Global Tipping Etiquette – How Much Should You Tip?

When travelling overseas, the last thing you want is to commit a cultural faux pas if you aren’t aware of that country’s local tipping customs.

Tipping – also known as a gratuity – is the act of giving money to someone who has performed a service to you. For example, you might pay a tip to a waiter at a restaurant for their fine hospitality in addition to the price of your dinner and that bottle of wine.

In Australia, we tend not to tip as much as other countries like the United States. While you’re free to leave some change behind as a thank you, you generally won’t get the stink-eye from someone in customer service if you don’t.

Other countries aren’t quite as forgiving though, and in some parts of the world, tips are a crucial part of a person’s income in certain industries. If you want to learn the lay of the land, Canstar has prepared this guide to tipping in some of the countries we consider in our Travel Insurance Star Ratings.

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Tipping in America & Canada

The United States, and Canada to a lesser extent, is known for its tipping etiquette. Tipping is an unspoken rule in these countries. After all, wait staff and bartenders in the States earned an average hourly wage of just $2.13 an hour in 2015 according to the United States Department of Labor, so they rely on the generosity of strangers in return for their service efforts.

TripAdvisor recommends leaving a 15-20% tip when you eat at restaurants, drink at a bar or take a cab. Other services like removalists and valet attendants might expect a tip of about $10 per service, while more repetitive tasks (like bag carriers and coat checkers) usually receive $1-3 per task.

Tipping is an important part of American working culture, and these tips are usually given in cash, so make sure you carry some extra with you. Some sites recommend only not tipping if the service you received was particularly poor, and if your server goes above and beyond then make sure you let them know by giving them a little extra.

Related Article: Travel Insurance for the USA.

Tipping in Europe

There are many different countries in Europe, so the tipping customs vary throughout. Some countries consider it unnecessary and excessive, while others recommend leaving at least a modest tip.

As a general rule of thumb, leaving a 1-2 Euro tip for good service won’t go unappreciated in most European countries.

France

Tipping in France isn’t required in most cases, but you won’t look incompétente if you do decide to leave a tip for a job well done. Just make sure you do it in cash and not by card. 

  • Cafe staff: rounding up your bill to the nearest dollar is usually enough
  • Restaurant staff: a commonly accepted rule according to smartertravel.com is to leave €1 to €2 per every €20 spent and five to ten percent at fancier places
  • Taxi drivers and chauffers: tipping again isn’t expected, but many French people often give a five percent tip if the driver delivered a safe trip and/or helped with the bags
  • Bellhops: it’s customary to give a  €1 to €2 tip per bag

The French word for tip is pourboire, which translates to ‘have a drink’.

Germany

The word for tipping in Germany is trinkgeld, meaning ‘drinking money’. Germany has a similar tipping culture to France in that it isn’t expected, but a few euros here and there won’t be unappreciated. According to TripAdvisor, you can either add the customary €1 to €2 or 5-10%, whatever is more convenient.

If you want to avoid looking like ein Dummkopf after ordering your bratwurst, CNT Traveller recommends the following guidelines:

  • Cafes and restaurants: 10-15% to the waiter or bartender
  • Hotels: one to three euros per bag carried and 20 euros for a helpful concierge
  • Feel free to tip more if you like, but just remember to do it in cash if you can.

Greece

Tipping can be a bit more confusing in Greece as its traditions tend to vary from those found in other European countries. What can be especially confusing is the fact that generally only tourists are expected to tip in Greece and not Greek locals. This is especially true in more remote locations.

  • Restaurants: according to Tripsavvy, it’s customary to leave a 15-20% tip for wait staff and to actively thank the owner for a good meal, particularly if its a smaller place.
  • Drivers: taxi drivers in Greece might expect tips, usually around 10% of the fare. You’re also expected to pay for road tolls and fees, and if the driver handles your luggage, an official charge will be added to your fare.
  • Public toilets: establishments in Greece (such as nightclubs) can also employ bathroom attendees who keep the stalls stocked with toilet paper and new soap. They also ensure everything is kept in order and in a presentable condition, so be sure to give a smile, a thank you and a euro or two.

Ireland & The UK

When tipping in Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales, check your bill to see if service has been included. If not, then it’s customary to add around 10-15% of the bill in restaurants only – pubs aren’t included in this because that just wouldn’t be British.

