Tipping in Indonesia
Updated April 2016
Tipping wasn't an Indonesian custom until the arrival of tourism and foreign western workers. Tourists and residents from developed countries are perceived as being rich and some "redistribution of wealth" seems appropriate. Now, in major cities and holiday resorts tipping has become customary. Nevertheless, where tax and service charge is included in a bill, like in hotels (10% ) and many restaurants, there is no reason to tip further, except as an acknowledgement of exceptional service. Many customers leave behind just the small change. Unfortunately, sometimes the service charge is not distributed among the staff, and is kept by the owner...
If you feel that might be the case, or if there is no service charge added, use your judgment. You could tip 5% to 10% of the amount of the bill if you are satisfied with the service. Remember that large tips do not make sense. Tipping the equivalent of US$10 corresponds to about two full days' wages of the server. Would you do that back home, especially in Europe, would you give a tip of US$90 to a Spanish or German waiter?
All workers in Indonesia have a minimum monthly salary set by law (for 2016, it is Rp. 1,807,600 (US$135) for Bali; and Rp. 3,100,000 ($US233) for Jakarta where the cost of living is higher). In small places it is unlikely that waiters get much more than that, and a tip is always welcome. Bear in mind, though, that in 5-star hotels wages are supplemented by the service charge distribution among the staff that in the busy months can be as much as US$300 or even $400 per employee. Not a lot by western standards, but in view of the low prices on the islands for locals, it may be considered as decent income.
In hotels, leaving the tip at reception to be given and shared by those you want to thank is not a very good idea. If it is not kept by the Front Desk staff, it will go into a pool that is distributed among all hotel staff. That should come out of the Hotel's service charge, which you have already paid.
In some restaurants, as smoking is still prevalent in Indonesia, locals might even leave a cigarette or two as a tip... Don't do it: don't encourage smoking.
If you pay by credit card do not include the tip. There is a chance that it will not get to the waiter that served you. Give it in cash, even if it is normal practice that it will end up in the tips jar and distributed later among all staff, often with the ones in the kitchen included.
For the hotel bellboy that carries your baggage to the room, have handy 5 to 10 thousand Rupiah depending on the amount of suitcases. 2 thousand per bag is quite adequate.
In Spas and hairdressers it is customary to leave a tip of between 5% and 10% depending on how happy you are with the service.
In taxis, round up to the nearest note, and if you like give 2/3 thousand Rupiah to a good driver, even up to 5 thousand for long rides.
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