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Tipping Points


To Americans who are accustomed to leaving an 18 to 20 percent tip for good service, the guidelines in Europe can seem low. But in most of Europe, you're not only likely to find a "service included" or service compris notice (French laws prohibit charging more than 15 percent; 10 to 15 percent is standard in other countries) but also a VAT tax of nearly 20 percent. You don't need to leave extra, but you might round up the bill or leave a small amount of change if you had great service. In Greece, many restaurants (as well as coffeehouses and taxis) add an additional 8 to 10 percent at Christmas and Easter.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, service charges are catching on; at restaurants without them, it's customary to tip 10 to 15 percent. Though bartenders in pubs are generally not tipped (it's common to "buy them a drink" if you've bought a round, encouraging them to take out the money for a half-pint from your change), locals say that custom is changing, so use your discretion.

In Eastern Europe, restaurants generally haven't included service in the bill, but now the practice is gaining ground. Restaurants in Hungary were recently given the option of including a 5 to 15 percent service charge, beginning October 1, 2005, with the proviso that they must clearly state the charge on their menu. According to Greg Tepper, a travel agent whose specialty is Eastern Europe, waiters in Eastern European countries won't collect tips from credit card receipts, so definitely tip in cash.

Though 10 percent is generally added to the bill in Asia, consider adding an additional 5 percent at upscale restaurants in Malaysia and Thailand. In China, add extra for large parties—20 to 100 yuan ($3 to $12). Baksheesh is common in Egypt: guests might pay a maître d' 50 Egyptian pounds ($9) or more for a good table or for great treatment.


When staying at a private game lodge, expect to tip both the ranger and your driver (he's called "the tracker" in South Africa). Micato Safaris recommends $8 to $10 per guest, per day to the driver and/or guide, and $10 to $12 per guest, per day to the ranger. According to Alan Lobo, Micato's chief operating officer, this is about the industry standard, but Lobo also notes that the standard amount is rising, so it's best to check with your travel agent or the lodge itself. In South Africa, lodges sometimes have a camp staff box for gratuities, which are pooled among the lodge personnel. Lobo suggests placing $15 to $25 per guest in the box each day.


Most lines publish fairly explicit guidelines. For instance, Crystal Cruises recommends you tip room stewardesses, butlers, and waiters $4 per day, and you can even prepay gratuities. Norwegian adds a $10 per person, per day charge to cover tips, but suggests giving 15 percent extra at the bar. On Holland America and Silversea, all gratuities are included.

Send your advice on tipping to TLeditor@aexp.com or via T+L's contact page.


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