All staff in Ireland and the UK are required by law to be paid at least the national minimum wage, so not tipping shouldn’t cause a fuss. For some services like taxi drivers and casual cafe and restaurant staff, there’s no harm in rounding up the bill or adding a maximum of 10% (if service isn’t included).

Ireland & The UK

Related Article: Travel Insurance For The UK.

Italy

In Italy, tipping is considered to be a bonus for excellent service, so the amount you decide to tip should reflect how good the staff were. While tipping in Italy is also entirely optional, SmarterTravel recommends leaving the following amounts:

  • Cafe staff: round up to the nearest Euro
  • Restaurant staff: 10-15% of the bill if service is not included; round up to the nearest €10 if it is.
  • Taxis: round up to the nearest €10 for longer rides
  • Bellhops and concierge staff: tip €1 to €2

Wages tend to be quite low for jobs such as these in Italy, so your tips would surely be greatly appreciated. Grazie!

Spain

Tipping in Spain is not customary, and many Spaniards actually find the concept of tipping odd. Luis Ferrer, a representative of the Spanish Tourist Office in the US, once said:

“The fact is that in Spain, it is not usual to leave a tip. Many Spaniards are puzzled when they first come to the US and need to leave a 20% tip – this cultural difference leads to many funny situations in restaurants. Some argue that it is the owner of the business who should give a proper salary to their staff just like any other job!”

So while in Spain, leave a Euro or two if you really want to, but you shouldn’t feel compelled to.

Spanish Waiter
Salamanca, Spain

Tipping in Asia

In Asia, a lot of countries have a non-tipping culture. Good service is expected from all employees there, and in some cases leaving a tip will actually be considered rude. It can even be against the law, so tread with caution.

China

China is perhaps the most prominent of the Asian countries that has a very strict no-tipping culture, especially in places frequented by locals. While the rules may vary in places that are tourist-heavy, no manager in China assumes their staff is going to make an income on tips, and servers may even refuse tips should you offer them.

In China, a smile and a Xièxiè (thank you) will often be all that’s required to show your appreciation for good service. The same goes for Hong Kong.

Tipping in China

Related Article: Travel Insurance For China.

India

Tipping rules in India can be a bit muddled, as its colonial and historical past can sometimes clash. Some places don’t expect tips, while others will ask for a baksheesh, which is Persian in origin for a simple gratuity. You might end up a bit confused when people in the street start yelling this at you – this is a common tactic a lot of beggars employ to target unaware tourists.

When tipping, you only need to worry about giving a small amount – no more than 10% of the bill. Tripsavvy recommends leaving the following tips:

  • No more than 15% for meals if someone gave exemplary service
  • 20 Rupees per bag carried at hotels
  • 100-300 Rupees per day for guides and personal drivers

Indonesia

Tipping is becoming more and more common in Indonesia are it becomes a bigger hub for tourists all over the world. While still not expected in a lot of places, those who are feeling generous can feel free to leave the customary 10% of the total at restaurants, hotels and in taxis.

Japan

Japan is one of the few countries where tipping in most places will be met with a polite refusal – good service, manners and professionalism are all heavily ingrained in the Japanese way of life. Taking Yen out and simply handing it to someone is actually considered rude in places like restaurants, but there are some places like Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) where you can put cash in an envelope and give it to staff as a token of appreciation.

While out-and-about though, you don’t need to worry about tipping in the land of the rising sun.

Tipping in Japan

Related Article: Travel Insurance For Japan.

Singapore

Singapore is a major stopover destination for travellers, with more than 62.2 million people passing through Changi airport each year (Changi Airport Group). At the airport, however, staff are not allowed to accept tips, so you shouldn’t try to slip anyone a dollar even if you think they deserve it.

The rest of the country is a different story, although the tipping culture still isn’t that strong. Qantas Travel Insider recommends the following:

  • At restaurants: anywhere between 5-10% of the bill
  • Concierges: $10
  • Bellhops: the standard $1 per bag
  • Guides: $20 for a day
  • Taxi drivers: round up the fare

South Korea

Like Japan and most of China, South Korea has a strong no-tipping culture. Staff at restaurants, cafes and hotels don’t typically expect tips for their service, while cab drivers are usually the same. The one exception to this can be tour guides, who usually expect $20 per person per day, according to CNT Traveller.

