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Your handy little guide to tipping culture around the world

If ever there was a contentious element to overseas travel, it’s tipping.

Even in a largely cashless society, it helps to have some small notes for tipping.

Whether you’re on your first or 21st international sojourn, the subject of gratuities can leave the head spinning. 

Each country, tour company, cruise line and everything in between have their own take on when and what to tip, and who receives the bonus handout from the wary cashed up travellers.

While leading a group coach tour through Japan, many questions on tipping were quietly raised, particularly as we neared the end of the trip.

“Should we tip the guide separately from the driver? And how much should we put aside?”

Unlike independent travel, group tours can be tricky, especially when some passengers, especially those on a tight budget, don’t want to tip at all.

Funnily, Japan is one country where tipping is not expected, so it was up to the individual travellers to slip the cash quietly in the palms of grateful guides’ hands.

Cruising is in the same boat, although some major companies ease the anguish and confusion by either including gratuities in the price of the ticket or adding them to the guest’s folio at check-out time.

Some countries expect it, others don't but it's always a welcome gesture for good service.

As travel becomes more cashless, carrying currency for tips is creating a new headache, for travellers as much as the hospitality staff.

Here’s a guide on tipping etiquette in some of the main tourist regions.

USA: If ever there was destination that promotes tipping, it’s the USA. It’s embedded in their culture. Some will joke that if it wasn’t for the generosity of the early American tourists, there wouldn’t be tipping in other parts of the world.

Because of poor wages in the USA hospitality industry, staff rely heavily on tips which can fluctuate between 15% and 20% of the bill in a restaurant. Even though we now live in a cashless world, prepare to carry a few loose notes in the wallet to tip hotel porters, taxi drivers, food delivery personnel, or even an immaculately dressed concierge.

Asia: Here, tipping etiquette varies. Generally, it is not expected, especially in Japan and China. But if you feel the guide, restaurant staff or any other helpful professional deserve a bonus, be discreet in slipping a few notes without insulting the staff member. In some countries like Thailand, tipping has become a way of life in the major tourist areas.

Europe: Tipping has become more prevalent throughout Europe, particularly in France where a service charge is commonplace. Depending on the quality of restaurant, extra tipping will also be welcomed.

Most restaurants these days will include gratuities in the final bill.

There are also cover charges in some establishments. In such countries as Greece and Spain, tips will supplement wages. Expect to pay between 5% and 15% of the bill.

United Kingdom: Like Australians, Brits are not renowned for tipping. However, some restaurants include a service charge. Some add a gratuity charge. As it’s not mandatory to pay these extra charges, customers can have them removed. Make sure to carry cash to tip cab drivers, porters, food personnel which will be gratefully accepted.

Cruising: While some cruise operators include gratuities in the price of the ticket, there are questions over what to tip the deserving crew, from cabin staff to waiters in the bars and restaurants. A suggested amount is $15-$20 per person per day which would be roundly appreciated.

Unless you happen to take advantage of a promotion absolving the need to tip, or sail with a line which includes gratuities in the fare, most cruise lines will add a daily charge to your room bill which will either be charged to your credit card or slipped under the stateroom door in the form of a bill the night before disembarkation.

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Written by: Mike Smith
Published: 18 May 2023

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