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Tipping Abroad

Posted by Mark Gallo on

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Keeping it in context for Americans

If you ask 10 Americans how they tip in the US you’ll get 10 different answers, right? Nicer restaurants typically expect 15 to 20% on top of the bill for good service, and 18% or more is often added onto the bill for larger parties. But that doesn’t mean that’s what folks will tip. You might tip up to 10% of cab fare, or just round up the fare by a smaller amount, or not tip at all. Do you deduct tax from the total before you tip in a restaurant? Do you tip for a cup of coffee when facing an iPad checkout screen with various tipping percentages? With more technology comes more opportunities to give gratuities, whether there is historical precedent or not. The backlash to this phenomenon is Uber with their “ no tip” model.

Outside the US tipping is less generous and more predictable, although burgeoning American tourism is changing that. Here are some regional guidelines gleaned from personal experience, Rick Steves, and travel savvy friends. If you want the complete country by country breakdown of tipping practices click here for CN Traveler’s guidance.

Europe

If you’re a generous tipper in the states then you should throttle back in Europe. Carry loose change as it makes tipping easier. The general practice in cafes is to round up the bill with a euro or two. Nicer restaurants may list a separate line item on the bill as a “service” charge (often 10%) which goes to the owner to cover staff expenses. Since this does not go to your server directly it's up to you whether you want to leave a Euro or two as there is often no tip line on the credit card invoice. Round up cab fares to the nearest whole euro. If you want to do more you can tip 5%. Tip bellhops one euro per bag. A concierge that does a lot of work for you might get a few euro. There is no shame in walking away from a lunch or dinner with no change on the table - it really depends on your satisfaction and tipping inclinations. There are a few exceptions to these rules. In Scandinavia there is no tipping expectation in restaurants or taxis. In the UK tipping in pubs is not customary.

Africa

Kenya and Tanzania

Taxi fares are negotiable and not metered. Foreigners will typically get quoted a higher fare so it pays to go with a local. Guides get $15 per day. Five percent to ten percent cash tip in a restaurant is acceptable.

Canada and the Caribbean

Our neighbors to the north and south have similar gratuity expectations as in the US. You’re expected to leave 15% to 20% on top of a restaurant bill. Add 10% to cab fares and one dollar equivalent per bag for bellhops. Of course additional tipping in all inclusive Caribbean resorts is not necessary.

Central America and South America

  • Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Ecuador typically include a 10% service charge on the restaurant bill; no tip is necessary.
  • Argentina, Peru, and Nicaragua do not usually include a service charge so tip up to 10% if warranted. In locales where taxi fares are metered just round up the fare for a tip. Where fares are negotiated (e.g., Peru) then there is no need to tip. It’s safe to assume porters in all areas should be tipped one dollar equivalent per bag.

Mexico

If the restaurant includes a line item for “la propina” then no additional tip is needed. If there is none then tip 10% in cash or 15% for parties greater than 5. Normally cabbies do not expect tips unless they’ve helped with baggage, in which case 20 pesos (about $1) per bag is adequate. Same goes for porters.

Middle East

  • Dubai, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan usually include a service charge on the restaurant bill. Tip up to 10% to cab drivers except in Dubai where rounding up fares is acceptable. Tip one dollar equivalent per bag to porters.
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE do not include service charges; 15% to 20% tip is acceptable. Porters get two dollars equivalent per bag.

New Zealand and Australia

You’re expected to leave 10% to 15% in restaurants, 5% to 10% for cab drivers, and $1 per bag for porters.

Southeast Asia and South Pacific

There are a few countries where tipping is not part of the culture and in fact may cause embarrassment.

  • Do not tip in Japan, Brunei, South Korea or Bali. Tipping is acceptable for tour guides in those countries. Be discreet and put it in an envelope. In China the posher western style hotels and restaurants may include a 10% service charge but otherwise tipping is not expected.
  • Vietnam , Cambodia, Philippines and Laos waiters might get 5% to 10%. Same goes for Myanmar and Thailand. Porters get tipped small change.
  • Taxi drivers in Malaysia and Singapore are not tipped, but porters and waiters may be tipped (5% to 10% for waiters).
  • India, Indonesia, and Taiwan usually include 10% on top of the restaurant bill. Round up fares for the taxi drivers.

Organized Tours, Safaris, Cruises, and Hired Guides

Whether or not gratuities are included in the tour price should be spelled out in the pre-travel documents Make sure you know before you go. Hired drivers and guides expect a tip pretty much everywhere in the world at 10% to 20%, depending on the quality and duration.