Guide To Tipping In Korea, The Dos And Don’ts
Tipping in Korea is not a common practice and is generally not expected. In fact, attempting to tip someone may even be seen as rude or disrespectful. This is because the culture places a strong emphasis on mutual respect and egalitarianism. Instead of tipping, it is more common to show appreciation by simply saying thank you or complimenting the service provided.
However, in some cases, such as high-end restaurants or luxury hotels that cater to foreign tourists, tipping may be accepted or even expected. In these cases, a tip of around 10% may be appropriate.
Overall, visitors to Korea should be aware of the cultural norms around tipping and should not feel pressured to do so if it is not customary. Read on to find more about tipping in Korea.
If you do decide to give a tip in South Korea, don’t give cash directly from your wallet or pocket. Always place the money in an envelope before giving it. These envelops can be bought in any convenience store as they are also used when giving money at a wedding, funeral, Korean national holiday, etc.
Do You Tip In Korea?
To the question ‘do you tip in Korea’, the answer is no, you are not expected to tip in Korea. This is not part of the culture, and some people might even be confused or offended by this action, but there are some occasions where tipping is accepted.
The ground rule is not to tip in any restaurants, except if there is a tipping jar. You can tip a taxi driver by telling them to keep the change and tour guides that are used to working with foreigners or Americans will happily accept a small tip. In other occasions tipping in South Korea is a no no. Only tip in big cities like Seoul or Busan.
Things To Know When Visiting Korea
- What To Wear In Korea – Summer is humid and hot, with temperatures going up to 40°C. Winters are cold and dry, with temperatures dropping to -20°C. Check what to pack for Korea here.
- Power Adapters – If you are from the USA, UK, Japan or South East Asia then you will need the right travel adapter when coming to Korean. Find more info about travel adapters here.
- T Money Transport Card – When going around the country using public transport like subways, buses and even taxis then make sure to buy a T Money card upon arrival at the airport. More info here.
- Foreigner Special Discounts – Check out Trazy or Klook for the best discount packages designed for foreigners. These include tons of restaurants, museums, attractions and experiences.
Tipping In Korea
1. Tipping In Restaurants
Tourists from the USA are so used to tipping, especially when going to eat out in a restaurant. Korea is the exact opposite, tipping is something most people are not in favour of, and many even refuse to accept tips. The general rule is, you are paying for a great service, why should you have to pay extra? The best thing to do in a restaurant is not to tip, just be polite to the staff and thank them for their services.
But, more and more western restaurants are starting to put tipping jars on the counter, if you notice a tipping jar, that means the restaurant is open to accepting tips from their customers. Best thing to do is put your tip in the jar instead of giving it to one of the staff members. This is only recommended in western style restaurants, not traditional Korean restaurants.
Don’t forget when entering or leaving a restaurant to do a small bow with your head towards the staff and say annyeonghaseyo to the person at the reception desk. This is a polite way of saying hello. Do the same when leaving, but instead of saying annyeonghaseyo, say kamsahamnida. This is a polite way of thanking the staff for their services.
2. Tipping Taxi Drivers
Korea is a country of excellent public transport. The subway and bus system is superb. Sometimes you need to get somewhere fast and then taking a taxi is the best option. As a foreigner be weary when taking a taxi, make sure they use their meter and don’t take any detours. When taking a taxi make sure to have the address of your hotel written in Korean, so you can show this to the taxi driver. Alternatively you can point to your destination on a map.
They are generally easy to find and can be hailed on the street or through ride-hailing apps like KakaoTaxi or Uber. The taxis in Korea are usually color-coded, with orange taxis indicating regular taxis, and black taxis representing premium or deluxe options. Taxis in Korea are typically clean, safe, and equipped with GPS systems to ensure drivers take the most efficient routes.
However, fares can be higher than public transportation, especially during peak hours. It is important to note that some taxi drivers in Korea may not speak English, so it is recommended to have your destination written in Korean or a translation app handy.
It is not a common thing to do, tipping your taxi driver. Especially because you can pay with card in the taxi. Nowadays taxi drivers have a bad reputation, as they drive super fast and have a hard time communicating with foreigners. But sometimes you find that really great taxi driver, that drives carefully and is friendly. In those occasions you might want to tip. The best way to tip a taxi driver is to pay with cash and tell them to keep the change.
3. Tipping Tour Guides
In case of tour guides, tipping can be done as most tour guides are used to receiving tips because they are working for an American tour company or get in contact with many foreigners that are used to tipping.
This isn’t mandatory, but most tour guides will appreciate the gesture and be happy you liked their services. Only tip tour guide in the touristic areas of Korea, tipping a tour guide in the countryside is a no no as they are not used to this gesture and might be confused or offended.
4. Tipping In Hotels & Spas
The staff in hotels or spas in South Korea do not expect a tip. This might even be refused when you decide to leave a tip, don’t be offended if this happens. If you do decide to leave a tip, place the money in a pretty envelope you can find in any convenience store and leave the tip behind in the room when checking out. Do not give the tip in person.
In spas or traditional Korean jjimjilbangs you should not leave a tip. Just be polite to the staff and thank them for their services. Don’t forget to do a bow when greeting the staff. This counts for greeting any Korean person.
South Korea Tipping Etiquette
When you do decide to offer a tip in South Korea, the etiquette rules are quite different than in the USA. You don’t just take out your wallet and give the staff some cash.
First of all check if the establishment has a tipping jar, if there is no jar, put the cash into a nice envelope and hand it over using both hands. This is the same for handing over business cards. Business are always handed over and received with two hands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tipping is not common in Korea and is not expected in most service industries. In fact, in some places, such as traditional Korean restaurants, leaving a tip may be seen as rude or disrespectful. It is more customary to show appreciation by using polite language, making eye contact, and thanking the person for their service.
While tipping is not expected, if you receive exceptional service and wish to show your appreciation, you can do so by giving a small gift or offering to pay for a meal or drink. Gifts such as small souvenirs from your home country or a thoughtful handwritten card can also be a great way to express gratitude.
If you do decide to tip, it is generally not expected to leave a large amount. Instead, a small amount, such as 5-10% of the total bill, is considered generous. However, it is important to keep in mind that tipping is not customary in Korea and the person receiving the tip may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.