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Working out how much to tip can be like navigating a minefield when you’re visiting a foreign country. On the one hand you don’t want to look like a cheapskate, but on the other you know your travel budget isn’t endless and you don’t want to look like an idiot.
Here’s a quick overview of how much to tip for services at restaurants and hotels around the world.
Mediterranean countries: In most of these countries, restaurant patrons pay a tip of about 10 per cent of the bill. In Spain, Italy and Greece, however, it’s customary first to pay the exact amount of the bill, then make a separate gift. Carmen Frentu of the Spanish Tourism Office advises, “Leave the tip in the bill cover on the table or hand it directly to the waiter.” In Turkey, if you pay with a credit card, it’s best to pay the tip in cash. If paying a bill in cash, especially in smaller restaurants, it’s acceptable to round up the bill. “Ustu kalsin” – keep the rest – is the term you’ll hear people say while settling up their restaurant bill in Turkey.
France: Despite what some guidebooks claim, tips of 10 per cent for wait staff aren’t customary, the travel authority Atout France notes. The French usually only give a very small tip.
Northern Europe: In Germany and the Alpine countries like Switzerland and Austria, people top up the sum by between 5 and 10 per cent to a round figure, but withhold a tip to the waiter if the service was substandard. “Tips are a voluntary thank-you for good service,” says Christoph Lueck of the German Hotel and Restaurants Association. If the bill is paid by credit card, leaving behind a cash tip on the table is acceptable. Tips for food bought at a counter are uncommon. A small tip in cash is always advisable for the hotel porter bringing your luggage to your room.
Scandinavia: People are more restrained about tipping in this region. As Pia de Grahl of Visit Denmark notes, service isn’t singled out for an extra reward. “Even the smallest tip is a show of satisfaction, but no tip is not taken as a sign of dissatisfaction.” Sabine Klautzsch of Visit Sweden says that as a rule, the Swedes leave little or no tip. Guests might occasionally round up a restaurant bill, or leave some small change at the bar.
Arab region: In Egypt and Tunisia, you can’t go wrong with a tip of 10 per cent. But as Mohamed Desouky of Egypt Travel notes, if the entire amount plus 10 per cent is paid by credit card, then the waiter doesn’t see the money, but rather the restaurant owner. As Andrea Philippi of the Tunisian Tourism Office advises, it’s better to pay the tip separately afterwards.
USA: In a country where service is highly regarded and waiters are relatively poorly paid, tips are higher than in the rest of the world, usually running at 15 to 20 per cent. A measure can be derived from the state tax. For example, state taxes in New York are 8.8 per cent. “You double this amount and add that as the tip to the bill,” advises Lena Schuetz of the German public relations office in New York. “So you are giving a nice tip of around 18 per cent.” Pay all at once, not the bill and tip separately. “So as not to interrupt the service, handle everything in one clean sweep,” explains Georgios Tserdakidis of Visit California.
At the bar, the barkeeper gets about a dollar per drink, and the same sum goes to the hotel porter, per piece of luggage. For room cleaning personnel, $5 after three nights is an acceptable sum.