Your Comprehensive Guide to Tipping in Other Countries

Your Comprehensive Guide to Tipping in Other Countries

If you’re traveling abroad, use our comprehensive guide to tipping etiquette.


By: Lara D.

You planned and budgeted for your dream vacation, but what is often overlooked is accounting for a tipping budget and understanding local tipping etiquette. Generally tipping isn’t a huge portion of your overall expenses but should be taken into consideration especially if you will be at a resort where a service team is at your disposal or your family will utilize the services of local tour guides. The decision to tip is ultimately at your discretion but remember even seasoned travelers can be flummoxed with tipping etiquette.

In the U.S., it is customary and even expected to tip 10 to 25 percent for nearly every customer service received. Yet, tipping is a relatively new concept in many other countries and often the amount is quite minimal, especially compared to U.S. standards. The art of giving and receiving gratuity can be quite perplexing with rules varying greatly by country, region and scenario. To add another dimension, tipping can be viewed as rude, offensive and even downright illegal in some countries. The last thing you want to do while on vacation is offend the people helping make your holiday a dream.

Consider this scenario: You just checked-in to your hotel in Prague and the bellman graciously brought your family’s five overweight suitcases up 3 flights of steep stairs because the 200-year old hotel doesn’t have an elevator. As he prepares to leave you for the night there is an awkward pause, his hand lingering just long enough on the doorknob to make you ponder if he is expecting a tip. And if so, how much and in what currency? Generally, someone who schlepps your bags to your room should get some form of gratuity. You may be blurry-eyed from your travels, but they just broke a sweat (and maybe their back if you are an over-packer) bringing your bags to you.

Bottom line, do your research before leaving home to prevent problems and awkward situations. This includes understanding the local currency and knowing the current exchange rate. But if ever in doubt, a small gratuity to show your appreciation is generally appreciated. Also, don’t forget the concierge can give you the scoop on the acceptable tipping policy for your particular resort. Recently, I was at Hilton Mauritius Resort & Spa and found that individual tipping was frowned upon because the team behind the scenes would not be recognized. Rather, guests are encouraged to leave one larger gratuity upon completion of their stay in a box near the front desk. Those tips are then divided equally amongst the staff. I found that to be a much more equitable solution.

Advice: I recommend downloading a currency and tipping app prior to travel. I personally use Currency Converter and love it. It’s free and easy to use. Also, I use the free app Tipping Abroad to help calculate tips and final bill amounts in the local currency. It gives a brief (but not always accurate) description of tipping etiquette for a number of countries.

To Tip or Not to Tip – That is the Question
With all of this in mind, hold onto your tipping hat. Here are some guidelines for the most common tipping situations around the world and remember, even though I’ve often listed U.S. dollar amounts below, it’s usually best to tip in the local currency.

North America

Bahamas
If you are lucky enough to find yourself sunning on a pink sand beach surrounded by a crystalline sea in the Bahamas, know that tipping is related to quality of service and not mandatory. A 15 percent gratuity for restaurant meals, taxis, hairdressers, and spa treatments is appropriate, and always check the bill to make sure gratuity isn’t already included on the total. This is common practice in the numerous all-inclusive resorts found throughout the island.

  • Doorman: $1 to $2 if a cab is hailed
  • Bellman: $1 per bag
  • Housekeeping: $2 per day or a lump sum at the end of your stay (I leave a little more if my kids were especially messy)

Canada
Tipping in Canada is pretty much the same as in the U.S. Overall it is generally acceptable to tip between 15 and 20 percent for any customer service related item received such as in restaurants, taxis, hairdressers, and spa treatments. Although tipping is not mandatory, it is usually expected because like the U.S., service workers are generally underpaid and expect tips to increase their earnings to a livable wage. Fortunately, in Canada you will find excellent service.

  • Doorman: $2 if a cab is hailed
  • Bellman: $2 to $5 per bag
  • Housekeeping: $2 to $5 per day or lump sum at end of stay (I leave a little more if my kids were especially messy)

Mexico
Most people working in the service industry earn very little and rely on las propinas to augment their wages. Tipping guidelines are quite similar to the U.S. and Canada with 15 to 20 percent being appreciated within the service industry. However, be sure to carry plenty of peso coins and small bills because Mexico’s tipping culture is very impromptu and informal. For instance, you may get your windshield wiped while sitting at a traffic light, and you should give that person a few pesos for their work. Many establishments will have a bathroom attendant that politely hands you either toilet paper or a paper towel. Be sure to give her a few pesos as she is trying to earn a living. Mexicans are amongst the most hospitable and generous people and will go out of their way to ensure you are enjoying yourself, so although una propina is never expected it is always greatly appreciated.

