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In the hospitality and service industry, many employees depend on tips from patrons. In the US, it is standard practice to tip based on a percentage of the total restaurant bill or give the bartender a buck or two. But, when traveling, there are many more scenarios in which tips are appropriate.

In light of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, tips will gain more and more importance to these workers. Oftentimes, workers in these sectors are paid incredibly low wages with the underlying assumption they will get tips to make up the difference. When hours are cut and tips run dry, this can have huge negative impacts. Now more than ever workers will rely on tips from the tourists and travelers they serve.

Tipping around the world looks very different. What is expected in one country may be frowned upon in another. These variances require a little advance research depending on where you are going. With a little careful planning, you can easily determine what tips are appropriate for your next trip.

Including tips in your travel budget can aid workers. But, how do you know who to tip and when?

Restaurant Staff

This is one of those areas that varies greatly from country to country so be sure to research your specific destination. In the US, we generally tip 20% in restaurants (unless the service is terrible). When traveling abroad we do research each spot to learn the specifics. But, we always add a little more into our budget just to cover restaurant tips.

In some places, the tips are automatically added in to your bill so be sure to check the receipt for service charges. If this is the case, it is not necessary to add in an extra tip unless you feel the service and experience were exceptional. Keep in mind, cafes in some places like Italy charge a different service charge if you choose to be seated at a table vs. standing in the establishment. Also, if there is a VAT added to your bill, this is not a tip.

There is no need to tip restaurant staff on a cruise as this is added in to your final bill.

Bartenders

We rarely travel without giving bartenders tips. It doesn’t have to be much. A buck or two every few drinks is a good place to start. This is true even at all-inclusive resorts. They will appreciate your act of generosity and you will get better service too.

Going on a cruise? Service charges are added to every single drink you order, so this is a situation in which we would not recommend adding an additional tip.

Hotel Staff

Add a few dollars into your budget to tip bell hops and valet staff. Generally, plan about a dollar per bag for staff when they bring luggage to your room or when they store your bags for you. The same goes for valet staff. Whether they are parking your car or hailing a cab, give them a tip.

Housekeepers are staff that are often overlooked in receiving tips. Most people do not tip them whatsoever. To say thank you for their efforts, feel free to leave a few dollars every few days. Just make sure to put this in a conspicuous place where they will know it is designated for them. They used to recommend leaving it on your pillow, but there is no way I would do that. Want to do something extra nice? Add in a little ‘thank you’ note too. Now more than ever, hotel housekeeping staff has their work cut out for them in keeping rooms clean and guests safe.

Tips are generally added to your bill for your room stewards on a cruise. If you would like to change the amount designated by the cruise line, customer service can help you with this before your disembark.

Taxis, Uber, and Shuttle Drivers

One thing I always do when it comes to trip planning is try to figure out how many of these various forms of transportation we will be taking. Then, once again, I factor in the appropriate number of tips to correlate with the amount of trips. I make sure to have small bills or spare change with me as many of these providers have collection baskets. However, electronic payment options are becoming more and more prevalent especially in taxis. Ridesharing is electronic payment regardless.

Tour Guides

Guided tours aren’t for everyone. However, if you’re looking for a stress-free way to travel, guided tours might be a great option for you. We have gone on a few and loved them! Your tour guides work incredibly hard to make sure you have a good experience. They are often working while you are out exploring. Be sure to tip them.

For budget purposes, we recommend no less than $5 per day per person in your group. Want to make your tip a little more discreete and secure? Pack a small envelope with the tip amount already sealed inside! That way, at the end of the trip, you can just hand it to your guide. Easy-peasy!

Group Tour Drivers

Group tours usually involve everyone loading on a large bus, navigating from spot to spot. Many tourists seem to forget that there is someone driving that bus! I don’t know about you, but I do not know how they steer those things through narrow foreign streets! Don’t forget to tip them as well. They are getting you to each destination safely, but are often overlooked. These tip amounts should be about $2-3 per day per traveler depending on the country.

On our group tour of Thailand, we had not only a tour guide and driver, but also a driver’s assistant. He worked tirelessly to keep the bus clean, passengers comfortable, and help in anyway possible. If you’re not sure if your group tour may also have a driver’s assistant, add in some additional tip money just in case. $1-2 per day per traveler is a good place to start.

