Do people tip in China?
The short answer is ‘no’. Tipping is not common practice in Chinese culture.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule, and sadly, these involve services aimed at foreigners.
Keep reading to find out more, including my personal experiences with tipping in China.
Do I need to tip in China?
People in mainland China don’t tip for anything, so neither should you.
However, there are some exceptions which include:
- Private or small group tours that only serve foreigners
- Luxury hotels
- High-end restaurants.
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
Tipping Chinese tour guides and drivers
On private and small tours that cater only to foreigners, there’s now an expectation that you tip.
But you should only tip if the tour and the service were great. By no means is it compulsory or legislated.
So, how much should you tip?
For a one-day private tour, you and your friend/partner could each tip something like this:
- Tour guide – 100 yuan
- Driver – 50 yuan
For a week-long tour, you could each tip something like this:
- Tour guide – 500-700 yuan
- Driver – 250-350 yuan
The driver is paid about half the amount because, apart from driving, they generally don’t provide any other service (or speak English in most cases).
Remember, these are employees who receive a wage and don’t rely on tips like some service staff in Western countries like the US.
But sadly, if you use a Chinese tour company that only serves foreigners, the local guide and driver may have become reliant on tips.
Plus, they know Americans love to tip!
It’s also worth noting that the amount you tip differs in the various regions of China. You can tip less in smaller or less affluent areas in the country.
Tipping at hotels in China
I’ve stayed at numerous hotels across China and I can assure you: the locals do not tip.
The exception to this would be at high-end hotels, like the Mandarin Oriental or Waldorf Astoria. But other than that, you don’t tip at Chinese hotels.
So, how much should you tip at a luxury Chinese hotel?
I think 20 yuan for a bellhop would be fine. That’s enough for a decent lunch outside the hotel.
If you want to tip the room attendant, that’s a bit harder to work out because the attendants may change every day. But if you’ve experienced amazing service over a few days, I think 50-100 yuan would be OK.
China is not the US and you don’t need to calculate 10% or 15% or whatever tipping rate you’re used to.
Tipping at restaurants in China
As above, the locals don’t tip at restaurants so neither should you.
But like luxury hotels, if you’re eating at a well-known or upscale restaurant, which sees foreign visitors, you could leave a tip of around 10% if you want to.
Or, you could slip the waitstaff some yuan as a small tip if you felt their service was incredible.
This includes fine restaurants that serve local food as well as Western restaurants.
I’ve never tipped in a restaurant in China, as I don’t eat at high-end restaurants. In my opinion, there’s no need – you can find amazing food everywhere in China.
Even the street side restaurants are top notch!
If you’re in Hong Kong, check your receipt as a gratuity may already be added.
Tipping taxi drivers in China
As above: no, no, no.
Same goes for ride-share drivers (the local service is called Didi).
Just note, it’s extremely rare that a Chinese taxi or rideshare driver will get out of their car to help you with luggage.
Welcome to China’s ‘service’ culture!
Tipping in Hong Kong
Tipping in Hong Kong is more common due to the Western influence.
In top hotels, you can choose to tip the same rate as you normally would in your country. This includes hotel bellboys and girls, waitstaff, and even bathroom attendants.
You’re not expected to tip taxi drivers in Hong Kong, though you could round up to the nearest few dollars, i.e. the driver keeps the small change.
I’ve never tipped a taxi driver in HK, though I haven’t been in that many taxis (their subway system is amazing!).
At top restaurants in Hong Kong, you could tip 10-15% for great food and service, unless a service charge has already been added to the bill.
Tipping etiquette is similar in Macau and Taiwan due to the Western influence.
Do domestic Chinese tourists tip?
As I mentioned before, tipping isn’t part of the Chinese culture, so domestic Chinese tourists don’t tip.
I’ve been on small, personalized tours with local Chinese and they have never tipped.
Is it rude to tip in China?
That’s untrue. I don’t think the writers have ever been to China!
Tipping isn’t part of the Chinese culture, nor has it ever been part of their culture over thousands of years.
So, if an American or a foreign tourist tries to tip, the Chinese person is confused – not offended – as the practice simply doesn’t exist there.
They may also feel awkward, morally, to accept additional money.
Put simply, money on top of an agreed price doesn’t make sense to the Chinese.
(Note: as an Australian who has grown up in a non-tipping culture – this logic makes total sense to me!)
