The Traveller’s Guide to Tipping
Tipping is a social custom that seems as simple as any. If you’re happy with the service provided, you leave a gratuity. Many people don’t know that tipping culture can often vary between countries, not only from continent to continent. The next time you find yourself in a foreign country, staring at a bill and wondering what is an appropriate tip to leave, you will be happy you read this Traveller’s Guide to Tipping, brought to you by Wayfaring Student.
United States of America & Canada
Tipping is a huge custom in the US and Canada, and is even considered to be a large part of any waiter’s/waitress’s income. Therefore, it is routine to leave a sizeable tip in any restaurant. 15% of the final bill would be considered the starting point for a tip, with exceptional service earning anywhere between 20-25%. Some up scale restaurants have started a no-tip policy, adding it instead onto the overall bill, but these places are very rare. If you happen to run across one, make sure to still tip the maître d’ for finding you a table.
Tour guides and taxi drivers will also expect to earn 10-20% from tips, depending on the quality of service.
Almost all resorts and restaurants in the Caribbean add a service fee to their bill, but this does not necessarily mean that you shouldn’t tip. If you feel that a staff member has delivered exceptional service, make sure to tip them an additional 10%. In many upscale restaurants in the Caribbean it will be hard to get a table reservation without tipping the concierge service. Money talks, after all. Tip the concierge whatever you think the table is worth, which at a fancy place might be anywhere between $20-25.
It is custom to tip guides and drivers 15% in the Caribbean and possibly more if they paid extra attention to you or if you’re given a private tour.
While tipping customs in Mexico are relatively the same as in the US, the rest of Central America is slightly different. Waiters and waitresses in a restaurant usually expect about a 10% tip, maybe a little higher for great service.
If you go on a half-day/day long tour make sure each member of your party tips the guide $10 and the driver $3-5.
Tipping is more or less the same as in Central America: 10% is a good start, possibly 15% in a more up scale venue. It is important to note that restaurants are starting to include a service charge in Brazil and in Argentina, so keep a lookout for that. Tipping won’t be necessary in these situations unless, again, exceptional service was given.
Try not to make a big show when tipping in South America – keep it subtle. A warm handshake with a smile and a thank you will do if you fold a bill in your palm.
Australia & New Zealand
The tipping culture has changed a lot in the last 30 years in Australia and New Zealand. In the past it would have been difficult to find a staff member who would accept your tip. But today is a different story: a base tip of 10-15% is expected in any restaurant, guide or spa.
Occasionally your tip will be refused. This is more common in New Zealand than it is in Australia.
South, East, & South East Asia
China, Korea, & Japan
These countries largely have a no-tipping culture. In some cases offering a tip would be considered offensive, since these cultures principally believe that the service should always be exceptional. In general, avoid tipping when mingling with the locals.
However, if you find yourself in an area that is predominantly catering to tourists and very high key individuals, then leaving a 10% tip would be normal. Furthermore, tour guides are an exception to the rule, as they are accustomed to working with tourists and thus will usually expect a tip at the end of their service.
South East Asia
Many venues in the region that thrive on tourist activities have begun to add a service charge to their bills. If this is the case, there is no need to add a tip.
If you are travelling away from the major tourist spots a tip is not expected. Still, a small tip of $2-4 is much appreciated. Be prepared for a lavish thank you from the locals.
Many of the tourist areas in this region have come to expect tips. Staff members in a restaurant will anticipate a 10% tip. There is no need to go above the base 10% tip unless the service was exceptional. Hotel bellboys will often linger at the door until a small tip is given – any small amount is appreciated. Many hotels will include a tipping box for the end of your stay.
Throughout most of the region, and specifically in touristy areas, tipping is usually included in the bill as a 10% service charge. In certain countries such as Egypt, Jordan, UAE, and Israel, however, you are expected to leave something extra for the staff member who served you. Add a small amount of the local currency to the end of your bill as a token of appreciation. If the service charge has not been included, just add a 10% tip to the final bill.
Taxi drivers in the region don’t usually expect a tip, with Israel being the exception. Only give one if you really feel that the service was excellent.
Guides in the region are usually very well educated and have a vast knowledge of the history and culture of the area. At the end of your tour, tip them a healthy $10-20 per person in your group, depending on the service.
In some of the more high class venues in places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, a larger tip will be expected. Housekeepers in hotels will be looking for a tip as well. In this case spare change from the day will do.
You can expect countries in the area to follow the same tipping etiquette as in the Middle East. Much like in South America, don’t make a show of your tipping. A subtle and discreet tip is preferred.
Central & South Africa
It is important to remember in this region that many of the guides and drivers make a large percentage of their income from tips. Tip healthily, especially if you are getting a safari guide and the staff member went out of his way to make sure you had a great experience. $15-20 per person, per day, should be adequate.
Restaurants don’t usually include a service bill so add a 10% tip, or more if the service has been excellent.
Please remember to never tip children with money. If a kind gesture has been made by a child of poverty offer to buy them a meal or a healthy snack. Local guides will tell you that if a child of poverty makes money, the family will often pressure them to drop out of their education. This needs to be avoided.
In countries like France, Spain, and the Netherlands the service charge is usually included in the bill. If not, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to leave without tipping. Tipping is not necessarily expected in these countries, and they definitely don’t expect a large tip. It is customary to leave pocket change for the waiter/waitress. If the service was excellent, don’t hesitate to leave a 10% tip – but no more is needed.
Taxi drivers in Western Europe don’t expect a hefty tip either. It would be satisfactory to just round up to the nearest round Euro.
Tipping in Scandinavia is much like in Western Europe – there is usually a service charge. Don’t feel the need to add a big tip if there isn’t, as staff members do not expect it. Prices are expensive in the region even without having to tip.
Central and Eastern Europe
Tipping in Central and Eastern Europe is quite different from the rest of the continent. Waiters and waitresses definitely expect a tip, as it makes up a large percentage of their earnings. A base 10% tip is ordinary at a restaurant. If you order a coffee in a café it is courteous to leave some pocket change as well.
Locals will tell you that tips are almost always given in cash. Staff members won’t be too happy if you add it to the card bill, as the money often won’t reach them personally.
So there it is folks, your Traveller’s Guide to Tipping. Remember, tipping doesn’t always have to follow a blueprint – if you feel the need to show your appreciation, don’t hesitate to do so. That said, it is still useful to be aware of the local tipping cultures. Happy travels!
By Daniel Shoch