Tipping and Beggars
While recognition of particularly good service is universally welcomed, there isn't a general culture of tipping in Vietnam. There are a few exceptions. Tourist guides traditionally rely upon tips to build up their wages. As a rough guide, $5.00 per day would be about right for a good job, perhaps more for something special, with less than a day at a pro-rata rate. Porters at railway stations rely upon small tips for an income, but taxi drivers will normally help you with luggage as part of their service, unless you have something particularly heavy or difficult to carry. If you’re in a hotel for a few days or more, a tip for your chambermaid or anyone else who has been helpful would be appreciated.
You'll find a distinct difference between the North and South of Vietnam. Saigon's exposure to US culture has created more of a tipping culture, so expect to pay more, and more often!
Beggars are common in Vietnam, but in tourist areas, only a minority are genuine. Grubby children with soulful eyes are usually working for a begging syndicate, and young girls and women carrying very young babies have often rented them for the day from a friend. You won’t be bothered often, but if approaches are made, ignore them, or complain to a police officer if they annoy you. Giving money to fake beggars only swells their ranks.
However, there are deserving cases. Elderly widows, invalids, amputees and Buddhist monks usually have no other source of income. If in doubt, see if they approach Vietnamese people, and what the response is from them. If you do decide to give them money, keep the amount small. Excessive generosity will attract other less-deserving beggars immediately. For visits to SaPa and other places where small children can be a nuisance, sweets are a good alternative to money (and almost as acceptable)!