Tipping Ain’t Just for Cows

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Have you ever heard of cow tipping?

If you were ever a teenager, you probably know exactly what it is. Hopefully you never participated and if you did…well, hopefully the farmer was too slow to catch you. Cow tipping is just not the nicest thing in the world to do to an innocent cow, but tipping for good service, is not only good but also quite proper – most of the time.
So how do you know when and where and who and how much to tip? That’s a mighty big question and the answers can certainly vary depending on the service, on the country, and even on your mode of travel. One very important idea is to ‘know before you go.’ When traveling (whether in the US or abroad) be sure to educate yourself. Know which people along your journey are expecting a tip, which ones are depending on a tip, and which ones are deserving of a tip. And most importantly, know how much is appropriate for a tip. One of the best sources for detailed tipping advice and lots of other helpful info is a good guidebook. Guidebooks are almost as important as a good travel professional when it comes to creating a smooth and memorable adventure. In this article, we hope to offer you a quick and easy guide to tipping that will get you through most situations.
First of all, on many cruise ships, the gratuities are already built in to a total of about $9 – $13 a day, but for service above and beyond, you can always leave extra. You should consider tipping for great service from the dining room staff (including servers, waiters, bus boys, and maître ‘ds.) You should certainly consider tips for spa services, tour guides, and drivers unless specifically discouraged by the particular cruise line.
The second and most confusing area of gratuity rules are those for service in other countries. Most westernized countries are open to, encourage, or even expect gratuities for service oriented workers. In these western countries, you can feel safe in using customary US rules for tipping. However, it is almost always preferable to tip in the currency of the particular country. You should consider tipping any person who provides you a service including servers, bellman, concierges, maids, drivers, guides, etc. In non-westernized countries, it is very important to know the customs and the culture. You should always check to see if the tip is included in your bill. Anything extra is up to you. Doing the right thing can make or break your time in that country. For instance, if you don’t tip certain workers in India, they may chase you down the street looking for you to correct your mistake. Workers in some Asian countries will wholeheartedly refuse your tip. Some European countries prefer a discreet token of your appreciation while in Russia “giving in style is good practice.” And if you’re down under (in Australia or New Zealand), they do not want a tip for what they consider to be just proper service. You’re considered a guest the first time around and family the second time. You’d never expect a tip from guests or family members and neither will they expect it.
No matter where you are, you should always try to tip with proper change. It just makes the exchange that much easier for everyone. When traveling, always use your larger bills for purchasing things like trinkets and dinners and keep the smaller bills for those people who make your travel more pleasant. If you’re unsure, consider an amount between 5 and 10%. But no matter what, your instincts are a great start when trying to follow local customs about tipping. If it feels like the service person has earned it, tip for it. If they’ve gone above and beyond, tip for it. When in doubt, look around and follow suit. And, discretion is almost always appreciated.

Just remember, in a world where people not only hope for a tip, but sometimes even demand it, you make the choice. You decide who and when and where and how much? Be generous when it’s well deserved and when it’s not…well, just follow your instincts and be ready for whatever response you might get.

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Gratuity Expected? Acceptable Gratuity % Other Notes

Restaurants Hotels Taxis
USA Yes Yes Yes 15 – 20% Tip for everything
Canada Yes Yes Yes 10 – 20% Tip for everything
Mexico Yes Yes Yes 15% Tips are their only wages!
France Included Yes/Included No 15% or more Also tip your tour guides
Germany No No No 5 – 10% Workers get higher wages
Italy No No No Just round up Look for cover charges
Switzerland Included Included Included None Can tip other service people
England Yes Yes Yes 10 – 12.5% Pint of beer as a tip!
Egypt Yes Yes Yes Undetermined Tipping is expected for all
Brazil Included Included No 10 – 15% Tips are discretionary
Singapore No No No None Tips are frowned upon
China No No No None Foreigners are charged more
Hong Kong No No No None Except taxis to the airport
Japan No No No None Absolutely no tipping!
New Zealand No No No None Only for exceptional service
Australia No No No None Only for exceptional service

Judy Jay

Judy Jay is the owner of Signature Tours Travel. Signature Tours Travel specializes in the designing of unique travel experiences.

Travel is my Passion!

When I was young, I use to dream of traveling to different parts of the world to experience other cultures.  In 1968,  I became a Flight Attendant for one of the world’s largest airlines.  After retiring in 2001,  I still had my passion for travel and the desire to share my expertise; I decided to open my own agency with my daughter to provide custom and unique luxury travel experiences.

Lisa Rossmeissl is the owner of Boomerang Escapes, a home-based agency located in Old Bridge, New Jersey with agents in TN, MS, and WI. 

She has been a professional travel consultant since 2008 and specializes in Australia and the South Pacific. Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, and Cook Islands are among the specialist certificates she holds.  Her agency’s focus is on creating custom itineraries with their client’s wants, desires, and budgets in mind.  She and her planners believe in getting to know the traveler to ensure they have a vacation to remember.  With each planner specializing in a different market area, Boomerang Escapes can offer a wide variety of leisure vacation planning.

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