Tip Like a Local

Published 2011-08-10 09:19:57

paying for a meal © Ewa Walicka - FotoliaTipping 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.

Have no fear! In our new series of "____ Like a Local", we will provide tips to avoid the worst faux pas and an overview of standards around the world. (Read Greet Like a Local, Eat like a Local, Stay Healthy like a Local, Talk like a Local and Date Like a Local)

Why Tip?

A tip or gratuity is a voluntary extra payment made to certain service sector workers in addition to the advertised price of the transaction. Such payments and their size are a matter of social custom and tipping rules vary by country, by region, and by scenario. The amount of a tip is usually at the discretion of the patron being served. In some circumstances failing to give an adequate tip is a reprimand for poor service, but if done unknowingly can be a serious faux pas.

Some people in the service industry aren't paid even minimum wage by their employers. They depend on the gratuities that their customers give them for good service and friendly help. Other service employees are quite well-paid which affects the tipping culture in that country. Tipping is also believed to reward good service and is thought to increase the quality of service provided.

    Tips on Tipping:
  • Research the Norms - Understanding the cultural norms of an area and- especially the restaurant norms- will relieve much of the uncertainty involved in tipping. Guidebooks and city-specific sites (like EasyExpat's city guides) often list tipping protocol for regular services. You can also ask people in the countries you are traveling/living in about their perception of the norms on public forums.
  • Know the Value of the Currency - Gain a basic understanding of a country's monetary system and the current exchange rate. Becoming clear on the values will help you orient the value of your purchases.
  • Use Local Currency - Most places prefer cash tips and while some places accept foreign currency, it can be inconvenient and expensive for the service provider to exchange the bills themself.
  • Be Nice - Using your understanding of the cultural differences, also understand that different customs and language barriers can make interactions difficult. A little bit of friendliness and flexibility can go a long way.
  • Ask the Staff - If you are really lost on when and how much to tip in a foreign environment, ask at your hotel, hostel, or B&B. You can even ask the restaurant staff about what is expected.

Here is a basic guide for what to tip in restaurants around the world.


Many African countries have no set rules for tipping and etiquette for tipping in South Africa and northern African countries may also differ from central African nations. Tipping is usually only expected at establishments with waitstaff, not at take-away food counters. It is not uncommon for service industries to expect foreigners to tip where locals do not.

When you travel to Africa you should leave a 10 percent tip in most restaurants and tip baggage handlers the equivalent of $1 per bag. Housekeeping staff at most hotels should be tipped $1 to $2 per day.

A service charge may be added to the bill and no additional tip is required. The menu may note that the service is included, meaning that the prices listed in the menu already have this charge built in.


Tipping is known as baksheesh (present) and is a basic part of traveling and living in Egypt. Keep small increments of Egyptian currency to tip bathroom attendants, museum guards and anyone who offers you services that you have requested.

In restaurants, the tip may already be included in the bill, but it is common to add 5 to 10 percent for good service. Tip bartenders a 1 dollar per drink.


Tipping in Tanzania often bolsters low wages. Some service oriented positions rely on tips. Tips are expected at high-end luxury hotels and lodges, and appreciated at moderately priced safari lodges.

Tips are not expected at restaurants and hotels frequented by locals. Most tourist lodges and hotels will have tip boxes at the reception desk. You can tip hotel staff individually, place a tip for all hotel staff in the tip box, or do both. Tips can be made in local currency, USD, Euros, or Sterling.


Tipping was not customary, but more waiters now expect 10 percent of the bill. This is mostly expected of tourists.


Some restaurants include a service charge. Otherwise, a tip around 10 percent tip is acceptable. Moroccans themselves might only leave a small tip, just a few dirhams on a 150 dirhams dinner bill. Foreigners are expected to tip more, and foreign currency may be accepted - just ask. Tipping should be done quietly, possibly with a handshake-with-cash-in-palm move.

