Tipping. In the U.S., tipping is a way of life for anyone who receives a service of almost any type. We tips our barbers and hairdressers, baggage handlers, hotel maids, food delivery drivers, and, of course, wait staff in restaurants, even those in which we order at the counter and our food is simply brought to us, and nothing more.
When we travel out of the country, however, we are woefully ignorant about tipping, and if we get it wrong, we are the “Ugly Americans” living up to our titles.
So that you don’t get it wrong, here are some tipping recommendations for commonly traveled places.
The Middle East
In general, tipping can be a bit complicated in this part of the world. In most countries, foreigners are provided wonderful service, but as one travel agent put it, “People’s hands are out a bit more.” On the plus side, the expected amounts are small. Here are some guidelines in some of the more frequently traveled countries.
- Dubai/Egypt: 10% is added to every hotel, restaurant and bar bill. It is divided among those who served you. Porters should be tipped individually, and cabbies don’t expect a tip (but small tips are appreciated. Tour guides should be tipped per person – check with the concierge to get an idea of amount).
- Israel: While tips are included in hotel/restaurant bills, add a shekel for each customer at a restaurant. Small amounts of shekels should be afforded the concierge, porter, and housekeeper per day.
- Qatar/Saudi Arabia; UAE: No tips included in bills here, and it is best to follow US. percentages.
- Special Note: if you visit a mosque, you should tip the person who hands out the robe for a woman and for the individual who “watches” the shoes. Tipping at mosques and for drivers/guides, should be done quietly and almost surreptitiously.
In most African countries, gratuities are not usually included in the bills. And as you prepare to tip, understand that service workers will be unable to break even a $5 bill. So have lots of local currency on hand.
It is difficult for service workers to exchange currencies, and there is a fee involved, so try to use only local money. But because service workers barely make a subsistence living, tips are really appreciated.
The numbers: 10%-15% is a good tip for wait staff, $1-$2 a day for hotel staff and most other service workers; $10 for guides; safari guides deserve quite a bit more, although many times hotels will have a common box for gratuities for safari guides and other hotel staff. Individual tips are appreciated too.
Again, use local currency whenever possible, for example the shilling in Kenya and the rand in South Africa.
Tipping “rules” in the Americas seem to be largely governed by the acceptable amounts established in the U.S., especially for all types of restaurants.
Brazil and Chile are exceptions where 10% is automatically added to restaurant bills. It is important to remember that service workers in these countries earn less than $5/day. While you can get away with $1 tip in Mexico, for example, you should give more if the service has been especially good. This includes housekeeping, porters, cabbies, etc.
You should always tip extra when extra or especially fine service has been provided. Tour guides expect at least 10%.
This is an area where tipping “rules” vary widely. From countries like India, where poverty stricken people will beg for tips for almost anything (and run after you for it) to vietnam where it is considered impolite to ask for tips but still appreciate them, travelers to any of these countries should research the specific norm
10-15% for wait staff and follow general U.S. rules for other workers.
Until 20 year ago, tipping in New Zealand was illegal. That has obviously changed, but many service workers may refuse a tip.
The culture of Asia is traditionally a non-tipping one. Over time, things have changed. While most service workers do accept tips, do so quietly. Drivers and Guides expert tips in addition to their regular fees.
In some countries, a 10% tip is added to a restaurant bill (Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, and the Philippines). In others, the no-tipping culture is still strong (S. Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam).
In general, however, tourists who stay at high-end hotels and eat in high-end restaurants may find a gratuity added to the bill but should tip if one is not. Baggage handlers and housekeepers should be tipped. Tips should be given individually and very subtly, out of sight of employers if possible.
Japan is a non-tipping society. But many service workers will take a tip (only in Yen please). Do not be surprised, however, if tips are declined. Guides and drivers do expect tips and, if the time is right, lunch. Give tour guides tips in envelopes.
In most European countries, gratuities are added to hotel and restaurant bills. Where they are not, 10-15% is considered appropriate.
In some countries, it is considered quite reasonable, even when gratuities are included, to round up bills.
In all countries, housekeeping staff and porters should be tipped, as well as the concierge if assistance has been provided. Guides and drivers have set fees but should be tipped as well, several Euros/person at a minimum.
Eastern and Central Europe
This is an area that is rapidly becoming a popular destination for travelers. Tipping “rules” are not yet always well defined. In general tourists can use dollars or euros, but tipping should be in cash and not on a credit card, as the staff may not always get it.
In hotels, concierge service is not too common yet, but if they are present, $5-$10 for a small hotel and $10-$20 for a larger one. Housekeeping staff should get $1-$2/day, in an envelope when you leave.
An Interesting Future
In the United States, there is somewhat of a movement afoot to abandon tipping altogether, at least in restaurants. Wait staff is paid very poorly, well under minimum wage, because it is assumed that tips will bring incomes up to a livable level. Many restaurants are now adding a service charge to every tab, and then using that as a “pool” of money to raise the hourly wages of their staffs. If, indeed this could bring wages up, the concept may bleed over into other service-related industries as well.