Last updated on August 18th, 2019
Tipping in Bhutan isn’t something of Bhutan’s home-breed culture and tradition. Therefore, in Bhutan, you won’t see tipping boxes in hotels and restaurants like in other countries. However, with the growth of the tourism industry, tipping in Bhutan also seems to have become an expected thing, especially among tourist guides and drivers.
Tourists traveling to Bhutan don’t know much about Bhutan tipping culture. So they at times ask many questions about Bhutan tipping etiquette; where whom, when to tip and of course how much to tip when they are in Bhutan.
Therefore, we bring you Bhutan travel tips that shall give you an overall landscape of Bhutan tipping etiquette. But this Bhutan tipping guide is specifically for tourists traveling Bhutan. Tipping in Bhutan restaurants and other places isn’t a common practice for Bhutanese locals.
Tipping in Bhutan Restaurants and Hotels
When it comes to tipping in Bhutan restaurants and hotels, 10% of your bill is quite realistic. But again you can see whether 10% Service Charge along with 10% Bhutan Sales Tax is already on your bill. If a service charge is there, you can ignore the 10% rule.
But you also have the right to ignore this rule and go ahead tipping according to the quality of their services. If you are happy and contend of their services, tipping another 10% of the bill doesn’t sound a big thing.
In standard hotels, however, you cannot say that your tip will go to the staff who actually made you feel happy about their service quality. It’s advisable to tip individuals and not leave at a help desk or in the hands of an owner.
It would be nice to tip the hotel porter Nu. 300-500 depending on a number of your bags. It won’t be an expected thing. But remember that they are either hotel surrounding cleaners or door guards who earn less than Nu.10,000 (USD 150) per month.
Hotel maids and housekeepers also won’t expect a tip from you. Nevertheless, some tourists leave Nu.1,000-1,500 on a table when they check out as a good gesture and appreciation for their services.
Tipping Bhutan Tourist Guides and Drivers
It’s also not compulsory for you to tip your Bhutan tour guide and driver. They should be paid quite well as per the tourism policy of Bhutan. However, when I interact with people working as tour guides and tourist drivers, they actually expect some tips from tourists on completion of a trip.
Some tourists tip tour guide with USD 15-20 and drivers with USD 10-15 daily in a week’s tour package. However, it’ll depend on you. If you are on a solo travel, it might be quite heavy. You can squeeze the range as tipping in Bhutan itself is a voluntary thing or you don’t tip at all.
Tipping Trekking or Hiking Helpers & cooks
If your Bhutan travel is for offbeat trekking, hiking or outdoor camping, your travel agency will have a number of people for the tour. They’ll be trekking porters, rough guides Bhutan, trekking cook, and few other helpers.
Excepting tour guide, almost all of them would be on one-time employment at a meager daily wage of probably Nu.200-300 per day. Therefore, on completion of the trip, tipping them USD 100-150 individually would be a good gesture though it isn’t compulsory.
Tipping in Bhutan Night Clubs, Discos and Bars
There is no system of tipping in Bhutan night clubs, discos and bars in a strict sense. When you visit Bhutan’s night clubs like Drayangs, girls will sing or dance on your request. But you have to pay before a performance. The rate will be fixed.
If you’re feeling little generous on that night, you can add Nu.100-200 on their rates. I don’t know if this can be called even tipping in Bhutanese Drayang.
Tipping Bhutan Taxi Drivers & Car rentals
Taxi drivers in Bhutan won’t expect a tip from you. But taxis in Bhutan don’t have meters like in other countries. So you need to know a normal rate from the pickup point to your destination – you can ask locals.
You should also ask the taxi driver about the rate before boarding. There is a probability that they might charge higher than a normal rate on reaching the destination. If you feel the distance is quite long and feel the driver deserves your appreciation, you can tip him Nu.300-400 on the top of fare you paid.
If you have hired a Bhutan taxi for a one-day city tour, it would be an appreciable thing if you tip the driver Nu.300-500. Because you never know he would earn more than that amount on that particular day.
