How Much Should You Tip Room Service?

Experts weigh in on tipping etiquette.

Ask most travelers what they tip for room service, and chances are you'll be met with a blank stare. Tipping is tricky, yet necessary, but the etiquette can vary depending on where you are.

"It's the most awkward thing to tell someone what to tip because [expectations are] so different everywhere," says Julie Danziger, managing partner of Embark Beyond in New York City. "Especially for Americans who are used to tipping in one way, which other countries might take as an insult."

There are no hard and fast rules for tipping, so do what makes you most comfortable, and don't be afraid to ask your host or travel advisor for guidance. Try not to stress over it — we've all gotten it wrong at times. Fortunately, there are some guidelines to keep you on top of the tipping trends at home and abroad. Read on for tipping advice from travel and etiquette experts.

When to Tip for Room Service

Tipping for room service is expected in destinations where tipping is customary and when a room service charge has not already been added to the bill. For those staying abroad, where tipping customs may not be as clearcut, do your homework, says Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute in Waterbury, Vermont. "Take the time to look up standards for the area," she says.

Tipping is customary in Canada, for example, as it is in the U.S. It's also customary in the Caribbean, the Middle East, Mexico, and parts of Europe and South America, but the standard tip amount in these regions is less than in the U.S. Places like the U.K., Australia, and much of Asia do not have as much of a tipping culture.

At top-tier hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, guests should expect to pay gratuity on top of a service charge, says Danziger, who rarely sees such fees omitted from bills. And if you're unsure whether your hotel has a service charge, just ask.

If you're paying with a card, Betty Jo Currie, founder of Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited in Atlanta, says to find out if tip is included. If you're not paying by card, you may decide to leave a little cash. "I generally leave $5 or so," she says, noting how little these workers are compensated. Just because there's a service charge and gratuity included doesn't mean the person who brought up your food will receive it.

"Ask whether the person is receiving tips from the actual bill," says Danziger.

How Much to Tip for Room Service

Hotel worker carrying a tray of room service breakfast
Getty Images

Danziger finds applying the same mentality she uses when dining at American restaurants to be helpful. "As Americans, usually we're trained to double the tax or pay 18% or 20% on top," she says. Assuming the food came from the hotel, it should be fine to do the same for room service. (If it didn't, you can pretend it did, Danziger says.)

The most recent "Gratuity Guide" from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, published in 2014, confirms that 15% to 20% is standard in the U.S. where a room service charge hasn't already been added to the bill. In regions where tipping is expected but the amount is less, you might tip 5% to 15% — it's important to do your research in advance.

That standard applies to full-service chains and boutique hotels all the same. "Logically, one would think motels would provide less service and thus require less in terms of tips," Currie says, but that isn't the case.

While Post stresses that tipping is a personal decision, she warns against tipping based on the type of establishment you're staying in. "You want to make sure workers feel valued for the work they're doing," she says. "If it's not as high class, don't decrease your tip because of that."

Currie agrees, saying, "if the service is good, my amount wouldn't change — and I urge others to think the same way."

How Much to Tip for Other Hotel Services

The standard tipping amount for hotel bartenders and waiters is the same as the rule of thumb for room service: 15% to 20%, depending on how satisfied you are with the service. The AHLA recommends tipping courtesy shuttle drivers and door staff $1 to $2 per person. It says you should tip housekeeping and bell staff $1 to $5 and adds that these workers should be tipped every time their services are used. Tip the same amount for parking attendants, but only when you retrieve your car.

Tip the concierge $5 to $10 "depending on how involved the service," the AHLA says, and for "delivery of special items" the standard is $2 for a single item and $1 for each additional item.

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