Tipping Tips for Travelers

Advice and apps to help you be a savvy travel tipper

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was criticized recently for not doing as the Romans do while in the Italian capital during his recent honeymoon — Zuckerberg failed to leave a tip at Nonna Betta, where local custom dictates that the leftover change or up to 5 percent is a suitable gratuity.

Tipping etiquette varies throughout the world, and figuring out how much to tip your waiter and other service staff can be tricky. Luckily, several tipping mobile apps like GlobeTipping, Tipping Tips, and iTip help take the guesswork out of global gratuities.

Tipping Apps

GlobeTipping ($0.99): Arguably the most comprehensive tipping app, with tipping advice for more than 200 countries, GlobeTipping has a tip calculator, a section with travel tip advice, and a favorites section to keep track of favorite tips and to set presets that are most often used.

Tipping Tips ($0.99): Tipping Tips is packed with advice for 108 international regions along with a tip calculator and a flashlight for reading the bill in low light. Tipping Tips has versions in Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, and Japanese.

iTip (Free): Users can choose from 100 destinations and enter the bill amount to calculate the tip. Along with the tip amount, users are given a tipping custom in many of the countries along with advice on who should be tipped, like porters and maids. The app includes a rounding feature to round to the nearest whole currency.

Travel Tipping Advice

Before you begin your trip, budget tipping into your travel expenses and research tipping etiquette at your destination by consulting guidebooks and friends who have been there, advises Kiplinger channel editor Stacy Rapacon, who has created a tipping quiz to help travelers determine who should be tipped while traveling.

While the issue of how much to tip typically occurs at meals, Rapacon notes that the people most often forgotten are hotel housekeepers, who should be tipped $2 to $5 ($10 or more at higher-end hotels) per day. Maids should be tipped each morning because the staff may change daily. Rapacon suggests placing the tip in an envelope so there is no confusion that the money left in the room is a tip.

Pack singles and $5 bills or smaller currency for overseas trips, along with envelopes to clearly label tips, advises Rapacon. Having smaller denominations of currency will prevent travelers from overtipping.

Who Should Be Tipped: In addition to waiters and bartenders (15 percent to 20 percent pretax in the U.S. and varies throughout the world), bellhops ($1 to $2 per bag), shuttle bus drivers ($1 to $2) and tour guides ($2 to $5 per person) also make the list.

Who Should Not Get a Tip: Instructors like golf, tennis, and ski teachers should not be tipped. Don’t tip the hotel concierge unless the concierge makes a reservation or travel plans on your behalf. Check that gratuities have not already been added. Most all-inclusive resorts, cruise lines, and hotels already factor gratuity into the bill.

For those who want to save on tipping, pack lightly and handle your own luggage, advises Rapacon. This will save savvy travelers from having to give an extra tip to the shuttle or taxi driver and allow them to bypass the bellhop.

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