Activities, Excursions, and Day Trip Guides

Did you book an excursion or activity? Be sure to include tips! You can guestimate that there will be at least 1 to 3 people involved in whatever your activity is. We follow similar guidance for tour guides and drivers in this situation. Set aside your tip amount for these activities in your budget. It amazes me that regardless of how many activities, day trips and excursions we go on, most fellow passengers do not offer tips at the end. It is not required, but it sure is nice. You do not have to hand these tips out individually. Just add them to the collection box and they will divvy them out.

The Final “Non-Tip” Tip

While not necessarily an actual tip, there is one more tip-like item you will want to factor in to your travel and tip budget depending on your destination. Make sure you have enough change/coins to get you into bathrooms! This is especially true in Europe where bathrooms are not free. Most bathrooms have either coin-operated machines or an attendant collecting the fee to let you in. While this is not really a tip, it is a similar line item in your travel budget to make sure you add in.

We also advise travelers to anticipate encountering various COVID services charges on future bills. These charges are intended to help offset the additional time and supplies spent cleaning establishments and are not considered a tip for staff.

Whenever possible try to pay tips electronically. As we move into the new normal of travel, cash will likely be used less and less. This is one of those high-touch items that has always been incredibly filthy.

The bottom line? When planning your travel budget, you need to add in an ample amount to cover tips as appropriate for your destination. This is often overlooked in the overall costs of a trip. Make sure to consider this in your next trip. You might help make a world of difference to someone.

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39 Comments

  1. The one place I don’t like having to tip is in the toilet! I hate the posh restaurants who have somebody positioned in the toilet with their little tray of sweeties and perfumes and then hands me a paper towel or towel. I’d rather get my own paper towel to dry my hands please! 🙂

    1. I don’t like that either! I would anticipate this practice being greatly reduced in light of the pandemic.

  2. 20% is quite a lot… here in sweden its not customary to tip anyone anymore, I dont really know why its not. We usually dont tip if we are just out for drinks, but in a restaurant we may if the place is really good.

    1. I wish tipping in the States was based on actual service received as opposed to the total bill. We’ve had horrible service at some very expensive restaurants and I refuse to pay 20%. It’s really not cool when they add in the tip automatically either.

  3. Great ‘tips’ here (pardon the pun!). Totally agree that the first thing to do before setting off is to research which destinations and situations are appropriate for tipping and if so, how much is considered appropriate. What is right for one place can be so different for another. The more you inform yourself beforehand, the better off you will be when you get there! Great guide here for those who may be new travelling overseas and a good reminder for others who travel often.

  4. This is a great post highlighting the need to appreciate the hotel staff and tour guides. I always leave something for the chambermaids at the hotel and tip the tour guides as well. They work hard and often on a low salary, relying sometimes on tips they receive.

  5. As you rightly said, tipping differs from country to country. While in the US, it is about 15-20%, most other countries are happy with about 10%. One exception we found is in Japan, there is NO TIP! A nice thank you and bow in return is the tradition there! I always wonder in the ‘non-tip tip’ whether the tip you add to the credit card bill actually goes to the waiter you intend to tip for good service! It probably goes to a pool where everyone shares it equally. Great topic for a blog! 🙂

    1. I know that a lot of US restaurants have servers split their tips with bussers. It definitely is interesting to see the various ways tipping is handled. I’m sure it will change in the future too!

    2. We always wondered about tips on the credit card, too, so we started asking! Most places do pass the tips on to the staff – or at least, that’s what our waitpersons tell us. And if they don’t, we personally give them a cash tip, instead. That always brings the biggest smiles!

  6. This is a great guide for travelling the US. In other countries, however, there are different rules. In Japan, for instance, there is not tipping culture whatsoever. Albeit, it’s a terrible mistake that you don’t tip in Germany. You do! Not 15 to 20 percent like in the US, but around 10 percent for sure.

  7. I travelled solo once. And the hotel In stayed had a middle aged person as the room call. He took great care really, gave a total honestly host like feeling. So while leaving I gave him a little more as I know they are really paid very less. He took the effort and left me off till I got to the transport. He also wished me, said “take care didi(sister) “.
    Sometimes tipping is also a way of expressing gratitude and it is well reciprocated ☺

  8. This is helpful as coming form a non-tipping culture (Australia), I always struggle with the ‘rules’. I find tipping embarrassing and stressful. Multiple times I’ve been on tours and have been expecting one driver/guide only to have 2-3 show up all expecting tips that I haven’t budgeted for. I’m always looking for this kind of information before I travel to a new destination, so thanks for the info!

