Taiwan is generally a non-tipping culture. For North American and European travellers looking forward to doing a private tour of Taiwan this may come as a pleasant surprise.
That said, a huge number of cash gifts are given out at Lunar New Year, when employers reward their workers with bonuses and working adults give cash to their parents and youngsters still at school. Within families, this money is usually handed over in red envelopes, the colour red being symbolic of good fortune, celebration, and prosperity. Red envelopes are also presented to newlyweds by well-wishers at the start of traditional wedding banquets.
Just as there are auspicious numbers (8, as in 800 or 8,000 or 8,800 is best; 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9 are good) there are also numbers that should be avoided. Worst of all is 4 because it sounds similar to the Mandarin word for ‘death’. This is why your hotel may lack a 4th floor (going straight from the 3rd floor to the fifth) and why some citizens complain when assigned an ID number or a car number plate that features 4s.
Taiwan has a strong gifting culture. If you’re invited to a person’s home for a meal, it’s customary to bring along some high-quality fruit or tea. Top-notch mangoes or mountain oolong teas not only go down well: By purchasing these products you’re also supporting farmers in remote areas.
Unlike in the United States, tipping taxi drivers or restaurant or hotel staff isn’t expected but it is always highly appreciated. In many upmarket lodging and eating establishments, a 10-percent service charge is added automatically. In some big-city pubs frequented by Westerners, you may see a tip jar on the bar, but no one will drop hints that you should put some cash in it. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from rewarding someone you feel has really gone above and beyond. A small tip can bring a big smile!
Taxi fares are almost always calculated according to the meter. The only real exception is travel in certain remote areas where you might need to negotiate with the driver or where the local government has set fixed fares for journeys from A to B. Don’t expect drivers in such places to speak English or for the list of fixed fares to be available in English, however. This is another reason why hiring an experienced driver-guide for your Taiwan tour can make a lot of sense.
Whether you wish to tip your Taiwan travel guide is entirely up to you. We at Life of Taiwan believe we have recruited the best licensed guides on the island. We’ve been able to engage and retain these elite guides due to a very strong alignment in values and by perfectly matching our clients with individual guides’ strengths and interests.
Our focus on providing the island’s most rewarding and highest quality experiences has attracted guides dedicated to sharing their Taiwan expertise. Like our clientele, our guides are very well travelled global citizens who share a passion for people and international perspectives on culture and history.
As of late August 2023, out of 84 Tripadvisor reviews for Life of Taiwan, 79 honoured us with a full five stars — and many of them singled out our guides for special praise. ‘The cost also included our amazing guide Joe, who was friendly and knowledgeable’, wrote one recent client. ‘My guide/driver Stephen provided great conversation, insight and care’, reported a solo visitor. Another said ‘we felt really spoiled by Xi Hua, our guide/driver’.
Other compliments paid via Tripadvisor include, ‘Our tour bus was comfortable and our driver (Chang) and guide (Steven) were great additions to our experience. Steven really did a wonderful job sharing Taiwan’s beauty and keeping us all moving in the right direction’ and ‘Kyle, our guide, was great. He was able to figure out what we liked to do right off. Since there were only the three of us we had more flexibility to do and see what we wanted’. Such feedback is gratifying for us but not surprising. We know that a good travel guide is crucial to a successful trip and believe our guides are very worthy of the tips they receive.
To begin planning the trip of a lifetime to Taiwan, contact our travel experts today. We can advise on the best season to visit, as well as transport options and itineraries, and then arrange a bilingual driver-guide eager to give you an unforgettable introduction to this island’s fascinating heritage and dazzling scenic attractions.