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Tipping in Indonesia

Though widely practiced in the United States and other Western countries, the social custom of tipping isn't as widely practiced in Indonesia. Some feel that “Tips” is derived from the acronym “To Insure Prompt Service” however there is mixed opinion about the truth behind that claim. Tipping is a personal act to begin with and often dependent on the service received.

In general, most expats normally tip at too high a rate, until they have in Indonesia here for a while and realize the actual amount of money that people are making, who is expecting a tip, and who is expecting a “bribe”.  Not to mention that no matter where you go, there are always willing "helpers" who will offer to rent you their umbrella, carry your bags through the market or stop oncoming traffic so your car can get in ... even if you don't need the assistance! They expect a “tip” too.

There are situations where tipping will be expected. These commonly involve service personnel such as manicurists, taxi drivers, and waiters and should be calculated according to three conditions: the level of service provided, the rupiah value of the tip to the person (not to yourself) and the relationship you have with the person (if any).

The amount given is commonly perceived as your satisfaction with the service provided and your impression of the provider, so please remember this before walking away without tipping! In many businesses the employees are paid a low wage by the employer with the expectation that the generosity of the customers through tips will make up the difference in their salaries. Although this is more common in western countries, such is also the case in some of the service industries in Indonesia.

When a gratuity is already added to your bill, such as at a restaurant, no additional tip is necessary (but still highly appreciated by the wait staff). Be aware that if you want the waiter who served you to receive the tip, it is best to hand it to that person directly.  If you leave the tip in the folder or on the table, most times the person who clears the folder from the table, or the maître d’ who has given you the bill, will pocket the money.

The main consideration for tipping is the widespread underpayment of labor in Indonesia. To an expatriate, a few thousand rupiah may not be very much money, but it can make a world of difference to an Indonesian struggling to make ends meet. It's also nice to not have your car scratched up or your hub caps stolen over a few cents :)

The following table* shows what surveyed American expats are tipping for typical services:

High Low Average Mode
Stylist Rp. 50,000 Rp. 20,000 Rp. 40,000 Rp. 50,000
Colorist Rp. 50,000 Rp. 40,000 Rp. 45,000 Rp. 50,000
Shampoo boy/girl Rp. 20,000 Rp. 5,000 Rp. 15,000 Rp. 20,000
Manicure Rp. 30,000 Rp. 10,000 Rp. 22,000 Rp. 20,000
Pedicure Rp. 30,000 Rp. 15,000 Rp. 27,500 Rp. 30,000
Massage (1 hr) Rp. 75,000 Rp. 20,000 Rp. 35,000 Rp. 30,000
Cream bath Rp. 30,000 Rp. 20,000 Rp. 27,500 Rp. 30,000
Facial Rp. 30,000 Rp. 15,000 Rp. 27,500 Rp. 25,000
Eyebrows Rp. 20,000 Rp. 15,000 Rp. 17,000 Rp. 15,000
Leg waxing Rp. 30,000 Rp. 20,000 Rp. 23,000 Rp. 20,000
Golf Course:
Caddy Rp. 120,000 Rp. 100,000 Rp. 110,000 Rp. 100,000
Caddy, special request Rp. 200,000 Rp. 130,000 Rp. 160,000 N/A
Locker room attendant Rp. 15,000 Rp. 5,000 Rp. 12,000 Rp. 10,000
Bag boys Rp. 10,000 Rp. 5,000 Rp. 7,500 Rp. 5,000
Tennis Ball Boys: Rp. 10,000/set or Rp. 10,000/15,000 per hour
Taxis Round up to nearest Rp. 5,000
Bellboys Rp. 20,000
Traffic directors Rp. 1,000

*Reproduced from the AWA Kayon Magazine.