Avoid this catastrophic holiday mistake!
Ever been baffled by how much you should tip while on holiday? Never fear, here's a quick look at overseas tipping etiquette.
It's a question many of us ask ourselves while on holiday.
How much should I tip?
Tips can be tricky, and, if you're not careful, you could end up either embarrassing yourself or causing offence to another party.
So, what's the correct number? Ten? 15? 18%? And what if service is included? How much should you tip then?
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Yet Brits are actually among the most generous in Europe, tipping hotel staff, taxi drivers and hairdressers while on holiday. In total, 43% of Brits tip, compard to just 20% of Spaniards, 22% of Italians and 24% of French tourists.
The problem, it seems, arises because the vast majority of us do not bother to research tipping etiquette before holidaying in another country, and almost half (46%) of us approach holiday tipping with a 'one size fits all' attidtude, tipping the same regardless of which country we visit.
This is a big mistake. Tipping in some countries will cause just as much offence as not tipping in others.
So, in an effort to make things clearer, and with a little help from my friends (and the odd Lonely Planet guide), here are some tips I've discovered on holiday that should make your trip a little smoother:
Australia and New Zealand
Tipping is not widely expected, and may even cause offence to some. However, tipping in restaurants is becoming more common, and a 10% tip for good service will be appreciated by restaurant and bar staff.
Taxi drivers and hairdressers do not expect a tip.
One of the first words I learnt when I went to Egypt was ‘baksheesh'. Literally meaning ‘spread the wealth' this is Egypt's monetary way of saying thank you for services rendered.
Tipping is discretionary, but a couple of Egyptian pounds (one Egyptian pound is roughly 10p) here and there goes a long way. Porters, tour guides and waiters all appreciate baksheesh, and whether it's for a meal or for someone carrying all those purchases you made in the souk back to the hotel, every penny counts.
Remember to carry round small change and ask for small denominations when changing your money. Small bills are a prized possession in Egypt because obviously, no one gives change for a tip.
One exception is taxi drivers, who as my Egyptian friend says are usually rude anyway, and will probably try to rip you off.
So, needless to say, don't tip them.
Service is included by law in France, and your bill may state 'service compris' to indicate this. In any case, it is polite to round up the bill to the nearest euro, or to add 10% for exceptional service.
Taxi drivers and porters will always appreciate a couple of Euros for efficient service.
However, watch for signs that say ‘Pourboire Interdit', which means that tipping is forbidden.
In Greece, although a service charge is automatically included in your bill when eating out, this does not necessarily mean that it will go to the waiters and waitresses. So, if you're satisfied with your meal, a tip of 8 - 10% is customary.
Bear in mind that during the Christmas and Greek Easter holiday periods a service ‘bonus' of 18% will be added to your restaurant bill as a holiday extra for the waiters.
When travelling around, rounding up your taxi fare to the nearest Euro is also the norm.
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Although a service charge is included (appearing on your bill as ‘bedienung'), it is the norm to tip up to an extra 10% of the bill, especially in upmarket restaurants.
One word of advice. Never say ‘danke' unless you are really appreciative of your meal, because more often than not, this will be interpreted by the staff as a signal to keep the change.
In addition, hand your tips to the staff when paying the bill instead of placing it on the table as you leave. A customary practice in the UK to save awkwardness perhaps, but this will cause offence in Germany.
In taxis, add a Euro or two to the total to keep the cabbie smiling.
When dining in restaurants, a 10 - 15% service charge (coperto) may already be included in your bill. If that is the case don't feel obliged to add any more, and if not, a 10% gratuity is sufficient.
In many Italian cafés, you will often pay more to sit down and enjoy your coffee or gelato ice cream rather than standing at the bar anyway. So, if you do sip your coffee or hot chocolate while sitting down, an extra €0.50 is a sufficient tip. (You won't find better hot chocolate than in Italy, but that's another story.)
Smaller trattorias and pizzerias don't expect a gratuity, and tipping a small family-run business may even cause offence.
Taxi drivers also do not expect a tip. When I attempted to leave one in Florence my friend practically slapped the coins out of my hand.
Again, however, rounding up to the nearest Euro is fine, or if your cab driver helps carry your bags you may want to extend this to a couple of Euros.
The Japanese are pretty clear cut when it comes to tips. Any monies left are more likely to cause offence than gratitude. The number stated on the bill is what you should pay. No more. No less. Nuff said.
Service charges are included in the food prices on the menu in Spain, and tipping is a matter of personal choice. Most people leave some small change if they're satisfied and 5% is usually plenty.
It's common to leave small change at bar and café tables, or if you eat tapas or sandwiches at a bar - just enough to round the bill to the nearest Euro.
Tipping is serious business in the States. Many service staff get no more than minimum wage, and rely on tips to supplement their income.
One of my colleagues (whose name shall remain anonymous) was actually chased out of a diner because they didn't leave a big enough tip when eating.
So, tip generously, and often.
You should leave a 15% minimum tip in diners, restaurants and cafes, and if service is really good then 20% is more the norm. In bars, slipping the bartender around a dollar per drink will ensure that service will never be a problem.
And finally, when out and about in the States, tipping an extra 15% to your taxi driver is the norm.
I can't afford to tip
Almost a third of Brits have reduced their tips because of the recession, so you're not alone if you're feeling the pinch.
But savvy travellers know that tipping hotel staff at the start of a holiday often means you get a better service for the duration of your stay. And a better service means a better holiday.
If you're going somewhere you will have access to the internet, one way to make sure your holiday is affordable is to use online banking to keep track of your transactions. The new lovemoney.com online banking service allows you to categorise all your transactions from different bank accounts and credit cards as you spend, even abroad, so it can really help you stick to a budget. Find out more
Finally, don't forget to adopt our goal: Have a cheap holiday. It really can help you to save those pennies!
This article was updated in April 2010.
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