5-10 DH (dirham) is acceptable for bellmen and for people who guide you to your destination if you get lost. Round up taxi fares.

South Africa

Tipping is usually at a higher percentage in South Africa. A 10 percent service charge is commonly included in the bill. If not, tip up to 15 percent. Foreign currency is commonly accepted at larger establishments.


Restaurants will often add an automatic service charge to the bill, in which case an additional tip is not usually given. If they do not do this, 10 percent is an excellent tip.


Tipping was not customary, but more waiters now expect 10 percent of the bill. This is mostly expected of tourists.


Trying to "fit in" in Asia can be difficult for many people and understanding when and how to tip can help you adjust to the culture and intricate social rules. Tips were not common at one time, but with ever-expanding Westernization, many establishments now expect you to tip. Tipping is most common in big cities. Top restaurants now usually add a 10 percent service charge to the bill that acts as the tip. Down-scale restaurants or places without a waitstaff generally do not expect tips. The practice can be quite contradictory, as locals may not tip but "foreigners" may be expected to.

A service charge is often added to the bill and require no additional tip. 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. Fixed-price tourist deals include usually service.


Tipping is not practised in China (except in Hong Kong and Macau in more westernized areas). In the worst cases, tipping can be insulting. Many service staff are forbidden from accepting tips by their employers, and doing so may cost them their jobs. Even if your tip is accepted a restaurant, note that more often than not, it is the boss and not the waiter that gets to keep the tip. Compliments are expressed in an implicit way, such as treating someone, like a bartender or a pub owner, to a drink. Staff working in tourist industries with American tourists have started to expect tipping.

Hong Kong

Most restaurants in Hong Kong assess a 10 percent service charge, but this tip usually goes to the owner - not the staff.


Tipping in restaurants is not mandatory, but fairly common. In prestigious hotel restaurants a 10 percent service surcharge is added to the bill. In smaller eateries, the tip is not a percentage but usually consists of just leaving a few rupees.


Some restaurants will include 5 to 10 percent service charge to their bill. Informal or walk up establishments do not require a tip, but at restaurants not issuing a service charge, leaving the change is appreciated.


In Israel, tipping in restaurants and bars is expected. In restaurants and cafes 10 to 15 percent is a good scale, 10 percent at a minimum with 12 percent as an average tip.


In Japan, tipping is not a part of the culture. It is normal to pay a restaurant or bar bill at the register instead of giving money to the waiter/waitress. Many Japanese people are uncomfortable with being tipped, and may be offended.


Westernized establishments in Kuala Lumpur expect tips and there may be a 10 percent service charge.
Outside of this area, people don't normally practise tipping. In some places, the waitstaff will return bills but keep the coins. In crowded bars/pubs/clubs you may tip the waiter RM5 or RM10 to get a chair or better service.


Tipping is becoming more common in service-oriented places. Usually this is in the form of a service charge of 8 to 12 percent. However, it is most common to tip on a more general scale than percentage. For example: 20-40 pesos for a restaurant bill of 1000-1500; 50-100 for a restaurant bill of 1500-3,000; for a restaurant bill of 3,000+ tip no more than 150 or 200.
Manila is accustomed to tipping and it is customary to add 5 to 10 percent to your bill, even with a 10 percent service charge. The service charge is often designated as "SC" on machine printed receipts, or "SC not included" when it is not.


In Singapore, tipping is not the norm. In some places, there is a 10 percent service charge. At the airport and some hotels and restaurants, there is a 10 percent service charge included in the bill and additional tips are discouraged.

South Korea

Tipping is not customary and customers may even receive complimentary food or drinks known as "service". Some foreign restaurants (i.e. Italian) may add a 10 percent service charge.


Tipping is rare in Taiwan. Some restaurants add a 10 percent service charge.


Tipping, or bahs, is usually optional. Not customary in rural areas, many cities are adopting the tradition. A 5 to 10 percent tip may be left by leaving the change. In luxury restaurants, tip 10 to 15 percent.

