There are a few things in life that are guaranteed to cause us to break out in a panic-induced sweat. Like, your boss asking if you can ‘step into their office’ for a ‘quick word’ at 4:59 pm. Having 1% battery just before your Uber arrives. (Can’t wait to contest that cancellation fee). Or, trying to pack your groceries faster than the cashier can scan them through. (WHY ARE YOU SO FAST?!).
While it might not be as stomach churning as waiting your turn to tell the room one interesting fact about yourself (at the very moment when you forget every mildly interesting thing you’ve ever done), not knowing when and how much to tip, is one of those things that always manages to get my heart rate pumping.
There have been times where I’ve panicked and tipped the local equivalent of a month’s salary (oops) because I didn’t want to look mean. While other times I’ve tried to leave a tip and have been scolded by my host for daring to insult the server. Tipping can be a tricky art to master, with etiquette varying greatly depending on where you are in the world. So, while there isn’t one universal rule, we’ve created a one-stop cheat sheet to tipping around the world to help you avoid any international incidents.
Tipping in Europe
📍 Canal side dining, Venice
Tipping is not expected in Italy but, as with many places, it is usually gratefully received. Some restaurants will automatically add a service charge onto your bill (usually between 10-15%) so double-check before you add a tip that it hasn’t already been added. When it comes to the cleaning service in your hostel it’s considered polite to leave a tip for the cleaning staff at the end of your stay. Anything between €0.50 – €1.50 for each day of your stay is fine. Enjoying your daily espresso at the local café? Let them know by rounding up your change to the nearest euro. Taking a tour? If you enjoy the experience, then giving a tip of €5 per person for a half day excursion or €10 for a full day is a nice way to say grazie mille to your tour guide.
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📍 Rumour has it, a stein a day keeps the heart at bay…
Each country has its own nuances when it comes to tipping. Germany is no different. As a general rule, most people tip between 5%-10% when it comes to restaurant service. This amount tends to remain the same even if the service or food was above average.
If you’re in a student town like Bamberg, Ingolstadt, or Leipzig, you might consider tipping a little more as the majority of hospitality staff are likely to be students and tips will form the bulk of their income. When it comes to ordering drinks, German bars tend to offer table service, therefore it’s considered polite to tip. However, there is an art to doing it subtly. Instead of handing over money to your server, simply ask for a little less change. Perhaps you find yourself taking a walking or bike tour, tipping 10% will let your tour guide know you’ve enjoyed the experience.
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📍 Spanish nibbles
Tipping in Spain is not a given. Locals don’t always do it and tourists are never quite sure when or how to do it. If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: rule number one for tipping in Spain is to do it in cash. Always keep some Euros on you so, even if you pay your bill by card, you can leave the tip in cash. Leisurely daytime eating is common in Spain. Eating small and often, tends to be the favoured way. For a simple daytime meal, a tip of €1 per person is the norm. For a longer more substantial evening meal, a tip of 5%-10% will be much appreciated by your server. Bartenders don’t expect tips but feel free to round up your change. Chances are, you’ll get served quicker the next time you come back to the bar. If you’re in a small taverna and your server has provided you with some local intel or advice, it’s polite to leave a couple of Euros to show your appreciation.
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📍 Stunning picturesque views of Menton, French Riviera
Similar to Spain, tipping in France should be done in cash whenever possible. It can be a little confusing because most bills come with service included. However, if you have enjoyed your meal and felt that the service was exceptional, then, feel free to add another 5%-10%. When it comes to cafés and bars, rounding up to the nearest whole figure will be sufficient when it comes to giving a monetary tip of the hat.
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📍 London vibes
Before you leave a tip in any UK restaurant, first ask the server if they get to keep gratuity. This can sometimes differ if the tip is left in cash or on card so be sure to specify. Some restaurants have been known to take a share of tips paid on card. Once you’re sure that your tip will end up in the pocket of your server, follow these rules to obey good tipping etiquette. In London, it is common for restaurants to add a service charge of 12.5% to the bill as standard. Don’t be afraid to ask if the restaurant keeps that tip. If they do, you can ask to have it removed. If there is no service charge added, then an amount between 10%-15% is the norm for a meal. Tipping in bars is not common, even when change is given back to you on a silver plate, so don’t feel obliged. Travelling by taxi? Round up to the nearest whole number and tell the driver to keep the change.
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Tipping in Asia
📍 Bright and vibrant Tokyo
Japan is an extremely service orientated country where people do their jobs with pride. As a result, you will probably experience some of the best customer service of your life in Japan. You will probably find yourself wanting to tip generously for it. Don’t. Tipping is not the norm in Japan and can even be considered rude. Tipping can be seen as a sign that you assume someone doesn’t earn a good enough wage and you’re trying to give them a little extra. If you really do want to give something to say thank you for an exceptional experience or service, there is a particular etiquette for doing so. Firstly, it should be given in the form of a gift. Place the money in a decorative and sealed envelope to present it the recipient using both hands and with a slight bow.
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Tipping in America
📍 American diner vibes
The world has the US to thank for tipping culture. Many hospitality employees are paid a lowly minimum wage and rely on tips to bring them up to a living wage. However, this means that there’s a lot of pressure on tourists to tip for anything and everything. A barman opens your beer? Tip. A barista makes your coffee? Tip. The waiter forgets your order and brings you cold food? Damn right you’re tipping. Of course, you always have the option to not tip but it can cause a fuss and be uncomfortable to proactively ask for it to be removed. So, unless the service you have received has been completely unacceptable, you better resign yourself to tipping 20% on pretty much any service.
Restaurants will often provide you with tiered tipping options. For example, a card machine might have the option of “Fair”, “Good” or “Excellent” service charges, usually ranging from between 18%-20%. When it comes to bar service, a good rule of thumb is to double the first digit of the total (before tax) so if the bill is $20 you should tip $4. Ordering take-out? Food delivery workers definitely deserve a tip since they battle the hazard of NYC biking lanes to get your food to you safe and sound. If it’s inclement weather, tip even more!
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📍 Perth skyline
The general rule of thumb in Australia is that tipping is not expected. You don’t have to tip but absolutely can if you want to. Hospitality workers are well paid, with some bar workers earning $30 AUD an hour, so the staff are not as reliant on tips for survival like in the US. If you’ve had a nice sit-down meal in a restaurant with good service, then a 10% tip would be sufficient. If you’re eating at a burger joint, pub grub, or café where you pay at the till then tipping isn’t expected or necessary. Tipping for bar service isn’t expected but you may see the odd person rounding up their change. If you’ve had a good chat with your bartender and have enjoyed the service, then you can add a few dollars to your bill or tell them to keep the change to show your appreciation. Even better, buy them a drink so they can enjoy a beer after their shift.
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Now that you have a better idea regarding the do’s and don’ts about tipping around the world, it’s time to get out there and start exploring!
About the author
Niamh Linehan is a travel rule rebel who refuses to adhere to the one cabin bag policy. She can usually be found on her way to her next adventure smuggling her backpack under her coat, Quasimodo style. When not sampling London’s finest craft beer, she can be found writing about tech, business, and lifestyle.