It’s hard to know how to tip when you’re traveling. Customs differ from country to country, and you have a high risk of offending if you fail to tip properly. Some cultures love to receive tips, and other will be utterly wounded if you try to offer extra money! Remember that cross-cultural communication means that you, as a visitor, need to communicate appreciation and respect on the destination culture’s terms. Follow this guide to ensure that you’ll be a wonderful, polite customer, anywhere you go.
Africa is a vast and diverse continent, so what goes in Egypt may not go so well in South Africa. As a rule, however, 10% to 15% is usually acceptable. Pretty much everyone should be tipped—and why not? Much of the continent lives on very low waves with just the basic necessities, and if you have enough money to travel, you have enough to tip. Remember to tip people like car guards and baggage handlers, and never give a crumply or old bill. People can most easily exchange a new, crisp bill.
In China, don’t tip unless you’re in a very touristy place, such as a luxury resort. In Indonesia, a 10%- 15% tip is either added to your bill or expected and appreciated. In Japan, generally you should only tip guides and drivers. In the Philippines, expect to tip regularly. In South Korea, don’t tip at all. In Thailand, tip just a dollar or two. In the South Pacific, tipping can be rude. Keep your tips around 10% and only give them when the service has been utterly fantastic. And always tip in the local currency.
Europe runs on cash tips, so leave the credit card in your pocket. Americans, use Euros and not dollars. For a casual meal, you can leave a tip under 5%. More upscale meals can rise up to 15%. In Eastern Europe, tips are lower than Western Europe. For the east, tip around 5%. For the west, go 10-15%. Scandinavia expects no tips that aren’t built in. Iceland also generally expects only built-in tips.
The Middle East
Acceptable tipping ranges from 10% to 20%. You will tip most people, including waiters and waitresses, drivers, guides, and anyone else in the tourist or service industry. There will be a lot of other people in the side who try to make a buck from tourists, but your guide can help you determine who should get that extra money and who should not. Many countries in the Middle East take dollars and a few also take Euros.
In North America, tipping at meals is a bigger deal than any other tip. If you eat at a nice restaurant, a tip is assumed, although it’s up to you to add it to your bill. 15% is standard, but 25% tips for particularly stellar service are not unheard of. Taxi drivers should also get tips. Baristas, ice-cream shop employees, and other places that sell food also feature a tip jar—dropping a dollar or two in here is appreciated but not expected.
In some places, like Argentina, a 10% tip is expected. The waiter, the driver, and other service employees should be tipped. You can tip more if you found the service particularly good. IN other places, like Brazil, tips are often built in, although you can add to them. Subtle tipping is most polite, and check which countries want dollars and which want local currency. Often, the exchange rate is better for them if you tip in dollars, but in other cases, dollars can be hard to exchange. Like Africa, South America is vast and has a lot of cultural variety.
It’s hard to keep track of how to tip at home, let alone when you travel the globe. This brief rundown will help you avoid either over- or under-tipping in your travels. Tipping the right way is just one more way to acknowledge and appreciate the diverse cultures you’ll encounter.