A little tip can go a long way

Foreign travel is an opportunity to discover different sights, experiences and cuisines. But dealing with different cultures can be confusing – especially when it comes to the topic of tipping.

As soon as you’re off the plane, you have to negotiate the differing tipping expectations of bag carriers, taxi drivers and hotel porters. So it’s worth having plenty of euros, pesos or rubles ready to avoid any awkward moments.

Leaving a little extra to an attentive waiter or a few notes of the local currency on your unmade bed won’t cost much and will usually bring smiles. 

Typical tipping

In much of the world, and especially in resorts, you won’t go far wrong if you tip the local currency equivalent of the following amounts:

Waiting staff: unless service is included, add 10-15%. Otherwise, round up the bill.

Tour guides: £20-40 for the day (and separately tip the driver £10-20).

Hotel room attendants: £2 per day and bag carriers, £1 per bag

Salon workers and parking attendants: £2 or a round-up.

However, tipping is not customary everywhere – and may even cause offence in places like Japan. Make sure you research the customs of your host country and bring plenty of local currency, including smaller denominations, so you won’t be caught out.

Tipping around the world

Here are some broad regional tipping guidelines to get you started:

1. EUROPE – CHECK FOR SERVICE CHARGE

In pricey Scandinavian restaurants, service is usually included and tipping unnecessary.

In central European countries like France and Germany, even where service is included, you’ll find that a little pourboire or trinkgeld (literally ‘drink money’) is appreciated.

In southern Europe and resorts, things are less predictable so don’t assume that card payment is the norm. Regular taxis are usually happy to keep the change, but hotel staff will expect something.

2. NORTH AMERICA – TIP MORE, AND MORE OFTEN

To a European, the practice of tipping in North America is surprisingly prevalent, and the rate (15-20% on restaurant meals) is comparatively high. British bar-goers may also be surprised to see customers leaving an extra dollar per drink at the bar (though it can lead to a free round later).

Hotel staff, coat check-in staff and valet parking staff will all appreciate a couple of dollars, though tour guides are a little cheaper than Europe. Taxi drivers will expect about 10-15% or a decent round-up.

3. CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA – THINK 10%

Tipping hasn’t always been part of the culture here, but mass tourism, particularly in Mexico, has created more situations where a propina (or, in Brazil, a gorjeta) will be appreciated.

10% is the usual figure in restaurants, but if a service charge is added, simply round up the bill. Taxi drivers don't expect tips, but you may have to haggle about the fare beforehand. 

Guides should get around £8 per day, but twice that on a challenging Andean trek. Always bring plentiful small change to avoid awkwardness or reward good service.

4. ASIA AND THE PACIFIC – NOT USUALLY, AND NOT MUCH

When travelling through Asia, tipping isn't a big issue, except in tourist hotspots.

China has no tipping culture, while in Japan it can even cause offence. However, a discreet tip is usually appreciated whenever the service has been exceptional and has long been customary in specialist holidays such as when trekking in Nepal.

Some countries, such as India, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, are catching on to it, but the amounts are modest.

Tipping is not part of the culture in the Pacific islands either, while In Australia and New Zealand, staff are paid well and tips are not expected (though often appreciated). 

5. THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA – TIP MORE OFTEN, BUT SMALLER AMOUNTS

It’s difficult to generalise about so many diverse cultures, except to say that hospitality is a big part of the culture and tipping is usually expected. You may have to shell out on more occasions than usual and keep your eyes open for the signs, but the amounts are small (and very much appreciated).

When eating out, service charge is usually added, but it’s worth adding in a little extra for the waiter, depending on the restaurant and the state of the local economy. However, in places like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, tipping is more like North America.

6. SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA – A LITTLE EXTRA CAN ENHANCE YOUR EXPERIENCE

Tips matter in Africa. Many people work in the hospitality sector, where gratuities make up a large portion of what they take home. Besides, you will want to properly reward the warm hospitality you often meet across this continent. So, keep a decent supply of small bills to hand in case a round up isn’t enough – especially in the more remote areas.

Also, make sure that you hand the money directly to the person who provided the service to make sure they receive it. 8-10% or a few notes of the local currency will cover most needs, perhaps a little more in the better restaurants of South Africa.

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