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Tipping Etiquette When Traveling

Posted By Jay On September 28, 2009 @ 10:02 am In Tips and Tricks,Travel Advice | No Comments

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…..

International Gratuity

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.

By Region

  • 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.


By Country

Country Restaurant Staff Baggage Handlers Taxi Drivers
Argentina 10% $1 Round up taxi fare or small tip
Australia 10% in fine restaurants only $2 per bag Round up
Austria 5% plus service charge $1 to $2 per bag Round up
Bahamas 10% $1 per bag 10% – 15%
Belgium 10% if no service charge $1 per bag Round up
Brazil 10% to 15% $1 per bag 10%
Brunei None None None
Canada 10%-20% $1 to $2 per bag 10%
Cayman Islands 15% if no service charge $1 per bag 10%
Chile 10% in addition to service charge $1 per bag None
China 3% in major cities, none elsewhere $1 to $2 None
Colombia 10% 75 cents per bag None
Costa Rica None $1 per bag 10%
Czech Republic 5% to 10% $1 per bag Round up
Denmark None $1 per bag Round up
Ecuador 10% if no service charge 75 cents per bag None
Egypt 5% to 10% plus service charge $1 per bag Round up
Estonia 10-15% for restaurants ? ?
Fiji None None Round up
Finland 10% if no service charge $1 per bag Round up
France 5% to 10% $1 per bag Round up
Germany 5% to 10% or round up plus euro or two $1 per bag Round up
Greece 5% to 10% plus service charge $1 per bag Round up
Hong Kong 10% plus service charge $1 per bag Round up
Hungary 10% if no service charge None Round up
India 10% if no service charge $1 per bag Round up
Indonesia 10% 50 cents Round up
Ireland 10% to 15% $1 per bag Round up
Israel 12% to 15% if no service charge $1 per bag 12% to 15%
Italy 10% plus service charge $1 per bag Round up
Japan None None None
Malaysia None None None
Mexico 10% to 15% $1 50 cents
Morocco Leave loose change 50 cents per bag Round up
Netherlands 5% to 10% $1 per bag Round up
New Zealand None None None
Norway 10% if no service charge $1 per bag Round up
Oman None None None
Peru Up to 10% for special service 75cents per bag None
Philippines 10% 50 cents to $1 per bag Round up
Poland 10% $1 per bag Round up
Portugal 10% to 15% if no service charge $1 per bag Round up
Romania Round up bill $1 per bag Round up
Russia 10% to 15% $1 per bag Round up
Samoa None None None
Saudi Arabia 10% to 15% $1 to $2 per bag 10%
Singapore None None None
South Africa 10% if no service charge 50 cents 10%
South Korea None None None
Spain 7% to 10% plus service charges $1 per bag 10%
Sweden 10% if no service charge $1 per bag Round up
Switzerland Round up $1 per bag Round up
Taiwan 10% if no service charge $1 per bag None
Tanzania 10% None None
Thailand None None
Turkey Round up $1 per bag Round up
United Arab Emirates None None None
United Kingdom 10% if no service charge $1 per bag 10 -15% or round up to nearest pound
USA 15% to 20% $1 to $2 per bag 10% to 15%
Venezula 10% 75 cents per bag 10%
Vietnam None None None


Who Should I Tip

I’ve included a list of travel related service professionals you should consider tipping – assuming it is appropriate in the location(s) you are traveling.  The list is not all-inclusive and is only travel related (your Barber should get a tip but you generally don’t see him when you travel).

Should Tip

  • Taxis Cab Drivers
  • Waiters/Bartenders
  • Hotel Personnel – Excluding front desk staff – but certainly concierge, room service, cleaning, etc.
  • Baggage Handlers – Anyone that handles your bags at the airport or hotel.  Note that some airlines actually charge for any form of baggage handling not done at the ticket counter.  The irony here is they started charging because baggage handlers weren’t getting tips (and they are greedy).  By charging a fee; fewer people take advantage of the service. Seems like the airlines need to take an Economics 101 class – but I digress…..
  • Tour Guides – Yes, above and beyond what you’ve already paid for the ridiculously expensive tour.

Don’t Tip

  • Government Employees – Is considered bribery almost everywhere in the world – however – bribery isn’t a crime everywhere in the world.  In fact, you may actually be extorted by government employees in some countries.  I will post an article on this soon.
  • Fast Food – Unless someone is bringing food to your table – you know – like ‘service’ – they don’t need a tip.  I don’t care what message I’m supposed to get from that “Tip Jar” you put in front of me.  Some people feel the folks who make these ridiculous concoctions in Starbucks deserve a tip – I’ll let you decide.
  • Bad Service – Whenever you didn’t get good service.
  • Non professional Assistance – Someone on the street giving directions or current time.

The American Factor

With the ease and relative affordability of travel, many more Americans are traveling across the globe – whether it is for vacation or business.  This means more and more locales are exposed to American culture and customs.  Unfortunately, one of the byproducts of this is many locations take on Western style customs when dealing with tourists – particularly when it comes to tipping.  For example, in Japan – tipping is not the norm throughout the countryside; however, if you are eating dinner at the Tokyo Hilton (an American hotel chain) – expect to see a service charge or a ‘friendly’ reminder that tipping is appreciated.  In short, if you will be traveling to destinations or properties that cater to Western & European travelers – follow the Western custom and add 10% – 20% gratuity.


These few highlights should help you avoid some awkward situations:

  1. Use the Region and or Country list above (click Print icon).  If the list isn’t available, “When in Rome – do as the Romans”.
  2. Understand the American factor – if in a Western owned property (or location that caters to that demographic) – expect Western customs.  If you go outside of these locations, follow the guide.
  3. Remember ‘gratuity’ is a form of thank you.  If you have truly received bad service – don’t tip.  But if you did receive good service – don’t be a Jerk!
  4. Over tipping is usually seen a flaunting your wealth – a perception assigned to most Americans (we don’t realize the culture difference).  Remember, cultures differ and more isn’t always better.  Use the guide above!
  5. Finally, for my US service industry friends.  Stop whining!  Some people don’t know, can’t afford, or are too cheap to tip.  Tipping isn’t mandatory – it’s a gratuity.  If u want guaranteed money – move to France or go be an Accountant!

Happy Travels!!

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