  • Tour Guides and Fishing Captains: It is customary to hand the entire tip directly to the captain. Generally 15 to 20 percent of the chartered trip is the guideline, for exceptional service perhaps a bit more.
  • Bagging Clerks in a Grocery Store: Most often you will find children in this position who do not earn a wage. It is recommended to leave them 10 to 20 pesos or more if they help carry bags to your car, plus it’s just good karma.

South America

Argentina
Contrary to popular belief, tipping in Argentina is legal and appreciated! If you receive good service in a restaurant, 10 percent is greatly appreciated. However, don’t feel obligated to leave anything if service was subpar. Spa workers tend to make more money off gratuities, so if you are happy with your services, be sure to tip 15 to 20 percent of your total bill.

  • Taxi Drivers: Most people will leave the change or round up to the nearest peso. However, if he/she goes out of their way to help you carry bags or makes an extra stop, go ahead and offer a little extra.
  • Doorman: A few pesos if a cab is hailed
  • Bellman: At least a couple pesos per bag
  • Housekeeping: Leave the maid at least a few pesos every day, especially if the room needs a little extra attention.
  • Tour Guides: It is good etiquette to leave your guide 10 to 20 percent. If you felt the service wasn’t up to par, leave a smaller gratuity but try to explain the reason. Perhaps it was just a simple misunderstanding or a language barrier.

Colombia
Colombia has recently become a more of a tourist destination. It is much safer and stable than in the recent past and offers wonderful geographical variations and cultural experiences. Tipping in Colombia isn’t necessarily customary but in areas frequented by tourists, you will find more of a tipping culture. Most restaurants will add a 10 percent propina voluntaria (voluntary tip) to the bill so be sure to look for it. Although it is not required to pay propina voluntaria, most people go ahead and pay it. Typically, this tip is distributed to all staff members. If your service was outstanding, consider leaving a bit more and that extra amount should go directly to the waiter.

  • Taxi Driver: Taxi drivers generally are not tipped in Colombia. There is always the exception; if the driver provided exceptional service and/or helped with your bags, a small gratuity will be appreciated.
  • Doorman/Bellman: It is appropriate to tip the persons who help with your bags approximately the equivalent of $1 per bag.
  • Housekeeping: A small gratuity is greatly appreciated and about the equivalent of $2 per day is sufficient.

Ecuador
Many upscale restaurants add a 10 percent service charge to the bill, so check it carefully before you add anything additional. If your service was outstanding, tip the server directly and it will be appreciated. In all other restaurants, a 5 to 10 percent tip is sufficient.

  • Taxi Drivers: There are mixed messages regarding tipping taxi drivers. Some say not at all while others say it is recommended to round up the fare. Again, if there was exceptional service and assistance with carrying your bags, definitely leave a small gratuity.
  • Tour Guides: Tour guides in Ecuador are usually paid quite low so gratuities are appreciated. Guides will almost always go out of their way to make sure you enjoyed your tour so be sure to show your appreciation. Like most places, if you are on a group tour $5 per person per day is acceptable and don’t forget the driver! Tipping a driver $2 or $3 per person is reasonable. If you have a private tour, $10 to $15 is appropriate.
  • Doorman/Bellman: The equivalent of $1 per bag is appreciated.
  • Housekeepers: $1 per day is a nice gesture and shows your gratitude for their service.

Peru
It is not customary to tip in Peru. However due to increased tourism, a 10 percent tip is common practice and almost expected in places frequented by tourists such as hotels and restaurants. Remember only tip because you want to and because you received good service. Also, it is not recommended to leave a tip for housekeeping because it may be turned into lost and found.

  • Tour Guides: If you have the opportunity to trek in Peru, consider yourself lucky! Trips that span more than a couple days and involve guides, cooks and other help are not paid tips on a daily basis. It is best to consult with the tour operator what an acceptable tip amount would be.
  • Taxi Drivers: Prices for a taxi ride are negotiated in Peru so that is the price you pay – nothing more, even if the journey took longer because of traffic.
  • Doorman/Bellman: The doorman or bellman will greatly appreciate a tip if they assisted with your luggage or even offered helpful tips of places to visit.
  • Housekeeping: Generally, any money found in a room (should) be turned into lost and found. You will find a 10 percent service charge added to your final bill and that money will be split amongst all employees.

Europe

Finland
Land of reindeer, igloo hotels and Santa Claus. Finland is a country with beautiful summers where the sun shines 24 hours a day but leaves Finns in the dark for most of the day during winter. Tipping etiquette can be as complex as the Finns themselves, and visitors should definitely familiarize themselves with the practice. The best practice for tipping in a restaurant is to simply round up. However, feel free to leave a few more Euros if you were a bit needy or your kids left a huge mess to be cleaned up. Finally, tour guides do not expect tips. In fact, it is illegal to tip a government employee who may guide you through a museum. Offer a compliment instead.

