Tipping customs around the world vary dramatically. In some places, tipping is widely accepted and expected. In other parts of the world, it is unnecessary or even perceived as an insult.
As a traveler, it can be hard to know when and how much you should tip. Not tipping when you should or tipping when you shouldn’t can be a major travel faux pas.
As you travel around the world, it is important to understand the tipping customs and practices of the places you plan to visit. In this guide, we’ll explore who gets tipped, how much is expected, and how you can be prepared as you travel to other places. Whether you are a seasoned traveler, or this is your first trip outside of your own country, learn how you can navigate around the complex world of tipping customs.
Tipping Customs in North America
Around the world, the way in which people approach tipping varies dramatically. Not only that, but tipping also depends on the service being provided and the specific circumstances surrounding the situation.
The following are just a few examples of how tipping is handled in regions around the world:
- In the U.S., tipping is generally expected when dining at restaurants, bars, and cafes. It is also customary to tip in other service-related businesses, such as with taxi drivers, hotel staff, and hairdressers. Usually, customers are expected to leave a tip between 15-20% of the total bill. In the U.S., tipping staff is important as most service industry-related jobs rely on tips to earn a living wage.
- Restaurants: It is customary to tip 15-20% of the total bill in restaurants, with the exact amount depending on the quality of service provided. Some restaurants may automatically add a gratuity for larger groups or during busy periods, so be sure to check the bill before leaving an additional tip.
- Bars: It is common to tip $1-2 per drink, or 15-20% of the total bill for a larger group or a tab that accumulates over time.
- Hair and beauty services: It is customary to tip 15-20% of the total bill for haircuts, color treatments, manicures, and other beauty services.
- Delivery services: It is customary to tip 10-20% of the total bill for food delivery, depending on the level of service provided.
- At the airport: I have wondered how much my wife and I should tip for those helping me with my bags at the airport. I do know that at the actual airline counter (inside the airport terminal), it is not needed to tip the employees of the airline(s). However, there are baggage handlers (usually before you get into the airport terminal, also called skycaps) who are not airline employees but do work alongside / help with your bags as well as check you in.
It is customary to tip baggage handlers, also known as skycaps, at U.S. airports. These individuals assist with luggage and other items, such as strollers or car seats, and are often located outside of the terminal or at the check-in counter. The standard tip for a skycap is $2-3 per bag, but if you have oversized or heavy items, you may want to tip more. It’s also a good idea to have small bills or change on hand to make tipping easier.
It’s important to note that tipping skycaps is not mandatory, but it is a common practice and is appreciated by those who provide the service. The primary reason I tip the skycap is because the waiting time is a lot quicker than when I check my bags inside the airport terminal. If you choose not to tip, be sure to thank the skycap for their help.
It’s important to note that tipping is typically not included in the price of the service in Canada, so it’s important to factor in the cost of tipping when budgeting for these services. In some cases, not leaving a tip can be seen as a sign of poor service or disrespect, so it’s generally best to leave a gratuity unless the service was extremely poor.
- Canada has similar tipping etiquette to the U.S. It is expected that customers will tip service staff between 15-18% of the total bill. Here are some key tipping ideas you may want to consider while you are traveling through Canada.
- Restaurants: In Canada, it is customary to tip 15-20% of the total bill for good service in restaurants. Some restaurants may include a gratuity charge for large groups, so be sure to check the bill before adding an additional tip.
- Bars: In bars, it is typical to tip $1-2 per drink, or 15-20% of the total bill for a large group or tab.
- Taxis: Tipping taxi drivers in Canada is expected, with 10-15% of the fare being a standard amount.
- Hairdressers and beauty services: It is customary to tip 15-20% of the total cost for hairdressers, manicurists, and other beauty service providers.
- Hotel staff: It is common to tip hotel staff who provide a service, such as bellhops who assist with luggage or housekeeping staff who provide extra amenities. For bellhops, a tip of $2-5 per bag is typical, while for housekeeping staff, $2-5 per day of your stay is appropriate.
- Tour guides: If you take a tour in Canada, it is polite to tip the guide if they provide good service. 10-15% of the total cost of the tour is a common amount.
In Mexico, tipping is less of an expectation and more of a token of appreciation. However, you will never go wrong leaving a tip in Mexico, as the service staff there will appreciate the gesture immensely. Since Mexico is a wonderful neighbor of the U.S., tipping has become more common over the years. Here are a few ideas that may help answer your questions on tipping in these types of situations while visiting Mexico.
- Restaurants: Tipping in restaurants is common in Mexico, with 10-15% of the total bill being a standard amount. Some restaurants may include a propina (tip) charge on the bill, so be sure to check before adding an additional tip.
- Bars: It is customary to tip bartenders in Mexico, with $1-2 per drink being a common amount.
- Taxis: Tipping taxi drivers in Mexico is expected, with 10-15% of the fare being a standard amount. However, if you are taking a taxi from the airport, there may be a fixed rate and tipping may not be necessary.
