Where You Should (and Shouldn’t) Tip When You Travel Abroad

Where You Should (and Shouldn’t) Tip When You Travel Abroad
Photo: Sean Locke Photography, Shutterstock

If you’ve ever travelled internationally, you know there’s not only a language barrier when you visit another country, but a different tipping culture, too. Do you tip when you’re eating out at a restaurant? What about at a coffee shop? And what percentage are you tipping? What if you’re in Venice? Singapore? America? All this to say, there are a lot of variables that go into tipping once you leave the confines of Australia.

Since standards change depending on the region and scenario, you’re going to want to make sure you don’t accidentally stiff (or inversely, insult) your waiter, bellhop, taxi driver, etc. If you’re not certain what the polite move is, take a look at these tips to see when it’s appropriate to show a token of your gratitude.

Which countries should you tip in?

Tipping culture isn’t really a thing here in Australia, so it may come as a surprise that countries have very different feelings towards the practice. According to the Travel Channel, countries where tipping has become commonplace include Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean countries. In these regions, a tip of 10% to 15% on dining services is the norm, though anything above that is by no means inappropriate. Additionally, you will be expected to tip hotel staff, car services, and baristas in a similar way you would in the United States. Basically, when you’re in any of the aforementioned countries, you don’t need to change your tipping behaviour at all.

Additionally, tipping is a common practice among a handful of Middle Eastern countries. In Israel, it is expected you tip between 10% and 15% if the restaurant hasn’t already tacked on a service fee. The United Arab Emirates will add a 10% service fee and a 6% tourism fee, though it is commonplace to add another 10% tip on top of these charges. In Egypt, the expectation is to tip 10% on top of a 10% service fee; the former goes to restaurant waitstaff, whereas the latter does not.

Where should you refrain from tipping?

Quite a few countries around the world have eschewed the practice of tipping and instead allow their patrons to anticipate the final cost of their meals by simply looking at the menu — what a concept! In European countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Scandinavia, and France, they will take the decision out of your hands and add a service charge of some kind — typically 15% — of which there’s no expectation to tip on top of. Additionally, it’s not commonplace to tip on services at pubs or fast food restaurants.

In Asian countries, such as China, Japan, and Singapore, there’s no expectation at all for tipping. The Travel Channel even goes so far as to say a tip could be construed as rude in these countries, save for Singapore where the large expat community has made this American custom slowly become more commonplace.

When to tip versus when not to tip

Restaurants aren’t the only service of which tipping is up for debate. In touristy areas across the world, it is commonplace to tip travel guides on any type of tours you take around the region (U.S. News & World Report lists this as the only instance in which it’s appropriate to tip in China).

Additionally, it may be appropriate to tip hotel staff, including bellhops, concierges, and cleaning staff, depending on the country you’re visiting. A similar standard goes for drivers or anyone else providing private transportation. Conde Nast Traveller has a wonderfully thorough country-by-country guide on when to tip for each of these services.

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