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Travel Gratuity: Who To Tip and How Much

Most of us know who to tip in our everyday lives, but when we travel, we run into a new set of people who help us such as valets, housekeepers, taxi drivers, to just name a few. Who do we tip and how much do we give them? The answers, frustratingly, vary, and also depend on a country’s culture.

Let’s start with travel within the U.S. first. You should tip the following people:

Car Valets—Tip when you pick up your car (though you are free to tip when you drop off, but it is not expected). Give $1 to $3.

Concierge—No tip is required for general service like giving directions. If they give you specific help such as getting you tickets, tip about $5.

Room Service—Check the menu when ordering. If you see gratuity added, then the server’s tip has already been added to the bill. If you don’t, tip at least 10% and up to 15 to 20% if you have a complicated or large order. (If you see that the hotel adds a service charge, be aware that the money will likely not go to the server, so still tip.)

Housekeepers—You should leave $2 to $3 per day for an average hotel and $3 to $5 for a luxury hotel. If you have kids with you in the room, you might want to tip a few dollars more. AARP [3] suggested putting the money in an envelope with “Thank You” on the front so the housekeepers know it is for them. Also, make sure to tip daily because the housekeepers can change on a daily basis. If you wait to tip until the end of the trip, some of the earlier housekeepers won’t get their money.

Doorman—Doorman can help you with your luggage and hailing a cab. Give them $1-2 per bag, $1 for helping you hail a cab.

Taxi Drivers—Taxi rides can be expensive, but still make sure you tip about 15% and $1 to $2 for each bag the driver handles.

Waiters/Bartenders—Waiters should get 15% for good service and 20% for outstanding service. Poor service should get 10% or less. Keep in mind that some problems such as slow food delivery may be the result of the kitchen, and your server shouldn’t be penalized. Bartenders should get at least $1 per drink to $3 for a complicated mixed drink. Tip .50 at least for soda.

Tour guides—A good tour guide can make a tour pleasant and enlightening. Tip up to 20% of the ticket price for such service. Otherwise, if the service was moderate, tip $3 to $5 per person in your group.

Baggage handlers—This is one type of tip that may be phasing out as many airlines now charge a baggage handling fee. However, if you fly one of the rare airlines that does not charge this fee, tip $1 to $2 per bag.

Tipping Abroad

If you travel abroad, everything you know about tipping in the U.S. should be set aside. For instance, European restaurants typically include the gratuity right on the bill so no tipping is necessary. In other countries, tipping is considered in poor taste or flaunting wealth.

Before traveling, take the time to learn about the customs in the country you are visiting. Fodor’s [4] is a great online site to learn about the country you are visiting and the customs, including tipping.

A blogger, Jay Travels, offers a chart that breaks down how much to tip by country and service [5]. This would be a valuable resource to print off and keep with you when traveling.

If you are frugal with your money, tipping may be a difficult thing to do. However, people are providing you a service and should be rewarded with their actions, especially when you are traveling and out of your element.