- Tour guides: If you take a tour in Mexico, it is polite to tip the guide if they provide good service. 10-15% of the total cost of the tour is a common amount.
- Hotel staff: It is customary to tip hotel staff who provide a service, such as bellhops who assist with luggage or housekeeping staff who provide extra amenities. For bellhops, a tip of $2-3 per bag is typical, while for housekeeping staff, $1-2 per day of your stay is appropriate.
- Other services: Tipping is also common for other services in Mexico, such as hairdressers, spa services, and musicians or performers. For hairdressers and spa services, 15-20% of the total cost is a standard amount, while for musicians or performers, a few pesos are appreciated.
Tipping Customs Around Other Parts of the World
- In Central America: In most Central American countries, tipping is usually expected at dining establishments, bars, and hotels. Tipping around 10% of the total bill is customary.
- In South America: In countries such as Brazil and Argentina, tipping around 10-15% of the total bill in restaurants is a good rule of thumb. Across South America, tips are always appreciated. Most service workers, such as taxi drivers and hotel workers, will see a tip as a gesture indicating that they provided good service.
- In Asia: As a general rule of thumb, tipping is not as common around Asian countries as it is in other parts of the world. In fact, leaving a tip in Japan might even be considered insulting. Japanese service workers earn a quality living and approach their work with a high level of professionalism. Tipping is seen as rude and unnecessary. In China, tipping is not a well-established practice either, and you generally don’t need to tip in restaurants or for services.
- In Indonesia, tipping is not expected but it is appreciated for good service in restaurants, cafes, and bars. If you do choose to leave a tip, it is customary to round up the bill to the nearest whole number or add 5-10% of the total bill as a tip. In other service industries such as hair salons or spas, tipping is also not expected, but it is a nice gesture to leave a small amount of money as a token of appreciation for good service.
There are times we tip when traveling in Indonesia. For example, if we have rented a car and driver for the day, we tip the driver at the end of the day. But sometimes instead of tipping we provide our driver with money for lunch. My wife and I usually provide about double the amount for his lunch which allows him to have a better meal. If he wants to pocket the money, he doesn’t use for lunch for other things. This is a nice way of tipping, and it goes a long way, especially when you are using the same car and driver for multiple days.
It’s worth noting that many Indonesians do not have a lot of disposable income, so tipping can be seen as a luxury and is not always expected. Ultimately, the decision to tip or not is up to the individual and their personal circumstances.
- In Europe: Across Europe, tipping customs vary widely. In the UK and Ireland, you are expected to tip in restaurants and pubs. However, the amount you tip is less compared to North America — usually around 10-15% of your bill. In Germany, a small tip of 5-10% is adequate. In France and Italy, tipping is not required, but it is not considered rude to do so if you wish.
- In Africa: Around the African continent, tipping customs vary widely, similar to other parts of the world. However, most African countries generally see tipping as a sign of appreciation. A tip of 10-15% will demonstrate your gratitude for service. You should tip servers, bartenders, tour guides, and drivers.
How to Navigate Tipping When Traveling Around the World
When traveling to a new place, it can be difficult to know how to navigate that country’s customs and tipping practices. Often, countries don’t have a concrete custom around tipping, and what service workers expect varies dramatically around the world.
To help make it less stressful to navigate tipping when traveling around the world, use these tips:
- Research prior to your trip. As you plan a trip to a new country, take the time to do a little research on specific customs and expectations for the areas you plan to visit. You can search online or purchase a guidebook for the country. To make it easier to remember when and how much to tip, create a small note for yourself on your phone.
- Ask the locals. When you arrive at your destination, if you still aren’t quite sure what the expectations around tipping are, take the time to ask your hotel staff or another local resident for advice. Locals will be happy to share their customs with you and ensure that the information you have is accurate and up to date.
- Pay attention to what other people are doing. If you don’t have a chance to ask someone about tipping customs, try to pay attention to what the locals are doing. If no one is tipping, it probably isn’t expected. However, if everyone is leaving a tip, it might be considered rude to not do so.
- Stay flexible to the situation. Tipping customs around the world clearly differ, but they can vary even within a country. For this reason, it’s important to stay flexible and adjust your tipping according to where you are and what others are doing.
- Carry small bills. Make sure you have small amounts of the local currency on hand. This will allow you to easily tip service industry employees throughout your journey.
- Read your bill carefully. In some countries, service charges are added directly to your bill. Look for a service charge or gratuity on your bill. If it’s already been included, you don’t need to tip on top of this amount unless you want to show extra appreciation for your server. If you aren’t certain, don’t hesitate to ask.
- Be generous. Ultimately, tipping is about showing your appreciation to someone who offered you a service. Unless you are in a country where it is explicitly rude to leave a tip, be generous with your tips. If you aren’t sure what amount to tip, opt for a general 15-20% guideline. Remember that in many places that you visit, service workers are earning a minimum wage. A tip can go a long way in helping these hardworking individuals.
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