There is nothing more vexing than trying to figure out who to tip, how much, and when--especially when you're in a foreign country. You'll come face to face with employees at airports and train stations, hotels and bed and breakfasts, restaurants and cafés. Do you have to tip everyone? What about shuttle bus drivers, tour guides, and bellmen?
The truth is that the rules differ from place to place, so it's hard to know how much you should be tipping. Below, you'll find a handy cheat sheet that will prevent you from ever tipping too much or too little again.
TIPPING IN THE U.S.
At the airport or train stations: It's common to tip any airport porter that assists you with your luggage. Set aside $1 to $2 per bag. The same guidelines should be followed when taking a shuttle bus around the airport or to your car rental counter: $1 to $2 per bag. When the valet brings your car around to the hotel entrance you should hand over a buck or two.
At hotels: The bellman that brings your luggage to the room should receive $1 to $2 for each bag delivered. You should tip your housekeeper $2 to $5 per day and do so each morning and you'll likely get better service. You don't need to tip the concierge for simple requests like directions to a local restaurant but you should offer $5 to $20 for more involved requests. For example, if the concierge secures reservations for you at the hot restaurant or sold-out Broadway show, tip accordingly.
A note about bed and breakfasts: Most often, the owner(s) of the B&B prepare meals, clean rooms, and man the check-in desk. It is not necessary to tip the owner of a business.
Taxi drivers: It's commonplace to give a taxi driver 10 to 15 percent of the fare as a tip.
At restaurants: In the United States we tip waiters and waitresses 15 to 20 percent of the total bill for the meal. Bartenders generally get a buck a drink. We'll discuss what to do in other countries below.
Tour guides: All tour guides should receive a few extra dollars for services rendered in addition to the price of the tour. The amount of the tip should hinge on the length of the tour (half-day or full-day) and how much you enjoyed the experience. You could give $5 to $10 per person for a half-day excursions and as much as $10 to $20 per person for full-day tours.
TIPPING CUSTOMS AROUND THE WORLD
While tipping is the norm in the United States, it's not customary in many parts of the world. In fact, in some countries like China and Japan, individuals would be offended if you offered a tip for services rendered. Before leaving home, it's always a good idea to research the tipping practices of the countries you'll visit. You can consult any Fodor's guidebook or check online at Fodor's Destinations. You can also download an app like Global Tipping to your smartphone so you'll have access to tipping information at your fingertips.
Argentina: Tip 10 percent in restaurants, give your bellman 2 pesos per bag, but don't tip your taxi driver.
Australia: Tipping is not expected but waiters and waitresses do appreciate a 10 to 15 percent gratuity when offered and that's becoming more common--especially in pricier restaurants. The only other person you should tip is your hotel bellman: $1 per bag.
Austria: In restaurants a service charge is usually automatically added but it's common to round up the bill in addition to that (leaving 10 percent or less is common). Follow U.S. tipping guidelines for everyone else.
Brazil: Tipping here is not customary but you may offer a gratuity for excellent service. Most restaurants do add a 10 percent service charge to the bill so look for that first. Tip at your discretion.
Canada: Follow U.S. tipping customs.
The Caribbean: In general, the Caribbean islands follow the USA's lead when it comes to tipping. However, many all-inclusive resorts levy a 10 to 15 percent service charge. You may, of course, tip on top of that but consider the level of service before doing so.
China: Tipping is not customary in China with one exception: tour guides. Give $5 to $10 per person for a half-day excursions and as much as $10 to $20 per person for full-day tours.
France: A 15 percent service charge is always included in any restaurant or bar bill and tipping beyond that is not expected. However, feel free to leave an additional 5 or 10 percent for excellent service. At a café, round up the bill if you wish to leave a little something extra for your waiter. Give your taxi driver one or two euros as a tip and bellman should get one euro per bag.
French Polynesia: Tipping is not a custom here so don't feel obligated but it's not uncommon to leave a tip for good service.
Germany: A service charge is automatically included in restaurant bills but it's common to either round up the bill or leave an extra 5 to 10 percent for good service. Tip your taxi driver 5 to 10 percent, give your bellman one euro per bag, and leave one or two euros per day for your hotel housekeeper.
Hong Kong: Tipping is acceptable in Hong Kong. A 10 percent service charge is generally included in restaurant bills but you can round up or leave additional money for excellent service. Roundup taxi fares and offer bellman $2 or $3HK per bag.
Italy: Tipping in Italy isn't compulsory. A service fee is often included in restaurant tabs. Feel free to roundup the bill or tip in addition to that for good service at high-end establishments. Hand your bellman $1 per bag and round up taxi fares.
Japan: Tipping is uncommon in Japan and sometimes viewed as rude--especially if you try to hand someone money directly. Tour guides and tour bus drivers should be offered a gratuity, but it's best delivered in an envelope. Give $5 to $10 per person for a half-day excursions and as much as $10 to $20 per person for full-day tours.
Mexico: Follow U.S. tipping customs.
Singapore: At hotels you only need to tip the bellman one or two dollars per bag. In restaurants, a 10 percent service charge is levied on all bills but you can leave an additional 10 percent if you feel service warrants it. Round up your taxi fare for your convenience but it's not necessary.
South Africa: Tip 10 to 20 percent in restaurants. Group tour guides should receive 10 to 15 rand per person per day while private guides generally receive 50 rand for half-day tours and 100 rand for all-day excursions. Leave about 50 rand per day for your hotel housekeeper and tip the bellman about 5 rand per bag. Give taxi drivers 10 percent of the fare.
Thailand: Tipping is not customary in Thailand, but tokens of your appreciation are always happily accepted. Tip at your discretion.
United Arab Emirates: Hospitality workers are generally low-paid here so while tipping isn't expected, it's very much appreciated. Consider 10 to 15 percent in restaurants, roundup taxi fares, and offer the bellman 5 to 10 dirhams.
Andrea M. Rotondo is an award-winning writer who has explored the world from Borneo to the Maldives to South Africa to French Polynesia and almost everywhere in between--often by cruise ship. She writes for Fodor's Travel, Condé Nast Traveler, and other magazines and websites and shares her love of travel with others at FrequentFlyerToolkits.com, where she teaches people how to leverage frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points for nearly free vacations.
More by Andrea M. Rotondo, Fodor's Contributor