Tipping while traveling across the world can be quite a stressful affair. What services denote getting a tip? How much do you give? Will the person be offended if it is not enough? Am I getting scammed? These are all legitimate questions flowing through your mind as you travel the world. Tipping etiquette varies wildly in different regions too. Not tipping in certain regions will be insulting to the locals. Let’s dive in and explore what I’ve learned as I have traveled the world on when to tip on travel.
My stance on tipping is that I am not a fan. When my wife and I travel, we do our best to research and prepare tipping as per the culture. We lean heavily toward not tipping if it is not needed. We’ve been in situations where tipping has been used to scam and extort us, and we generally do our best not to encourage tipping. This is not to be cheap, people. We want to do the decent thing. When you’ve seen the twisted etiquette tipping can create, you will start to loathe it yourself.
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Theory behind tipping
The general idea behind tipping is that if you are happy with a service provided by specific people, they can be compensated for it. It has been heavily entwined with food service culture specifically. In reality, over time, tipping showed favoritism and ultimately boiled down to becoming an expectation. If you are being provided service, the service provider should be tipped. This allows the employee to expect this as a part of their compensation for the job. It also allows the employer to claim this as a perk of the job and pay their employee less. This passes the onus as an additional service tax to the customer.
This would be all well and good, but over time these may carry over to another aspect of all industries. Does someone require a tip to help give you directions? Does someone need a tip for giving you a ride? Do all the service folk at a hotel need to be tipped? Where is the line? Indeed, if you take the money and hand it to anyone, they can accept it. However, that’s not scalable, nor does it necessarily bring a good economy.
Researching tipping etiquette
Everywhere is different. First, search a search engine and find out the local culture. Do they expect tips? If not, don’t worry about it. Chances are, there are some expectations. Our rule is to pay particular attention to the expected nominal tipping rate for eating out at restaurants (and only restaurants that provide front-end service while you eat). We also pay attention to tips for all tours and professional guide services we book. We don’t aim for 10% for these always, but we try to do something if it is expected that seems fair to the price point of the tour. For example, if the tour doesn’t have much personal interaction with us, then we might opt not to tip. Also, if the guide is the company’s owner, we generally do not tip since the funds go directly to them anyways.
Heavy Tipping Cultures
Further, some countries heavily expect tipping, to the point where using the restrooms, walking around asking questions, or parking somewhere may lead someone to wander over and ask you for money. These places have a special place in our loathing, but it is crucial to be prepared. For these places, only tip minimal change, keep a coin purse handy, break some small bills and be ready to give small coins to anyone asking for a tip. Usually, folk you come across are okay with this.
However, some may say it’s not enough, which may be true, or they are trying to scam you. Either way, it is essential to be blunt and tell them this is all you want to give for this service. Directness usually dispels most of these disagreements. However, even then, if that escalates further, let the individual know you want to seek out a local police officer and ask them for their advice. This most certainly will lead to the issue being dropped.
Being honest and showing gratitude
There are times when you may not have brought enough money or don’t have enough money for tips. While service workers expecting tips for their livelihood won’t be happy with the situation, we find it better, to be honest about the situation. You are a foreigner and came prepared for tipping under the circumstances. If you were impressed with the service, fill out a comment card and let the service worker know you appreciated their service. This is the best tip you can give.
Remind yourself at the end of the day. The spirit of tipping is in your hands to give the extra coin you have to those who have provided exceptional service. You should not feel horrible for failing to have an extra coin. A little bit of extra research beforehand and some preparation will help remove the stress around tipping altogether. Come prepared.