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How should I tip in restaurants in South America?

Tipping is complicated, and is only made more so when traveling somewhere new. Standards are different almost everywhere you go, and different establishments often have different tipping expectations.

Though still uncommon in many areas, tipping in South American can really make a difference in their pay. Good tipping is usually remembered and the service is often even better the next time you return to a place. Pay the waitstaff directly and don't leave money on a restaurant table.

A service charge is often added to the bill and no additional tip is required. If you order your food at a counter you usually don't tip. The menu may note that the service is included meaning that the prices listed in the menu already have this charge built in.

Word for "tip"
Propina in Spanish
Gorjeta in Portuguese.

Here is a basic guide for what to tip in different areas of South America.

Argentina

Tipping is illegal in Argentina, but waiters often expect a small tip. Be discreet and leave about 10 percent for good service. Many restaurants have a small fixed cover charge (cubierto) which is typically no more than 5 Argentine pesos per person.

Bolivia

Restaurants in Bolivia rarely ever add a service charge. A tip of around 5 to 10 percent should be given for adequate service.

Brazil

A service charge of 10 percent is included at most restaurants. Additional tips are very rare. If service has been particularly bad you can request to have the 10 percent removed from your bill.

Chile

Tipping is mandatory according to Chilean law. It is customary to tip 10 to 20 percent. Service charges are not common, but may be added at some restaurants.

Columbia

In walk-up restaurants or casual dining tipping is uncommon. In midrange and expensive restaurants there is usually a 10 percent voluntary tip (propina voluntaria) included in the bill. You are not required to pay it, but most people do unless the service was exceptionally bad. Tips are usually shared by the staff, but if you had extraordinary service you can leave an extra tip in cash that will go directly to the waiter. About $2-5000 Colombian pesos are appreciated.

Ecuador

Restaurants often add a 10 percent service charge to all checks. It's common to add 5 to 10 percent on top of this, especially if you feel the service merits it.

Panama

Tipping is not compulsory, but is appreciated as it supplements the low wages of the employee. 10 to 15 percent is appropriate. Some restaurants include a service charge which may be pooled and then distributed among all employees.

Paraguay

A 10 percent tip is common in restaurants.

Peru

Service charges are usually included with the bill, though in a nice restaurants patrons often tip an additional 5 or 10 percent. This is the best way to give a tip directly to your waiter.

Uruguay

A 10 percent tip is common in restaurants.

Venezuela

Most restaurants automatically add a 10 percent service charge. If you feel the service was particularly good, you should leave an additional 5 to 10 percent. If they don't add the service charge, tip up to 10 percent.


 [22-07-2011]
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