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Halong Bay - Tipping guide and how to avoid surcharge

Halong Bay - Tipping guide and how to avoid surcharge

Halong Bay - Tipping guide and how to avoid surcharge

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    I. Tips and surcharge in Halong Bay – Common or rare?

    Tipping must be familiar with you more than anyone else, especially Western people. It is an action showing appreciation and pleasant to any services that you are happy with. There even have laws and rules about tipping in some destinations; so, we can clearly see that the tipping effect expands from country to country. However, things do not go well like that in Vietnam, some individuals usually confuse with the term and misunderstand each other.

    Read more: 5 Things you should know about Halong Bay overnight cruise

    The reason for this problem is tipping only commons in some parts of Vietnam, not the whole country. “Why is it so complicated? A country should have one particular culture, right?” In Vietnam, the Western culture, which tip is included, does not come to the whole country, only some big cities of Vietnam like Hanoi, Saigon, Danang, Halong Bay, etc. The tipping culture, at some part of Vietnam, makes Vietnamese think it is like “asking for money” culture.

    Let’s take an example with the most beautiful place in Vietnam – Halong Bay. Needless to say, Halong Bay is extremely famous not only in Vietnam but also to the world. After becoming 1 of 7 Wonders of Nature confirmed by New Seven Wonders, as well as the World Heritage of Nature confirmed by UNESCO, Halong Bay has a huge attraction to tourists all over the world. Nevertheless, people get confused when tipping. They go to a market, buy some food cost only from US$5 to US$7, how much should they tip? Or when they have dinner in a restaurant, no one tips for the waiter or waitress, should they tip or not just like everybody else?

    A surcharge is no difference. Many tourists when visiting Vietnam afraid of paying extra money but do not know why they have to pay for it. The possibility of scams happening in the area is actually pretty high due to the issue with surcharging. We can see the problem of a culture shock when visiting a new country with foreigners, especially Vietnam. 

    Actually, tips and surcharge should be seen in an easier way. This is not the case due to the unpopular of tip and surcharge in Halong Bay. The culture of tips and surcharge is still infancy to a developing country like Vietnam. For example with tips, Vietnamese do not care about whether you tip or not. If you tip, they will thank you and appreciate for the tip; if not, it is all fine, no problem at all. As a result, we can say that tipping in Vietnam or Halong Bay is not customary. Though it is highly precious and appreciated, citizens do not overthink about it, and they certainly would not think you are rude because you did not tip them. In contrast, even though tipping is not compulsory, as I have said, Vietnamese still especially value if you tip them.

    1 issue leads to this mess, is that Vietnam workers usually are not paid enough to cover for their expenses. As a consequence, they are seriously pleased with the tips as extra money for their jobs. Some people even have their tips more than their usual salary. Moreover, when a waiter or waitress receives tips, they feel that their work worth the value. The tip is like a tool to recognize their hard-working and enthusiastic, give them more motivation to work and keep delivering fantastic experiences to customers. Sometimes, it is not about how much tip you will pay, it is about showing how you appreciate their work and effort.

    In fact, there are some places that tips and surcharge are quite necessary for Halong Bay. Those places usually provide some services like spas, massage, hotels, or upscale restaurant. Each destination has its own way in tipping and their own surcharge. In order to help you with the tricky part, down below will be the list of several places where tipping is acceptable and more familiar. In the next section, we will discuss the right way to tip in Halong Bay first, and then we will talk about a proper surcharge later. 

    II. Halong Bay - How to tip properly? 

    In Halong Bay, as in other destinations in Vietnam, tipping is only crucial in some occasions. For example, in big cities like Hanoi or Saigon, tipping is quite common. The areas focusing on traveling for foreign tourists, that’s the reason why Western culture has already been applied widely, especially tip. However, do not mistake about the extra fee such as VAT tax, or service fee in the bill as a tip for waiters, it rarely comes to their hands. Therefore, if you fall in love with the services and you want to tip that staff, do not be hesitate to tip personally. 

