If you think you've mastered tipping rules, think again. Like any social convention, tipping varies from country to country and changes with the times. Here, the latest practices around the world, at hotels, spas, and more
In China, where tipping used to be unheard of, the practice can now "vary with the occasion," according to the Chinese National Tourist Office. And in Japan, where tips were once considered rude, high-end hotels and restaurants are starting to accept them. Indeed, there are few hard-and-fast rules about tipping—even within each country. To give you the most up-to-date information, we canvassed hotel managers, restaurants, travel agents, and tourist bureaus worldwide.
Luxury hotel chains generally charge a service fee that ranges from 10 to 15 percent of the cost of your stay and covers housekeeping, the concierge, and other small services, such as having a newspaper delivered to your door daily. However, what it includes varies from property to property, so check with the receptionist. Most luxury hotels in China, Japan, and Singapore add a 10 percent service charge to the bill and say that additional tipping is not necessary. At Shangri-La Hotels, the 10 percent service charge is based on the traditional European tronc system, where fees are distributed not only among staff members who interact with guests, but also to dishwashers, laundry staff, and other employees. Ironically, European service fees are less uniform, ranging from nothing (at some small, privately run hotels) to up to 18 percent in Italy, where the Italian Government Tourist Board recommends additional cash tips for housekeeping (€ .75 a day), doormen who hail cabs (€ .25), concierges (€ 1), room service waiters (€ .50 minimum), and valets (€ .50). But this is not always the case. At the Hotel de Russie in Rome, for instance, there's no service fee. In Turkey, though there's likely to be a 15 percent service charge, it's de rigueur to tip staff members on top of that, preferably in U.S. dollars.
Concierge By and large, say hotel general managers, it's not necessary to tip a concierge unless he or she has done something extraordinary, such as secured tickets to a sold-out theater performance, chartered a boat, or retrieved lost baggage from your airline. In such cases, tip $10 to $50.
Porters Unless a hotel discourages tipping (as do some Caribbean all-inclusive resorts) or makes it clear that tips are not expected, you should give a porter a dollar or two per bag, regardless of whether or not your hotel has a service charge.
Housekeeping If your hotel adds service to your bill, check with reception to make sure housekeeping is covered. If it is, there's no need to give an additional tip—unless the housekeeper does something special, like setting up a roll-away bed. However, if you're staying at a small, privately run resort (or any hotel that does not have a service charge), you should tip anywhere from $1 to $3 a day. In Asia, while it's perfectly acceptable to leave $1 to $3 per day in the room, guests are not expected to. (At ryokan, the tradition of placing a few yen in a decorative envelope is still widely practiced.) Tips are also not expected in Israel, Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, or South Africa.
Room Service and Valets In general, $1 to $3 is sufficient for room service delivery; valets should get between $1 and $5 for delivering your pressed clothes. Many hotels automatically include a charge of 10 to 18 percent on room service bills. However, as Ed Donaldson, a vice president of marketing at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, points out, "If you want great service and extra attention, it always pays to tip the delivery person, regardless of whether or not service is already included."
At spas in the United States, it's common to give 20 percent to your therapist, says Lynne Walker McNees, president of the International Spa Association. In other countries the amount varies widely, but in general, 10 percent of the cost of treatments should go to your therapist. In Mexico, spas often tack on a 10 to 18 percent service charge; in Singapore, therapists won't see any of the official 10 percent service charge, so consider tipping up to 10 percent more—in cash.
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.
There's no doubt that Americans' peripatetic ways have contributed to tipping inflation in all corners of the globe. Although practices abroad are becoming more uniform, there's still a lot of variety. This chart is a general consensus on what you should tip—but to be sure, check with your hotel.
Regions U.S. and Canada
Hotels Individual tips are expected (see text for more info), even if the hotel has a service charge.
Spa Services 15% to 20% of treatment cost in the U.S.; 10% and up in Canada.
Restaurants 15% to 20% (Most U.S. restaurants charge a 15% service fee for parties of six or more).
Regions The Caribbean and the Bahamas
Hotels Individual tips are expected, even if the hotel has a service charge (most do).
Spa Services 10% of treatment cost.
Restaurants 10% to 15% (for good service).
Regions Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela
Hotels Tips are expected, and are welcome at the few hotels that have service charges.
Spa Services Ranges from 5% in Uruguay to 20% in Argentina. If you're in doubt, 10% is a good rule of thumb.
Restaurants In Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela, expect a 10% service compris.
Regions Most of western Europe
Hotels Individual tips are expected, even at upscale hotels that also have service charges.
Spa Services 10% of treatment cost.
Restaurants Most restaurants include a 10% to 15% service charge. Where service is not included, add 10%.
Regions Eastern Europe
Hotels Tipping is welcome, even at the increasing number of hotels that tack on service fees.
Spa Services 10% of treatment cost. (Tip in cash, since therapists won't get credit card tips.)
Restaurants Service compris is catching on; if there is no stated service fee, tip waiters 10% in cash.
Regions Dubai, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa
Hotels Individual tips are expected, even when a hotel has a service charge (increasingly common).
Spa Services Tipping is not common; however, at luxury hotels, check with the front desk in advance.
Restaurants Varies from country to country. In South Africa, tip 10%.
Regions China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand
Hotels Tips are not expected at small hotels. They are welcome at high-end hotels, even when there is a service fee.
Spa Services Varies widely. In Singapore, hotels often levy a 10% spa charge.
Restaurants 10% is generally added to the bill; no need to tip extra.
Regions Australia and New Zealand
Hotels Tips are not expected, even for porters. Service fees are rare.
Spa Services Not necessary.
Restaurants 5% to 10% of the bill.
In general, for metered fares anywhere in the world, round up.
Guidelines On some islands, taxis have meters; on other islands, they don't, but drivers will charge government-fixed rates. On nonmetered fares, establish a flat fee with the driver before you get in. On in-town metered fares, tip $1 to $2. Tip more on Sundays and holidays and after midnight.
Regions South America
Guidelines Fares (including tip) should be negotiated before you get in the car.
Regions Western Europe
Guidelines Round up to the next euro for amounts of less than €10 (if the price is €9.40, round up to €10); round up to the next euro plus 1 for amounts of more than €10 (e.g., €15.30 = €17). For amounts of more than €30, round up one euro, then add three more.
Regions Eastern Europe
Guidelines Most taxi fares are negotiated before you get in the car.
Regions Asia and the Pacific
Guidelines No tips are expected.