It’s easy enough to make mistakes in tipping at home, but it’s even easier to fall foul of the rules of tipping when away or in another country. Knowing the tipping etiquette for travelers can make a difference to how you are received, whilst the rules of tipping for another country should be just part of the research you may do for your destination. The latter is harder because it isn’t just a case of rewarding for a good service. It needs to take into account how employees are paid and the cultural aspects of tipping. Here are some rules of tipping for travelers.
1. Hotel Housekeeping
If you aren’t tipping housekeeping, you should be. Firstly, in many developing countries the wages are pitiful so the extra money is a major boost, and secondly, the person doing the housekeeping has done your chores so you can concentrate on enjoying your stay. One of the rules of tipping recommended by the experts is to tip every day rather than at the end of your stay. This way gets you the best service. Another of the rules of tipping for housekeeping staff is that, in some countries, they work to extreme rules and will not touch money lying around. Make it obvious it is for them – putting it under the pillow is generally acceptable if there isn’t an official tip envelope.
2. Transfer Drivers
Yes – the unsung heroes of getting you from the airport to your hotel. If you tip cab drivers, it naturally follows that you tip transfer and shuttle drivers. A dollar or two is a fair amount and maybe more if you have a lot of luggage or particularly heavy bags that he has loaded/unloaded and carted into the hotel.
3. Cruise Staff
The rules of tipping staff on your cruise liner depend on the cruise company and the destination. Some cruise companies – especially the big ones, and especially in the USA and the Caribbean, automatically add tips to the bill. Some of them allow you to make changes to the value but others stick to a set amount. If this bothers you, definitely check the tipping rules with the cruise company before booking. If you sail with a company where tips are discretionary, the general rules of tipping apply – reward for services rendered.
4. Waiting Staff
This is one of the tricky ones. The etiquette of tipping wait staff is different all over the world, so it’s definitely something you should look into if you intend to eat in restaurants when you are away. In the USA, it’s accepted that between 15-20 per cent is a good norm (unless service has been exceptional or poor), but watch out for establishments that might be automatically adding tips to the bill as a service charge – US restaurants that receive a lot of European visitors have started doing this. This is because the rules of tipping in Europe are different. In many countries tips are included as a service charge and if you want to add extra at the table, that is perfectly acceptable. It might be tricky trying to adjust a service charge downwards though!
5. Hotel Concierge
The hotel concierge is there to provide you with assistance that makes you stay easier. They are armed with knowledge about the hotel and all its services and amenities, and generally there is an expectation that they are also pretty clued up on the area and the country in which the hotel is located. Sharing this useful information is part of the service and therefore, tipping the concierge should be reserved for either because they are a person who made a particular impression on you and you want to acknowledge them or because they were particularly helpful in a specific instance – such as booking tickets or referring you to special places.
6. Tour Guides
Some tour companies have started to provide tipping guidelines on their websites for rewarding their tour leaders/guides, but in their absence there are a couple of ways to approach this. One is to tip as an independent person on the tour. In this instance, the equivalent in local currency of $3-$4 for short tours and $5-$10 for long tours is a good benchmark. The other way is the good old whip round. This is when someone takes the initiative to collect together everyone’s tips so they can be presented as a single amount at the end of the tour. This is always a good idea if you’ve been taken on a bus.
7. Tipping in Asia
It is quite a generalization, but most commonly applicable, that tipping in Japan and China is not a common practice. It is considered rude and even people who you would normally tip at home as a matter of course do not expect it – cabbies, waiting staff and hotel staff. If you are going to tip, do not make it a public show and never simply take money from your pocket and hand it over. Prepare your tip in an envelope, with a note expressing your gratitude and pass it discreetly at an appropriate moment.
The best ways to find out local rules of tipping are to either check up before you go or ask the receptionist at your hotel or your travel company rep if there is one. Do not ask someone who you would generally tip! Who do you always and never tip?