Tipping in China: A Useful & Practical Guide

If you are planning to visit mainland China, you may be wondering what to do about tips. You will probably visit many fascinating places, as there is so much to explore in China.

Knowing where, when, and whether you should tip will make your travel experience far more enjoyable. It can also help to avoid any confusion or embarrassment.

In this guide, we will look at the etiquette when it comes to tipping in China.

Do You Tip in China?

Tipping is not expected and sometimes not accepted in China, so you need to exercise caution.

China is a country where tipping largely not expected and often not accepted. There are some instanced where you may be okay to leave a tip, but by and large you should not tip because it may be seen as rude.

Some exceptions to this rule include group and private tour guides and drivers, and perhaps rounding up the fare for taxi drivers by way of a tip.

Tipping Customs to Keep in Mind

Tipping in China could cause confusion and stress to some people.

It is always important to remember that tipping is a very westernized tradition, and it is not the norm in China. Sometimes, leaving a tip can cause confusion, stress, and even altercations. So, keep these tipping customs in mind: 

  • Avoid tipping wherever possible other than the exclusions mentioned above
  • If you really want to tip, be discreet and present the tip in an envelope as a gift
  • Show your gratitude with a thank you rather than a tip

Tipping in China: Useful Phrases to Know

It is always useful to learn some key phrases before you visit China.

When you visit China, you will undoubtedly want to be polite and respectful. One of the ways in which you can do this is by learning a few useful phrases. Here are some of the key ones: 

  • Hello: Nǐhǎo
  • How are you? Nǐhǎo ma?
  • What’s your name? Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?
  • Nice to meet you: Hěn gāoxìng rènshi nǐ 
  • Thank you: Xièxiè!

Tipping Restaurants in China

Tipping in high-end restaurants may not be necessary, as a 10-15% tip may already be included.

If you visit a standard restaurant in China, you can look forward to delicious authentic dishes. However, no matter how much you enjoy your Chinese food, you should avoid tipping because it can cause confusion. Sometimes, employees are not allowed tips, which can cause embarrassment. However, in high-end restaurants where they are used to Western visitors tipping, a service charge may already be included.

Some points to remember are:

  • Avoid tipping in smaller restaurants to avoid embarrassment
  • Show your gratitude with kindness and a thank you
  • Check your bill in high-end restaurants, as a service charge may already be added
  • If you do tip in smaller restaurants, do so discreetly and in an envelope. Also, make sure employees are not forbidden to take tips

Tipping Tour Guides in China

Tour guides and drivers are the exceptions when it comes to tipping in China.

Tipping in China

With lots of great places to explore, you may find yourself heading off on a group tour or a private excursion. Tipping your tour guide and/or driver is acceptable, as this is something that is quite common in China.

Some things to remember are: 

  • You can use your discretion when paying a tip to your tour guide and driver
  • If you are on a private tour, consider paying a little more as there are no other customers. The recommendation is $10 per person
  • Try to be discreet when giving your tip – don’t tip in front of lots of people or in front of the guide’s superiors

Tipping in Hotels or Guesthouses in China

You are not expected to tip anyone at hotels in China.

As with most other venues, you are not expected to leave any tip for employees at hotels in China. However, if you are staying at a high-end westernized hotel, you can consider tips for certain services. Some key points to remember are: 

  • Do not tip at small hotels and guesthouses in China
  • At high-end hotels, you can consider a small tip for porters and concierges, but this is by no means expected
  • If you eat at a high-end hotel restaurant, there may be a 10-15% service charge already added

 Tipping Taxis, Shuttles and Coaches in China

You can consider rounding up the fare for taxi drivers in China.

When it comes to tipping drivers such as shuttle and taxi drivers in China, there are a few points to keep in mind. You are not expected to tip any drivers but there are a couple of instances where you might wish to tip. This includes: 

  • You may want to tip a small amount to airport shuttle/coach drivers if they assist you with luggage
  • You can tip taxi drivers simply by rounding up the fare

Tipping in Bars and Pubs in China

Tipping at bars in China is not necessary and sometimes is not allowed.

When visiting bars in China, you may wonder whether you should leave a tip for bartenders or waiting staff. This is something that is best avoided for a number of reasons. This includes: 

  • Employees at bars may not be allowed to take tips
  • If you leave money at the bar or your table, you may find a staff member chasing you with it thinking it was left by mistake

Tipping Barbers, Spas and Hair Salons in China

High-end spas in luxury hotels may add a service charge to your bill.

If you intend to pamper yourself while in China, you may be considering a trip to the spa or to a salon to get your hair done. If you are planning this, here are some tips with regard to tipping in these places: 

  • At hair salons and barbers, no tip is expected
  • You do not have to tip at spas in China
  • If you visit a westernized salon, tips are more acceptable but no expected
  • If you visit a spa at a luxury hotel, a service charge may already be added to your bill