Australia & New Zealand

Tipping is not common in Australia and New Zealand. Australian workers in the tourism and other service industries are paid sufficiently and the supplemental income from tips are not necessary. Tips can be an incentive for good service, but are commonly not accepted even if they are given. Indicative of this attitude, the term "tip" is also the name used for a garbage dump.

Service tends to be more casual than in many other countries. There is a generally relaxed atmosphere and people are usually treated as equals. Some restaurants may charge a 10 percent surcharge or service charge for large groups. Such extra charges expressed as a percentage of the bill are illegal under S53c of the Trade Practices Act. Some restaurants now add a dollar amount instead - this is legal as long as you are made aware of it before placing your order.

When to tip usually depends on where you are. Tipping is much more common in popular tourist destination area. For instance, within the downtown areas of Sydney and Melbourne and visitor-oriented districts such as The Rocks and Darling Harbour in Sydney and Southbank and Docklands in Melbourne, or in downtown Auckland. People are more likely to tip in areas that are more upscale, or if they are with a large group. A tip usually does not exceed 10 percent.

Bar staff and cafes do not expect tipping, but may accept tips of loose change. This may just be rounding up the bill to the nearest dollar, or leaving change in a tip jar.


Gratuities in Europe are often expected, but less generous than in places like the United States. In general, European servers are well-paid, with tips as a small bonus or for the simplicity of just rounding the total bill to a convenient number. In most countries, 5 percent is adequate, 10 percent is for exceptional service, and 20 percent is excessive. Over tipping is not just unnecessary, if can be culturally insensitive.

How to tip can also be different between countries. A service charge is often added to the bill and require no additional tip. If you order your food at a counter (in a pub, for example), 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. Fixed-price tourist deals include service.

    Service Charge - Final bill will be subject to an additional charge; no further tips are necessary.
  • servizio incluso in Italian
  • service compris in French
  • servicio incluido in Spanish

In many cases, you can tip very simply by rounding up the total a euro or two if you're pleased with the service. It is usually best to hand the tip to the waiter when you're paying your bill than to leave it on the table, particularly in busy places where the wrong party might pocket the change. In most of Europe, servers prefer to be tipped in cash even if you pay with your credit card.


Tip is often included, but is common to give a little tip if you think the service was good. When settling the bill with the server, state how much he should keep as tip. For example, if the bill is 42 euros, hand over 50 euro and say "45".
At a cafe, a tip is not necessary. It is acceptable to round up to the nearest euro; for example paying 2 euro for a 1,90 cafe.


Tip is usually not included, so tip 10 percent for adequate service.

Czech Republic

The tip (spropitne, dysko) is usually included in the bill and should be about 10 percent. A service charge must be noted on the menu to be legal, and tax is already included in the menu price. There have been issues (especially in touristy cities) of an added fee being added by the waiter. You should be able to understand the bill, so ask if you have a question about a charge. It is common to just round up your bill to the nearest 10, and hand it to the server.


Servers are usually well paid and tips are not expected. Leaving a tip is considered a kind gesture.


A 15 percent service charge is automatically added to your bill by law, but most people round up a restaurant bill for an additional tip (pourboire) unless the service was unsatisfactory. In Paris, an extra 10 percent is expected for good service.


If service is not included in your bill, a 10 percent tip (trinkgeld) can be added for good service. A tip is usually only given for sit-down service. When settling the bill with the server, state how much he should keep as tip. For example, if the bill is 42 euros, hand over 50 euro and say "45". You can also tell them to keep the change by saying "Es stimmt so".


Service charges are not usually included. If there is a service charge, you leave a few Euro for the waiter and also some change for for the busboy. However, a "cover charge" is common and applies to the cost to cover the table when you sit down, and includes your bread and non-bottled water. Tipping is usually determined by the setting. If you are dining at an upscale establishment, tip more than if you are simply having coffee at a cafe.