    1. I’m glad you found it helpful! As an American, I always feel odd not tipping people. We make sure to research the standard practices wherever we go because we don’t want to offend people either way!

  9. Thanks for sharing the guide on tipping in US. It’s such an American thing to do, mostly because these hospitality business get away with paying next to nothing to these hard working staff. It’s super important that we tip them.
    In other countries where staff is likely paid a fair wage, it’s much easier on customers because there is less need to carry cash for tips in this age of touch less payments.

    1. I wish more hospitality and services industry employers paid their workers fair wages. There are many countries where the rate of pay is horribly low and tips are not often received.

  10. What a great, comprehensive look at tipping in the US! I think you’re right, one of the best things you can do before going somewhere is research the customs since tipping can vary so much throughout the world.

    1. It is so true! We definitely try to match whatever the local customs are as we don’t want to offend people in the places we are visiting.

  11. The Tipping culture differs from country to country. It is good to be prepared beforehand and your post is a valuable resource with practical suggestions. i especially liked the idea of putting your tip in an envelope and handing over to the tour guide, this is something we have done on many group tours.

    1. Using envelopes is a great way to keep your tipping discrete and clean! Plus, you resist the temptation to spend the money on other things too.

  12. Tipping is such a tricky thing, because it’s actually offensive in some countries. We always check about the customs when we go to a new place. I’ve been on two cruises and it seems like we received envelopes for several different people to tip them. I didn’t realize there was a charge already included.

    1. Yes, be sure to check with the cruise line for sure! You can find this on their websites, or just ask at guest services. We would rather determine the breakdown of our tips instead of following what they deem appropriate.

  13. When we were in Taiwan, we met a great taxi driver. He was so lovely so at the end of the day, we wanted to give him a good tip. He was so offended, ‘ I thought we were friends, are you saying I don’t earn enough etc etc.’ We apologised and blamed the US culture, but shows how important it is to check the local tipping culture.

    1. Yes, it really is important! So glad you were able to get the situation with the taxi driver sorted out. The last thing you want is to offend new friends!

  14. These are some excellent guidelines on tipping—I’ve bookmarked it for future reference as a helpful travel resource. I especially like the idea of bringing along a few envelopes (and even writing a note) to leave behind in your room or to discretely share with a guide. Interesting that electronic tips may become preferred over cash. I’ve always though cash was better because it was off the record, but you’re right, safety comes first. Good call on anticipating an added COVID fee, too…It’s understandable (and warranted) but, ugh! Of course, it’s the least we can do considering the extra lengths hosts are taking to disinfect and ensure our safety when we travel. 🙏

    1. Glad you found the post helpful! Many people do seem to over look the number of tips necessary when it comes to traveling. Really, you interact with a lot of people on any given trip though.

  15. The tip on researching tip protocol is a great idea. I wouldnt have thought of doing this as I automatically fracture in $100 to $200 a week for tips depending on my destination and if I’m doing any tours. The 1st person I Always tip is the maid/room steward. I typically tip $5 every 1 to 2 days. If I’m cruising I tip my room steward $25 mid week and another $25 at the end of the week. They work hard and can often be the determing factor between a great v. Bad trip.

    1. So true! One thing that drives us crazy about the when the cruise line determines the tips is that most of the allotment goes to dining room staff, not the room stewards. We usually change this before we disembark!

  16. Very helpful! One thing we’ve started doing on cruises is getting a gift for our steward or housekeeper. This works better on cruises than in hotels, because generally you have the same person (or couple of people) taking care of you, and you can get to know them a little bit. We find out what they like, and then pick something up for them. Since they don’t always have much time off the ship, it’s always well received and genuinely appreciated. It’s the least we can do for these hard working folks!

    1. Love this idea! It is amazing how something small can mean so much. In Thailand, we bought the bus driver and driver’s assistant some Pepsi’s. They were floored by the gesture. It doesn’t take much to do something nice for other people.

  17. I always tip as I am so used to doing it in the UK where a service charge is normally added to your bill whether you like it or not (you can ask for it to be removed if you arent happy with the service). It can be quite confusing as different countries have different “rules”. in Australia I kept leaving tips out of habit and was told that nobody tipped and I shouldn’t worry about it. After the 4th server said the same thing I stopped! Very different in Jamaica where I was expected to tip for just about everything ( and I was in an all-inclusive resort)

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