Tipping is something most of us don’t really budget for when we go on holiday. We calculate airfares, train fares, hotel rooms, activities and more, but who thinks of the cost of tips? Yet tips can be a significant expense, depending on where you travel.
Tipping can be a spiky topic, and sometimes the embarrassment of not giving enough outweighs the disadvantages of leaving a wad of bills for the people that carry plates to your dinner table.
Tipping is so difficult because different cultures’ attitudes to it vary wildly. In some countries people don’t expect any tip, while others virtually demand it. Here are tipping norms for some popular destinations, so you know what to expect.
The US is notorious abroad for its tipping culture. Tipping is widely practiced across the country, and while not strictly compulsory, it is absolutely expected everywhere from highway diners to the most exclusive restaurants in New York. Restaurants often add the service charge to the bill for groups of 6 or more, otherwise it’s up to you to add it. Double check your bill to make sure.
What may surprise the uninitiated, is that in the USA, tipping isn’t just customary in restaurants. You also tip taxi drivers, barbers, hotel porters, bartenders, and pretty much anyone else who provides a service.
Tip: 15-20%, not included on bill except for groups
Switzerland is a country famous for money. It’s very prosperous, and its banks are renowned for being secure and stable. As you might expect, tipping here is costly, too. Although most dining establishments include a 15% service charge as standard, adding a little extra in cash is normal. This could be a couple of francs, or 5% of the bill.
Tip: 15% included on bill + 5% extra
Tipping in the UK can be somewhat of a minefield, mainly because it is expected in some venues and not in others. Also, in places where a tip is expected, it may be difficult to tell whether or not a service charge has been included on the bill. If you aren’t sure, ask if service is included. In restaurants, if service isn’t included, tip 12-15%. Traditionally you don’t need to tip in pubs, but if you’re dining there, then it’s appreciated.
Tip: 12-15%, sometimes included on bill, not always clear
Cafes and restaurants in France are required by law to add a service charge of 15% into your bill, and note it clearly. You’ll see it called “service compris”. The good news is that the price you see on the menu already includes both the service charge and the VAT tax. There’s no obligation to tip more than this, though it is a nice Thank you for good service.
Tip: 15% built into menu prices + 5% extra
In Italy, it is normal for a 15% service charge to be added to your bill automatically. In restaurants, you usually leave a little bit of change on top of that. Just round up to the next big bill. E.g. If your bill was 48 Euro, you would round up to 50, and leave the 2 Euro on the table. For exceptional service, you could do more than this.
Tip: 15% included on bill + round up a few Euro
Tipping in Greece can be confusing, since a service charge is sometimes added to the check, but not always. The first rule is to review the bill, and see if it includes service. If service is not included, then leave 10-20% on the tray for the waiter. If it is included, then you don’t need to add anything more, though you could leave a couple of Euro if service was good. You can also leave some small coins on the table for the busboy.
Tip: 10-20%, sometimes included on bill, sometimes not
Egypt is an increasingly popular tourist destination, and although it’s taken a knock recently as a result of political protests, many people are still visiting for the sunny weather and amazing sights. In Egypt, lots of people expect tips, so plan on spreading around a lot of small tips. In restaurants, it varies with the service you receive, but 5% is reasonable.
China is set to become the world’s biggest economy in a few short years, a prediction that certainly isn’t reflected in their tipping culture. Traditionally, there was no tipping in China, though that is starting to change. Now, tipping is not expected in Chinese restaurants. In tourist restaurants, a tip of 5-15% is customary, and may sometimes be included on the bill.
Tip: 0-15%, rarely added into the bill
Joe is a travel blogger who always allows a little extra spending money for tips, but he’s on a tight budget so tips for exceptional service. Joe’s looking forward to his holiday on the island of Tenerifethis year.