Skip to main content

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.

Europe

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.

Asia

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.

Africa

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Reif
Mark Reif is a writer from Stowe, Vermont. During the winter, he works as a snowboard coach and rides more than 100 days. The…
Get the best deal without the hassle: The best sites to book flights
If you're not booking direct, try one of these sites to book flights
man holding credit card looking at computer

Finding cheap flights can feel like a full-time job, with prices varying wildly across different booking sites and search engines. Spend too little time searching, and you could easily overpay. But go down an endless rabbit hole of flight searches, and the "deal" you scored may not be worth the hassle. 

The good news is that not all flight search engines are created equal. Some make it easier to find great deals without the headache of combing through countless options and websites. When you use the right flight booking site for your needs, you can take the stress out of trip planning while still saving big. 

Read more
This is the best time to visit Switzerland
Is there really a bad time to visit Switzerland?
Vaud Switzerland by Lake Geneva

When you want to escape, Switzerland provides the ultimate playground. Jagged peaks cut into the horizon, the high alpine putting nature’s majesty on display. Hiking and biking trails let you roam and explore, with vast meadows and vistas around every turn. World-class terrain greets skiers and snowboarders, like Mont Fort at 4 Vallées in Verbier. Cuisines like fondue or Älplermagronen offer unique tastes and textures.

That’s a lot to take in, and if it’s your first time, you might be wondering the best time to visit Switzerland. If you’re looking for low crowds and good deals, specific periods let you play on a budget. On the other hand, different seasons feature ideal weather or winter fun. Whatever you’re after, we’ll steer you right on your alpine vacation.
The Alps on a budget or perfect weather? Here’s when to visit Switzerland

Read more
4 reasons why Seattle is Kayak’s No. 1 summer travel destination
Why Seattle should be on your summer bucket list
Seattle

In a recent report by Kayak, Seattle has emerged as the top summer travel destination in the United States, based on an analysis of flight search data for dates between May 24 and September 3. This vibrant city in the Pacific Northwest has captured the attention of travelers everywhere, outpacing other popular locales in search volume. 

Despite the average cost of summer tickets to Seattle being $455, making it the second most expensive destination after Honolulu, Hawaii, Seattle’s popularity is unaffected. From its breathtaking natural landscapes to its fun urban attractions, here are four reasons why Seattle has become the country’s number one summer travel destination.
1. Gorgeous natural scenery

Read more