Planning an international vacation takes time and energy, but traveling abroad is something everyone should do in a lifetime. After brushing up on the language, cultural norms and making sure you know what things you should not miss in your selected locale, you might feel like you’ve avoided any potential etiquette mistakes and are prepared for the best vacation ever. But have you considered tipping?
The rules of tipping vary by location, but one rule is standard: you should always find a way to thank those who wait on and serve you in any kind of way. If you need a gratuity guide before you embark on your adventure, we’ve got you covered. Here’s an etiquette guide for tipping when traveling abroad.
To best understand tipping guidelines and practices while traveling abroad, we spoke with Diane Gottsman, a nationally renowned etiquette expert whose work has been featured on the “Today” show, CNN and CBS Sunday Morning. Gottsman is the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
After you’ve packed your bags and hit the friendly skies, the first thing you will need to do is convert your money into your destination’s currency. “You should always make sure you’re carrying enough money to cover tipping and general expenses,” Gottsman said. “And when you’re in another country, make sure to tip them in their currency.”
When you’re soaking up the sun at an all-inclusive resort, miles away from the nuisance of work and responsibilities, you might be tempted to take your goods and go, no tip included. You paid in advance, so you shouldn’t have to tip, right? Not exactly. “Even when you’re vacationing at an all-inclusive resort, you should still tip the bartenders and wait staff,” Gottsman said. “It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a general courtesy that will be appreciated by the staff.”
Whether you’re embarking on a safari adventure or learning about the historic sites and sounds of a new city, you should always tip your tour guide at the end of the trip. “Travel guides in the tourism industry should generally be tipped,” Gottsman said.
One way to tour any city like a local is to opt for public transportation over taxi rides and ridesharing apps. But if your destination is too far, or if you’re not sure how to navigate your commute abroad, you might opt for a service that is more reliable than your handy dandy map. At the end of your ride, you should tip your drivers. Gottsman recommends tipping taxi drivers a minimum of 15% of your total and 20% if you’re assisted with heavy luggage. The same goes for Uber and Lyft.
Most international destinations offer shuttle rides to travelers who prefer a streamlined service rather than the hassle of ordering a taxi or Uber or driving themselves. Even though you’re expected to pay a flat fee before booking your ride, you should also tip your drivers after arriving at your destination. “If you’re taking a shuttle to the airport or to your hotel, tip your drivers a couple of dollars,” Gottsman said. “It’ll show your appreciation for being driven to and from where you’re going.”
This rule applies wherever you go: if there’s a cleaning staff keeping your space nice and neat, they should be tipped every day for their service, not just at the end of your trip. “A common mistake people make is tipping at the end of your trip,” Gottsman said. “It’s important to tip daily as employees change from one day to another. A good rule of thumb is $1 per person staying in the room if there are multiple people, or $3 to $5 per day if you’re on your own.”
Here’s one thing you’ll learn if you’re staying at a hotel in a new place: the concierge is your best friend. Not sure where to eat dinner? They’ll know the best restaurant in town. Curious about what hotspots you need to see on your journey? They’ve been there, done that. The concierge is there to help with all your needs, and they should be tipped. “For quick directions to the nearest coffee shop, no tip is required,” Gottsman said. “However, if you’re acquiring easy theatre tickets or dinner reservations, tip $5 to $10, and $20 upwards for difficult-to-secure tickets, reservations or special services.”
Cultural norms vary by country. Acceptable attire, dining practices and even rules of photography all differ based on where you are in the world. The same applies to tipping. “Although tipping is a common practice in the U.S., most Asian countries have a no-tipping policy,” Gottsman said. “In Japan, for example, they are very hard workers and take great pride in their work ethic. Tipping is offensive, and you never want to force a tip on someone. That’s just rude.” If you want to show appreciation for the service you’ve been provided, Gottsman suggests giving a small gift, like something specific to your country, as a token of gratitude.
Traveling to a new country can be intimidating. And if you’re unfamiliar with the language or the culture, you might be afraid of making an error that will be deemed offensive. But Gottsman recommends putting your nerves aside and setting things straight. “When in doubt, don’t be ashamed to ask,” she said. Remember your friendly neighborhood concierge, that’s what they’re there for, and they have likely answered your question many times before for others. Just be sure not to ask any questions you might not know are rude.
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