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How to Tip Around the World

August 12, 2022

Tipping can be a controversial topic, since whether or not you should tip, and how much, depends on who you ask. Therefore, consider this a general guideline, keeping in mind that there are no hard and fast rules in many countries.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Bilanol

Tipping Around the World

Even the most seasoned travelers have to stop and consider tipping etiquette depending on the country, local custom and scenario. A general rule of thumb is that when in doubt, tip 10% in countries that have tipping practices. In countries that dont, such as Japan, consider giving a small, thoughtful gift for service that went above and beyond.

It should be noted that even in countries without a tipping history, an increasing number of people in the service industry, especially in tourist areas, have come to expect tips from Americans, even if they dont expect tips from locals. In those cases, tipping is discretionary.

With a few exceptions, it's always a good rule of thumb to tip housekeeping, no matter where in the world, as it's one of the most demanding service jobs for little pay.

Not least, try to tip cash or change in the local currency whenever possible. This way you can ensure staff get the money (unlike credit card tips), plus recipients don't have the hassle of exchanging currency and the associated fees. Prices throughout are in dollars, so remember to convert to local currency.

Finally, more upscale establishments and services will command larger tips, which are reflected in the price ranges.

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United States

America has a long history of tipping, but the origin story has nothing to do with the young country's entrepreneurial spirit. The reality is much darker. Historians believe that Americans discovered tipping in 1850s Europe, which itself dates back to medieval feudalism. But tipping didn't become commonplace until after the Civil War when slavery ended; freed slaves had limited job options, including working at restaurants, Saru Jayaraman, the author of "Forked," about restaurant wages, explained to Time magazine. Except owners didn't want to pay them, instead offering the opportunity to work for tips instead. The popularity of this practice, rooted in racism, classism and sexism, combined with a 1938 law that kept restaurant wages low, is largely why the onus of paying service salaries rests on the public's shoulders to this day.

Restaurants and bars: Many waiters earn as little as $2.13 an hour since employers assume tips will suffice for a salary. Because of this mindset it's expected for all customers to tip 15% to 20%of the total bill, before tax, at restaurants.

A small percentage of restaurants (most notably Alinea in Chicago) include a 20% service charge in an effort to change the industry model. But the industry remains resistant to adopting this method; for example, in recent times famed restaurateur Danny Meyer attempted to replace tipping at his restaurants with an automatic service charge, but reverted back to a traditional tipping model in 2020. Meyer told the New York Times at the time that he "still believes that tipping contributes to inequitable pay, wage instability and other problems."

Despite that, what started as a growing trend around 2016 has since failed for most restaurants that implemented it, with reasons ranging from owners being unable to afford the higher wages to servers not wanting to work without the tip model. A recent article in The Guardian attributed this resistance to the country's capitalist culture, and it appears that the tipping model isn't going away anytime soon.

That said, leave $1 to $2 a drink at bars, unless you're ordering craft cocktails that involve more effort. In those cases industry standard is around $3 to $4 per drink, or 15% to 20% of the total. If you also ordered food, tip 15% to 20%. Note that service charges are rarely added to bills in the States, but exceptions may include all-inclusive resorts, which may add a service charge to meals and spa treatments. Some restaurants may automatically add a service fee for larger parties of six or more.

Cafes without table service, coffee shops and take-out spots will often have a tip jar, but there’s no obligation to leave anything; otherwise, $1 to $2 will suffice for good service.

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What to Tip in Hotels and for Other Services

Hotels: The American Hotel & Lodging Association offers this breakdown: Tip housekeeping $1 to $5 a day, depending on the quality of the hotel and the messiness of your room. (Note that it's best to tip daily since a different person might clean the room every day.) Give the hotel shuttle driver $1 to $2 per person, and valets $1 to $5 for retrieving your car if you drove. Tip porters $1 to $5 per bag. Concierges should get $5 to $10 (sometimes more) depending on the level of help; e.g., tip more if they scored a hard-to-get reservation at a hot restaurant. Tip room service 15% to 20%, unless a service charge has already been added. Want something extra delivered to your room? Plan to tip around $2. A small number of hotels now use robots to deliver items to rooms; there's no need to tip your robot.

Spas and salons: 15% to 20%

Tour guides: 15% to 20%

Taxis: Ridshare services such as Uber and Lyft (and their global equivalents) have become the mode of choice for many, and adding a tip between 10% to 20% after the ride is optional but recommended. Tip the same if taking a taxi. If a hotel doorman hailed a taxi for you, tip $1 to $2.

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Restaurants and bars: Servers are paid a higher minimum wage than in the US, but Canada generally follows similar guidelines, so tip 15% to 20%. However, it also depends on the province, city and town, and whether or not it's a tourist area. Ten percent might be more common in smaller, non-touristy towns, whereas an 18% to 25% tip is more typical in the Quebec province. Some tourist destination employees tend to expect around 18% if it's seasonal work, such as a ski resort. At bars it's fine to leave $1 per drink unless it's a more labor-intensive cocktail.

As in many parts of the world outside the US, it's common for waiters to bring a POS (point of sale) machine to your table to pay the bill, and you can add the tip at the same time.

A small number of restaurants across Canada are also experimenting with the no-tipping model, including Marben in Toronto and Aiana in Ottawa. But tipping culture still remains standard in Canada. Marc Mentzer, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business, recently told The Globe and Mail, “Tipping subsidizes low wages, and I think it is so deeply entrenched in Canadian and American society that it would be unrealistic to expect that it could be suddenly abolished."

Hotels: Canadian yellow pages recommends $2 to $5 Canadian dollars per night for housekeeping; $1 to $2 per bag for porters; $2 to $5 for valets; $1 to $20 for concierge, depending on the level of assistance; and at least $2 for room service.

Spas and salons: 10% to 20%

Tour guides: 10% to 20%

Taxis: 10% to 20%

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