A Traveler’s Guide to Tipping

Even though I’ve been a frequent traveler for many years now, I’m not always clear on tipping etiquette in various scenarios. Because I worry about offending people (and getting the evil eye), I tend to tip too often and too much. In contrast, I have friends who rarely tip outside of “traditional” situations, e.g., at restaurants — not because they’re cheap but because they don’t know better.

This MSNBC article, with input from etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute, offers great general advice on tipping:

  • The most common tipping mistake is not tipping. 15% is the general rule-of-thumb.
  • At restaurants, tip on the total bill minus tax. If you order wine from the sommelier, tip that person in cash at the end of the meal. If you order cocktails before the meal at your table, tip the bartender.
  • If you’re unhappy with the service, leave the customary 15% and speak to a manager.
  • Always tip waiters and waitresses but not: doctors, dry cleaners, dentists or therapists.
  • There is no such thing as overtipping. However, don’t bribe “the maitre d’ to give you a better table” — that’s insulting.
  • Leave tips on the side of the bed for housekeeping at hotels and bed & breakfasts.
  • For short bus tours, tip your guide 10-20% of the cost of the tour. Do not tip tour guides at national parks or other government sites.
  • Tip the driver of the airport car rental shuttle about $1-2.
  • If you store your baggage with the bell hop, tip $1 per bag when you retrieve your baggage.
  • Always tip in the local currency. If all you have is foreign currency, then leave that in lieu of nothing.

The above guidelines seem to be most applicable when in the U.S. This AOL Travel article provides more insight on tipping in other locations around the world:

  • Europe:
    • Cabs: Give cab drivers 10%.
    • Hotels: $2 per bag for bellmen, $2 for requests from the concierge, $2 for the doorman, and a $4-6 per day for the maid.
    • Restaurants: service charges are often included as part of the bill but if you’re unsure, add 10%.
  • Asia:
    • Cabs: 5-10% of the fare.
    • Hotels: $2-3 per bag to the porter. $3-5 to the concierge if you ask for advice.
    • Restaurants: just round up the bill. Note: tipping is not necessary in Japan, but it is in India (10-15%).
  • Africa:
    • Cabs and hotel cars: 10-15%.
    • Hotels: at least $2 to the concierge per request. $1 per bag for porters.
    • Restaurants: service charges are often included as part of the bill but if you’re unsure, add 10-15%.
  • Australia and New Zealand:
    • Cabs: 10% in Australia, no tip but round up in New Zealand.
    • Hotels: $2 per bag for porters, $2 for concierge service.
    • Restaurants: 10-15% but double-check the bill in case service charges are already included.
  • South America:
    • Cabs: no tipping unless you’re in Brazil or Argentina, where you should tip 10%.
    • Hotels: $1-3 per bag to the bellhop, $2-10 for concierge service.
    • Restaurants: 10-15% of the bill, unless service is already included in the charges.
  • Mexico and Central America:
    • Cabs: no tip, just round up.
    • Hotels: $1-5 per bag to the porter, $2-20 for concierge service.
    • Restaurants: no tipping in Costa Rica. Tip 10-15% in Mexico unless the service charge is included.  In Guatemala, Nicaragua or Panama, drop 10%.

Got additional tipping advice? Let’s hear it! We travelers need all the help we can get.

About Melody Demel

Melody is Senior Manager, PR for Boingo Wireless, where she is responsible for media relations, brand building and thought leadership initiatives. Melody is a die-hard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and retired NCAA DI college field hockey player.
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9 Responses to A Traveler’s Guide to Tipping

  1. Celia says:

    Hi, Baochi!!!! GREAT article! 🙂

  2. Baochi says:

    Thanks, Celia! Hope you find it useful.

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  4. RW says:

    Tipping is NOT the norm in New Zealand… many cafes will have a tipping jar on the counter but it is generally just for small change

  5. Jayo Z. says:

    This is a great article Baochi!! Really informative. I’m sure I’ll refer to it in the future should I ever have the opportunity to travel internationally again.

  6. Barbro says:

    Great article baochi.This subject is always confusing.You set it right

  7. Baochi says:

    Hi RW,

    Thanks for the clarification. It seems there may be some disagreement among our world travelers about the tipping etiquette mentioned in this post. We think the best resources are locals but short of that, our post is meant as a guideline only and not a definitive rule book. Thanks for your clarification on New Zealand.


  8. Baochi says:

    Glad you found it helpful, Jayo!

  9. Baochi says:

    Glad to help, Barbro.