Figuring out when and how much to tip waitstaff, cab drivers, porters, and others can be hard enough in one’s own country. When you’re traveling the world, it becomes much more difficult. Tipping is also a very culturally sensitive practice: you can risk insulting people either way—tipping or not tipping. And then there is the question of the amount. Since the cost of living varies dramatically, the expected tip can be an amount that might seem either incredibly cheap or outrageous depending upon where you come from.
Restaurants are usually a special case with the tip usually based on a percentage of the bill, but what percentage? This might seem to be a non-question in those countries where a tip is routinely included in a restaurant bill. But even that doesn’t solve the problem completely, because it is still customary in many places to tip a bit more.
In poorer countries, like India, everyone may be hoping for a tip. On the other hand, China generally has a no tipping culture. In fact, you might get an employee in trouble by tipping them. Nevertheless, there are some cases in which a tip would be welcome, although you may want to give it surreptitiously.
There is no formula or source that can prepare you for any place you might travel. But, because of the sensitivity of tipping, this is one area that you will want to become informed about before you first visit a new place. For many countries, you may be able to find information online. Sites like TripAdvisor have information for almost any country in the world. The trouble with this information is that it is hard to be sure it is up to date, and it often doesn’t cover many situations. It is always a good idea to get your information from someone who has traveled to the country recently or, better yet, a native who really knows the country and the culture.
Here are some recent sources that can help you understand the customs and potential pitfalls of tipping in various areas of the world:
- Sarah Schmalbruch and Samantha Lee, “How to tip in 24 countries around the world,” Business Insider (May 6 2015).
- Tim Murphy and CNT Editors, “Etiquette 101: Your Guide to Tipping in 50 Countries ,” Conde Nast Traveler (Mar 26 2015)
- Brian Vinh Tien Trinh, “ Tipping Around The World: How Gratuities Differ Across The Globe (INFOGRAPHIC)”, Huffington Post (Sep 9 2012, updated Sept 3 2013)
- Tipping Guidelines, CCRA International