Information regarding tips and bargaining.
Tipping and Restaurant Etiquette
Tipping in Vietnam is almost completely non-existent. At least, Vietnamese people didn’t ever have the habit in the past. If you go to any street food vendor, traditional Vietnamese restaurant or “home venue” (when they sell food out of their homes), tipping isn’t on their minds at all. Some respect, a smile, and a “cam on” (thank you) is all you need to make them enjoy serving you.
However, the boom in tourism has adapted locals somewhat to this western custom, and quite a few modern, Western-style restaurants include tip in your bill. In the touristy areas of Vietnam it’s a bit more common that tipping and tax is included on a bill.
It’s more rare to find a place where tipping isn’t on the bill, but the waiter/waitress expects you to tip. Most venues have lots of wait staff who wander around and help everyone. If you’re in a fancy modern venue and have a single dedicated staff member who tends to your table, consider throwing in 10% or so. Remember that even the staff in nice modern places get paid very little for a day of work.
Tipping is up to you and a personal matter of if you feel like the quality of service deserves an extra note. Here is a bit of advice about what seems to be typical and appropriate by current travelers standards in Vietnam:
Do I tip a delivery guy? There are many websites that you can order food to be delivered to your home or your hostel/hotel. If you feel like having a relaxing meal in, try Vietnam, or eat.vn or FoodPanda.com. And yes, a small tip of around 10,000 - 30,000 VND is appreciated but not expected.
Do I tip a taxi driver? Really not necessary...but 50 cents to 1 USD is greatly appreciated, so many people usually round up the change return amount or give a few thousand VND back.
Do I tip a driver? If you have him for all day, he has probably given you a pretty decent rate, so 2 - 5 USD is appropriate.
Do I tip a guide? Yes, even in a non-tipping culture, this is a tourist activity that you probably set up with a competitive rate, and your guide is probably expecting/hoping for 5 - 10 USD depending on group size and satisfaction.
Do I tip a hotel bellboy or chambermaid? 1 - 2 USD per room is nice, but again, not necessary.
Local Tip on restaurant etiquette: Sometimes in the Western world, it is seen as polite to not leave your table at a restaurant a total mess. Sometimes foreigners are even used to stacking their plates and cups for the staff. Here in Vietnam, they generally don’t care if it’s a total mess or not. So, don’t worry about cleaning your own table. They have your back :)
Do you bargain in Vietnam? That’s a good question, because the answer isn’t really clear-cut.
If you are buying food, you generally don’t bargain for a lower price. At least not at actual stores. The exception to this is when you purchase unprepared foods from an open market, which is usually produce like fruits, vegetables, and meats (or even cooking condiments and packaged ingredients). And even then, the Vietnamese often ask a fair price. Don’t be too concerned about saving a few cents on haggling and walk away from a lady selling broccoli only to find out later that she is offering a cheap price. It feels a little embarrassing.
So, yes: it’s good to check out grocery stores and shops to get a feel for what things should cost. See our general costs of things info page for some typical price examples taken from a local market as well as a local grocery store.
As for souvenirs and commodities: in the touristy areas you will be charged extra. Sometimes it’s obnoxious. So don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price when you’re in busy tourist area.
The fact is, though, outside of tourist hubs the locals only inflate their prices a little for foreigners. And sometimes not at all. So don’t go lowballing everyone you meet because you won’t make many friends that way. And the stuff is typically very cheap already.
It’s not a totally capitalist system here and they’re bootstrapping most of their businesses, so if they want to sell to you they might drop their price. But haggling isn’t ubiquitous like it is in other developing countries.