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Do you tip in Taiwan? When should you tip in Taiwan? And how much should you give? What is the etiquette for tipping in Taipei?
These are questions that pop up a lot in my Taiwan Travel Planning group a lot, so I thought I should write a dedicated article to it. The below answers come from 10+ years of living in Taiwan, and I’ve also consulted several Taiwanese people, including my Taiwanese family members and some workers in different industries in Taiwan, to get a local perspective. (FWIW, my Taiwanese wife hates tipping more than anyone I know LOL!)
If you come from a tip-loving country like the US, you may be tempted to hand out tips in Taiwan. Meanwhile, visitors from other non-tipping countries usually hope Taiwan will be the same (and it is!) So let’s cut right to the chase:
To Tip or Not: The Short Answer
Taiwan is a non-tipping country. You almost never need to tip in Taiwan. There’s also no sales tax. The price you see on menus and price tags is what you pay.
It’s very normal in Taiwan to sit and wait for a taxi driver or restaurant staff to return small change to you. You won’t appear cheap for doing this. In fact, I’ve even had a taxi driver chase me down the street because I forgot to collect a 5NT coin (USD 0.16).
Countless travelers (often North American) report this situation: they try to tip a taxi driver or restaurant owner, to which they receive a very awkward and embarrassed response. The worker tries very hard to give it back, because this is just not something locals usually do. But the foreigner tried to hold his/her ground, thinking “they should appreciate it, shouldn’t they?”
There are only a few specific situations when you might want to consider leaving a tip in Taiwan, such as chauffeurs, tour guides, food delivery persons, and bellhops in fancy hotels. And even for these, it’s not totally necessary. I’ll discuss each one in detail below.
Taiwanese currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD or TWD), often colloquially just “NT” or “dollars” in English. In Mandarin, “dollar” is yuan (元, formal) or kuai (塊, informal). The most common bills are 1000 (about 33 USD), 500, and 100. Coins are 50, 10, 5, and 1. There are no cents.
Why You Shouldn’t Tip in Taiwan
Even though tips are not expected or necessary in Taiwan, some visitors still feel the need to try to give them. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t do that.
- Tipping is not a part of local Taiwanese culture. By still trying to do it, you are making a conscious choice to impose your cultural habit on Taiwanese people.
- Trying to tip someone who doesn’t normally receive tips for their work could disrespect or offend them. It’s basically like saying “You seem like you need more of my money”.
- Tipping often results in awkwardness or embarrassment on the part of the recipient. If you look up the concept of saving face in Asian culture, and you will learn that this is something to be avoided.
- Tipping culture in North America is out of control! My family and I in Canada almost never eat out anymore because we are expected to add an extra 20% to the bill, no matter the service, not to mention taxes and skyrocketing dining prices. Do we really want the rest of the world to go that way?
- So far, taxi drivers and other service industry workers in Taiwan are not annoying or scammy to foreign visitors. This is so refreshing! If foreign visitors keep tipping, though, they may start to expect it or see tourists as people who always dish out extra money. They could even start to hassle or scam foreign visitors more, like is so common in some other countries. Wouldn’t you rather just follow local customs and be treated the same (and pay the same prices) as a local?
- Places that want tips add it to the bill themselves (I’ll cover that more below).
Read other useful tips for traveling in Taiwan here.
How to Show Thanks Without Tipping
There are several ways you can show your appreciation in Taiwan without tipping. A few of them include:
- Smile and say thank you. Politeness is a big deal in Taiwan, and being polite shows your respect for Taiwanese culture. Learn how to say 謝謝 (xièxiè) correctly, and some other words in Mandarin. Most locals LOVE when foreigners can say anything in Mandarin. If the person is elderly, or you’re in the south of Taiwan, trying saying thank you in the Taiwanese language and they will be especially surprised. Read more about the Taiwanese language here.
- Pay it forward by telling your friends, family, and the world about Taiwan and your positive experiences there. People in Taiwan would like this more than anything. Keep in mind that half the world doesn’t even know the differences between Taiwan and Thailand. Learn more about Taiwan before and after your trip with these fun Taiwan facts.
- If you’re living in Taiwan and you’ve built up a long-term, personal relationship with a service provider (for example, you go to the same hair stylist all year), consider giving them a small gift or hongbao (red envelope of cash) around Lunar New Year.
- Should you bring little gifts to hand out in Taiwan? I would say no. Taiwan is not a developing country and kids there don’t need or expect handouts from visitors. Only bring gifts for close friends, colleagues, and/or family in Taiwan. A local snack from your hometown or country is one of the best and most common gifts.
