Tipping is not customary in Thailand. All the guidebooks, both online and in print, will tell you that this western custom is not the norm in the Kingdom. And, in Thailand, prostitution is illegal too. So of course you’ll never run across prostitutes on your visit. Nor will any Thai ask, or expect, a tip from you. But Thailand’s gay gogo bars are a world of their own. In Bangkok, that world is centered on Soi Twilight. Where you’ll find establishments full of prostitutes. And everyone involved in the business not only expects to be tipped, but will demand a gratuity from you. Hopefully, you’ll at least get an orgasm out of it.
Undoubtedly the most often asked question about tipping and gay gogo bars in Thailand is: how much? That’d be how much to tip the guy you took back to your hotel room. I’m not gonna tell you. Actually it’s not that I won’t, but rather I already have. Go hunt that post down if you must. This post, instead, is about all of the other guys – as well as those who once were guys – who will expect you to tip them. The easy rule of hand is to tip everyone. You’ll be a popular customer and all the boys will talk about what a big heart you have. All of the other customers, most of whom are expats, will talk about what a jerk you are and about how you are ruining their world. Don’t worry about it. Those guys grumble about everything anyway. The trick is to tip enough and to the right people to not be confused with an expat, and to not overtip to the point that all of the boys mark you as a sucker. Regardless of the years you’ve spent gaining that reputation.
So fill your pockets full of baht and get ready, here’s your definitive guide to tipping in Bangkok’s gay gogo bars:
Barkers & Touts: These are the guys who grab various parts of your body as you saunter down the soi trying to decide which bar to enter. Most visitors hate these guys. It’d be different if they grabbed the parts of you that you’re planning on having grabbed, but that you’ll have to wait for until you are inside a bar.
Veteran bar goers scoff at the idea of tipping barkers. Shooting them, yes. Handing over some cash? Not so much. But if you consider that tipping in the gay gogo bar world is more about extortion than gratitude, tipping the soi’s touts is a smart move. After doing so, the next time you stroll down the street they’ll be less aggressive and will greet you with a warm smile instead of pulling your arm off.
Captains: In theory, mamasans and captains are the same. In practice, captains don’t become mamasans until they master the trick of being overly aggressive, pushy, demanding, and greedy. Oh, and extremely annoying. So while most captains are mamasans, for now we’ll pretend they are actually part of the human race and are there to help you. That won’t last long.
The captain will be the first person you meet when you enter the bar. His job is to direct you to a seat. The bars are seldom so crowded you actually need help finding a seat, but the bars have learned that without a captain to direct traffic, newbies only make it as far as the first few steps into a bar. Then they stand there, dropped jaw, mesmerized by the naked and hard studs on stage. This would not be a problem except there is no money in it for the bar, so they’ve learned to help you to a seat where you can order a drink and start emptying your wallet.
It is not unusual at an entertainment venue to tip the person who seats you to score the best seat in the house. But this is Thailand. So fuck that. As the evening progresses you’ll have plenty of opportunities to tip staff members, no reason to jump in quite yet. Besides, it’s time for you to establish who is boss. The captain will lead you to either a chair at stage side, or to a spot on one of the benches, making other customers scoot over while half of the tables are still empty. Ignore him. It’s good practice for when he transforms into a mamasan.
The stage-side seats at first glance appear to be prime viewing. But sitting there means you’ll spend your evening staring up at the naked boys and you’ll spend the next day trying to find a chiropractor to fix the crick in your neck (you’d think with all the massage places in town you’d be able to find relief easily, but all of those places are in business to give you a different kind of relief). Sitting at stage-side also exposes you to various body fluids that tend to fly around once the show starts. The view from a few feet back is not only better, but safer too.
Thais are comfortable with what is familiar to them and since the captain has been sitting customers at the same table all night he’ll direct you to one that is overcrowded and overflowing. You do not want to sit there. Most of those potential tablemates are not really people you want to associate with. Plus, you will want plenty of empty space around you to fill with boys. So head in the opposite direction instead and stake out your claim at an empty table.
Waiters: After sitting down the captain will take your drink order. It will be brought to you by a waiter. In most bars all around the world it is customary to tip your waiter. Usually for each round. Thais have not yet figured this out and there is no reason for you to help them add to their tipping repertoire. Accept your drink and keep your wallet where it belongs.
The exception to this rule is when you’ve checked out all of the boys on stage and decided they all suck. Before you head off to a different bar for a better selection of meat, take a minute and check out your waiter. He may just be exactly what you have in mind. Just because he is not standing naked on stage does not mean he is not available. He is, after all, Thai. You’ll pay the bar a higher fee for offing him than you would for one of the bar boys, but waiters are usually much less jaded and have not learned how to screw you without having to screw you. Yet.
