modest, even when considering the country's cost of living. Consequently, tipping can be a welcomed gesture in most cases. Given the affordability of many services, offering a small tip where appropriate is a considerate action. It's advisable to carry small denominations (10,000, 20,000, or 50,000 VND notes) to facilitate tipping. As a general rule, when tipping anyone, it's best to hand it to them directly.
For simplicity, I'll categorize the scenarios into three types, using thousands of dong as the unit of measurement:
  1. When tipping is commonly expected:
    Tour guides: After your tour concludes, tipping guides is a customary practice. A reasonable amount is around 200 to 300 per day. If you're accompanied by a private driver, consider giving another 50% of the tip to them. Free tours might warrant around 100.
    Spa and massage establishments: Upon completing the service, tipping around 20% of the ticket price or 50 to 100 is expected. Tipping is vital for many spa and massage workers as it contributes significantly to their income.
  2. When tipping is common:
    Bellmen and hotel service staff: For any ad-hoc services beyond standard offerings, small denominations (20 or 50) are appropriate.
    Restaurant staff: If you're content with the service, offering small denominations (20 or 50) is a considerate gesture.
    Taxi drivers and ride-hailing service drivers (like Grab, Be, and Gojek): Rounding up to the nearest 10 is often customary.
  3. When tipping is an explicit gesture of appreciation:
    Street vendors: Rounding up to the nearest 5 or 10 (depending on the context) is a way to show appreciation.
    Personalized services like hairdressers, nails, and beauty services: Adding a 10% top-up to the bill can make a meaningful difference.
Additional considerations:
  • If you're unsure about tipping, it's better to abstain rather than leave small notes. In some cases, leaving small amounts can be interpreted as insulting.
  • Street vendors and individuals in rural or remote areas might not be accustomed to tipping. If they return the money, accept it gracefully and show your gratitude.
  • Avoid using coins or small notes from your home country for tipping, as they might be seen as souvenirs rather than gratuities.
  • While cards and electronic payments are gaining popularity, tipping remains predominantly a cash practice. Be prepared for this while traveling.
Ultimately, trust your instincts when it comes to tipping. If you feel inclined to tip, go ahead! On the other hand, if you're not inclined, there's no need to force yourself. Given the modest wages in Vietnam, acts of generosity are welcomed. Embrace the warmth, generosity, and kindness of the Vietnamese people by offering appropriate tips. Remember, the goal is to make your trip enjoyable and comfortable, respecting the local culture's nuances.


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