When NOT to Tip in Taiwan
For daily life in Taiwan, there are very few situations when tipping is necessary or expected. These are some places where you don’t need to tip in Taiwan.
Locals never, ever leave tips at restaurants in Taiwan. So just don’t do it. This even applies to fancier restaurants.
It’s becoming more common, though, for mid-range and higher end restaurants to add a service charge to the bill, often 10%. In this case, you shouldn’t add more on top of that.
Leaving some cash on the table, especially in a smaller restaurant, would be especially weird. They will most likely chase you down, thinking you forgot it by accident.
Also note, there are no taxes on restaurant bills, so the price you see on the menu is what you pay. Some more etiquette: often in Taiwan you eat first then pay on the way out. Some restaurants leave the bill on the table after you order, then check off the items as they come to your table. When you’re finished, take the bill to the till at the front and pay. Never call out for the waiter/waitress/bill. My friend and I learned this the hard way on our first day in Taiwan, after living in China. It’s rare to pay from the table.
Related: See my guide to the best restaurants in Taipei
Bars and Night Clubs
No tips are needed here, either. My Taiwanese sister-in-law runs a cafe and a bar in Taipei, and she told me they never, ever receive tips.
One exception here is bars owned by Western foreigners. Often they will put a tip jar at the bar. That is your choice whether to leave something or not. Most locals don’t, but foreign clients sometimes do because that’s what they are used to at home.
Another possible exception is high end cocktail bars. There are several speakeasy-style bars in Taipei where the bartenders are truly exceptional. Some don’t even have menus – instead they will custom craft special cocktails for each customer. If you are truly impressed and satisfied with this kind of customized service, you can consider leaving a tip for the bartender, but it’s still not really necessary.
Tipping taxi drivers is not normal or expected in Taiwan. In my personal experience, taxi drivers are some of the friendliest people I’ve met in Taiwan (in a country known for its friendly people!) and I love chatting with them. I feel they are among those who could be offended if you try to tip them.
For your average taxi ride, you just don’t need to. The only time you might consider it would be if the driver somehow helped you in a big way. For example, maybe he/she helped you to carry some very heavy luggage or your friend got sick in his car (try not to do that of course, but I’m just trying to think of an example when I would tip!)
For a chauffeur, long-distance/multi-day driver, or Uber driver, things are a little different ,so please see below.
Hair Salons or Tattoo Shops
It’s not normal or necessary to tip at hair salons or tattoo shops in Taiwan.
If someone helps you on the street, don’t ever try to give them money. People in Taiwan are extremely helpful, but they don’t do this for money. They do this simply because they are kind people and want foreigners to have a good experience in their country.
I hope this is obvious, but I only mention it because I’ve traveled to countries where it’s common for locals to ask for tips/baksheesh after helping you on the street. Paying locals in Taiwan for helping you would be awkward at best, or insulting at worst.
When to Tip in Taiwan
There are only a few, limited situations when leaving a tip is recommended in Taiwan.
Bellhops/Porters in Big Hotels
If you’re staying in a big, international hotel that actually has bellhops/porters who help you carry your luggage to your room, then it would be pretty normal to tip them. The same thing goes for valet parking.
Related: See my guide to the best hotels in Taipei
Free Walking Tours
In a discussion about tipping in my Taiwan Travel Planning group, one Taiwanese person mentioned that tipping the guide on a free walking tour is highly recommended and appreciated. She said that many of these tours are led by volunteers or university students who really could use the money, and the tips are the only way they get paid.
You can find free walking tours in Taipei here, here, here, and here.
Should you tip regular, paid tour guides though? See more on that below.
Optional Tipping Situations
While there is never a time when you absolutely must tip in Taiwan, there are several situations where you might want to consider it. You probably won’t be looked down upon or come across as cheap if you don’t. But you also won’t cause offence, and your tip will likely be appreciated, if you do.
This one is probably the hottest topic when it comes to tipping in Taiwan. Traditionally in Taiwan, Taiwanese people don’t tip their tour guides when they travel domestically. Tour guides in Taiwan work for return business, not tips. Satisfied clients come back, tell their friends, and so on. This is why tour guides (and drivers) are often eager to hand out their business card when you part ways.
The above information comes from my Taiwanese friend who works for Taipei Tourism. She said there are even some retired tour guides who still volunteer in places like Beitou Hot Spring Museum because they are so dedicated to their jobs. They build up their reputations over many years, and clients constantly ask for them or recommend them to others, not tip them.