  • Taxi Drivers: Rounding up is the common practice.
  • Doorman/Bellman: An especially helpful doorman or concierge should receive approximately 10 Euros for providing helpful advice about things to do, places to see and must-sees. A bellboy should be tipped about 3 Euros per bag.
  • Housekeeping: Your maid would greatly appreciate a 20 Euro tip at the end of your stay. Perhaps less if you only stayed a night or two.
  • Spa Attendants: They don’t expect any further compensation for their services.

Germany
A country filled with stunning castles, rich with history and culture, as well as delicious beer. It is one of the most popular European countries to visit and home to one of the world’s largest airlines: Lufthansa. In Germany, many restaurants only accept cash and a bill may be given verbally rather than on a printed check. For gratuity, it is common practice to just round the bill up. For instance, a 17 Euro bill would simply be rounded up to 20 Euros.

  • Taxi Drivers: Simply round up the fare to the nearest Euro and never leave more than 10 percent.
  • Doorman/Bellman: 1 to 3 Euros per bag
  • Housekeeping: Housekeepers should definitely receive about 3 to 5 Euros a night.
  • Concierge: 10 to 20 Euros for good service and helpful advice.

Iceland
Icelanders make decent wages and often a service charge is included in a bill so tipping is not common. So with that said, tipping may not be expected in most situations but will almost always be appreciated.

  • Doorman/Bellman: As odd as it may seem, tipping the doorman or bellman is not expected as their services are included in your final bill.
  • Housekeeping: Again, they don’t expect any sort of gratuity but if your room needed a bit more attention by all means leave a little extra in an envelope. It will be appreciated.

United Kingdom
American’s are fascinated with the British Monarchy. We follow Will & Kate’s every move, dote on Queen Mum, and are charmed by Prince Harry. We think we can imitate their accent only to be met with fits of laughter by the locals. (It’s best to not even try.) Tipping etiquette can be as confusing as selecting the perfect afternoon tea. People in the service industry are often paid below minimum wage so tips are generally appreciated. Many restaurants will add a service charge to the bill. If so, do not feel obligated to add anything additional. However, it no service charge was added and the service was good, adding 10 to 12.5 percent will certainly bring a smile to your server’s face.

  • Taxi Drivers: Round up to the nearest Pound
  • Hotels: There are many upscale hotels in England, and it is customary to tip within these establishments.
  • Doorman/Bellman: 1 to 2 Pounds per bag. If you can afford a 5-star hotel, then expect to tip around 5 Pounds per bag.
  • Housekeeping: A few Pounds per night is acceptable and appreciated.

Asia

Japan
Tipping in Japan can be frowned upon as many believe good service should be standard practice. However, many people within the service related industries do appreciate a modest tip. Advice: never just pull money from your pocket, as that would be considered rude. The best tipping etiquette is to put a small tip in an envelope and discreetly leave it with the recipient directly. A nod of your head demonstrating your satisfaction with a service is often all that is needed.

China
There are mixed messages about tipping in China. Some say it is rude and others maintain that small gratuities are appreciated. I find the latter to be true especially with China becoming easier for Americans to visit. Some restaurants may refuse tips but check the bill carefully as a 10 to 15 percent service charge may have been added. If you had great service and no service charge was added, go ahead and leave a bit but remember it’s not expected.

  • Tour Guides: There is always an exception to the rule and here it is: tour guides not only expect a tip but may even solicit a tip. They may also take you to shops that will give them a commission if you buy anything. These can be tricky situations to navigate so be upfront about what you want to do and where you want to go. Tour guides may expect at least $10 from each person in your party per day.
  • Taxi Drivers: Taxi drivers do not expect a tip nor should you offer one. In fact, it may still be illegal for drivers to accept a tip. It’s probably better to just learn how to graciously say “thank you” in the local dialect.
  • Hotels: Tipping is generally not expected at hotels in China except the high-end ones.
  • Doorman/Bellman: Up to $10 per bag at high-end hotels

Thailand
Thailand is an extremely popular destination in south east Asia and is also very family-friendly. They have world-renowned beaches (think Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach) and a culture and traditions that date back thousands of years. Because of the large amount of western tourists that visit year-round, tipping is becoming common practice yet never expected. Like most other countries, service staff are rarely paid well so they rely on tips to supplement their income. And a small tip will go a long way in Thailand. If the service is good, a 10 percent tip is customary in most restaurants. Finally, be respectful when handling money in Thailand as it is imprinted with images of the King and his family. Try to hand bills face up and use both hands to show your respect.

