Tipping While Traveling! Who, What, Why, Where, When and How Much?

Tipping. In some countries it’s an important norm, whereas in others it’s considered an insult. Some folks tip people in certain professions whereas others don’t, and while some countries’ tipping culture suggest just a little bit of money for a tip, others’ say 20% is appropriate.

So who should you tip? And how much? And what if you’re in THIS country versus THAT country? Well, I think I’ve finally found a definitive answer. But first a little background…

Tipping varies from culture to culture and because of that, people in the service industry see a massive difference in pay scale, depending upon where in the world they live. Those with specific service jobs in some countries may be paid extraordinarily well, whereas those with the same professions in other countries are paid relatively little and are expected to earn the rest in tips, as part of their salary. Neither way is right or wrong…it’s just how each culture has developed and it’s their social norms. Even in the United States, where there is very much a tipping culture, people who live in the country tip differently – some still think that 15% is an adequate tip for a server whereas other say starting at 18% is more appropriate nowadays, and some don’t tip hotel housekeeping at all, while others think a daily tip is a must.

In writing for YMMV, I’ve been in contact with many people from lots of different countries and they all have a different thoughts and opinions about tipping. Thoughts and opinions are fine but, of course, there’s a difference between what you do in your own country versus how you conduct yourself in a country whose cultural norms suggest something you’re not accustomed to. As I saw someone once say, “If you lived in a country that drove on the left hand side of the road and visited a country that drove on the right hand side, would you still drive on the left because that’s what you’re comfortable with?” The same goes for tipping.

If you’re on vacation/holiday, there are many people to consider tipping:

  • Hotel staff (housekeeping, bell services, doorman, room service, concierge, etc.)
  • Bar staff
  • Spa staff
  • Hair dressers
  • Restaurant servers
  • Taxi/car drivers
  • Tour guides
  • Shuttle/bus drivers

Trying to keep track of who and how much to tip can be exhausting. But I’m thrilled to say I think I have finally come across the definitive answer:


The link brings you to a page that goes over WORLDWIDE TIPPING ETIQUETTE and friends, I think it’s just WONDERFUL! It gives you a choice of over 80 countries and for each country it tells you what the tipping culture is like, who to tip (or not), as well as what the appropriate tip would be for each of the above services in that country. There are even little bits about etiquette, currency, what the country is known for, must-try foods, places to tour, tipping history, etc.

i.e. for the United States:

Tipping is an important part of the American culture. People in the service industry are typically paid below minimum wage so they rely on tips as a large part of their income. In America tips are always calculated as a percentage of the bill before tax. It usually follows these rules:

  • 10% if you were unsatisfied.
  • 15% if it was OK.
  • 20% for excellent service.
  • 25% for outstanding service.

In many restaurants, the waiter is required give part of his-her tips to the bartender, bus boy, hostess and food runners. They are required to pay income tax on their tips: tips aren’t ‘extra’, they are part of their wage. It’s always best to tip in cash, when you can, and directly to the person who provided the service.

The author of this website is named Richard Powell and based on his writing style, he appears to be from the U.K. (which may account for his calling the United States simply “America”…my apologies for those of you in Canada and Central and South America). I’m not sure where he got all his information, but based on my own travels and those of people I know, his assessments are pretty darn accurate. Not always 100%, but close enough to be, in my humble opinion, to be a pretty decent reference.

So if you’re traveling to another country, strongly consider taking heed of the tipping culture (as well as all the cultural norms for that country, period) and proceed as one would be expected, not how you are the most comfortable. After all, if you lived in a country that drove on the left hand side of the road and visited a country that drove on the right hand side, would you still drive on the left because that’s what you’re comfortable with? 😉

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11 thoughts on “Tipping While Traveling! Who, What, Why, Where, When and How Much?”

    1. Hi Kelly! Joe and I are generally optimists and start at 20%. We’ll then go up or down from there…15% if service was so-so, 10% and a talk with the manager if it was awful, and upwards of 25-30% if it was incredible. Your mileage may vary 😉

      1. You must be American,
        With the 15% GST tax we have in Canada, if I tipped% 30 I would be % 45 of the meal.
        I only 20%, if stayed exceptional long at a table, preventing server from getting another customer

      2. Yep, we’re from the United States. And we tip more if we stay for an extraordinary amount of time (diner or coffee shop could be upwards of 100%+, fancy restaurant could be 50%, depending). But again, that’s us and YMMV. What are the differences in how you personally tip in Canada vs if you were visiting, let’s say the U.S.? Or the UK?

      3. I tip more in the US, and same as Canada in UK, when I went to Kenya, I was told, what to tip people, they have a two Terre pricing one for local residence and another for foreigner

  1. The thing is, meals in America are already expensive. Tipping makes a meal even more expensive. Whose pockets is it lining? The restaurants should be paying their workers more money. But if they did that – the price of the meal would skyrocket too.

    1. Sorry, but I have to wholeheartedly disagree. If a person is going to travel somewhere, it’s his/her responsibility to know what the costs are and change their plans accordingly if something is “too expensive” for them. It’s not the server’s fault if someone decided to eat somewhere they consider “expensive” and (s)he shouldn’t have less wages for the day because the traveler is trying to cut costs by tipping less than an accepted amount.

      Like it or lump it, the U.S. is a tipping society. It’s lovely to say that restaurants should pay their workers more money, but that would involve changing laws set up by the U.S. Department of Labor. Perhaps that will happen someday. Until it does, I would hope that people tip their servers an appropriate, acceptable amount and if they can’t/won’t pay it because it’s “expensive,” that they plan to eat at a location that doesn’t requite tipping, such as quick serve restaurants.

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