If you don’t off your waiter, at the end of your time in the bar he’ll be the employee who brings you your change. He will make sure your change is lots of worthless coins and almost as worthless small bills. The bars know guys hate coins and most will leave them as a tip regardless of how much they add up to. Don’t be surprised if your change includes coins worth several hundred baht.
A lot of customers are cheap bastards and do not leave anything as a tip, so whatever you tip will be fine. Depending on how long you sat at the bar, how cute the waiter is, and if you have a boy you are offing (who will watch to see how much you tip so he can establish how much extra to ask you for to cover his taxi after your orgasm), an acceptable tip is between 20 and 100 baht. Though if you leave 100 baht on purpose, you’ll be the first person that month to do so.
The tip you leave in the check wallet does not go to your waiter. No matter how cute he is. It goes to the ‘house’ and is supposed to be split among the waitstaff at the end of the evening. Good luck with that. If you want to tip your waiter and not the bar manager and owner, hand the check wallet back to him (with or without coins) and then place your tip directly in his hand. He gets to keep what you fork over in this manner.
It’s considered rude to tip your waiter by shoving a few bills down his pants while you cop a feel. Rude, but not unheard of. You may weigh the chance that others will think you are rude against the opportunity to molest a hot Thai guy and decide it’s worth it. Then go for it. Play dumb (you never know when a bar is looking to hire a new mamasan), you’ll get the same insincere wai that those who thought they should abide by their moral code while in a whorehouse do. Your stiffy is on the house.
Boys on Stage: If Thais were able to obtain visas for travel to other countries they’d be more clued in to tipping customs in the rest of the world. Lucky for you, they are not. While elsewhere it is customary for patrons to stuff bills in gogo boys’ g-strings while they are performing on stage, in Thailand this is not a normal practice. Even if you reach up and fondle a boy, tipping him while on-stage is not required. Fondling him while he is on stage is not required either, and is in fact not appreciated. That’s what the empty spot next to you is for. But if you can not control yourself, well, it’s amazing what a 100 baht will do toward smoothing a Thai’s ruffled feathers.
Boys Sitting With You: Unlike a boy on stage, when you are fondling one sitting with you, a tip is required. Even if you are too shy to play with the merchandise. The bar would rather you buy the boy a drink. The boy would rather you give him cash. Actually, the boy would rather you off him and give him lots of cash, but if instead you decide to throw him back into the pond, you should tip him for his time. 20 baht is plenty for a short, non-fondling chat. 100 baht is generous if you played with him; it’s not like he gave you a blow job. Unless he did give you a blow job. Then you may want to tip a bit more.
Screeching Queens: You need not, however, tip a boy who approached you on his own. Invariably, these are the fem boys who screech out a ‘Sawaaaatdeeeee kaaaaaaaa’ when they plant their ass next to you. If you lack taste in men and like this kind of boy, then feel free to keep him with you and tip him for his time. If on the other hand he makes you consider going straight, your duty is to convince him to leave you alone, not to tip him.
Getting rid of an unwanted companion at a gay gogo bar in Thailand is not easy. Little screeching queens all want to be fabulous ladyboys when they grow up, but usually become mamasans instead. Ignorance is something they are earnestly striving to master. If you try and send one on his way by saying something like, “No thank you,” it will not work. Do not be polite. His English speaking skills may be minimal, so sign language is your best form of communication. And you have several choices. The most polite is a brushing away gesture with your hand. This works best with an look of extreme disgust on your face. A quicker acting gesture, and one everyone understands, is an emphatically thrown middle finger. Best yet is the ‘two fingers in your mouth, gag reflex in use’ gesture which is also understandable the world over. The plus with using this gesture is he’ll screech in horror as he scurries away. Which is entertaining in its own right.
Boys on Your Lap: Closely related to the screeching queen is the other screeching queen who demands a tip while he is spread across your lap while being fucked by one of his bar mates. If you are too drunk to identify this tipping opportunity, the screeching queen will help you out by yelling, “Tip Meeeeeeee!” in your face. Well, actually at your crotch. This is not a tip, it is extortion. Get over it and tip him quickly so he moves on to the next sucker. Unfortunately, they don’t make 10 baht notes, so you’ll have to waste a green bill to free yourself from this horror.
You may wonder how the fucking act decides which customers get their attention. Which really means you may be wondering how to avoid having a little Thai ladyboy wannabe getting fucked on your lap. Simple. The customers who have tipped the captain for showing them to a seat, tipped the waiter every time he brought a drink, and tipped every screeching queen who planted their ass next to him, are the ones they zero in on. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and guys who tip too much at gay gogo bars.
