Tips on tipping for travelers: when and how much depends on where you are

Tipping has become so ubiquitous (some would say excessive) in the U.S. that it’s not uncommon to see a tip jar next to the register at the corner deli. (Call it the Starbucks effect, but since Starbucks is considered a luxury product, the coin cup seems more apt there.) All that tipping, and its representations in exported American movies and TV shows, has impacted countries around the world. Here’s some guidance on tipping while traveling.


Americans are beloved in Europe because we tip. We seem almost constitutionally incapable of not tipping. I’d like to agree with most commentators and say that it is not expected, but American habits have changed that calculus. So go ahead and leave a euro at the restaurant or hand a euro to the bellman. For pricier dinner venues, check the menu—it’s supposed to note if the gratuity is included. If you’re unsure, be bold and simply ask. Or just round up on the bill by leaving, say, 20 euros on an 18-euro tab.


Unlike in most of America, tipping in Miami can be confusing. It’s a richly international city with a huge influx of non-tipping European visitors and transplants. So gratuities are added and noted (albeit in fine print) on many restaurant bills, especially on South Beach. Thus, servers avoid getting stiffed by non-Americans and get a windfall from Americans who don’t notice that gratuities are included—known as the “double-tipping ploy”—or who feel obligated to leave more than the minimum.

Big parties

Adding gratuities for groups of six or more is commonplace in the U.S., but a new IRS rule may bring that to an end. Proponents of the practice argue that big groups are such a time-suck (and often imbibe so much) that they require an extra push to tip accordingly. But the IRS is saying that restaurant owners must either add the automatic gratuity directly to the server’s wages or discontinue the practice. Many are sure to stop adding the tip to the check, all but ensuring that servers will smaller gratuities from big parties.


Locals don’t tip. Period. They don’t do it and they don’t expect it—from Thais. But as in Europe, American tipping happens so often that it won’t raise any eyebrows to hand over a few baht or round up on the bill. A baht is worth about three cents in U.S. dollars, by the way—so be a big shot.


Though many Americans can’t conceive of the proffering of money being an insult (unless you’ve seen “The Godfather: Part II,” when a mobster who is handed $100 at a “business meeting” knows something is off), in Singapore your tip may be offensive to local sensibilities. The equivalent of a few U.S. dollars in local currency (Singapore dollars) to hotel baggage handlers seems to be the exception.


Servers Down Under earn a good set wage compared to their American counterparts. However, American habits have proven to be influential, and now tipping is typical. But leaving in excess of 10 percent is almost unheard of. In any event, tipping is viewed as a reward, not as compulsory. (At this writing, the Aussie dollar is worth nine-tenths of the U.S. dollar.)


Tipping in Western-style hotels and restaurants (or to tour guides) has become common (a few dollars for baggage handlers; 10-15 percent for dining) in China. But tipping skycaps and taxi drivers isn’t really done. Ditto for sidewalk stalls and Chinese eateries—even fine ones.

United Kingdom

In general, tipping isn’t customary in the U.K. Delivery people and servers in casual restaurant and coffee shops don’t expect it, but some customers will give them a pound for good service. In a taxi, round up on the bill. In a fine restaurant, a 10 or 12.5 percent gratuity is sometimes included and noted. If not, that much is considered sufficient.