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Tipping Around the World: When, Where, and How Much

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We’ve all been there, that awkward moment at the end of a meal or service, you wonder should I tip? If so, how much money should I leave? It can be even more confusing when traveling abroad. Tipping can definitely be a source of stress among travelers, and for good reason: there is no clear pattern for when, where, and how much you should tip. This is a particularly significant problem among international travelers, as tipping customs can be vastly different even in adjacent countries. Below are a few notes for several different instances you might find yourself in:

Bars and Restaurants

Restaurant tipping practices vary significantly from one region to the next. In the United States, it is customary to tip between 15 and 20 percent, unless the waiter has provided terrible service. Using a tip calculator will help you determine just how much of a tip you should leave behind after enjoying a meal. Outside of North America, the act of tipping rarely occurs. In Europe, service is typically included at restaurants. If it isn't, tips are far more modest than in America, typically topping out at 10 percent for sit-down restaurants. When tipping, hand the money directly to the waiter, rather than leave it on the table where it might be lost or stolen.

Travelers from the United States and Canada typically expect to give bartenders a small tip. This practice is in keeping with customs in many regions. In some regions, however, bartenders are rarely tipped, but rather, customers show their appreciation for excellent service by purchasing the bartender a drink. This practice is best avoided by those visiting a bar for the first time, as it generally occurs after significant rapport has been formed with the bartender.

Hotels and Resorts

In many regions, it is customary to tip staff at the end of a hotel stay, assuming that the service they provided was of high quality. Furthermore, small tips are typically given to those who assist guests with luggage. Others, who provide special assistance, are also tipped. However, some international locations do not see tipping the same way as their American counterparts. For instance, in Japan, tips at high-end ryokans are frequently rejected; while Switzerland has all but abolished tipping in most contexts (with the exception of hotel porters that are still frequently tipped).

Taxi Drivers

Tipping customs for taxis vary even more than those for restaurants or hotels. Although tipping is not obligatory in Europe, it is generally expected that passengers will round up, or throw in an extra euro for exceptional service. As with eating out in Japan, tipping is not a customary part of paying for a ride in a taxi, and is therefore best avoided. Taxi drivers in South Africa work extraordinarily long shifts, so many passengers buy them snacks or bottled water, in addition to rounding up their fare.

Tour Guides

A good tour guide can make an already exciting destination that much more enjoyable by providing insight into the region's history and finest cultural attractions. In most cases, travelers are expected to show their appreciation with a generous tip. In some areas, however, a special gift from the travelers’ home country is even more appreciated. For example, in Iran -- where Americans must be accompanied by tour guides -- shirts, hats, or other items emblazoned with American cities or sports teams are a big hit among both guides and hotel staff. Monetary tips are accepted, however, especially if given alongside a handwritten note of appreciation.

When Tipping Is Deemed Rude

While tipping is rare in many nations, it is still greatly appreciated. In many situations, international waiters, bartenders, and other employees view tipping as an odd but most welcome American quirk. In a few settings, however, tipping may be viewed as downright rude. The Japanese, for example, take pride in their exceptional service -- and some actually view tipping as an insult. Tipping confusion causes a lot of stress among travelers, but it doesn't have to. Take some time before you depart to determine whether tipping happens at all at your intended destination, and if it does, when, where, and how it occurs. The more you understand about tipping customs in your region of choice, the more comfortable you'll feel at hotels, in restaurants, and everywhere else. For a domestic tipping one-sheet guide, feel free to find it on our Facebook or Pinterest sites. Once you’ve found the guide, feel free to stick around and see what other insightful things University of the Cumberlands is discussing.

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