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 tourism industry, tipping in Bhutan also seems to have become an expected thing especially among tourist guides and drivers.
Tourists travelling to Bhutan at times remain confused 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 guide is intended specifically for tourists as tipping in Bhutan restaurants and other places isn’t a common practice for Bhutanese locals.
In Bhutan Restaurants and Hotels
Tipping 10% of your bill sounds quite realistic in Bhutan restaurants and hotels. But again you can see whether 10% Service Charge along with 10% Bhutan Sales Tax is being added onto your bill. If service charge is added, you can ignore the 10% rule.
But you also have the right to ignore this rule and go ahead tipping based on quality of the services they rendered. If you are happy and satisfied of their services, tipping another 10% of the bill doesn’t sound big.
In standard hotels, however you cannot say that your tip will go to the staff who actually made you feel satisfied of service quality. It’s advisable to tip individuals and not leave at help desk or in the hands of an owner.
It would be nice to tip the hotel porter Nu. 50-100 depending on a number of your bags he carried. It won’t be an expected thing. But remember that they will be either hotel surrounding cleaners or door guards who earn less than Nu.10,000 (USD 150) per month.
Hotel maid also won’t expect a tip from you. Nevertheless, some tourists leave Nu.300-500 on table when they check out as a good gesture and appreciation for their services.
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 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 50-100 and drivers with USD 25-50 in a week’s tour package. However, it depends on you. If you are in Bhutan on a solo travel, it might be quite heavy. You can squeeze the range as tipping itself is a voluntary thing in Bhutan or you don’t tip at all.
Trekking or Hiking Helpers & cooks
If your Bhutan travel is for offbeat trekking, hiking or outdoor camping, your travel agency will have number of people already pooled for the tour specifically. 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 meager daily wage of probably Nu.200-300 per day. Therefore, on completion of the trip, tipping them USD 50-100 individually would be a good gesture though it isn’t compulsory.
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 performance. The rate will be fixed.
If you’re feeling little generous on that night, you can add Nu.100-200 on their fixed rate. I don’t know if this can be called even tipping in Bhutanese Drayang.
Bhutan Taxi Drivers & Car rentals
Taxi drivers in Bhutan won’t expect tip from you. But taxis in Bhutan aren’t metered like in other countries. So you should already know 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 normal rate on reaching the destination. If you feel distance is quite long and feel the driver deserves your appreciation, you can tip him Nu.100-200 on the top of fixed taxi fare you paid.
If you have hired a Bhutan taxi for one day city tour, it would be appreciable thing if you tip the driver Nu.300-500. Because you never know he would have earned more than the settled rate 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 taxi in advance.
Paro Taktsang Temple Horsemen
Taktsang Monastery, the most popular tourist attraction of Bhutan doesn’t have road connection. But its charm lies in hiking from the base through 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.
Bhutan Farmhouse and Homestay
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 farm houses in Bhutan to provide this service to tourists.
Aum Leki Wangmo Farmhouse is popular Bhutan homestay in Punakha. Paro Penlop Dawa Penjor Heritage Farmhouse is recommended homestay in Paro Bhutan. There are many homestay in Thimphu and Bumthang which are approved by Tourism Council of Bhutan. Click this for latest list of Bhutan Farmstay and get good farm house in Phobjikha and farm house 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 already 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 when you leave. But it’s also not compulsory.
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 an 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 recipient lose proportionate amount of merit. So tipping in Bhutan is all about your personal judgement, affordability and choice.
Recommend to read following travel experiences and exciting travel stories from Bhutan:
- You want to travel Bhutan for Free? Here is how you can do it.
- Photography Hike to Phajoding Monastery.
- Bhutan Travel Guide: Tips on How to Travel to Bhutan from India.
- Paro Tshechu in the past and present.
- Interesting walk over the suspension bridge of Punakha Bhutan.
- Place to visit in Paro – Chumbu Lhakhang.
- 65 Tourist attractions in Paro other than Taktsang Monastery.
- Romantic Getaway at Paro Dongkola Temple.
- Tips for tourists in riding taxi cabs from Phuentsholing Bhutan.
- Paro Dzong under Flooding Light at Night.
- Trekking to Great Dungtsho – Bhutan’s Lake Amidst Rocky Castles.