Tipping 101 – When, How Much, and Whom to Tip?

Tipping conventions – the headache of even the savviest travelers.

Should you leave a tip for the server?

How much is a good amount?

Where should you leave it?

These questions can be baffling, and take the cheer out of a hearty meal at a local restaurant or cafe.

Because tipping etiquettes and service charges vary so wildly worldwide, it is best to read up a little on the country or region that you plan to visit. In this article, we simplify it for you. When should you tip (or not), how much, and to whom?

Read on for the definitive guide on tipping in any region of the world.

Tipping in the U.S.

Most servers and waiters in the U.S. earn less than the federal minimum wage. This is permitted legally because much of their earnings come in the form of tips. Tipping in American restaurants and cafes is expected. Essentially, if you have a server that takes your order at your table, brings you your food, and refills your drinks, you are expected to tip them. If you’re at a fast-food restaurant or diner where you get your own order from the counter, tipping is not typically necessary.

Most restaurants will not add a gratuity to the bill to cover the tip. Instead, you should leave the tip in cash on the table for the server to collect. You can also hand it to them directly. Alternately, if you are paying with a credit card, you can add the tip into the total on the credit card bill you will sign.

How much should you tip at restaurants in the U.S.?

Popular opinion says that 20% of your total bill is an acceptable tip. Of course, you must keep these points in mind if you want to tip more or less than this:

  • What sort of an establishment are you dining at? If you visit an expensive, fancy restaurant and enjoy a long meal, you could bump up the tip. At smaller cafes, 20% works fine.
  • How was the service? While tips are not necessarily rewards for exceptional service, you could still thank your server if they attended to your needs especially well. Similarly, you are not obligated to leave a tip if you had a consistently bad experience with the service.

Note: If you don’t like the taste of the food, don’t hold back on the server’s tip – after all, they have no say in how the food looks or tastes.

Tipping at bars

It is customary to tip bartenders in the U.S. when you are having a drink. The amount you should tip depends largely on the drink you are having. If you’re only ordering a beer or something similar, $1.00 per drink is fine. For more involved mixed drinks that take effort to prepare, 10-20% of the cost of the drink is an appropriate tip. For example, if you are ordering a beer that is $3.75, it would be considered appropriate to give the bartender a $5.00 bill and tell them to keep the change.

Tipping in hotels

Don’t get flustered if the hotel porter looks at you expectantly for a tip after delivering your luggage to your room. You should give them a customary tip – $1.00 to $2.00 in loose bills is considered acceptable.  

Should you tip at a drive-through?

Most fast-food chain restaurants with drive-throughs do not allow their employees to accept tips, and they are not expected. However, if you are getting food at a local establishment, or see a box marked “tips,” it will certainly be appreciated if you tip a dollar or two.

Tipping in taxis

Most taxis have a meter to calculate the fare. If you book an Uber or a Lyft, the fare is pre-calculated on the app. A good tipping etiquette to remember is to round off the fare to the nearest 10. Give the change to your driver as a tip.

Tipping in Europe

Unlike the U.S., leaving a tip is not as much of an expectation in most parts of Europe. In most countries, especially in Scandinavia, France, Denmark, etc., your bill already includes a service charge. If you still want to tip on top of that, we recommended leaving 5-10% of the bill for your server.

  • Always try to tip in the local currency’s cash.
  • Here’s a helpful rule of thumb – tip 5% for lunch and daytime meals, and 10% for a sumptuous dinner.

Should you tip your AirBnB host?

You may leave a tip of €3-5 per day. You can also thank them with a nice bottle of wine, which is often the preferred option. However, tipping an Airbnb host is not an obligation, since all charges for the stay are already included in the bill.

Tipping in Asia

Asia does not have a prevalent tipping culture. Most cafes, restaurants, hotels, and bars include a service charge in their bills, so you need not tip your server separately. In some East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, you will draw bemused stares if you leave a tip. It is considered impolite, and your server might feel offended.

In other parts of the continent like India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, etc., check your bill before tipping. If you don’t see a service charge already levied, you can go ahead and leave a tip.

Tipping in the Middle East

The Middle East is a massive tourist hub with millions of holiday-makers and party-goers visiting the sand dunes and crystal blue beaches. However, it can be a tricky place to navigate customs and etiquettes.

  • Here’s a handy “tip” to remember tipping conventions in the Middle East: Tip by American standards (15-20%) in the Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Israel has a different billing system, and the service charge is included in your total bill.
  • What about the hotel and housekeeping staff? Leave the equivalent of a dollar or two in the room for each night of your stay. Again, remember to tip in the local currency, as this will be most convenient for the server or housekeeper.

Tipping in Australia and New Zealand

The same conventions as the U.S. apply. However, remember that tipping is entirely your prerogative. If you are unsatisfied with the service, you should not feel pressured to tip.

Tipping in Latin America

If you do not see a gratuity or service charge on your bill, you should leave around 10% as a tip. You do not have to do this if a service charge is included in the bill total. However, you can still tip for a satisfactory experience.

  • If you simply order a coffee or a small dessert at a cafe, feel free to leave some loose change as a tip.
  • Tipping your taxi driver – If you haggle over the taxi fare with your driver before the ride, you need not add a tip above it. Otherwise, round off the fare to the closest ten, and leave the balance as a tip.

Some examples to consider

Here is a list of the most popular travel destinations, along with their country-specific tipping etiquette. Make this your go-to before you jet off for your next holiday.

Note: All amounts are in local currency and calculated in the absence of service charges.

  1. Brazil

Tip: 15% of your bill

Currency: Brazilian Real

  1. Russia

Tip: 10%

Currency: Ruble

Hand the tip to the server directly to prevent it from going to management.

  1. Canada

Tip: 15-20%

Currency: Canadian Dollars

  1. South Africa

Tip: 10-15%

Currency: Rand

  1. China

Tip: None expected

Currency: Chinese Yuan

There you have it – you are now set to explore the finest restaurants and cafes anywhere in the world. Just follow these guidelines, and your tipping game will be on point.

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