  • Tour Guides: More than likely if you visit Thailand, you will utilize the services of a tour guide at some point during your holiday. It is appreciated to tip in the local currency the equivalent of $10 to $20 per day.
  • Taxi Drivers: Taxis are metered in Thailand and drivers don’t expect a tip. However, it is customary to round up to the nearest Baht.
  • Hotels: Service workers only earn about 200 Baht per day, which is a little over $5. So tips are always appreciated.
  • Doorman/Bellman: 20 to 50 Baht for carrying your bags
  • Housekeeping: It is a nice gesture to leave 20 to 50 Baht in an envelope on a pillow.

Middle East

Egypt
Backsheesh is the Egypians special term for “tip” and is a common term. Although you shouldn’t feel obligated to offer Backsheesh, it is often requested from anyone in the service related industry and some who are not. It can be unnerving if you choose not to tip and you get a look of disappointment or even a rude comment. Stand your ground and politely move on. Just be aware that tipping is very important in this country where wages are typically very low. In restaurants, 10 percent is a sufficient Backsheesh. Even if you see a service charge added to the bill, understand this is not necessarily going to your server. More than likely it is for the restaurant so the additional 10 percent is greatly appreciated.

  • Tour Guides: It is almost a necessity to hire a tour guide so you can fully experience Egypt. Expect to pay approximately 50 to 100 LE for a full day of sightseeing. This is quite minimal in U.S. dollars, equating to approximately $6.
  • Taxi Drivers: Prices for taxi rides are negotiable and agreed upon prior to your ride. Nothing further is expected.
  • Hotels: It is customary to tip anyone who helps you in anyway and a few LE will go a long way.
  • Doorman/Bellman: 3 to 5 LE per bag
  • Housekeeping: 5 to 10 LE per night

United Arab Emirates
This is a country of extraordinary proportions. The UAE currently holds the title for the tallest building in the world and claims the world’s only 7-star luxury hotel. They even have the largest indoor year-round ski resort. That’s right, you can go skiing in the Middle East in summer! The UAE is a tourist destination with their national carrier, Emirates airlines, enticing people to visit with non-stop flights from destinations all over the world and free stopovers. Because the UAE has a thriving tourism industry, it has embraced tipping as standard practice. Remember however, many service workers are not from the UAE and are struggling to survive on low wages. Dubai’s government requires a 10 percent service charge to be added to all hotel bills and restaurants. However, it is appreciated to add a few extra Dirhams for exceptional service.

  • Tour Guides: 10 percent of the cost of the tour is acceptable.
  • Taxi Drivers: 10 to 15 percent of the final fare
  • Hotels: It is standard that hotels will add a 10 percent service charge to your bill. But feel free to tip additional staff with a few Dirhams for any extra help you received.
  • Doorman/Bellman: 10 Dirhams
  • Housekeeping: They will definitely appreciate a few extra Dirhams per day which can be left in an envelope on a pillow.

Africa

South Africa
A country rich with history and struggling cultures. It is a country where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years during Apartheid but went on to become President and sought to unify a divided country. It is a land where two oceans meet and a land with a vast landscape. Families flock to South Africa during traditional northern hemisphere winters because of the warm summer sun and can partake in amazing safaris where many promote strong conservation practices. It is also a country with a struggling currency, but its citizens hold a strong appreciation for tourism. It is important in this country to tip a small amount and show your appreciation whenever possible. This gesture will go a long way. It is customary to tip for good service in the amount of 10 to 15 percent in a restaurant.

  • Tour Guides: It is respectful to tip approximately 100 Rand per person per day. However, if you have a private driver or private safari guide, tipping at the end of the adventure is most acceptable and often in U.S. dollars. Local currency is best for smaller tips. When I was there recently, our guides were thrilled to be tipped in U.S. dollars.
  • Hotels: If you are on a safari, be sure to inquire ahead of time about the tipping policy. Oftentimes there is a box, usually near the front office, where guests can put a gratuity upon completion of their stay. It makes it much easier to ensure everyone gets something. However, a safari guide should receive his or her gratuity separately from you on the last day as well. Definitely budget for this expense during your planning.
  • Doorman/Bellman: Anyone that helps you with your bags should receive around $1 per bag
  • Housekeeping: $1 to $2 per day will be greatly appreciated
  • Concierge: $5 is appropriate for the person that helps book any special tours, arranges dinner reservations and/or provides useful advice.


You may also enjoy:
How Much to Tip: The Art of Travel Tipping
8 Helpful Hints for Hiring Local Tour Guides
Need Help on Vacation? Ask Your Hotel Concierge!
5 Tips to Help Hotel Housekeeping Help You


Lara writes for Hilton Mom Voyage and lives in Missoula, Montana, where she found her soul mate and feels connected to this vibrant community. Her two young children ages 8 and 6 also thrive in this beautiful city located in the heart of the Rockies. Along with being a wife and mom, Lara is a realtor, has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is a retired officer in the Army National Guard and worked several years in the IT field. She also manages her own travel blog, www.2momstravel.com.

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