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Don’t commit a faux pas: Your guide to tipping around the world

Should you tip when you travel?

Server with dish in Greece
Lefteris Kallergis via Unsplash

It’s your first time visiting Italy’s Amalfi Coast. After enjoying Pizza Napoletana as the sun sets over the Mediterranean, you go over the check. Fine foods bring a commensurate price, especially in a cultural epicenter like Italy. So the cost isn’t an issue. But how much should you tip?

Tipping culture varies across the globe and for good reason. In some countries, there’s an expectation of 15% or more. But in others, things get a little murky. Not only that, but should tipping exist at all? 

On one hand, you want to reward waitstaff for a job well done. On the other hand, shouldn’t business owners be responsible for paying employees? While there are arguments for and against, tipping etiquette is a reality wherever you travel.

To help you navigate how to tip when abroad, travel expert Justin Chapman from Go2Africa put together a useful guide. Here’s what he has to say.  

How to tip no matter where you travel

Server with drinks in Italy
Kate Townsend via Unsplash

With summer approaching, Google searches for “tipping abroad” are up by 166%. With all the confusion surrounding the issue, it’s good to know before you go. That way, you can enjoy feijoada stew in Brazil or fish and chips in England and not worry about leaving enough gratuity. Here’s how to tip in each corner of the globe.

North America and Canada

Here, servers and staff rely on tips as a significant part of their wages. When dining, a 15-20% tip is the expectation, and in bars, $1 per drink is the norm. When buying a coffee, leave your change or round up to the nearest dollar.

If you’re taking a taxi, rounding up or leaving 10-15% is customary. When you arrive at your hotel, bellhops get $2-$5 per bag, housekeepers $2-$5 per night, and concierges $5-$20 (depending on the service).

Central and South America

South American servers aren’t as beholden to tips for their wages, but even then, leaving 10-15% is typical. If you’re traveling to Costa Rica, Brazil, or Chile, pay attention to the “cubierto” — or cover charge — on the check. That’s a fee for the table, not gratuity for the waitstaff. 

When using a tour guide, it’s common to tip $5-10 each day, but in Columbia, a little higher at $15-20. However, in Brazil, tourism pros depend on large tips, with a range of R$100-200 (about $20-40 USD). But when taking a taxi, drivers don’t expect much, so just round up to the nearest dollar.


Tipping in Europe varies from country to country. Restaurants in Germany, Spain, Italy, and France usually charge a service fee, or “coperto”. But if they don’t, expect to pay a 10-15% tip. However, tipping isn’t the norm in Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, and Denmark, though you can always round up to the nearest Euro to show gratitude. 

When you need a ride, tipping etiquette is the same across Europe, with a small tip of 1 Euro the custom. That’s also true when buying a coffee or a beer.


Like Europe, Asia’s tipping etiquette covers a wide range. When you eat in Japan, tipping is considered part of the service and may be deemed offensive. Similarly, in China, tips aren’t customary and could be seen as rude. South Korea follows suit, with tips not expected.

On the other hand, in Southeast Asia, tipping is increasingly common in tourist destinations. In Thailand and Vietnam, a 10% tip is appreciated but not required. In Indonesia, if there’s no service charge, 5-10% gratuity is a nice gesture.

Across Asia, if you’re taking a taxi, grabbing a coffee, or enjoying a beer, tipping isn’t common. When you’re unsure, it can be better not to tip, lest you offend someone. 

Australia and New Zealand

Down under, Australia and New Zealand help save you money on your getaway. With tips not expected, you can focus on your meal and save precious dollars on an expensive trip. However, sometimes fancy restaurants in tourist locations might include a service charge. When you receive exemplary service, leaving 5-10% gratuity to reward waitstaff or at least round up to the nearest AUD is nice. That’s also true for hotels, bars, and taxis.


When it comes to tipping, Africa is middle of the road. In restaurants, 10-15% is common. But things get a little more nuanced when adding safaris to the equation. 

After you decide the best time to visit Africa and venture out on safari, you’ll want to know how to compensate your guides. After all, these are incredible experiences, where you see majestic animals in pristine habitats — like zebras along the plains — something few people get to do. You’ll want to tip a number of staff, including guards, cooks, and cleaners, along with guides, spotters or trackers, servers, and transfer drivers. You can do that in several ways. Some lodges have a communal tip box, or you can leave money with the manager, who divides the amount evenly among workers. You can also give cash directly to staff. 

Typical amounts per day are $20 for guides, $15 for trackers, $10-20 for general staff at a lodge, and $10-20 for a guided city tour. Also, depending on where you travel, extras can add up, like golf caddies in South Africa or boat skippers in Mozambique.  

Additional advice for tipping across the globe

Diner and server in Japan
Lan Pham via Unsplash

Now you know tipping customs for wherever you go. But additional considerations can also smooth out a sometimes awkward process. Here are some pointers.

  • Cash is the best way to tip, with a straightforward payment direct to the source. To ensure you have plenty on hand, obtain some local currency when you arrive.
  • Asking locals for advice can better inform you of what’s expected, so you’re a polite guest in your new surroundings. You can ask hotel staff or locals in a restaurant so you don’t ruffle any feathers when it’s time to pay.
  • In locales with a higher cost of living, bigger tips are the expectation. That’s typically the case in tourist areas, where tips help servers get by.
  • Lastly, watch people’s body language and try to read the situation. In some places, saying thank you is enough, and a tip might be considered impolite.

Tipping culture is a hotly debated topic, with some for and some against paying gratuity. That’s understandable. Through all of it, servers and staff are caught in the middle. In any case, with the preceding info, you’ll know the customs for tipping no matter where you go and can rest assured you’re doing the right thing. So get out your map, plan that trip, and travel without worry.

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