Boys Massaging You: Whether you called a boy over, bought him drinks and tipped him, or were too big of a pussy to send the little screeching queens fleeing from your presence, if the boys in the bar note you are handing out baht they will flock to you. Throwing a bit of cash around means half of the boys will soon be surrounding you. When the good tip-getting spots are taken and a boy is already sitting on each side of you, others will stand behind you, to your side, or in front of you and massage your neck, your hands, and/or your legs (all three of them).
As with most services in the bar whether you allow this is up to you. But if you do, again, it is customary to tip the boys working on your body parts. 20 baht per boy is fine. Maybe 100 baht to the one kneeling in front of you if he kept his hands behind his back.
Boys in the Toilet: In many of the gay gogo bars you’ll also get a shoulder or neck massage when you are trying to take a piss in the toilet. I’m not sure how this custom started, or who thought a guy would enjoy a neck massage when he is trying to empty his bladder, but there ya go. Much like the screeching queens who get fucked on your lap, consider the toilet massage extortion, hand over a 20 baht note and pray the sucker leaves you alone so you can pee in peace.
The toilet massage guys are not exactly at the top of the pecking order in the bar and some become quite aggressive in their pursuit of a tip. Amazingly, they have not figured out they could get a big tip by dropping to their knees, but instead will just keep mauling your upper body in an effort to get more baht out of you. If the first 20 baht didn’t do the trick and they still won’t leave you alone, do not fall for their additional extortion attempts. You’re already armed, just direct your flow in his direction and he’ll get the idea. Or you’ll find the sole kinky Thai in Bangkok.
The Boy You Take Home: All those 20 baht tips you’ve been handing out for attention, or to be left alone, add up. If you’ve been careful, you may have enough money left to actually off a boy and take him back to your hotel with you. If you do, you probably have sex on the mind. Everyone else has more tips in mind.
The mamasan who tallies up your check bin, with off fee included, will ask for a tip. Not because she did anything to earn it, but because she’s learned that being pushy works with most Westeners. Even though she expended the least amount of effort out of all of the bar employees you tipped during your visit, she will expect 100 baht as a tip. Ignore her.
Giving money to mamasans only encourages them. She is going to demand some of the tip you give to your boy when he returns to the bar anyway. Besides, when she was younger she dreamed of a fabulous future as a ladyboy on stage, Instead she grew old and ugly and could only find employment as a mamasan. So she’s used to being disappointed. It’d be cruel of you to hold out some hope by giving her a tip, allow her to wallow in her misery while she reflects on what it was she did in a previous life to have come back as a mamasan in this one. That can count as the cultural experience for your trip.
When you get back to your hotel, unless you have been careful about where you booked, the hotel too will want a tip. They call theirs a joiner fee. It’s a tip for using your room for sex and is usually a fixed-price, anywhere from 400 to 1,000 baht and more. The hotel acts as a pimp and pimps are the only Thais you’ll run across who refuse to negotiate price. So don’t bother. Pay up. You really don’t want to waste time in the lobby when all the fun will be up in your room anyway.
Lastly, of course, is the boy himself. I already told you I’m not using this post to discuss appropriate tips for your boy d jour. But as big of a concern for newbies as how much is when. This is the part of the night where fantasy takes off and forking over cash ruins that fantasy for may customers. Fortunately, the custom in Thailand is to pay for the goods after delivery. You tip the boy after he is dressed and ready to leave. This also allows you to decide how much to tip, depending on how good of a time you had. Or how badly you hurt him.
Some guys feel most comfortable leaving the tip on the dresser (but if you do you will have to point to it). Most slip the tip to the guy just before he walks out the door. Surprisingly, most boys will take your tip without counting it, wai, smile, and leave. Not surprisingly, others count it carefully, and then, regardless of how much you tipped, ask for more. They usually will ask for money for a taxi as the excuse for more baht. You can avoid feeling like you have to give your boy more cash by making sure the tip you give includes a handful of smaller baht notes. The greedy ones will still ask, but you already got yours so ignore their pleas of poverty.
Outside of Bangkok: As a newbie you may not yet have made it to the sex tourist capital of the world, Pattaya. Tipping in Pattaya is different than tipping in Bangkok, or in any other city or town in Thailand. In Pattaya, you’ll be expected to tip everywhere you go because the entire town is a brothel. At the same time, Pattaya attracts the biggest number of cheap bastards, so being stiffed on a tip is par for the course.
You can quickly go broke tipping in Pattaya, so embrace the cheap bastard within you; no worries, you’ll blend into the crowd. A good trick if you do not want to be constantly hassled for a tip, is to learn a few phrases of Russian. Then no one will expect a tip out of you. Nor will they want to have anything to do with you. Even to a Thai, there are somethings one just doesn’t do for any amount of money.