    1. Tipping guide for taxis in Halong Bay

    Come to specific, taxis is one factor you need to pay attention to. You will have a huge amount of time with taxis, it is super convenient and quick. However, be noticed that tipping for taxis is not compulsory. A taxi driver will not have any hard feeling if they do not get any tips on the whole trip. In other words, you can tip if you feel you have been served nicely and fully; if not, you can be able to pay exactly the same amount on the kilometers clock.

    Read more: How to get to Halong bay, Vietnam

    This issue in Vietnam seriously depends on the one who provides services. Your desire to tip is based on whether the taxi driver is polite with you or not, or if he is helpful or not. If not, you do not have to tip, but if yes, how much is enough? In my experiences, the best way to tip a taxi driver is to give him an even amount of money and ask him to keep the change. For further understanding, if the exact fare is 135,000 VND, you can give him 150,000 VND, the extra 15,000 VND will be the tip for the driver. However, there is an unwilling factor of this action, unfortunately. Some taxi drivers will assume that they can keep all the change by himself without bothering customers. On the occasion of a low-level of service, feel free to demand the change back, as he has no right to keep the change due to the fact that it is your right. I think the best way to deal with this situation is to always prepare some odd amount of money to pay exactly the amount on the clock of the taxi. 

    2. Tipping guide for restaurants in Halong Bay

    To some foreign tourists, the best way to have lunch or dinner is to grab some local food down the street, enjoy it just like every Vietnamese. However, of course, there has to be some situation which choosing a fancy, upscale restaurant for dinner is better and more proper. Halong Bay is not an exception, with many restaurants in town, people can freely choose to eat cuisine dishes or having a burger instead to luring the feeling of homesick. Especially if you travel by Halong Bay cruiser, restaurant on a cruiser is usually fancy and diverse, from a simple dish to a more challenging dish, from Asian dish to European one. In order to avoid some awkward moment with tip, there are some hints for you to follow. First of all, when you choose to enjoy the food down the street of Halong, on the sidewalk, just pay the exact amount of money to the owner. On this occasion, if you give them more money as a tip, they will normally pay you back due to the culture matter of Vietnam. Halong Bay street food’s owners do not familiar with tip, there will be a misunderstanding between you and the seller which will create an amazingly awkward moment. That is how the thing goes with street food. In contrast, you can tip personally to the waiter or waitress in a small restaurant or food store in Halong. As you being served with honesty and politely, it is fine to show your appreciation by tipping the waiter with a dollar or 2.

    When it comes to fancy, upscale restaurants, things go quite differently compare to local food. Occasionally,  in the bill, there will have an extra fee, it can be a VAT tax or service fee. These fees usually vary from 5% to 10% of your bill, some customers will assume that those fees will come straight to the hand of the waiter or waitress who provides excellent service. However, in Halong, things are still uncertain, as we cannot tell if the person we want to tip can receive our money or not. Moreover, some restaurants will sum up that money, and divide to all employees the average amount. As a result, the one who served you will receive less than the amount they deserved. Therefore, we recommend that you can give them hand to hand around 50,000 VND to 100,000 VND (around US$2 to US$5) or 10% to 20% of your bill. In that way, you can sure that the outstanding staff who you want to tip get the money on their own. 

