Should you worry about tipping in China? Depending on your cultural background, tipping at Chinese restaurants, hotels and taxis might be normal or unheard of. Either way, it’s important to know what’s expected while traveling around China. Here are some simple tips for tipping in China that should help.
I receive a number of questions related to China travel every week – questions about travel insurance for China, questions about accessing the internet in China and many more. But one of the most frequent questions I get has to do with tipping in China.
The fact is that despite the westernization of China, tipping is NOT a common practice throughout the country. Conveniently for you as a traveler, 95% of the time you don’t have to worry about tipping while you’re traveling around China.
While I’m sure that helps, it’s obviously just a general rule of thumb. What I’d like to do in this article is dive into specifically where you don’t need to worry about tipping in China, where you should consider tipping and a guide to how much you should expect to tip.
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Tipping in China | Where it ISN’T Expected
As I said earlier, for most (if not all) of your travels around China, you won’t need to worry about leaving a tip or gratuity. This includes places such as:
- Typical Sit Down Restaurants: Obviously fast food joints don’t require tipping, but this goes for even the majority of sit down restaurants where a servers takes your order and delivers your food. You’re not expected to leave a tip for the server at all.
- Chinese Bars: The same goes for bars – a higher tip won’t get you a larger portion of alcohol.
- China Hotels: Even if you have somebody help take your luggage to your room, a tip is not expected (exceptions noted in the next section). There are other interesting things to consider, though, so make sure you read up on what to expect with China hotels.
- Taxis: Drivers can be super helpful, but they accept only the fare that they’re due.
- Massage / Hairdresser: Should you decide to get a haircut or a massage in China, you will not need to leave a tip for your the individual who served you.
It’s worth noting that giving a tip in these situations will not grant you any better service. That’s not part of the cultural mindset in China. A typical Chinese service worker will spend more time thinking about whether they should accept the tip or not. Very few will consider giving you better service because of the tip.
Thankfully, you can rest assured knowing that unlike in restaurants in the United States, service workers in China are paid a typical wage for that kind of work without regard for tips. They are not suffering because you didn’t tip.
Tipping in China | The Exceptions to the Rule
Of course, there are very few times when it is acceptable to tip in China. Notice the word acceptable, not expected. Most of the time people will just look at you like you’re crazy if you try to hand them a monetary tip.
The places and situations where a tip or gratuity is welcomed in China would be:
- High-End China Restaurants: If you’re spending more than USD$100 for a meal, chances are a tip would be acceptable. These restaurants are also more likely to accept foreign credit cards. It’s important to look carefully at your receipt, though! Sometimes a gratuity is already added, making a tip unnecessary.
- Tour Group Guides & Drivers: Unfortunately for us as travelers, many years of foreign travelers giving tips has made it a common practice in the industry. It is expected that you give a tip both to your tour guide and your vehicle driver (I mean, you could just get a Chinese driver’s license and do it yourself). Not sure how much to give? Read into the next section for suggestions.
- Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan: Because these areas of China have heavy western influence, many tipping rules still apply.
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Suggested Amounts | Tipping in China Guide
I often get questions from travelers asking me how much they should tip at a Chinese restaurant or how much they should tip a travel guide in China. There are no hard-and-fast rules, so it can be a bit confusing.
However, based on my years of traveling around China and my experience with travel agencies in China, here is what I’ve come to find is typical.
Suggested Tips for Restaurants in China
If you’re dining at a high-end restaurant in China, the expected tip is very similar to what you might be familiar with back home.
In most cases, a gratuity of 10%-20% at a Chinese restaurant is acceptable. As you leave your tip, remember that in the eyes of the Chinese, the amount you leave is not a reflection of their level of service…it is a reflection of you and your country.
As I noted above, I also highly recommend you look at your receipt prior to leaving a tip. In many of these kinds of restaurants, a gratuity has already been added to your bill and you won’t even need to be bothered by leaving an additional tip.
Suggested Tips for Tour Guides in China and Drivers in China
Tipping tour guides and drivers in China is a bit tricky. The reality is that you don’t have to tip…but it’s polite to do so.
This is the one industry where many guides and drivers are paid slightly less since travel agencies know that many travelers tip. Not doing so will definitely affect their take-home pay.
Here is what I suggest:
- Tip a Driver in China About 100 RMB/day: Mind you, this shouldn’t be per person; this is per vehicle. If you’re part of a tour group full of people you don’t know, you can personally tip about 20 RMB by yourself.
- Tip a Tour Guide in China About 10%: Again, this isn’t mandatory, but if your tour guide was great, it’s become the polite thing to do.
It’s usually best to tip with cash if you can. Some travel agencies will allow you to add a tip on your final bill, but personally, I’m always skeptical that this money ever makes it to the tour guide or driver.
Final Thoughts on Tipping in China
I hope I’ve been able to clear any confusion about tipping in China for you. Most solo travelers won’t need to tip at all, and for those of you who do tip, it’s usually not much.
Keep a bit of cash handy when you’re taking a tour in China. Tipping the tour guide and driver is always a good idea.
And if you need to save some money in order to make tipping affordable, make sure you read my guide to successfully bargaining in China as well as my 5 creative ways to save money while traveling in China.
Enjoy your travels!