How to Tip: An Etiquette Guide for World Travelers

Different cultures have different expectations and ettiquette rules to know regarding who, and how, to tip while traveling.

In order to alleviate awkward stares exchanged at the end of an appointment, taxi ride or other service scenario knowing the local tipping customs can go a long way. 

There is etiquette for tipping others such as taxi drivers, hotel doormen and even the person who rubs your feet. When traveling abroad, tipping customs can range from a lavish tip in exchange for excellent service to an uncomfortable exchange after giving a little extra in a culture that deems tipping an insult.

A few basic things to keep in mind in any part of the world will help in potential tipping dilemmas: Know the currency exchange rate—in order to calculate tip percentages, if necessary—and carry a few notes of the local currency for situations where gratuities can't be added to a credit card payment. Beyond those basic notes, different cultures have varying views on tipping before, during or after a service. Read on for location specifics to make your next adventure easier to plan.

Joe's Counter restaurant in California

How to Tip in the United States

One of the most tip-reliant industry in America is the food and beverage industry. The anticipated tip at restaurants and bars given with the bill after service is between 15 to 20 percent, which often supports wait staff who are generally paid below minimum wage. The quality of service can play a part when making tipping decisions, however, as high-quality service is usually rewarded with an above-average tip.

Young woman at Japanese restaurant

How to Tip in Asia

Japan

In Japanese culture the local workers place the expectation on themselves to provide excellent service and don't expect a tip. Tipping in restaurants or hotels is a non-starter but tipping tour guides, however, is acceptable. Place money in an envelope or wrap it in paper and extend it with both hands. There is no expected amount—use personal discretion.

South Korea

If the decision is to forego a Korean restaurant—where there is no tipping—in favor of a familiar Western-style one, make sure to leave a gratuity of five to 10 percent. Locals won't be tipping tour guides, but no offense will be taken if visitors offer one. Hotel tips are appreciated but not expected.

Red taxis in Hong Kong photographed from above

China

Tipping in China varies depends on the geography. On the mainland, a $1-2 equivalent gratuity—and more—given to wait staff is acceptable at a high-end Western-style establishment. Hotel bellboys, specifically, should receive $1 per bag for their assistance. 

In Hong Kong, if you forego the Star Ferry in favor of a taxi to get to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon, small change or rounding up to the next large number is appropriate. After a hot night at the tables at the Venetian Macao—the largest of Macau's 33 casinos—don't worry about flipping the dealer chips when you walk away as the house can get up to 10 percent of the winnings.

Thailand

According to The Tipping Life, leaving the change at a normal restaurant is fine; about two and a half percent above the total at a upscale restaurant is the norm.

India

The currency is the rupee. For dining tips in India, the rule of thumb at restaurants is that the more you spend, the smaller the tip. For a bill up to INR 300, the normal tip is 10 percent; a bill of 300 to 1,000 rupee usually yields a tip of seven to 10 percent; and bills coming in at 1,000 rupee or above have an expected five to seven percent tip.

Prague taxi

How to Tip Europe

Czech Republic

Before the fall of Communism in 1989, tipping in cities like Prague was a no-no but today it is an expectation.

Taking a taxi ride from the airport to the historic Charles Bridge, make sure to check the posted fare and confirm it with the driver upon entering the vehicle. The reward for a pleasant drive is rounding up the cost to the next large number or 10 percent. After a meal of traditional beef steak tartare, the server should expect a 10 to 15 percent gratuity—but check to ensure the tip hasn't already been figured in.

The Mousetrap Theatre in West End, London

England

For that top-notch hotel near Big Ben, bellboys should get five pounds per bag, according to Visit London; one to two pounds for comfortable accommodations that aren't quite as luxurious. Don't want to take the Tube? Grabbing a taxi to a must-see West End play means you a tip added to the fare by rounded up to the nearest pound or add 10 to 15 percent to be polite if it's a lengthy sojourn.

Germany

You might tip a fest server more after a swig of the local brew, but at a restaurant five to 10 percent rounding up to the nearest euro is the norm. When paying in cash, tell the server how much you're paying and the appropriate amount of change will be given.

St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow's Red Square

Russia

Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia's two largest cities, seem different from other large cities are across the world but they share many of the same tipping customs.

A guide leading a tour to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg would expect a tip just as much as would one in Moscow heading a group to Red Square, according to the Moscow Tourism Office. An average of 10 to 15 percent is an appropriate gratuity at restaurants, but check for added service charges. Leaving a cash tip is customary.

