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Oct 7, 2010 08:38 AM

Tipping in China?

Ok, I'm confused.... I read on various forums on travel to China that tipping isn't commonly practiced in China, although some visitors do tip. I get our documents from our cruise and tour companies, and they both say to be sure to tip (including a Chinese tour company!). So, because I'm clearly a visitor, will I be held to a different standard than locals (or even expats) and considered a jerk if I don't tip? Or do I tip according to the type of establishment -- tourist hotel or restaurant: tip, and street food or local restaurant: don't tip?

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  1. In general tipping is not necessary. Some restaurants do tack on a 10% charge. Usually I round up, leaving small change on the plate.

    However, what you are talking about is tips for tour guides and hotel service personnel. They depend on tips. If you go out on your own to a restaurant, then no tip. Tip only for tour guides and whoever carries your luggage.

    3 Replies
    1. re: PeterL

      This all makes sense.... so no tipping in restaurants, but yes to the tour guides and bell staff. Thanks!

      1. re: waldrons

        Don't worry about it too much. I assume that if you're reading this site, you're probably an American. I work in the tourism industry and part of my pay is tips. Over 90% of my clients are native English speakers. The worst tips from an American are still better than the tips from anyone else. My experience is that Brits can be convinced to tip, but tips from Australians and New Zealanders will be substantially less.
        Anyone who figures out that you're an American will expect a tip. No one in the world would ever tip a taxi driver or a hairdresser other than an American!

        1. re: waldrons

          And your tour company will give you "suggested" tip amounts. Just go with it. If you really love the tour guides, tip more. They usually suggest a $1 US tip for each piece of luggage for the bell staff. I carry Chinese money for this, $5 RMB for each piece of luggage. Usually bell staff has trouble handling small US currency. No need to tip taxi drivers.

      2. It's simple DON'T TIP ANYONE! The custom of tipping simply doesn't exist in China and there is no need to do it.

        If you look like a "foreigner", the bell boy may linger in your room hoping you'll give him something, and tour guides typically suggest tipping the driver as a way to also remind you to tip them, but you don't need to do it. If they go above and beyond, then slip them a little something, but if you do nothing, you won't be considered a jerk at all. They've been conditioned to know that they may receive tips from westerners, but they don't expect it.

        8 Replies
        1. re: modernleifeng

          The conflicting answers just in this thread explains my confusion... it appears that there is no "one size fits all" answer! I think we're most comfortable going with tipping the suggested amounts, as there is no way my husband and I aren't going to look "foreign"!!

          1. re: waldrons

            The answer is that tipping isn't necessary, you won't offend anybody by not tipping and unlike in the US, all these people are receiving a salary and don't rely on tips at all. As el jefe points out, a lot of non-Americans won't even bother with tipping.

            The bell man answer is simple, don't tip him, most won't, and even if you decide to do so don't give US dollars as this is useless to him. The tour guide presents a more difficult situation, are you going on a private tour? If its not private, then either talk with your fellow travelers and see what they're doing or just wait and see if they tip. Be mindful that domestic tourists never tip their tour guides in China and that not all foreigners (especially Asian and some Europeans) will give tips.

            So again, its simple, there's no need and no expectation, its just your own feelings and "guilt" invovled. If you feel the guide did a great job and you want to reward them, do so, but if you don't, you won't be remembered and hated forever because of it.

            1. re: modernleifeng

              We are going on private tours for some of the time, and with a cruise line the rest, so will use their recommendations. (I assume that since they make the recommendations, most guests follow them, so that would create an expectation in that circumstance.)


              1. re: waldrons

                Sorry to disagree, but tours are very different from "normal" situations. Tour guides, bus drivers, porters in China are conditioned to accept tips. There is a standard suggested amount. We usually tip that, higher if the guide gives excellent service. Yes there is an expectation for tips. I still remember 20 yrs ago going on my first China tour and one family did not tip at all. The rest of the group were totally not happy with them.

                1. re: PeterL

                  They are "conditioned to accept tips" because Americans insist on tipping them.

                  Shouldn't tipping be an individual decision? And isn't it possible that two families on the same tour could have totally different opinions of how well the tour guide performed? If I happen to wind up at the same restaurant as you in LA, will you be upset if I tip less than you?

                  What I really don't understand is what any of this has to do with Chow?

                  1. re: PeterL

                    Nobody in China is "conditioned" to accept tips and the vast majority of people, even westerners, read the guide books and understand that there is no tipping in China. Some will still tip, either out of habit or because they think its proper or "necessary", but that's up to them. It's not like in the US where you're seen as breaking a social custom if you don't give the waiter their 15%, in China nobody is expecting a tip.

            2. re: modernleifeng

              So, nobody ever gets a 红包 (Hong2 Bao1) then?

              1. re: scoopG

                Oh my, that's so funny! Ha-ha.

                Personally, I give tips in China only to the porters who help me with my luggage bags, and I give RMB5-RMB10, that's all. I'll also tip tour bus guides/drivers because that seems to be the right thing to do.

                But the early posters (PeterL, modernleifeng) are mostly correct: the Chinese taxi drivers, waiters, etc, generally do not expect tips. If you do give to them, it's a bonus, but if you don't, they won't be offended.

            3. Oh no no! Never tip! You'll rock the boat and ruin it for all of us!

              This is what we were told when we moved to Shanghai in 2008. We were also told that (in theory at least) the Chinese worker takes pride in what they do, and that's why they do it well. Tipping is considered insulting, like you're paying them to do something they are already paid to do.

              Taxi drivers - the reputable companies anyway - aren't allowed to take extra money. At least I don't think they are. They will never presume to 'keep the change.' In restaurants, they will bring you $0.05 back if that's what you're due.

              If your cruise and tour companies are encouraging you to tip, it probably has something to do with their relationship to the vendors they will be taking you to. They get some kind of commission for bringing their groups to certain venues. Maybe your tips get them a better deal. If you were to go out on your own to any restaurant, no tip would be expected.

              The only time I've ever left a tip, is to my hair guy, after about a year, at Chinese New Year.