9 Etiquette Rules About Tipping You Should Know Before You Travel the World

Tipping can be confusing as the protocol varies by country. In some parts of the world, tipping can be considered rude, whereas in other areas, it is rude to avoid it. Here’s a primer on the tradition.

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Foreign currency
Photo: Marcel Derweduwen/Shutterstock

Always carry the local currency

Being ready for whatever expenses pop up is an important part of being an organized traveller. “Tipping in local currency is important because changing money actually costs the service provider and they very likely cannot make change for foreign money,” says Carrie Glenn, founder of Etiquette at Hand. Also, it is often impossible to add a tip when paying with your credit card (Think, Starbucks).

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Temple and field in Japan
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Know when not to tip

Be sure to research your destination: In some counties (like Japan, China, South Korea and French Polynesia), staff may be offended when offered a tip because excellent service is an expected part of their culture. “If you do offer—say to staff at a Japanese ryoken, taxi driver or tour guide—be sure to place the bills in a card or envelope and use two hands and a bow or nod (depending on the culture) to present it,” says Glenn. Always ask, “May I present you a tip in appreciation for your service?” while looking down, rather than just handing it to them. Be discreet, humble and do not press if they refuse. Even when in Canada, it’s sometimes confusing as when to tip and when not to tip. “Tipping in French Polynesia is almost considered to be rude and making the people feel lower than you,” says Dan Boland, an international airline pilot. Even tipping for great service is frowned upon. If in doubt, just don’t do it.

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Yellow suitcase
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Only tip for services rendered

In India, for example, make sure that you have actually received the kind of help that would require a tip. “Some beggars ask for tips, so giving them money in this instance sends the wrong message,” says Glenn. Since this is an extremely poor country, try buying their goods or hiring them to do a small task if you feel compelled to give them money.

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Restaurant bill
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Check your bill before tipping

Many restaurants, hotels, and other establishments in the U.K. (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales), Chile, Brazil, Portugal, and many other countries already add a service charge. “An exception is Dubai—where the added service fee usually goes to the owners, rather than your server. Be sure to personally hand the server an additional tip in this case,” says Glenn. And check whether the bill specifies a service “charge,” as opposed to service “tax,” before thinking you’ve been charged the tip. A “tax” does not go to the servers. One note on Brazil: “Tipping is really not required even though they would like it due to small wages,” says Boland. Of course in tourist spots, the workers have become accustomed to Canadians giving small amounts.

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Black sand beach in Iceland
Photo: Kristina Ponomareva/Shutterstock

When you may want to add more

In Iceland, just like much of Europe, tipping is neither required nor expected in most situations. “Restaurants will often include a service charge of around 10 per cent on bills which alleviates the necessity to tip—but feel free to leave 10-15 per cent if you had great service,” says Jessica Bisesto, senior editor at TravelPirates. Taxi drivers, hairdressers, and tour guides include fees with prices that cover their services.

While a tip isn’t always necessary in London, the practice is gaining a following. “It is customary to leave 10-15 per cent of the bill when eating out. However, restaurants often add on a customary service charge, usually 12.5 per cent, especially if you’re eating out with a large group,” says Tristan Seymour, Managing Director for Lodging-World. Make sure you check your bill before tipping, if the service charge is included in the total, then you don’t need to leave a tip (unless you want to tip twice!). For black cabs and licensed minicabs, it is polite to tip 10-15 per cent of the fare. “If you’ve had a longer journey and the taxi driver was very helpful (assisted you with luggage, for example), you may wish to tip more. Most people simply round the total fare up to the nearest £ and tell the driver to keep the change,” says Seymour.

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South African landscape
Photo: Ecoprint/Shutterstock

Tipping is expected

South Africa is a tipping country. It’s encouraged to tip your restaurant server, housekeeper, tour guide, and taxi driver. “If you decide to treat yourself to a spa treatment, check with the front desk to see if tipping is allowed as typically the service fee is included with the price of the treatment,” says Bisesto.

“In Israel, people generally tip waiters and bartenders 10-12 per cent; 15 per cent is for really good service. If you are known to tip 20 per cent, you’re guaranteed to get great service,” says Samuel Scott, global marketing speaker and columnist for The Drum.

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Cuban flag
Photo: Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock

Use your judgment

“Even though tipping in Cuba is not as customary as in Canada—and by no means an obligation—it is much appreciated to tip hospitality workers when you have enjoyed good service. Tipping is entirely at your discretion, but here is a guideline: hotel porters 0.50 CUC per bag, maid service 1 CUC per day. In restaurants: 10-15 per cent of the bill (but do check if it is already included on your tab). During excursions and tours: chauffeur 2 CUC per person, per day and guide 3 CUC per person, per day,” says Cuba Travel Network‘s general manager, Karen Esposito. (Plus: 10 Must-See Attractions in Cuba)

Tipping in Thailand is appreciated, but try to give your tip directly in cash to your restaurant server, massage therapist, or tour guide to ensure it’s properly received. “Although most taxi drivers don’t expect a tip, many will round the fare up to the nearest baht,” says Bisesto. (Be sure to read Thailand’s 10 Most Beautiful Beaches)

In Australia, tips are taken—but they aren’t always necessary. “Restaurant prices must include taxes and service fees, alleviating the need to round up when leaving a gratuity,” says Bisesto. When staying at hotels, tipping the concierge or front desk staff is unnecessary, but you should consider giving the bellhop a few dollars if they help carry bags to your room.

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Mountain in Switzerland
Photo: Jakl Lubos/Shutterstock

Skip the tip

In Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, and other wealthy European countries, Boland says save your money. “I’ve noticed across most of the wealthy countries in Europe that service staff are paid very well already and tipping is not worth it because bills will include the service charge,” says Boland.

In Denmark, the no tipping rule applies to taxi drivers, porters, and bartenders,” says Boland. And in Switzerland? “The federal laws here say that all services charges must be included in advertised prices, so there is no requirement to tip people.” People may choose to add a small tip, but look around you and see how wealthy the average person already is. They really don’t need it.

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Photo: Gaudilab/Shutterstock

The European exceptions

Although many European countries don’t have a tipping culture, Greece, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, and a few others are exceptions. In Greece, for example: “When dining out, or taking taxis, leaving a tip between 5-10 per cent based on the level of service is greatly appreciated. It’s also polite to tip your hotel maid and tour guide a few euros,” says Bisesto.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest