Your Complete Guide to Tipping Overseas
Posted on February 16, 2016 by Lavanya Sunkara & filed under TravelEver wonder how much to tip in a foreign country? Worried that you might offend local customs if you give something extra? In some countries, it’s considered rude to tip and, in others, you may get a few looks if you leave too little after an expensive meal. We’ve broken it down for you so you don’t have to fret the next time you go on a gondola ride in Venice or enjoy a savory supper in Sydney.
Central and South America
Although tipping isn’t expected, most Latin American countries add an 8-10 percent gratuity fee to restaurant bills listed as “servicio.” If you receive great service, add 5 to 10 percent more. U.S. dollars are always welcome, but be sure to keep local currency handy. Give a few dollars to the porters who transport your luggage and hotel staff upon departure. For cabs, round up the fare, but give anywhere from $10 to $50 per day for a private driver/tour guide. If you are staying at a small hacienda, the family usually cooks, cleans and tends to your needs. Leave up to $10 per person, per night at the end of your stay.
When you’re enjoying some fun in the sun, who wants to think about tipping? Thankfully, most Caribbean resorts include a service fee when you book, which means you can sip your piña coladas without a care. At off property restaurants, use the same tipping standards as the States. Provide the concierge anywhere between $10 to $20 per day, if you’ve experienced exceptional service (i.e., they went out of their way to get you that special reservation or booked you on that tour that was already full). Leave hotel maids up to $20 per week. Tour guides who go above and beyond will appreciate a generous offering of $25.
As in most places, tips should never be left on a credit card, as your server may not receive it. It’s not customary to tip at restaurants and hotels in many European countries but, lately, things are changing, so be prepared to shell out a few Euros. You may also find that the gratuity has already been added to the bill. In France, if you see "service compris" on your check, that means it’s already included. There’s no need to tip your gondoliers and vaporettos in Italy. In the UK, tipping at the pub is not necessary, but a standard 10-15 percent is expected at restaurants.
In the Middle East, tip in smaller amounts. In major cities like Dubai, a service charge is added to the bill, so there’s no need to give extra dirhams (equal to a quarter) unless the server does something to warrant the extra cash. In Egypt, dollars are preferred over local currency. In Israel, the service charge is added to the bill but, if you are feeling generous, add a few shekels. Give one or two to the concierge, six per bag for porters, and four shekels per day for housekeepers.
Tips make up a significant percentage of the salary for most safari guides, drivers, and porters. In developing countries, it’s not only important to tip, but also be mindful of giving in the local currency, as they may not have means to exchange money. A 10-15 percent tip is appreciated at restaurants and bars. When going out in a group, the service charge may be added to the check. Tips for housekeeping are not expected in budget hotels, but those at luxury safari camps have a tipping box and the amount is shared among the staff. Give the equivalent of $10 or more per person, per day for safari guides. In South Africa, you may be approached by “car guards” who offer to park your car and look after it. Don’t trust them with your vehicle without proper identification and give them 15–20 Rand when you return.
China, like many Asian countries, has a no tipping culture. You can enjoy a meal, simply pay the bill and walk away. The same goes for locally-owned hotels. However, if you are staying at a luxury hotel catered for overseas customers, be prepared to tip, especially to the luggage porters and do so discretely and not in front of other employers. Some high-end restaurants already add a 10-15 percent service charge and no additional payment is expected. Masseuses don’t expect tips.
At restaurants, a few rupees might suffice, but a service charge of up to 10 percent is reasonable at higher-end restaurants in urban centers like Delhi and Mumbai. Taxi and auto rickshaw drivers don’t need to be tipped, but you should tell them to keep the change. For private drivers, negotiate a price that includes gratuity, anywhere between 400-500 rupees ($6-7) per day. At hotels, patrons are encouraged to leave money in the central tip box that’s split among the staff. This amount can be anywhere from 5 to 7 percent of the hotel price per night. Bellhops almost always expect a tip and often wait around for you to take out your wallet
Japanese people believe that good service is standard and tipping is not mandatory. Don't be surprised if your tip is politely refused. Taking money out of your pocket and handing it directly to someone is considered rude. If you've received great service and want to give something extra, do so by putting it in an envelope or wrapping it in paper and saying here's your tip. In high class Ryokan (Japanese-style inns), follow the same practice. In hotels, your tip may be outright refused with a polite thank you and a slight bow.
Australia & New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand’s tipping customs are opposite from those in North America. There is no tipping at restaurants. Servers earn anywhere from $14-$17 per hour, significantly higher than their counterparts in other countries, which reduces the pressure on customers to supplement the server's income. At hotels, bellmen do not expect a tip, although in more expensive hotels, tipping a dollar per bag will be appreciated. As for tour guides, feel free to give a few dollars if you’ve received tremendous service.
In many Southeast Asian nations, the amount you shell out to the person at the door can get you a better table or faster service. Even a small amount can lead to more enthusiastic service. When paying for a meal, be wary of owners who add a tip to the bill and pocket the money. In places like Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, pay anywhere between 10 to 20 percent for service and hand money directly to the server. For porters, give RM 2 to 10 per bag in Malaysia, 20-50 Bhatt in Thailand, and 10 to 20 pesos (or a few US dollars) in the Philippines. When taking cabs, round up the fare. For tour guides, give the equivalent of 10-15 dollars per day.
No matter where you go, tip at your discretion but understand that this may be the main source of someone’s income. But more importantly, have fun!
Main Image Photo Credit: © iStock/Nordroden
About the Author: Lavanya Sunkara is a writer based in New York. Her love of adventure has taken her all over the world from Australia to Zanzibar. When she's not traveling, she's hiking with her dog, and planning her next getaway. Follow her on twitter @Nature_Traveler. Read her articles at www.nature-traveler.com.