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.
Over the last several years, tips have gained 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?
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). It is important to note that the percentage expected in the US is on the rise and many people are now pushing back against tipping culture. When traveling abroad we do research each spot to learn the specifics. Some cultures are offended by tips. Regardless, we always add a little more into our food/drink 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.
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. Just be prepared for staff at some resorts to refuse your tips per policy.
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.
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.
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.