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American Tourists Abroad: To tip or not to tip?

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Tipping the servers at restaurants and bars, valets and bellhops at the hotels and even the delivery drivers is commonplace and almost mandatory in the United States and Canada.

But tipping abroad is a rather different and complicated matter. In many countries around the world, you may cause insult by tipping too little, or even for offering a tip at all.

With many Americans jet-setting away this summer, the travel experts reveal the dos and don’ts of tipping abroad.

Although the overarching tipping guidance can be applied to countries across the globe, it is extremely important to gather as much information surrounding the tipping custom specificities in your chosen destination, as customs can vary significantly. 

For example, although tips are greatly accepted in the US, in Japan tips are considered an insult. Similarly, in New Zealand tips are only considered when a service is exceptional, yet in Egypt they are mandatory. Be sure to do your research before you think about leaving a tip to avoid causing offence! 

2. Stick to General Rules 

Despite country-specific etiquette varying from country to country, there are a number of generalized guidelines that you can keep in mind. For example, tipping in eateries averages at 5-15%, whilst tips for cleaning staff average $2 per day and porters $1 per bag – however, these can fluctuate depending on location. 

3. Always Carry Local Currency

If you are unsure of a destination’s tipping protocol, it is always best to prepare with the latter. Ensure to carry the country’s local currency at all times throughout your holiday, as you may be required to tip taxi drivers after transfers, or waiters after a meal. 

4. Beware of Service Charges! 

It is not uncommon today for restaurants and food establishments alike to include service charges within your bill. However, in a number of countries, the service charge is seen as mandatory, and tips are expected as an additional! So ensure to check out the country-specific customs, tipping only where appropriate.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Ask

Knowing when and how much to tip can often be confusing, especially when using a new currency. If you ever find yourself feeling unsure about the tipping process whilst abroad, why not ask a trusted local, or a member of staff at your accommodation for guidance. 

There are many different options when it comes to tipping abroad, and whilst tipping isn’t mandatory, it is typically polite. However, although in some countries such as France, tipping is expected, in others, including Japan, tipping is seen as unnecessary and can even be seen as an insult! 

With many now valuing travelling more than ever before, tourists may be more likely to tip whilst on holiday. One of the most common places to tip abroad is in restaurants and bars; here tourists generally tip between 5-15% of their bill. Tips are likewise often given to hotel or accommodation employees as a sign of gratitude. Furthermore, it can be polite to tip taxi drivers, bus drivers and tour guides, but again this isn’t a requirement. Generally speaking, these industries don’t offer significantly high wages and so tips are a great way to demonstrate that extra appreciation. 

For countries that don’t accept tips or for those that may take offense, if you wish to still show your gratitude, why not instead consider rounding your bill?

Whether or not tipping is the done thing in your chosen holiday destination, treating others the way you wish to be treated is the most important recommendation, ensuring to always be polite and respectful. 

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About the author

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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