My personal experiences with tipping in China
On a recent private tour in Xiamen, I had two 100 yuan notes ready at the end of the tour. One was for the guide and one was for the driver.
(Side note: private tours are rare for me in China as I love traveling like a local, but sometimes it’s easier to jump in a car to get to some far-flung attraction.)
I had the same amount for both the guide and driver because they were brothers, and I was trying to be fair!
The driver repeatedly refused the tip, so I ended up handing over 200 yuan to the guide. This is much more than I would have liked to have given, but I felt it would have been rude to slip one of the notes back into my pocket.
Another time, near the cute town of Lijiang, I felt sorry for a man whose job it was to take rich tourists around a village on the back of horses.
After taking me for a horse ride, I tried to slip him 15 yuan (that was the only cash I had on me) and he refused, even when I tried again and again.
And on another occasion, a tour guide in Yinchuan looked very confused when I tried to tip him. I only offered it as it was a great tour, there were just six of us, and I felt he went above and beyond.
But he refused numerous times, before accepting it following my insistence. As a non-English speaking local, it was possibly the only time he’s ever been tipped.
So, “never say never” as the saying goes, but I don’t think I’d ever try to tip in China again.
What’s service like in China?
From an Australian perspective, you really cannot compare the level of service you would receive in a country like the US versus China.
I’ve found service to be amazingly good in the US, while only average (if that) in China.
But that’s because American service staff need to provide a high level of service in order to receive tips, and in some cases, survive.
The Chinese, on the other hand, are genuinely helpful. While they may initially come across as shy or even rude (they’re not – they just talk loudly), they will bend over backwards to help you if you ask them.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been helped in China with directions, translations, food recommendations, and even helping me download Chinese apps so I can get into tourist attractions.
Although the tipping etiquette is different in China (i.e. there is no tipping), it doesn’t mean that they don’t care about you. Just don’t expect exceptional service off the bat.
Some quick travel recommendations
If you need a hotel in China, I recommend Trip as I’ve booked with them again, and again, and again. And they’re great.
You can check out their enormous range of China hotels here, with prices to suit all budgets.
And remember, you should always get travel insurance for China too!
At the end of the day, China is a pretty relaxed place and you don’t need to worry about tipping.
Chinese people don’t tip, and you shouldn’t either.
The only exception to this is if you’re staying at a luxury hotel, eating out somewhere very fancy, or you’re part of small tour group that only sees foreigners.
But even then, there are no hard and fast rules about the amount you should give.
Let’s not try to change China’s tipping-free culture.
I hope you liked my article about tipping in China. Next, take a read of the one I wrote asking Are VPNs legal in China? You’ll need a VPN if you want to access all your favorite sites and apps on Wi-Fi there.
Main image credit: AndreyCherkasov on Shutterstock.
FAQ about tipping in China
How much do you tip in China?
People don’t tip in China. It’s not part of the Chinese culture. However, in high-class hotels and restaurants that see foreigners, as well as small guided tours, you could tip if you received wonderful service.
Is it common to tip or add gratuity when paying in China?
No, not at all. The Chinese enjoy a tipping-free culture. Some foreigners who stay in high-class hotels and resorts may choose to tip a nominal amount for amazing service. Private or small group tours, that only see foreigners, may expect tips.
If you receive excellent service from a private tour guide, should you tip in US dollars or the local currency?
Tip in the local currency, which is the Chinese yuan (renminbi) in mainland China or the Hong Kong dollar in HK. If you only have foreign currencies, you might get a strange look if you hand something over, with the exception of US dollars. But even then, it’s probably going to cost the person to exchange it, so the local currency is best.
Do you tip for massage in China?
No, there are set prices for massage in China and you don’t tip. The only exception to this would be if you receive a massage at luxury class hotel in China, and you felt that the service was incredible. Only then might it be appropriate, but check if a service fee is already included on the bill. The locals do not tip for massage.
Do you tip for a haircut in China?
No, people don’t tip hairdressers in China.
Should Western travelers expect better service if they tip in China?
No, foreign travelers shouldn’t expect great service if they tip. Tipping practices are different in China (i.e. virtually non-existent) compared to other countries like the US. Most service workers, especially outside the bigger cities, don’t understand that outstanding service may result in tips from foreigners because it’s not part of the culture. It’s a different story in Hong Kong though, where it may be worth tipping service workers at upscale hotels and upscale restaurants for outstanding service, especially if you’re a repeat customer.