Do You Tip in Korea? Unveiling the Quirky World of Tipping: Kimchi Coins, Bowing Bucks, and Bibimbap Bills!

By John Goldsmith •  Updated: 11/03/23 •  6 min read

In this blog post, we will delve into the quirky world of tipping in Korea.

Tipping culture can vary significantly from country to country, and Korea is no exception. Understanding the local customs and expectations around tipping is essential for travelers to have a smooth and enjoyable experience in the country.

In Korea, tipping is not as prevalent as it is in many Western countries, but there are still situations where it may be expected or appreciated.

We will explore when and how to tip in Korea, including unique terms such as Kimchi Coins, Bowing Bucks, and Bibimbap Bills.

Do you tip in Korea?

Tipping is not customary in Korea. In fact, it can sometimes be considered rude.

This is because tipping is seen as a way to supplement the income of service workers, but service workers in Korea are already paid a fair wage.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, it is customary to tip taxi drivers and hotel porters a small amount, typically around 1,000 won. It is also becoming more common to tip in high-end restaurants and bars, but this is still not expected.

If you are unsure about whether or not to tip, it is always best to err on the side of caution and avoid tipping. If you do decide to tip, be sure to do so discreetly and without making a big deal about it.

Here are some additional tips for tipping in Korea:

Ultimately, how much you tip is up to you. However, following these general guidelines will help you to avoid any cultural faux pas.

Tipping Culture in Korea: Understanding the Basics

In order to grasp the significance of tipping in Korea, it’s important to understand the traditional Korean perspective on this practice.

In Korean culture, people generally believe that good service should be provided without any expectation of extra compensation.

This mindset extends to various aspects of life, including dining out or receiving services at hotels or other establishments.

Moreover, there are several reasons why tipping is not customary in many situations in Korea. One reason is that workers are often paid a higher salary compared to their counterparts in countries where tipping is common practice. Additionally, customers are expected to receive excellent service without having to pay extra for it.

Exceptions to the Rule: When should you tip in Korea?

While tipping may not be customary in everyday situations in Korea, there are exceptions where leaving a tip may be expected or appreciated. For instance:

– Tour guides: If you have had an exceptional tour experience with a guide who went above and beyond their duties, it’s considered polite to show your appreciation with a tip.
– Hotel staff: Bellboys who assist with your luggage or housekeeping staff who keep your room clean often appreciate small tips for their hard work.
– High-end restaurants: In upscale dining establishments that cater more towards international tourists or expatriates, leaving a gratuity may be expected.

It’s important to note that while these situations may warrant a tip, the amounts are generally smaller compared to what you might leave in other countries.

The Quirky World of Kimchi Coins: Tipping Etiquette at Local Eateries

One unique aspect of tipping in Korea is the use of “kimchi coins” at small local eateries.

Kimchi coins are small tokens or vouchers that can be purchased separately and left as tips for the restaurant staff. The idea behind kimchi coins is to support local businesses without directly giving money to individuals.

When using kimchi coins as a tip, it’s essential to calculate the appropriate amount based on the total bill. It can vary depending on the establishment, but a general guideline is around 5-10% of the bill. Leaving kimchi coins not only shows your appreciation for good service but also contributes to supporting local businesses.

Bowing Bucks at Your Service: Tipping Guidelines for Hospitality Staff

When it comes to tipping hotel staff in Korea, there are several guidelines to keep in mind.

Bellboys who assist with your luggage typically appreciate a small tip of around 1,000-2,000 KRW (Korean won) per piece of luggage.

Housekeeping staff who ensure your room stays clean may also appreciate a small tip left daily or at the end of your stay.

Additionally, if you receive exceptional service from concierge staff who go above and beyond their duties to assist you during your stay, leaving a modest tip as a token of appreciation is considered polite.

In regards to other services such as taxi drivers and tour guides, while it’s not customary to leave tips in most cases, rounding up the fare or providing small change like 500 KRW can be appreciated.

Bibimbap Bills: Navigating Tipping Practices at Restaurants

Tipping practices at restaurants in Korea can be somewhat confusing for travelers. In most local eateries, leaving a tip is not expected or required.

The bill you receive is considered the final amount you need to pay, and there is no obligation to leave extra money for service.

However, in some high-end restaurants that cater more towards international tourists or expatriates, a small service charge may already be included in the bill.

It’s important to differentiate between service charges and tips. If a service charge is included, it means that the gratuity has already been accounted for in the bill.

Alternative Ways to Show Appreciation without Direct Tipping

If you want to show appreciation for exceptional service but don’t feel comfortable leaving a direct tip, there are alternative gestures you can make.

Writing positive reviews about your experience online can help promote the establishment and recognize their efforts.

Additionally, giving small gifts as tokens of gratitude can also be appreciated.

These gifts don’t need to be expensive; they can simply be thoughtful souvenirs from your home country or small tokens of appreciation that reflect your gratitude.


Tipping culture in Korea may differ from what you’re accustomed to in other countries, but understanding and respecting local customs is essential for a positive travel experience.

While tipping is not customary in many situations in Korea, there are exceptions where it may be expected or appreciated. Whether it’s using kimchi coins at local eateries or leaving small tips for hotel staff, knowing when and how to tip will ensure smooth interactions with locals while exploring the quirky world of Korea’s tipping practices.

John Goldsmith