When you board Bhutan taxi from Paro International Airport, the rates will be higher than normal rate by about Nu.200-300. The airport authority charges taxis with Nu.100 on entry and then Nu.50 every after 30 minutes. Be calculative on this if you have asked a taxi in advance.
Tipping Paro Taktsang Temple Horsemen
Taktsang Monastery, the most popular tourist attraction of Bhutan doesn’t have road connection. But its charm is in hiking from the base through a gentle slope of woods and ridges.
However, some elderly tourists cannot hike all the way to Taktsang Monastery. So they take an uphill horse ride from the monastery base paying Nu.700 per horse. But the question is do you have to tip the horsemen.
These horsemen are farmers from Paro. If you at all feel generous, tipping horseman Nu.200-300 would add on their meager farming income. But it all depends on you – tipping is compulsory nowhere in Bhutan.
Tipping Farmhouse and Homestay People in Bhutan
Many tourists now prefer staying in various Bhutan homestay or Bhutan farmhouse to experience day-to-day working of Bhutanese families and their living styles. There are many homestays and farmhouses in Bhutan to provide this service to tourists.
Aum Leki Wangmo Farmhouse is a popular Bhutan homestay in Punakha. Paro Penlop Dawa Penjor Heritage Farmhouse is recommended homestay in Paro Bhutan. There are many homestays in Thimphu and Bumthang which are approved by the Tourism Council of Bhutan. Click this for the latest list of Bhutan Farmstay and get good farmhouse in Phobjikha and farmhouse in Paro during your travel to Bhutan.
So, after staying with Bhutanese families in a typical Bhutan homestay or farmhouse, do you have to tip the host of the farmhouse? The host must have been paid in advance for your stay. Again do you have to tip?
It all depends on you. If you feel that they have given you exceptional Bhutan homestay or farmhouse hospitality and services, you might consider tipping few bucks inside an envelope when you leave. But it’s also not a compulsory thing.
Tipping Bhutanese Yak Herders and Nomads
If you are traveling to Bhutan’s offbeat and culture places like Merak-Sakteng, Laya and Lingzhi, it’s quite sure that you’ll spend a day or two in tents of yak herders or other highland Bhutanese nomads.
If you spend a night with them sharing their tent and foods, tipping them with USD 20-40 or equivalent in BTN will be fine. If you just used their tent, slash it to somewhere USD 10-15. But again they also won’t expect a tip from you. It shall depend on your will.
In Bhutanese culture, it’s a symbol of disrespect if you give money in cash especially of offers like tips. Therefore, it’s advisable to put your tip inside an envelope and then hand over to the recipient. It’s culturally more appropriate to hand over your tips during final departure with some words of appreciation.
Tipping Private Cultural Dancers in Bhutan
Sometimes your travel agent would arrange a group of Bhutanese who will perform Bhutan’s cultural dances and masked dances. You will come across such additional services when you are in Simply Bhutan Museum and also at the base of Taktsang.
They are good activities to observe as you sit back and take rest. But is it necessary to tip those cultural and masked dancers? The answer is No. They would have been already paid. However, tipping Nu.1,000-1,500/person would be a sign of good gesture. If so, put your tip in an envelope with some words and hand over to the team leader.
Tipping in Bhutan – Question of YES or NO
Bhutanese aren’t so materialistic and know your wallets aren’t bottomless. Don’t be tensed when you cannot do so during your tour in Bhutan. The fact is Bhutanese have been hearing quite a number of stories – how some tourists don’t open their wallets even once in Bhutan and expect guides to pay for their drinks in some instances.
We have also heard stories of how few tourists have tipped in millions and raised some Bhutan tour guides from rags to riches.
But that is surely something nobody in Bhutan would expect. The bottom line is tipping in Bhutan is a voluntary thing. It’s the ultimate freedom of tourists.
Moreover, Bhutan etiquette and morality has that accepting more than one deserves is giving a chance for that person to gain merit – where a recipient loses a proportionate amount of merit. So tipping in Bhutan is all a matter of your personal judgment, affordability, and choice.
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