I am often asked if people should tip their driver and guide after completing a tour in Tibet. My answer is always the same: if you feel they did a good job, then give them a tip. A lot of drivers in Tibet own their own vehicles (the Toyota Land Cruiser, pictured above, is the most common type of vehicle used for tours in Tibet). They often, though not always, work freelance meaning they don't necessarily work for just one agency. Most drivers and guides are connected to several travel agencies who call them when work is available. Since the tourist season in Tibet is relatively short (June-September are the most popular months, but Tibet can be visited all year long), drivers and guides need to make as much money as possible to last them through the off-season.
In Tibetan culture, most drivers and guides use their income to support not just their immediate family, but often their extended family as well. Most Tibetans are still quite poor and need as much help as they can get. Since most, though again not all, drivers own their own vehicles, they are also responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle. Labor is relatively cheap in Tibet, but parts for Land Cruisers are very expensive. Road conditions in Tibet are improving, but the driver still has a big responsibility in keeping the passengers safe. Accidents with foreigners are rare in Tibet, but unexpected rock slides, snow storms and high winds can make driving in Tibet difficult.
At the end of your tour of Tibet, if you feel that your driver and guide did a good job in taking care of you, I highly recommend leaving them a tip. The amount is going to vary from person to person. In the past I have given the driver between Y75 and Y150 for each day of the tour. If you are traveling with a group of 3 or 4, I recommend each person tipping within this range. I have had some tour guide friends of mine who have received as much as Y20,000 for leading larger groups on longer trips. When you do decide to leave a tip, give it directly to the driver or guide and remember that it is going to a good cause. Don't give your tip to the agency to give your driver and guide.
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