No matter where you’re traveling, figuring out tipping etiquette can be tricky. Who should you tip? Who shouldn’t you tip? How much should you tip? The rules vary depending on what country you’re in, and it’s always best to know who you should tip before you leave. Here are some guidelines and hints to keep in mind, especially if you’re traveling in different parts of the world.
Before you fly anywhere, remember that you may need to do some tipping at home. At the airport, skycaps can help you check in for your flight on the curb. Sometimes this can be a very convenient and quick option—but it does mean you’ll need to remember a tip. Typically, you’ll want to tip about $1 to $2 per bag.
For taxis in the U.S., the standard is 15 percent. But if you’re traveling in Europe, tip 10 percent, or round up the fare, and you should be covered.
In Asia, most taxis are metered, so you can just round up to the nearest ringgit. In Hong Kong, taxis usually already round up the fare to the nearest dollar. The difference is accepted as a tip. Tipping is not necessary in China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Korea, and other locations, but make sure to tip taxi drivers in Thailand about 10 percent.
In South America, the tip varies depending on the country and city. You don’t have to tip drivers in most places, including Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru. For South American countries that do tip drivers, such as Bolivia and Venezuela, the custom is usually 10 percent. For Brazil, taxi drivers don’t expect tips…except in Rio, where 10 percent is normal.
For the Middle East, you should add 15 percent to your cab fare or round up to the next whole sum.
Similarly, while traveling in Africa, you must tip generously in countries like Nigeria and Ghana.
At hotels in Europe, a euro or two per bag is generous for the porter. For the room maid, a couple of euros at the end of your stay is appropriate if your room was kept clean. Sometimes if you give the tip on the first day, the service you receive is friendlier the rest of your stay.
In Asia, the customs vary. In Hong Kong, HK$10 should do at most hotels. However, at a five-star hotel, a crisp HK$20 bill would be more acceptable. From Americans, $5 per bag for the porter is usually expected. You don’t have to tip porters or wait staff at hotels unless you feel the service is exceptional. Many hotels in Asian countries, such as Singapore, Korea, and Malaysia, add a 10 percent service charge to your hotel room, which can be considered as tip.
In Nigeria, tipping is expected in order to check into your hotel, bring your luggage into the hotel, and then get it into your room. If you didn’t tip, your luggage may assume the role of hostage until you find a dollar or two. To do anything during the day, a dollar here and there for everything that includes another person who serves you in any way may be the norm.
In the Middle East, be cognizant of customs in each location. In Dubai, you can expect to pay a 10 percent service charge at hotels. But in Israel, you may give six shekels per bag to porters and three to six shekels per day for housekeepers. For Jordan, it is customary to leave one dinar per bag for the porter and one dinar per night for the housekeeper. As the Middle East is subjective, you should do research on the average tip rates for the specific areas where you plan to travel.
In Europe, tipping isn’t automatic or as generous as in the United States. In restaurants, 5 to 10 percent is the norm, but if someone is particularly attentive, you can give more.
However, check the restaurant bill. Often the gratuity (15 percent) is figured into the total and it will be stated at the bottom of the menu.
A couple of extra euros is appreciated if the service has been outstanding. In France, gratuity is sometimes not included (service non compris or s.n.c.), so tip 5 to 10 percent by rounding up, or leave the change from your bill.
It’s best to hand the tip directly to the waiter rather than leaving it on the table, especially in busy restaurants. In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, in particular, you should be discreet and well-mannered. In those countries, you can indicate the total number of euros you’d like the waiter to keep (including his tip) when paying. For instance, if the bill is €75, you could hand him €100 while saying, “€85,” you will have €10 returned and he has his tip.
If you are paying by credit card, the rule of thumb is to pay the tip in cash so you can be sure the wait person receives it. If the service is bad and you have the choice of what to tip, it is considered poor manners not to tip something.
While dining in Asia, don’t leave a tip in China or Japan. In Singapore and western establishments in Korea, there’s no need to tip beyond the 10 percent service charge. In some countries, such as Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, you will need to add an additional tip on top of the 10 percent service charge, usually an additional 5 to 10 percent. Western and upscale restaurants in Hong Kong always expect a tip, but you shouldn’t leave tips for local dining spots. You should leave HKD 50 to 100 on your restaurant bill.
In the Middle East, the tipping customs vary from country to country. While 10 percent service charges are included in bills in Turkey, you should add a 10 percent tip in Israel.
As a general rule, you should tip your tour guide 10 to 20 percent based on the cost of the tour. Additionally, you can avoid tipping tour guides if they work for government sites, such as national parks. For tour guides working multiple days, you can expect to contribute $7-$10 per person for each day.
Of course, tip amounts vary by location and tour length. In Ecuador, it is appropriate to leave $3 per person.
If you’re taking a longer guided tour, many tour companies will suggest a flat rate to tip your guide.
Mobile Apps to Help You
If you need some help figuring out who to tip on the go, the iPhone app GlobeTipping advises and calculates tips for over 260 countries. The app will give you location-based tipping advice to make sure you tip the right amount during your vacation. The app also features a converter option and enables you to set favorites. It’s also great when calculating the bill after a meal with large groups. You can buy the app for $0.99 on the App Store.
For Android users, you can download the app Global Tipping Guide Pro, which has a similar function. It includes guidelines for tipping in more than 60 countries, and includes a tip calculator. The app also helps you manage a budget while you’re traveling by creating expense reports. You can buy the app for $1.99 on Google Play.
For more tips on money & travel, check out:
- How to Get the Best Foreign Exchange Rates
- Your Checklist for International Travel
- More Credit Cards Remove Foreign Transaction Fees
By Justin Shamtoob for PeterGreenberg.com