Tipping Etiquette: A Guide for Travelers

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Even the most experienced traveler can sometimes be tripped up by tipping etiquette. Sure, you know you’re supposed to tip your tour guide something — but how much? When you’re calculating the tip for your dinner, do you need to include taxes and that pricey bottle of wine? And is it ever acceptable to withhold a tip for poor service?

Q: What’s the most common tipping mistake?
A: To not tip. That’s probably the worst tipping mistake. Usually if you know to tip, you’re tipping around 15 – 20 percent so you know you’ve tipped something, and that’s great. But not tipping at all is probably the worst mistake.

Q: If you’re unhappy with the service you’ve received, is it ever okay not to tip, or is there a better way to handle it?
A: No. You should never let your money talk for you. If you get good service, in addition to leaving a good tip, you would want to thank your server, bellboy, etc. When it goes the other way, you still should leave the customary 15 percent. If you had horrendous service and it was the service provider’s fault, some people might go as low as 10 percent. But we suggest that you leave 15 percent and then immediately speak to a manager to express your dissatisfaction. Say that you’re unhappy with how you were treated and that you’re reluctant to return after such an experience. That will speak volumes to a manager.

Q: Whom should we never tip?
A: Never tip your doctor! We tip waiters and waitresses because they don’t make a livable wage. Our tips are helping to subsidize substandard wages. Try to avoid tipping those who aren’t in the service industry — doctors, dentists, therapists. You also don’t tip your dry cleaner. You’ve purchased their service and it’s one that traditionally doesn’t have a tip associated with it.

Q: What’s a good rule of thumb for tipping tour guides (and drivers)?
A: On a short bus tour (several hours or less), tip your guide 10 – 20 percent of the cost of the tour. Give it to him or her when you say goodbye. Charter and sightseeing bus drivers are also tipped in certain cases: when drivers double as guides, $1 per person per day. When the driver has been particularly amiable, the person in charge of a private charter sometimes asks each passenger to contribute $1 or more to a tip pool. On a longer tour with no built-in gratuity, each passenger should give $5 – $10 to the guide and another $5 – $10 to the driver.

 

Q: Should you always tip the driver of the airport car rental shuttle? How much?
A: Yes. Especially if the driver helps me with my bags, I’ll leave a dollar or two (typically a dollar per bag). It’s also nice to tip if the driver has held the shuttle for you. Similar rules apply to drivers of airport parking lot shuttles.

 

Q: If you give a bellman your bags for storage at the front desk, do you tip when he takes the bags away, when he returns them to you later or both times? And how much?
A: Tip when the bellman brings the bags back — again, because we’re not bribing for service. I’d recommend $1 or $2 per bag. 

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