To be quite honest, I have been confused on a number of occasions about when and how much gratuity (tip) to a provide when traveling out of the country. I learned pretty quickly that tipping is not necessary in some countries and in others, it is seen as a form of insult. The purpose of this article is to help shed some light on the subject so that you can avoid awkward situations in your travels.
Note: This article is about tipping outside of the United States. Everyone in the US should know that tipping service professionals is customary. Service professionals in the US get paid a very small hourly wage (sometimes as little as $2 an hour) and make a majority of their income from tips. Tips should be in the range of 10% to 20% depending on the level of service. Again, this article isn’t about whether you should tip in the US or Canada – you should – Don’t be a Jerk!!! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…..
It can be confusing knowing how much to tip, when and to whom when overseas. This is because the economic structures and customs for service professionals in other countries are different than in the Western World. As I mentioned above, US service professionals make a majority of their income from tips – while in many Asian countries – service professional are “Professionals”, e.g., their entire living wage is salaried and they generally do not accept tips. In many European countries, tipping is accepted – but only the change that’s left from the bill. Again, this is because either a surcharge (form of tip) has already been applied to the bill or the service professionals in these countries do not make a significant portion of their income from tips (many are salaried).
Where is Tipping Acceptable?
The information below was taken directly from this FlyerTalk forums article on the subject. Since I haven’t traveled to every corner of the earth, this is a more complete resource than my own experiences.
- Asia/the Pacific: Special care must be taken to ensure that your well-meaning gesture is not taken as insulting. If you are unsure, it is best not to tip. If possible, observe the locals and follow their lead.
- Europe: Many hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill. In most cases, an additional tip is unnecessary. If no service charge is added to your bill, 10% is the general rule for restaurant service, and $1 per bag for a hotel porter.
- Middle East/Africa: While your tip will not be seen as insulting, it may be unnecessary. Once again, the best bet is to do as the locals do.
- Central/South America: Many hotels and restaurants add a service charge to the bill, and an additional tip is unnecessary. If not, 10% is the general rule for restaurant service, and the equivalent of $1 per bag for a porter.