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Tipping etiquette around the world

Should you tip when travelling abroad? When? How much? Don’t fret… We’re here to help you navigate this minefield of money and manners.

A tip jar which reads 'Tips: They're like hugs, without the awkward body contact'

British people sometimes struggle with tipping, especially when it comes to foreign travel.

Often, we’ve no idea when to tip, or how much to offer when we do. And many of us begrudge offering extra cash unless the service provided has been something way above the ordinary.

Emma O’Boyle at Tripadvisor said: “In the UK tipping is relatively straightforward. But that seems to have resulted in some British travellers taking other country's tipping rules for granted.”

To clear up any confusion, we’ve taken a look at tipping customs around the world.

This should help holidaymakers understand what’s expected of them, and what kind of gratuities they should think about paying in a variety of circumstances.

Restaurants and bars

Even in the UK, tipping is common for sit-down meals. We pay an average of 10% to waiting staff. But we’re unlikely to leave gratuities in bars or pubs, even when we’re being served food.

In the US, restaurant tips of up to 20% are not uncommon. If you leave the bare minimum of 10%, don’t be surprised if you’re asked whether you’ve had any problems with the service. 

A tip jar which reads 'If you fear change, leave it here'

Some countries such as Italy and France may include service charges in the bill. But they would still expect a smaller tip of 5-10% on top of that, especially if service has been good.

Taxis

Again, the US demands the highest tips at between 10-15% of your fare. 

The same custom applies in France and Germany, but you shouldn’t expect to pay extra to cabbies in Italy, Greece or Australia. In fact, tipping down under is even less common than in the UK.

Hotel staff

Some foreign hotels will include a service charge in their bills. If not, you can expect to tip porters a few euros or dollars for carrying bags to and from your room.. 

These tips are more discretionary, and you shouldn’t expect to pay anything in Australia or Denmark, for example.

Cruises

Many cruises now offer all-inclusive prices which mean there’s no need to leave tips — a great idea for bewildered Brits.

On many liners this system has replaced mandatory tipping, which in the past has added hundreds of pounds to the cost of a typical trip.

Getting it right at home

Of course our confusion over tipping doesn’t only apply when we’re overseas: many of us aren’t sure of what’s expected in this country.

A Han v Gredo 'who shot first' tip jar

The etiquette guide Debrett’s tells visitors to Britain that tipping in restaurants is normally at the customer’s discretion, but adds “it is more discretionary in some places than others”.

A gratuity of 10% is common where service is not included.

Debrett’s also says that it’s acceptable to ask for an automatically added tip to be removed whenever service has been poor.

In “smarter” hotels, porters should be given a pound or two per item of luggage carried. And guests should leave a banknote — presumably more than a fiver — in their room for housekeeping staff upon departure.

The guide adds: “Tipping is also commonplace in hair and beauty salons, and in taxis: use your discretion, but err on the side of generosity.”

At-a-glance tipping tips

  • It’s always best to research local tipping customs before you go.
  • For example, in Japan you should avoid tipping, no matter what the situation. Leaving a tip can even appear insulting.
  • Several far-eastern countries have a no-tipping culture. This includes China and South Korea. You can tip porters who carry your bag in more upmarket hotels. But do this out of view of their employers.
  • In Egypt, small amounts are expected to be given to service sector workers. This baksheesh may be on top of a taxi fare, for example; or given to guides who do you favours, open doors for you, take a photo for you etc.
  • Tipping is a good reason to always have some cash on you in small denominations. Often tipping on a card may not benefit the staff you intend it to.
  • Don’t ask the person providing the service if they require a tip. Often their manners may get the better of them, denying them much-needed extra income.

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First published August 2011.



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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is the former personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris



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