Tipping may be common, but so is the angst of figuring out when to do it, how much to tip, and even trickier, when to keep your money in your wallet. This is especially true when travelling abroad.
Your time of rest and relaxation shouldn’t be marred by stress over tipping etiquette, and we’re here to take that stress away. Customs vary from place to place, so here’s a handy guide to help you be a great guest, no matter where you travel.
How much should you tip when on holidays?
Tipping in the USA and Canada
The USA is the tipping capital of the world, and for good reason. Minimum wage does not apply to many service positions (restaurants in many states can pay as little as US$3 per hour), and in some places, like some Las Vegas casinos, some staff members actually pay for the right to work there. Servers also have to give a percentage of their shift’s sales to bar and kitchen staff – whether they make it or not. Most service employees also don’t get benefits.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why tipping is not only vital to the worker, but for many Americans, not leaving a tip feels like stealing.
The service charge (tip) is sometimes included on the bill, but more often it is not. Tip 15-20 percent for meals and drinks; a little less for taxis; and a dollar or two, per bag, for bellhops and porters.
You can also tip room cleaning staff, car wash staff, and tour guides. Depending on the expense level of the service, and the duration of it, 15% or five dollars, whichever is greater, is the way to go.
Service staff in Canada are treated better than in the USA, but still rely on tips to bring in a ‘living wage.’ The rates are the same, whether in the USA or Canada.
Tipping in the UK
Restaurants in the UK are increasingly including the service charge on the bill. For large groups – more than 6 – this is even more often the case. When included, it is usually 10-15 percent, depending on the type of restaurant, so in cases where it is not on the bill, use that as a good range.
For cheap-and-cheerful type establishments, a couple of pounds left discreetly on the table is fine, or can be added in when paying by card. If you aren’t using table service, like when getting drinks at a pub, no tip is expected.
Rounding up to the nearest pound is the norm when using taxis, and of course apps like Uber have a tipping system built in. It’s optional there, but the minimum is usually appropriate. If either cabbies or Uber drivers are helping with your bags though, an extra few pounds is a good way to thank them.
In most hotels, no one is expecting a tip for doing their job, but in posher establishments, especially in London, tipping the room cleaners and porters is normal – two to five pounds is sufficient.
Tipping in the France
France, like the USA, is big on tipping, but unlike the US, French restaurants include a service charge in nearly every case. It will be listed as ‘service compris’ or something similar, and will usually be 15 percent.
Unlike most other countries, this service charge goes to the restaurant owner, who in turn pays the staff higher wages. Leaving a cash tip is sometimes done, when service is exceptional, but is not necessary. As the servers often do not get to keep it, most patrons don’t bother.
If you’re not having meals, don’t tip. Drinking and tips don’t mix in France. You can, however, leave a little something for room cleaners or porters. A few Euros is a good tip in that case. Likewise, taxi drivers are not generally tipped in France, though it is normal to round up the bill to the nearest Euro.
Tipping in Italy
Though tipping isn’t required in Italy, it has been becoming more and more common, and will be gratefully accepted.
Like in France, check your restaurant bill for a service charge. In Italy, it will be noted as ‘servizio’ or ‘coperto.’ This will not be a large amount in most cases; expect about 10 percent.
If having a coffee or a drink in a café or bar, leaving a Euro or two is a good way to show appreciation for good service. Likewise for daily room cleaning. A Euro per bag is appropriate for bellhops and porters.
As with most of Europe, rounding up taxi fares to the nearest Euro is the norm, but tipping beyond that is not expected except in cases where the driver helps with bags or if it is a long trip.
Tipping in Spain and Portugal
Tipping is common in Spain, but not mandatory. Even when dining, tipping is mostly reserved for high-end establishments where you would be expected to dress in smart-casual or higher. If you do want to tip your server, 5-10 percent is appropriate and appreciated, as is simply adding a couple of Euros. to whatever the bill is.
Like in France, drinkers don’t tip in Spain. There is often rounding up to the nearest Euro, or even the nearest five for larger orders, but the norm is to pay for what you get, no more.
Likewise, a couple of Euros for helpful cab drivers, porters, cleaners etc. is acceptable and a great way to say thanks for good service.
Portugal is very much the same as Spain, but with the notable exception that taxi drivers normally receive a tip of about 10 percent of the fare.
Tipping in Greece
Greece considers tipping good etiquette, but it is not required. Even in situations in which people most commonly tip, the rates are low. In a restaurant, for example, 10 percent for a good meal with excellent service is fine.
For taxi drivers, round up to the nearest Euro. For porters, one Euro per bag is appropriate, and for cleaners and the like, give one Euro per night if you’d like to leave a tip at all.
Cyprus is very similar, as are most of the Baltic States.
Tipping in Japan
Ahh, simplicity itself. Want to tip in Japan? Don’t.
The Japanese sometimes see tipping as rude or insulting – as if they would need extra incentive to do an excellent job. This may seem pretty alien to us, but it is a strong cultural norm there, and if faced with a tip, many will try to return it or, at worst, will keep it and feel insulted by the gesture.
The few exceptions include some of the more upscale guest houses (ryokan), where guests often present a member of staff with an envelope containing the equivalent of about £5 to £10. This is a very formalised gesture, not a quick pass of a few quid. Some tour guides – mainly those used to dealing with a lot of foreign guests – are more open to receiving tips. A good rule of thumb though is to keep it modest – nothing more than about £5 in local currency (about 1,000 yen).
Most taxi drivers are not even allowed to accept tips.
Japan is not alone in this either, similar customs exist in Korea too.
Tipping for all-inclusive resorts
Tipping culture varies from resort to resort, depending on the policies of the provider. Some even include a daily service charge as part of the package price. Be sure to ask your agent which type of place you’re heading into, so you don’t carry around the stress of not knowing the etiquette.
For example, some resorts provide you with a true all-inclusive experience – you live in a cashless bubble for the time you’re there, no prices, no bills… and no tipping!
Other places operate on the basis that, although things are free, you are encouraged to show your appreciation to staff through little monetary gifts here and there – through tipping. In these resorts, count on spending £15 to £20 per day on tips (in the local currency). This varies a lot depending on the country you’re in, so you’ll be on the lower end in lower economies, and at the upper end in higher ones.
As for when to tip, we recommend you do so for personal services, and throughout your stay. Don’t be tempted to tip at the end of your stay; better to be seen as a tipper right from the beginning, as it may improve the service by making you a priority guest in the eyes of the staff.
Tip porters and helpful shuttle drivers about a pound per bag, preferably in the local currency. Tour guides should be tipped about £5, but you can up that if you are part of a small group. £2 a day for cleaning staff is usually about right. A pound per order is normal when tipping bartenders, and anyone else who helps you out or makes your stay more enjoyable. Don’t feel as if you need to pay for every kindness, but if you want to show a little thanks, a tip is a nice way to do it.
General tipping tips
Tip in the local currency, unless foreign currency (like the popular US dollar) is preferred, then tip in that.
Try to use the same bartender, concierge, etc., rather than a different one each time. This lets them get to know you and you may get better service and more attention. It also feels good when they get to know your name.
Tip early and throughout your stay, whether all-inclusive or pay-as-you-go. This makes you a priority guest, as it shows respect and appreciation for the services provided. That can result in a truly excellent level of service and care.
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