Tipping South Korea

Thailand

While locals don’t tend to tip in Thailand, tourists generally do and are expected to. The average monthly wage in Thailand, according to Trading Economics, is just under $14,000 Bahts a month ($577 Australian), and this figure is less for service staff. So a small tip can go a long way.

Getting Stamped suggests tipping 10% of the bill at restaurants, 10 Bahts for every two drinks ordered at bars, 10 Bahts for every 100 bahts in your taxi ride and 15% for massages.

Vietnam

In Vietnam, the concept of tipping is very much in its infancy – many travel sites and blogs suggest the overall standard of service in Vietnam can be fairly poor, and given that tipping rewards good service, it hasn’t really taken off there.

Pay is dubious at best in a lot of places in Vietnam, so if you’re feeling generous, then feel free to tip the following amounts:

  • 5% of the bill for good service at restaurants
  • Round up the bill at bars and cafes, which ends up at around 15-30,000 VND
  • 10,000 VND for cab drivers
  • 17,000 VND ($10 AUD) per-day for tour-guides and drivers

Tipping in Africa and the Middle East

These regions are relatively similar to America when it comes to tipping – it is usually customary and expected by servers. Tripsavvy recommends keeping a small supply of cash on hand to be ready to tip helpful staff.

South Africa

Tipping is commonplace in South Africa – people in the service industry often barely make minimum wage and may rely on tips in order to make ends meet. Tips form a big part of their income, so Safari Guide Africa suggests the following guidelines for tips:

  • Restaurants: tip 10-20% of the total bill if the cost of service is not already included
  • Bars and cafes: the standard is usually to tip 10-20%
  • Safari guides: rangers and guides in South Africa are extremely insightful and keep you safe from hippos. Tipping isn’t compulsory here, but many people tip around R300 for a family or R100-200 for couples and singles (for reference, 1 South African Rand = 0.10 Australian dollars at the time of writing)

Lebanon

Lebanon is a place famous for its delicious cuisine, so it’s paradise for foodies. Eating all this food also comes with the cost of tipping as its a common practice over there. The common 10-15% rule applies for:

  • Taxis
  • Restaurants
  • Bars

In addition, hotel staff will generally expect to receive a tip of 750-1500 LBP ($0.64 – $1.29 AUD), according to Tipping Around The World. Other services may not expect tips, but it’s always worth checking.

United Arab Emirates

Visit Dubai states there are no hard and fast tipping rules in the country, but since the UAW prides itself on exceptional customer service, you may choose to fork out the cash at certain establishments. In cities like Dubai, you are generally expected to tip around 15-20% of your bill in addition to the service charge.

Some sources say you should tip the waiter at high-end restaurants $50 to $100 to ensure superior service, putting it on the list of more expensive countries when it comes to tipping. Other services might expect tips of:

  • $30 for a concierge
  • $10-$20 for drivers and guides

Source: YouTube

Tipping in The Pacific

For our neighbours across the Tasman and surrounding countries, tipping is generally the exception and not the norm. Just like us, these countries are not going to judge you if you don’t tip. For these island countries, you’re often considered an honoured guest and their hospitality will reflect this.

New Zealand

As much as we don’t want to admit it on the sporting field, New Zealand is extremely similar to us. Wait staff are usually paid at least the minimum wage and tipping is almost never expected, although you might feel the need to do so if the service was exceptional.

There are some services aimed at tourists, however, that may require tips, however. For example, tipping is customary in hotels at around $1-$2 NZ for bags carried and $10-$15 for a good concierge, according to 100% Pure New Zealand.

Tipping in NZ

Fiji

TripAdvisor states Fiji is a communal society where everything is shared. Tipping is generally not required or expected and there are many stories reported of hotel and restaurant staff being left confused as to why customers left money behind.

One way you can give back to helpful staff in Fiji is to donate to their ‘Staff Christmas Fund’ box – something a lot of hotels or restaurants have that is shared among staff at the end of the year. Given that a lot of people in Fiji aren’t paid particularly high wages, it wouldn’t hurt to also ask what their tipping policy is and consider leaving a few dollars behind.

Related Article: Travel Insurance For Fiji.

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