When foreign tourists come into the mix, the story is a little different. A lot of foreign tourists do tip their tour guides, because that is what is normal in many other countries.
Therefore, operators who are mainly handling foreign tour groups, for example those I often recommend on Klook, or tourists coming in on cruise ships to Keelung and Kaohsiung, have grown accustomed to receiving tips. According to one traveler in my Facebook group, he even felt obliged to leave a tip on his Klook tour.
This is a tough issue and I don’t have a perfect answer. But I would say that if you are taking a tour in Taiwan, you should only tip the guide if you truly feel satisfied and that the guide went above and beyond. Don’t see it as a standard thing that you have to do no matter what, or will be judged for not doing.
If you hired a guide for multiple days to take you around Taiwan, and they did an amazing job, then I personally think a tip is not a bad idea.
If you have a personal experience with tipping or not tipping for tours in Taiwan, or perhaps you ARE a tour guide in Taiwan, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
You can find many excellent and reasonably priced guided day tours on Klook, such as this one, this one, and this one. Sign up for Klook with this link and you’ll get TWD 100 off your first booking.
If you hire a driver for a whole day or multiple days, then it’s pretty much the same as above. Locals don’t usually hire drivers like this in Taiwan. So private drivers are catering mainly to tourists, and thus are more accustomed to receiving tips.
If the service is exceptional, then go for it. If it was just OK, don’t feel you have to. And if you just hire a driver for single point-to-point trip, for example from Kaohsiung to Kenting (a common route to hire a driver), it’s not necessary.
You can also find lots of private drivers on Klook, such as this one for Taipei day trips, this one for Yilan, and this one for Taroko Gorge.
UberEats/Food Panda Drivers
When I asked my Taiwanese friends about this, they all said the same thing. They sometimes do leave a small tip for the food delivery person, which can be done directly in the app. They especially do so when it’s raining (often the case in Taipei). Keep in mind that these drivers all ride scooters, which sucks in the rain.
My Taiwanese friends also said they are more likely to tip when the driver has to walk up several flights of stairs to deliver the food (also often the case because many of us live on the 4th to 6th floors of low rise apartments in Taiwan, often with no elevator).
My sister-in-law also mentioned that UberEats and Food Panda actively encourage users to tip, and the tips really do go entirely to the drivers. Over time, these new technologies may have an impact on Taiwanese tipping culture.
Although tipping for regular taxis is not normal in Taiwan, it’s a little more common to leave a tip for Uber drivers, possibly just because it’s so easy to do within the app.
Generally speaking, Ubers in Taiwan are nicer, newer vehicles and they drive safely. Some customers may see the tip as a way to say thanks for this nicer service. Regular taxis are hit-or-miss. Some are great, but some of the vehicles are old and kind of gross or stinky inside. Some drivers are good, and some drive crazily.
You don’t generally need to tip for spa or massage services in Taiwan. Just like restaurants, the ones who want it may add a 10% service charge to the bill.
I put this in the maybe section, because if you receive any special “services” from your masseuse that weren’t what you signed up for, a generous tip would definitely be expected. Don’t expect that, either, but it is something that exists in Taiwan, so I should at least mention it.
I also want to mention that many masseuses in Taiwan are not Taiwanese. They are often migrant workers from Southeast Asia who come to Taiwan solely to make more money for sending back home. Tipping them is unlikely to cause offence and will more than likely be appreciated. So if you want to, go for it.
You can find spa and massage deals in Taiwan on Klook.
Room Cleaners in Big Hotels
If you want to leave a tip in the room for the cleaners, it would surely be appreciated. Doing this removes the awkward face-to-face situation of handing over a tip. Who wouldn’t want to find some cash while doing their job? But also don’t feel this is necessary or expected, and locals wouldn’t do it.
How Much Should You Tip in Taiwan?
For the few instances where you might even consider leaving a tip in Taiwan, there is of course no set amount.
As I’ve mentioned, some restaurants and spas add a 10% service charge to the bill, so there’s no need to tip on top of that.
In a big international hotel, offering a TWD 100 banknote ($3) to the bellhop or valet parking driver would suffice.
If you want to tip a private driver or guide for exceptional service, something in the range of 5-10% is fine. On a free walking tour, there’s no price to gauge it, but you could look up similar (but paid) tours and then tip accordingly.
I hope this article helped you decide whether to tip in Taiwan. If you disagree with anything I’ve said or would like to share your personal experiences with Taiwan tipping, please do so in the comments below! Also find more tips about traveling in Taiwan here!