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Tipping & Etiquette

Tipping & Etiquette
Special notes when you come to Phuket, Thailand

Basics: There is no mandatory tipping policy in Thailand. However, this does not prevent you from giving a small gratuity to a service provider for truly exceptional service or fulfilling requests of an extraordinary nature.

In Taxis: All public taxis in BANGKOK are equipped with a meter to calculate fares based on distance and time. Both Thai and local ex-patriots alike will commonly “round-up” the final fare to an even number. As example; your final meter reads a fare of 51฿. You might give the driver 60฿ total. The resulting “rounding” of 9฿ would be an implied gratuity for the journey. Outside of the capital, you should negotiate the fare before you get in a taxi.

In Restaurants: Most mid-range restaurants and nearly all hotel-restaurants will automatically include a 10% service charge on all bills. This surcharge acts as your gratuity. These funds are combined and shared among all employees at the end of the month in addition to their basic monthly wage. At mid and lower-end restaurants, when paying cash, it is customary to simply leave any coins received as change for the staff as gratuity. In high-end restaurants, the service charge may be slightly more. If you received service that was truly exceptional and “above and beyond” or you have used the services of the sommelier, then an additional gratuity would be appropriate.

In Hotels: Tipping in hotels is not expected, but again if you receive truly exceptional service or the hotel has gone “above and beyond” a nominal gratuity would be appropriate for that staff member(s). Tips for porters/bell staff would be between 20฿ and 50฿. Tips for chambermaids/Housekeeping staff may also be 20฿ to 50฿ per day depending on the level of service requested and received.

Professional Services
: For services such as masseurs and hairdressers a gratuity of 20฿ to 100฿ depending on the individual situation would be appropriate. Tour guides who provide an exceptional (group) experience could be recognised with perhaps a THB100 tip. Tour guides and drivers when taking a private one-on-one service, and where the experience was exceptional, consider a tip for the driver of around 200฿ - 300฿, and guide around 400฿ - 500฿.

The Range of Tips: It is important to remember that the majority of employees in the hospitality and service industries in Thailand earn a very basic wage. Therefore any gratuities received truly do go long way and will serve to recognise and reward enthusiastic service.

Of course, if the service is unacceptable or sub-standard don't leave any gratuity. Remember that gratuities are purely discretionary on your part and meant to recognise, reward and motivate employees toward excellent service delivery.
Your Personal Etiquette:

The King: His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is almost universally revered by Thai nationals and held in the highest level of regard and admiration as evidenced by his picture prominently displayed throughout the Kingdom.  Remember that Thailand has and does enforce the national lèse majesté laws. These laws expressly prohibit any act - verbal, physical or written, that shows insolent or disrespectful behaviour toward any member of the Royal family.

Therefore, out of respect for His Majesty and laws of the Kingdom, NEVER say or do anything disrespectful of the King or any member of the royal family, even to the extent of stomping on a Thai coin or banknote which has been dropped and is rolling/blowing away. All banknotes and coins in Thailand bear a portrait of His Majesty, and to be stomped on by your foot would be considered extremely disrespectful.

In Movie Theatres: Before the main performance begins the Thai Royal Anthem, or Phleng Sansoen Phra Barami (เพลงสรรเสริญพระบารมี)  will be played. As a sign of respect, it is REQUIRED that you stand up and remain silent during the playing of the Thai Royal Anthem.

Listen to the Thai Royal Anthem - LINK and Learn the words - LINK 

Taxis: When attempting to hail a taxi, it is customary and polite to keep your arm extended outwards, your hand facing horizontal with palm-side down. Signaling a taxi by holding your hand with fingers "up" is considered rude. Similarly, whistling, clicking fingers or making other type noises to attract a person’s attention is considered rude. Such methods are considered only appropriate for animals, such as a dog.

More tips on taxis can be found here.

Temples and Monks: When visiting temples, please remember that these are active places of worship. Accordingly, make sure that you dress conservatively. For women, clothing should include long skirts or trousers, with no bare shoulders or knees. Some temples have a no-photography policy or limit the use of flash photography. Before taking any pictures please inquire about limitations and restrictions.

When entering any place of worship, always remove your shoes. In many Asian cultures the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body, where-as the head is regarded as the highest. Therefore, DO NOT sit with your feet pointing towards an image of Buddha. If possible, you should sit either cross-legged or with your feet tucked behind you.  DO NOT use your feet to point, move objects or point to a persons head. Your feet must never touch another persons head or touch a Monk. Your feet should only be used for walking.

Special Note for Women: Women must NEVER in any way, shape or form touch a Monk. If a female needs to pass an item to a Monk, it must be either passed to another male (not a monk) first, or placed down for the Monk to retrieve himself. There must never be direct contact between a Monk and a female.

Personal Hygiene & Cleanliness: One of the most basic etiquettes often overlooked by some travellers’ is their level of personal hygiene. Thai people are fastidiously clean and take their personal hygiene and appearance very seriously. As Thailand is a sub-tropical country, many synthetic fabrics can promote odour building bacteria. As such frequent bathing is essential. Local laundry shops (outside of your hotel) are plentiful and cheap. Rates can be 40฿ - 60฿ per kilo for basic wash & dry laundry service. To use this service just drop off your soiled clothes in the morning and collect them the following day. They will be returned to you clean, folded (perhaps even ironed) and packaged up like new.

There is NEVER an excuse for wearing dirty, soiled or odourous clothes.

Topless - Nude Sunbathing: Thai people are very modest in nature, and any form of public nudity is frowned upon. There are NO nude beaches in Thailand. Modesty reigns supreme here.

Your Temper: Thais value and respect people who keep and maintain a level and calm demeanour. Any loud or abusive outbursts of anger should be avoided at all costs. While things may not always go according to plan, - tourists are well advised to maintain a calm demeanour despite any annoyances. Try to maintain a smile and in the end you will probably get what you want. Irrespective of how you behave at home, in Thailand, keep your temper and emotions under control.

Public Displays of Affection
: Overt displays of kissing, cuddling etc., in plain public view is frowned upon.

Your Feet: Using your feet to "point" to anything is considered rude. Touching someone or something with your feet is offensive.

The Head: Touching someone on the head, even in fun "can" be offensive and is considered rude (except among good friends). You would NEVER dare touch someone's head with your foot.

The “Wai”:
It is pronounced like the english word “why” and is a traditional Thai form of expressing welcome, thanks, recognition or an apology. Unless you know the correct way to perform a 'wai', the appropriate hand positions to use, and the correct social circumstances in which to use it, it is best to simply acknowledge a “wai” with a wide smile and a slight nod of the head. The use of the “wai” in Thai culture carries many social messages and nuances. As most foreigners are not familiar with these cultural aspects, it is best avoided.

It is not appropriate to "wai"  children, service persons, etc. even if they wai you first. You may though wai an elderly Thai you've been introduced to, or even a Monk. However, the general rule is to refrain from Wai-ing unless you really understand its' complexities.

Breast Feeding Etiquette: Discretion and modesty is best, topic further discussed here

Taking Photos: Just as you wouldn't like a stranger walking up to you and snapping your photo, be respectful and ask first before doing the same in Thailand especially with Monks. Note that some rural hill-tribe people believe that a photograph will 'capture' their soul and will object to being photographed.