If there's no service charge, tip between 10-15 percent.
In pubs, a tip is not left unless drinks are brought to the table by lounge staff, in which case tips are not obligatory, but are often given.


A "cover charge" is common and applies to the cost to cover the table when you sit down, and includes your bread and non-bottled water. Service charge (servizio) is usually included, but if you received exceptional service, a 10 percent tip is welcome.
There are different price levels in Italy. Sitting down may require a tip, but take-away service will not. It is also differently regionally, where large cities welcome tips, but in rural areas tipping may be unwelcome.


Some tourist-focused restaurants add a service charge, otherwise you should leave about a 10 percent tip. Hand the gratuity to the server as leaving a tip on the table is considered rude. If you want change, tell them exactly how much you want back.


Service charge is usually included, but if not add 10 percent.


Tipping is only expected for excellent service. 10 percent is a good tip, but most instances only call for you to round up the bill to the nearest euro.


Tipping is usually expected in Norway with a scale of about 10 percent of the bill. There may be a service charge which should be noted in the bill. In bars or at cafes, just round up to the nearest krone.


Tip may be included in the bill. If not, tip about 10 percent, or 15 percent for excellent service. Wait staff is generally paid a low minimum wage and they expect to make tips.


Tipping is becoming more common. 10 to 15 percent is the accepted rate of tipping for an establishment with waitstaff. If it has walk up service, tipping is not expected. Tips are tricky in that too small or too large a tip can be an insult. The tipping rate often depends not only on the quality of service, but also the tipper's desire to impress. Foreign tourists, particularly Americans, are perceived to be rich and expected to tip more.


Tipping is slowly becoming a custom in Slovenia. A service charge is not usually included in the bill. Tourist areas are most familiar with tipping of about 10 percent.


Tipping (propina) is not that common and should only be given for excellent service. 5 to 10 percent is an adequate tip and should be handed directly to the wait person. It is most common to just leave the change up to the nearest Euro, and then can be left discreetly under a plate. Tipping is not practiced in bars or cafeterias.


Tipping is usually done by rounding up the bill to the nearest kroner, approximately 5 to 10 percent.


Service is often included on the bill. Tipping is not expected, although it is common for a customer to round-up the bill to the nearest franc. Usually tips are below 10 percent.

United Kingdom

Service charges may apply, and may be printed on the menu or just included on the bill. If the tip is not included, 10 percent is adequate and 15 percent is generous.
Do not tip at a pub for drinks. It is unacceptable and will not be taken. If the barman gives you especially good service or fills several big orders for you, you can offer a small sum (the price of half a pint of beer, say), with the words, "and have one for yourself". The barman (or barmaid) may pour themselves a drink on the spot or may put the money aside to have a drink later. You're not expected to tip for food in pubs, but the development of gastropubs has made this less clear.

Middle East

The tipping culture is often complex and subtle in the Middle East. People are naturally friendly and hospitable, but are increasingly expecting compensation. Luckily, tipping is usually in small amounts and it's deeply appreciated.

Asking for doggie bags is not usually done in the Middle East. Uneaten food is taken home by kitchen staff or given to the homeless.


Dubai's government adds a 10 percent service charge to all bills at hotels, restaurants, and bars. Tips are usually divided equally among staff, but in some cases go directly to management. Leaving a cash tip provides the best chance of the tip going to the server. Some patrons will leave a small cash tip on top of the service charge, generally no more than 5 percent for excellent service. If the bill does not include a service charge, adding somewhere between 10-15 percent is customary.

Tipping is not generally expected on drinks orders. You can roundup the bill by around 5 percent for good service.


Restrictions on visitors (i.e. Americans must be on a guided trip) may mean that a tip is already included in the payment for the tour. If restaurant service is really good you can leave a few more dollars. Sometimes, a small gift is more appreciated than currency.


