Tipping Etiquette around the World

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Tipping etiquette and a global gratuity guide for the Travel Belle

Traveling to a foreign country is exhilarating. It is an amazing gift to be able to see and experience different places and cultures around the world. But traveling out of one’s own country brings its own set of challenges. There can be language barriers; there are unfamiliar streets and public transportation systems to navigate and different currencies to compute. On top of that, we must figure out proper tipping etiquette for personnel at restaurants, hotels, spas and taxis in any given country.

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Imagine this scenario: you are in a small local cafe far from the tourist crowds. In a quiet neighborhood, you find yourself the perfect perch for enjoying a meal and a glass of wine. The local streets become your stage. Time passes, minutes become hours as you watch and become part of the unfolding neighborhood scene. But, eventually, all good things must come to an end. It is time for you to pay the check and head back out the streets. But, how much do you leave for a tip?

The rules of tipping etiquette vary widely around the globe and it is important to understand local gratuity customs and requirements. Like with other local traditions, doing a little research ahead of time will help you blend in with the natives and have a more authentic and comfortable experience. Most destination-specific travel guides offer some advice about tipping. They have all the essential information you need when you are out exploring a city – restaurants, sights, shopping and entertainment – and they are small enough to fit in your purse or a coat pocket.) That said, here is a gratuity guide you can follow when gallivanting around the globe:

Tipping in the United States of American and Canada

Tipping is important for all service personnel in both of these countries and is normally not included in your bill. Tip a minimum of 15% and at least 20% for outstanding service at restaurants, salons and spas. Taxi drivers appreciate a tip of 10 to 15% of the fare and hotel porters should get $1 to 2 per bag.

Tipping in Latin America

A service charge is often included in your check at restaurants in Central and South America. If it is not, generally 10 to 15% tip is expected. For other services 10% is good, and porters appreciate $1 US per bag. In Brazil and Peru tipping is not really expected except in restaurants. The last thing to remember in Central America is that if you are staying at a luxury or all-inclusive resort gratuity may be included in the cost of your stay, in which case tipping will not be necessary.

Tipping in Europe

In many countries in western Europe, a service charge is added to your total bill at restaurants and other service establishments. Check the bill. If service is included, leave some change or round up to the next euro. If service is not included, leave 10 to 15%. Again, give hotel porters 1 to 2 euros per bag. Gratuity in eastern Europe varies widely, so either check your guidebook or consult with your hotel concierge or a local tour guide for advice.

Tipping in the Middle East and North Africa

In this area of the world, a gratuity charge is often added to your bill at restaurants and hotels. In most countries, if gratuity is not included, you should tip between 5 and 15% in cash. In Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, however, a 15 to 20% tip is expected. Tip other service personnel a similar rate and give porters $1 to 3 US depending on the country. If you visit a mosque give $1 US to the individual who hands out robes for women to wear and $1 US to the individual who minds your shoes, which you must leave at the door. Lastly, in most Middle Eastern and North African countries, it is important to tip discreetly.

Tipping in Africa

Tipping 10 to 15% is customary in Sub-Saharan Africa. Give porters the equivalent of $1 US per bag and give parking guards or attendants about $1 to 2 US. The local currency is appreciated in South Africa and several other countries, as it is difficult for many individuals to change currency.

Tipping in Asia/Pacific

In China tipping is against the rules; however, you may tip hotel staff, massage therapists and similar service personnel discretely for outstanding service. Japan is also a non-tipping society. That said, if you do want to tip tour guides, ryokan staff or other service personnel give them yen in an envelope. But, do not be offended if the individual declines the gratuity. The last non-tipping country in Asia is South Korea, however, most restaurants and hotel staff expect tips from foreign tourists.

In the rest of Asia, tipping is expected and appreciated. In most cases, 10 to 15% is customary, slightly higher for outstanding service. Always check to see if a service charge is included in your bill, and if not, 10 to 15% tip is expected in most countries. It is important to note that in some developing countries the staff at restaurants and hotels may or may not see a portion of that charge, so you can still leave an additional tip in cash if you want to make sure you thank the staff for their service.

Australia and New Zealand have generally accepted western tipping standards, so 10 to 15% for restaurants, spas, and taxis or $1 to 2 US dollars for a porter to carry your bag is customary. ** See addition below regarding tipping in Australia

And that brings us almost completely around the globe! One last note for Travel Belles: in many countries around the world people appreciate being paid or receiving tips in US dollars, British pounds or euros, however, this is not always the case. While these currencies might be more valuable and stable, often they can be hard to spend or convert for local people. It is important to become familiar with the local economy and learn what is customary.

If dollars or euros give you more bargaining power in the markets, then service people will most likely appreciate receiving tips in those currencies. Still, if local vendors are not willing to accept these currencies do not tip in them either.

Happy travel tipping! If you’re not sure exactly what country you’re visiting next, bookmark or print out this global gratuity guide so it will be handy on your next foreign trip!

* Photo provided by the author.

** Added Jan. 18 regarding Australia, from an Australian friend:  “We don’t tip in Australia. Some restaurants have a suggested tip of 10%, but it’s just a suggestion, no pressure.”

12 thoughts on “Tipping Etiquette around the World”

  1. Great round up on an issue that can be worrisome when travelling.

    I haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand since 2000 but tipping wasn’t the norm back then (unless the server did something special or service was truly outstanding) and I don’t think things have changed as it is something my Australian friends in London have to adjust to when they move here.

  2. Great post – how much to tip is always a tough one and as many travellers are not au fait with each country’s tipping etiquette, many pay out unnecessarily simply yo not cause offence. But as pointed out in some countries, such as Japan, this has the opposite effect!

  3. Living in Seville, Spain, I soon learned that the locals rarely tip; if anything, they might leave behind a few small coins from the change they get back after paying the bill. Tipping is simply not the custom, as service is included in the price, and waiters are a professional class whose salaries are supposed to provide a living wage. Except in places catering mainly to foreign tourists, a customer leaving behind an extra 15% or 20% of the bill would be viewed as peculiar and inappropriate, as if you’d insisted on paying an additional twenty euros for a sweater in a shop, or considered yourself vastly superior in social status to your host. One night in a very funky bar run by a crusty old man with only a few teeth, my husband paid for our beers (less than a euro each) and left the change on the bar. The old man glowered at him a moment then shoved the coins back toward my husband, growling, “This isn’t that kind of bar.” We apologized, meekly retrieved our coins and tried, in our then-primitive Spanish, to explain that no insult was intended.

  4. Tipping is very tricky. You have to make sure you never try to tip the owner of an establishment, like in the example of Karen. I always ask advice in advance, either a friend or first thing in my hotel.

  5. what about tipping maids in hotels? my family members were all staying in separate cottages, most were 2 rooms. no one knew how much to keave. I said $10/day and they thought that was way too much.

  6. I’m not sure, Laura – $10 sounds like a lot to me too – but sometimes on this, I just go with my gut instinct, usually depending on factors such as what country the accommodations are in,quality of the service, and how much work was involved (such as was there are kitchen area, etc…)..

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