HOW TO TIP IN SOUTH KOREA

In the U.S. tipping is customary and expected for everything from lackluster to outstanding service. It is an etiquette which is ingrained in all trades, from the wait staff at restaurants to our baristas, valets, cab drivers, porters, and many more trades.

The questions `when?` and `how much?` that surround tipping can leave some travelers confused, as the practice varies. This guide attempts to cover most situations that you, as a tourist, will encounter. Hopefully using these `tips` will provide a smooth experience when interacting with locals in restaurants, bars, hotels, tour operators, and taxis.

Tipping is not customary in South Korea and can sometimes be offensive and some people may return the tip. No one in the service industry expects a tip although the tipping culture is slowly changing.

Currency: Can I pay in U.S. dollars, or should I use Won (₩ or KRW)?

The official currency in Seoul is the Won (₩ or KRW) or Korean Republic Won. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand and be prepared to exchange your dollars to Won upon arrival. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and bank locations through the city, ATM`s are widespread. ATM`s and CD`s cash dispensers can be found in major train and bus stations, department stores and banks throughout the city.

Restaurants, Cafes, and Bars: When should I tip? How much is customary?

Some of the high-end restaurants in the city might expect at least a 10% tip and some places even automatically add the gratuity. In Western-style restaurants it is advised to leave between 5 and 10%, it is not recommended to tip at Korean restaurants.
Hotel Staff: Who should I tip?

Some of the international hotels in the city will automatically add a 10% service charge to your bill. Bell boys and housekeepers are grateful to receive a small tip, W1,000 per bag is sufficient.

Taxi Drivers: Should I tip?

Most taxi drivers in the city will be confused by receiving a tip and most will give it back to you.

Tour Guides: Is a tip required? A tour guide will appreciate being tipped as they make very little money; it is advised to leave between 5 - 10% of the price of the tour.

Miscellaneous: Is there anyone I should tip that I would not normally?

Offering a small tip to a massage therapist may be politely returned to you, it is not customary to tip in Spa`s in South Korea.
Final Thoughts:

Remember that it is perfectly okay to abstain, especially if you are not happy with the service provided. Unlike in the U.S., waiters are paid a living wage, and the expectations for tipping are lower than in America. This is also true for hotel staff, though if you encounter a problem with the service within the hotel, we highly recommend speaking with the manager.

When paying for services in cash (which we generally recommend for services other than your hotel) remember to take your receipt. This is important for two reasons; If you leave a tip on a credit card, the person providing the service may not always get it, and if there is a discrepancy it is important to have your receipt to settle it with the manager of the establishment and to prove that you paid for the service.