If service is not included in a restaurant bill, a tip of about 10 to 15 percent is expected. To find out if service was included, you can ask or look on the bill for "service (not) included". There is an unwritten rule that no tip is required if the owner of the restaurant serves you.

For pizza and similar food deliveries, the delivery boy is usually tipped 5 to 10 percent of the bill, or a flat NIS 10.


Service is almost always included in the bill. You can add a cash tip of 5 to 10 percent for excellent service. Foreign currency may be accepted.


Tip about 10 percent of the bill. In a nice restaurant, you might want to discreetly give the maitre d' a tip up front to ensure top service, especially if you're in a group. If you've enjoyed the musicians, give them $5 or so.


Leave a 10 to 18 percent tip at mid-range to expensive establishments. A 10 percent service charge may already be included on your bill.

Saudi Arabia

Tips are usually not included, so tip 10 to 15 percent of the bill. Most workers are foreigners from places like India or the Philippines and they depend upon tips to support their families.


Service charges are usually not included, so tip at least a 10 percent, or 15 percent for excellent service.

United Arab Emirates

Cosmopolitan restaurants in the cities in UAE expect a tip of 15 to 20 percent. At the high class "seven-star restaurants" tip the maitre d' 50 to 100 dollars to ensure superior service. Unlike elsewhere in the region, don't tip bathroom attendants in the United Arab Emirates.


Most casual dining only requires a tip of a few dollars, but top restaurants expect at least 10 percent. Foreign currency is often acceptable.

North America

Tipping in North America is expected for almost any service. It is part of the culture and an aspect of going out and can easily offend people not tipping them. However, knowing when and how much to tip can be difficult to determine.

If you sit down to a meal with a waitress, a 15 percent tip is average, up to 20 percent for exceptional service. Cafes, take away, and places without waiter service don't require a tip, but may have a tip jar.

Some places charge a service charge that works as a tip. It will usually be noted on the menu, and will be written on the bill. This is often at 18 percent. It is common for restaurants to add gratuity for large parties of 8 or more.

In a bar, it is common to tip a dollar a drink if paid in cash, or if you open a tab, pay the bill at the end with a tip of 15 percent. It can be useful to leave a big tip on the first drink to ensure good service for the night. If you are receiving Happy Hour half-price, tip on the regular pricing amount.


It is customary to tip approximately 15 percent on the total bill before tax, 20 percent for exceptional service. Some restaurants will include an automatic gratuity, but usually only for large groups (usually over 8, but it is up to the individual establishment).


Tipping guidelines for Mexico are nearly the same as the United States or Canada. However, most service employees earn very little or no base salary and the tips they earn comprise the vast majority of their overall income. Some restaurants automatically add a tip to the bill, regardless of whether or not you're in a large party. A charge labeled "propina" on your bill is a gratuity that the restaurant includes automatically with each bill. It is not necessary to tip an additional amount.

At a bar, a minimum of 1-2 dollars should be tipped per round. If you're running a tab, leave 15 to 20 percent of the total as a tip.


Tipping takes place practically everywhere in the USA and is extremely generous. Waitstaff can be paid below the minimum wage with tips making up the difference. Servers are also expected to pay income tax on your tips. This makes tipping very important to servers and leaving a bad tip is an insult. Tipping 15 percent is acceptable, 18 percent is good, and 20 percent is for excellent service.

Tips are often left in cash, even when paying with a credit card. You can leave the tip on the table, or hand it directly to the server. Service is usually not included in the bill except for large groups. If a service charge is applied, there should be a note in the menu and it should be clearly marked on the bill. Ask about any unexplained charges.

Counter service, fast food restaurants and espresso bars are usually not tipped. They may have tip jar and you can put in some change for good service.

Bartenders should receive 1 dollar per drink, or 15 to 20 percent of the total bill.

South America

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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


A 10 percent tip is common in restaurants.


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.


A 10 percent tip is common in restaurants.


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.


Author: EasyExpat
Community Manager EasyExpat.com

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