Tipping while Traveling

Tipping while Traveling


Be a responsible traveler! Always take a few moments before your trip to educate yourself on local tipping customs.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This will boost your confidence and make you feel more comfortable while traveling. Also, your cultural-awareness will be appreciated by the local workers. Nothing speaks louder (especially when you can’t speak the local language) than money. And what it can say can be two different things entirely. If you DO tip when you are NOT supposed to (or even overtip!!), it can be offensive. If you DO NOT tip when you ARE supposed to, it can also be offensive.



Tipping exists in service industries. Tips are generally considered to be a display of appreciation for quality service. (A major exception is wait staff in the USA – they are paid less than minimum wage based on the industry and government expectation that these folks will supplement their hourly wage via tips).


How do I know when to tip? Ask yourself:

  • “Is this person providing me a service?” If no, then do not tip. If yes, go to question #2.
  • “Is the service provided something I could have done myself but that they did for me?” If yes, then you clearly need to tip. If no, then tipping is completely optional.

Here’s are some folks you SHOULD tip. NOTE: this list is not exhaustive – if you feel someone deserves a tip, tip them!!!!

  • Waitstaff
  • Hotel cleaning staff
  • Porter / Bellhop
  • Taxi/van driver
  • Tour guide
  • Concierge
  • Restroom attendant
  • Local posing for a photograph
  • Bartender
  • Tour boat captain and staff
  • Maitre d’
  • Childcare/day camp staff
  • Hairdresser
  • Spa treatment provider


In general, tipping is about expressing gratitude. The etymology for the synonym for tipping, gratuity, dates back to the 1520s, from “graciousness”, from the French gratuité (14th century) or directly from Medieval Latin gratuitas, “free gift”, probably from earlier Latin gratuitus, “free, freely given” . The meaning “money given for favor or services” is first attested [in the] 1530s.(Wikipedia)

So, you don’t live in the 1500’s, so how do you know HOW MUCH to tip? Always ask yourself:

  • “Has someone gone above and beyond to do something for me?”
  • If yes, then consider tipping at the higher end.
  • If no, then you should still leave a tip at the lower end. People have bad days – you have bad days, I have bad days, and yes, even the waiters have bad days. Unless the service is egregious, you should still leave a minimum tip. A better option than stiffing the person completely is to talk to the management if you have complaints. Remember, you “ordered” service….. if you got service, you still need to pay for it.

A few more guidelines on the “how much” question:

  • “If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out.” An appropriate tip is part of the cost of what you are buying. If your budget is $100, don’t buy the $100 filet mignon and stiff on the $20 tip….buy the chicken for $80 and leave a $16 tip. Your failure to not overspend should not be taken out on the service-giver.
  • Tipping amounts is typically a percentage of the price of the service. This percentage varies by county.
  • Tips are calculated on the full price of a service, not on the discounted price if you have a gift card or coupon.
  • Always recognize that tips are a reflection of SERVICE quality, not of product quality. Never stiff a service provider just because the chef added too much butter to your veggies.
  • Always carry cash and small change. Use it for tips, bus fares, etc. Spend big bills at big places!


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