    3. Tipping guide for a hotel in Halong Bay

    Hotels definitely are a vital factor in your trip as a place for you to rest and relax after a whole day traveling. When having a trip to Halong Bay, there are many types of hotels for you to choose from. From a medium hotel to a luxury hotel, from a homestay to travel on a cruiser, each has its own unique way to explore Halong. Of course, it is also different to tip in each type of way to stay. In general, tipping in hotels is not compulsory, just like others. As we have said above, tipping is still uncommon and infancy in Vietnam and Halong Bay, it is purely based on your desire. However, guesses usually will tip around US$1 to US$2 to the service staff if the staff can deliver a fantastic job. Be noticed that the level of accommodation will be the determining factor for the tip. Let’s be more detail! Firstly, we will talk about more simple and also cheaper ways like homestay or medium hotels. These places in Halong are quite popular, people have more demand for this kind of place to stay. The reason is that it is cheaper and easier to book a room. Besides, what makes homestay in Halong actually stand out is not only it is a place to stay, but it also a home that you can feel like living in with a kitchen, meeting with other guesses as neighbors because they also live in the homestay with you, experience the local lifestyle of Halong Bay’s citizen and so forth. So basically, everything you do is your own business, there will have no service like clean the room or food service. Therefore, in this kind of place, whether to tip or not is dependent on you. If you want to tip, I recommend a reasonable amount would be around US$1 to US$2 for the owner of the homestay. The reason why you tip for the owner but not the staff is because homestay does not have any staff at all. Due to the fact that there are no services, the staff is unnecessary. Therefore, a homestay only needs an owner to run the business. 

    A luxury hotel or a cruiser would be another different story. However, do not lay too much emphasis on the tipping even with a huge hotel. In Halong Bay, even with a big hotel, tipping still depends on your desire, as Vietnamese not usually tip the housekeepers or the bellmen. But what if you want to tip? How much is enough? Staying in a hotel, the level of accommodation is the factor to decide the amount of the tip. In the case, you are happy with the services,  leaving a couple of dollars on the table or on the bed for the housekeepers is always a nice gesture to do. The appropriate amount for tipping great services in a luxury hotel in Halong Bay is between US$2 and US$5. These tips will help to motivate the service staff to work better and also, to make a good impression on them. The same with cruiser, Halong Bay cruiser tour is quite luxury because mainly, people always choose a 4-star to a 5-star cruiser to have the best experience during the trip. Therefore, US$2 to US$5 will make their day bright, as it is a reasonable price to pay for a valuable service. 

    4. Tipping guide for a spa in Halong Bay.

    After a long flight or a long tour on a scooter, it must be incredibly tired and all the pains keep messing you up. It is truly needed for a spa and massage session in Halong Bay for the need for relaxation and enjoyment. Furthermore, not only for relaxation but also beauty services cannot be missed in the holiday for women, is that right? Spas and massage have been a beautiful culture of Asian lives in many countries. Each country will have its own way of therapy. After the session, customers will feel absolutely refresh and relax, release all the roughness and stiffness from your tired muscles. In Halong Bay, spas and beauty center can be found all over the city of Halong with multiple types, from the lower end spa to a high-class spa. Especially Halong Cruiser is famous and well-known for being a convenient tour where you can find a spa whenever you need. The spa and massage services usually are attached to the cruiser or hotel in Halong. So, after enjoying a great session of massage and your pains have been released, should you tip or not? The answer is that you should if you are happy with the session. Still, the tip is always based on the level of your favor with the staff, the difference is only the amount of money for each typical types of spas. This might be hard and confused for you because the price for a spa session in Halong Bay Vietnam is usually cheaper than the one in Western countries. Nevertheless, the staffs who work in a spa or a massage center usually are girls who come from un-wealthy families or rural areas. In their work, the center often does not pay enough for them to cover for their expenses. In other words, they are underpaid with the workload that they have to take care of. Therefore, if you are happy and feel great with the session, you can leave a couple of dollars for the masseuse as a reward and a motivation for them, as well. 

    The same thing happens with restaurants, at a luxurious spa, the tip is sharply different. When going into a big spa center, the tip usually is from around US$5 to US$10 based on the experience you got. However, be noticed that some spas will charge you the service fee straight in the bill. We will discuss this issue about surcharge in Halong Bay in the next part right down below. The best way is to tip directly to the masseuse that you are comfortable with and think that they deserve it with the high quality of service that they have delivered.

    All in all, behind the recommendation of ours, it is still mostly depends on you. Please be remembered that tipping in Halong Bay is absolutely not compulsory. You do not have to tip if you do not have a great experience of service as you expected. Therefore, if there is any action of the invite with insistence for tips, do not be hesitated to inform the securities management of Halong Bay. Down below is their information. 

