Tipping Guide for Cruises in Mekong - A Nightmare or a Piece of Cake

Tipping is certainly not an easy thing to do while cruising on Mekong River. Even though tipping is a well-known culture in a lot of countries in the world, especially for westerners, Gratuity is varied across customs, etiquette, and locations. Thus, tipping during your trip in the Mekong will be a nightmare for passengers on board without a certain guideline.

Lucky enough, we have collected all up-to-date information about tipping for your upcoming trip.

Notes of Tipping in the Mekong

  • It is not MANDATORY to tip when cruising on Mekong River, even though tourist operator will recommend you
  • There are NO set amount of money for gratuity, and it depends largely on where you are traveling (which will be explained further)
  • While tipping is a great way to show your gratitude for the excellent service, do NOT overdo it, causing misunderstanding or exploitation
  • Usually, the tip is SPLIT between all the staffs (including kitchen staffs) on the cruise, so you don’t have to worry about fairness
  • In most situations, tipping using US dollar is totally ACCEPTABLE and you don’t have to convert your money to local currency.

Two Common Cruise’s policies about tipping

It is clear that each company will operate distinct strategy to attract tourists and tipping policy is also included in it. Here are some of the trends that cruise company provides:

  • Tipping for crew and staffs is included during the trip

A lot of cruises manage to include tipping in their prices. Some of which are RV La Marguerite Cruise, Rv Amalotus Cruise, Pandaw Cruises or RV Mekong Prestige II. Their prices may be a little higher than cruise of the same standard, and few cruises will recommend you to tipping if interested. Remember that the cruise operator only includes a tip for their crew, not for drivers and so on.

  • Tipping is not included on the cruise

While various cruises have included gratuity in their prices, the others do not. As a result, they will recommend you to tip their staffs and other services (restaurant, drivers,…). Nonetheless, the companies will have a guideline about how much money should be given during (and after) the trip.  

Cruise operators have this kind of policy include Toum Tiou Cruise, Aqua Mekong Cruise (which has a guideline in information booklet on-board), RV Mekong Princess (check their website for in-depth guides).

Tipping Guidelines in different Countries on Mekong River

1. Vietnam

In Vietnam, tipping has been common to tour operator in recent years and cruise operator is happy to receive such gratitude. Vietnamese receives US Dollar, but they still prefer VND. Here is a short list of how much you should tip:

It will be great to tip 10-15 USD (which usually shared among the entire crew) for the cruises in Vietnam or other countries in the Mekong. If there is no envelope in your cabin, you should give the money to the captain.

In restaurant and bar, people usually tip 5-10% of the bill, but in many places, they will not accept tipping as they have included gratuity in the bill. 

Tipping for a Cup of Coffee in Hanoi

Housekeepers in hotels are really grateful if they are received around 2 USD/room/day. It is the same with porters or bellhops that you should give them 2-3 USD for each hard-working time.

The taxi driver should be given around 3-5 USD if the service is excellent. Watch out your bill since it will be a little excessive if you have to pay 4-5 USD for the cost and tip another 3-4 USD. 

Tour guides are often the one you meet the most, and they work extremely hard during the day. Tipping them 10 USD if you travel in a group of 2-3 and it also greatly depends on the type of tour and size of your group.

2. Laos

Tipping is not expected in Laos, yet it is still an appreciated thing to do while cruising in this country. A large gratuity will become an insult for local people, so make sure to check out our guidelines:

Tourists should give a bellhop 1$ each time they help you, and a chambermaid at 1$ per day. 

Drivers and tour guides should be tipped at the same amount as Vietnamese counterpart. 

3. Cambodia

It is personal preference on how much should be given, although it is quite usual for foreign tourists to tip in Cambodia. Like other countries, this is a guideline to ensure a pleasing experience for both local people and tourists:

We recommend you to tip 1$ per person up to 5$ if the driver is helpful and informative. The tour guide should also be given 2$/person as gratuity for a full-day tour.

Expressing Gratitude for Tourists

Tipping for staffs in restaurant and hotels falls around 1-2$/day(time), but you can decide based on your generosity. If the price has included tipping, your gratuity may be refused.

Tipping Should also Be Based on the Bill

4. China

Although there is no tipping tradition in China, a lot of tour operators in the country will recommend gratuity for visitors from the world. Some companies will include a guideline for tourists, but you can also find out in this post:

Tour guides expect 10$ per person per day, and in terms of drivers, they expect 1-2$ per person as gratuities. On the other hand, about 1-2$ for each suitcase is sufficient for Bellboys, while chambermaids are often received a small present or few pennies.

A Bellboy in China

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