Tips for Tipping When You Travel

Remember to tip your bellhop $1 per bag. (Photo courtesy of

Whether traveling for business or pleasure chances are that you will dine out, stay in a hotel, take a taxi or all of the above. It’s a good idea to be aware of the service gratuities expected wherever you are visiting.

Always check your bill to see if gratuity or a service fee is included before you add your tip.

Tipping in the U.S.

Here in the States, bartenders and restaurant wait-staff typically make far below the minimum wage as they are expected to make up the difference in their tips. Tipping 15% of the total bill is standard but 20% for good service is customary. Many New York City restaurants are adding 15-20% gratuity to their bills regardless of the size of the party that is dining with them. So again, check your bill BEFORE you tip.

Did you know the appropriate service gratuities for tipping taxi drivers is 15% of your total fare?  Be sure to ask if taxis accept credit cards or only take cash BEFORE you get in the cab.

Tipping at Hotels

Tip your bellman $1.00 a bag when he delivers your bags to or from your room. Tip them more if you ask them to do anything additional, like hailing taxis or if you have a lot of luggage.

Tip the housekeeping staff $2 or $3 if you have additional items delivered to your room such as extra pillows, hangers, or an iron. For exceptional care in housekeeping, tip the staff a couple of dollars each day with a note that says “thank you”.

Valet Parkers: $2 - $5 (when picking up car).

Tour Guides: 15% of tour price is a standard tip for a tour well given.

Tipping Outside the U.S.

If you are traveling to another country then check the customs of that country before you visit. When tipping, do try and give gratuities in the local currency. And always keep small bills and change on hand when you travel.

I recommend always checking with the front desk or concierge at your hotel as to the local customs for gratuities. Then you will know, for sure whether service tips are included or not.

In general, European servers are well-paid, and tips are considered a small “bonus” to reward great service. In most countries, 5% is reasonable. At hotels in Europe, porters expect a euro for each bag they carry (another reason to pack light). Leaving the maid a euro per overnight at the end of your stay is a nice touch. Round up the taxi fare throughout Europe to the nearest €.

In Mexico, most service employees earn very little or no base salary and the tips they earn comprise the vast majority of their overall income. This is true for restaurants and hotels in Mexico. Just like the United States, 10-20% of the bill is a good tip. Tips in dollars or in pesos (the Mexican currency) are accepted but pesos would be easier for the recipient.

When taking a taxi in Mexico, agree to a price BEFORE the driver begins to drive. Never accept the first price you’re offered, but be realistic with your offers, and don’t become too aggressive with your position. Once agreed, pay that price.  It’s best never to hail a taxi on the street, especially at night. Be sure to use the Taxi Ranks to secure a licensed driver.

In most South American countries, the service charge is added to the bill; so it is only necessary to leave the small change. However, please check your bill prior to paying. In South America, pay the person directly when dining in a restaurant. Don’t leave the money on a table.

In most Asian countries, tipping is not really essential but is highly appreciated (except in countries like Japan). In many countries, tipping is done to get things done and for better service. It is better to observe what the locals do and follow suit rather than insulting someone’s culture.

Tipping on a Cruise

Tips are customarily given to service staff on the last evening of your cruise. Most cruise lines will provide you with gratuity recommendations based upon the position of the service personnel. As a general rule, dining room waiters receive $3.50 per person/per day. The room steward, for all his/her efforts, receives $3.50 per person/per day. Other personnel, such as bar waiters, bellboys and deck stewards may be tipped as service is provided. 

Just remember, you are always welcome to tip more if service is excellent. It’s definitely a great way to ensure VIP treatment when traveling. So enjoy your vacation and…

Don’t forget to tip!



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