    • Halong Bay Securities Management:
    • Phone number: 033.3824867
    • Address: 166 Le Thanh Tong Street, Halong, Quang Ninh
    • Email:
    • Website:

    III. Surcharge in Halong Bay

    Coming to a new destination to travel or to enjoy a holiday is sometimes quite annoying because of some fees that you did not think about. Halong Bay is no different. Of course, there will have some surcharges included in your trip, some are quite familiar, but some are only happening in Vietnam which will surprise you a little bit. 

    1. Surcharge based on seasons in Halong Bay. 

    First of all, let’s talk about surcharge which will be the same comparison with other countries. Beginning with the factor of which season to visit Halong Bay. The weather in Halong Bay is the most important factor for jumping in a conclusion of “when to go?”. Summer and fall usually 2 seasons that the price will be at its peak due to the fact that they are the most beautiful seasons to have holidays in Halong. For an example, a huge number of Vietnamese come to Halong from June to the end of September each year lead to a raising of the price of services sharply in these time. However, it is only with Vietnamese; to foreign tourists, they usually love to come to Halong Bay in winter to explore the shadowy, dim beauty of Halong. 

    Cruise is another story. As for the cruise, the high season of this kind of tourism often around October to April to avoid the storm season. As a result, tourists should pay attention to pick for yourself a perfect time visiting Halong Bay to minimize surcharge.    

    2. Hotel surcharge in Halong Bay. 

    In addition, in the hotel rooms, there will have a minibar for guesses to have a cup of tea or coffee, have a bar of snickers or have some snacks. Be aware that the stuff on the minibar is not for free, there will have a menu on the side of the minibar to tell the price of each item of the minibar. 

    One more thing to notice is that if you have booked the room before you arrive but at that moment, you wanted to cancel the room, there will have some fee for the cancellation. Usually, the hotel will only provide some days for free cancellation, but if it is in a hurry like only 1 or 2 days before the date, you will have to pay some extra dollars to cancel the room. 

    3. Withdrawing money surcharge in Halong Bay.

    In Halong Bay, some surcharge will definitely make you have to say “wow!” sometimes. The surcharge to withdraw cash from the ATM is a great example here. With foreigners, the certain amount of money you have in your ATM is usually US$, but to expense in Halong Bay Vietnam, you need some VND as Vietnam’s currency. It is hard just to live with the credit card all the time because in the local market, citizens only trade through cash. Therefore, when withdrawing cash from the ATM, you will have to pay some extra fees in order to exchange from US$ to VND. I suggest you go straight to the bank office and ask directly how much will be the extra fee so that it will be easier to manage your bank account. The same thing with a VISA card, as it is might be more familiar with foreign tourists. In order to withdraw money from VISA card, the exchange rate is about 3% to 4% of the total amount of exchanged money. A great tip for you would be paying directly by VISA card, it is better than withdrawing money because you do not have to pay the withdrawing fee and the exchanged fee. 

    4. Food surcharge in Halong Bay

    The next thing that you have to pay attention to is the price of food in special places. In Halong Bay or Vietnam in general, the price of food in some tourism places such as beaches or group of caves of Halong (In Halong Bay, there are many caves for tourists to explore) will be more expensive than the normal grocery store on the street. The reason is quite easy to understand. Beaches and caves are places for tourists to enjoy their holidays and to be active. As a result, people will need something to eat and drink. Little stores which sell food and drinks at the beaches or caves are the only source you can get something to eat or drink at that time. Furthermore, when people are going on holidays, they will think that it was fine to pay an extra couple of dollars to get food and beverage. However, it is so much more expensive than you think, and the food is not healthy at all in my opinion. My suggestion would be preparing some food and drink with you before going on a trip. 

    Here is some information about how to tip and surcharge in Halong Bay. I hope you will find this article as a truly helpful source of information and enjoy reading it. Halong Bay definitely is a must-go destination when visiting Vietnam. Therefore, based on those hints above, make sure to have a great time traveling and exploring the natural beauty of Halong.

    30 Jan 2020
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