There is no tip required or expected from taxi drivers as the fee should be negotiated beforehand, including tip. Bellhops handling baggage should see a 100 ruble "thank you" but finding those helpful luggage toters will come at just five-star hotels, however.

How to Tip in Africa

South Africa

Fly into O.R. Tambo Airport near Johannesburg, South Africa, and the big adventure is about to begin. Rent a car and with plenty of rand in cash—it's 73 cents per rand. Service stations in South Africa are run by attendants who pop out of the shop to fill car tanks, check fluid levels and top off the tires. Anywhere from two rand up is a good tip for this service.

Travelers at any budget will sometimes stop at a supermarket to stock up on on snacks and if an attendant helps push a cart to the vehicle the attendant will expect a tip. At hotels, interactions with porters should cost a 10 to 20 rand tip. When going out for a drink or dinner, a gratuity of 10 to 15 percent is the customary tip for service.

Related Article: How to Plan the Perfect African Safari

Morocco

Morocco is the only place to exchange foreign currency for the dirham, so plan to visit the currency exchange counter at the airport. Beyond that, dirhams can also be withdrawn at local ATMS that typically come with foreign transaction fees. After a tiring day spent at the immense Marrakesh market, a freshly cleaned room will be all but assured with a daily 20 dirham tip left in the room for the cleaning staff.

After enjoying a spicy meat and and vegetable dish—or camel dishes for those with an adventurous palate—a 10 to 15 percent tip is good while exceptional service should be rewarded with a 20 to 30 percent tip.

Camel laying down with pyramids of Egypt in the background

How to Tip in the Middle East

Egypt

After a tour of the Pyramids, tipping is all but required and the the word for tip is "backsheesh." Most tour workers rely on tips and playing the part is an important part of the offering: If the person receiving a tip complains or looks unhappy, offer to rescind the tip or say it's enough—their body language should change and they will accept the amount. In a hotel, tip the person who helps you and be aware during restaurant visits that a 10 percent service charge goes to the company, not your server. Leaving a little extra for the server is a fairly routine practice.

Dubai

Tipping comes down to personal preference according to the Dubai Department of Tourism. The biggest thing whether staying at the posh Burj al Arab hotel or taking a taxi to the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo is treating service workers with respect. A five to 10 dirham tip or more to hotel staff handling bags is a nicety and not expected. A taxi driver should see the fare rounded up to the nearest note and while most restaurants add a service charge, a 10 to 15 percent tip should be given depending on the quality of service. In the end, saying "thank you" with a smile also goes a long way.

Jerusalem's Western Wall

Jerusalem

Take a taxi inside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City and pay a metered fare; travel between cities and adhere to an official price list. Whether inside or outside the city, tips to the driver most likely will be returned. One thing Jerusalem has in common with the U.S. is that wait staff and bartenders are paid sparingly and rely on tips. According to Tourist Israel, a 10 to 15 percent gratuity in restaurants should be the norm, but double check to see if a service charge has been added.

Turkey

Tipping in Turkey is expected after several types of services. After a traditional Turkish bathhouse—called a hamam—attendants will line up for a gratuity and handing out a total of 15 percent is more than appropriate. Make sure you have enough Turkish lira for restaurant staff as you can't include a tip on a credit card charge. Add 10 to 15 percent for a high-class restaurant, like Rumelihisari Iskele in Istanbul—go for the authentic cuisine. Giving a five percent tip to a more humble restaurant like the kebab shops and cafes offering fresh wraps is custom.

Jordan

After a visit to the Dead Sea, relax with a treatment at the Sixth Sense Spa, which sits beneath a hot springs waterfall. Who To Tip suggests a tip of five to 10 Jordanian dinars to the attendant after a relaxing dead sea mud wrap.

At hotels and restaurants an added service charge is a common occurrence but tips to service performers should be given as they don't see any of the service charge. Restaurant workers are given a small salary in anticipation of surviving on tips, and 10 percent goes a long way. Hotel porters should get 1 to 2 dinars a bag while maids should receive 2 dinars a night.

Lebanon

Don't forget to tip when taking a taxi to famous sites in Beirut, Lebanon, like the Rouches Sea Rock, St. Nicholas Stairs and towering religious sites like the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque. A 15 percent tip in a restaurant and a 10 percent tip on a taxi ride is the right etiquette in this booming Middle Eastern bay city.

Beirut oceanfront