Tips on tipping while travelling

A handy guide of tips on tipping while traveling.

Life + Leisure Travel and Getaways Brian Webb

This article was published on January 13th, 2019

The word TIPS is actually an acronym from olden times meaning To Insure Proper/Prompt Service. If you are North American, tipping is as common as eating in the restaurants or taking the cabs you’d be leaving an additional service charge in the first place. Tipping is so engrained in the culture that it becomes second nature in North America. However, in other countries—not so much. How does anyone keep track of what’s the norm on different types of services, in different countries, and what percentage should you tip, and to whom? Well, here is a handy little guide of tips on tipping while traveling.

North and South America.It’s safe to say that tipping is the standard in the United States. Most visitors are educated about the fact that Americans working service industry jobs aren’t paid much and they make up for their wages in service gratuities. This is common in Canada and Mexico as well. In the United States and Canada, it’s customary to leave 10-20% of the total bill in tips, depending on service quality. In Latin America, it’s more like 10-13%. Some countries, like Costa Rica, have even taken to adding an additional 13% service charge to bills that doesn’t always go into the server’s pockets. Asking is the best policy in Central America as tipping isn’t as common in Panama or Peru. In the Caribbean, most hotels add 10% gratuity, but it is an extra kind gesture to add a few dollars here and there to service people like bag handlers, hotel valets, ship captains, etc.

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Asia/Oceania. An exact opposite to the overall outlook of tipping in North America is Asia and the South Pacific. Many countries in this region virtually don’t tip at all, unless service is completely exceptional. In countries like China, South Korea, and Japan, workers are paid decent wages and accepting tips is often forbidden. In countries like Philippines and Malaysia, a 10% gratuity is often added to restaurant bills and the like. In countries like Taiwan and Thailand, a $1 tip is generally expected, but not guaranteed. In Vietnam, tips are often included in the bill at a tune of around 10%. It’s considered a kind gesture to leave small tips for your housekeeping staff in Asia, but don’t be surprised if they don’t take it. Tipping is appreciated, but generally not expected, in New Zealand and Australia.

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Africa.The least developed continent in the world could most certainly use foreign tips to help boost the economy and pocket of individual service industry workers. In countries like Egypt and South Africa, there is often a gratuity added to the bill that is small, so it is encouraged to add 5-15% more, as these workers depend on the tipping system to survive. It’s safe to say any and all tipping for exceptional service is appreciated in Africa, just be coy about it.

Tips on tipping while travelling

Middle East.In countries like Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon, the gratuity is almost always included, if there is an additional charge at all. It’s not uncustomary to leave 5-10% more on top of your bill for great service. Always give the porter watching your shoes at a Mosque an extra $1 or two to guarantee your possessions get watched after properly. In countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, the same rules of tipping in the United States apply.

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Europe.Like the continent, Europe’s tipping systems are all over the map and can vary from “don’t bother” to “To insure proper service”. Countries like Estonia and Hungary haven’t adopted the tipping system, and it isn’t uncommon to leave nothing even for an excellent meal with great service—though you’ll be hard pressed to find great service in these nations as a result. In Scandinavia, the service charge is included or not expected at all. Otherwise, in Germany, Spain, France, and Portugal, a 10-15% service charge can be added by you for great service. Most drivers, housekeeping staff, hair dressers, etc. don’t expect tips as they are paid a fair wage. In the UK, Iceland, and Switzerland, if the service charge isn’t included, you aren’t expected to add extra. Even though the system of tipping began in 16thcentury England, the UK handles gratuities by either adding them to the bill or not at all.

In general, when traveling the world, it is still probably a good idea to tip the people who are providing you a service, especially if you are very happy with the outcome. Bellmen, tour guides, taxi / town car / rideshare drivers, etc. are all people you can leave a tip for—no matter what the rules say. Just… maybe be discreet about it. Adding a bit of positivity from one human being to another could mean all the difference in the world.


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