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Tipping Advice Guide

To the experienced traveler or connoisseur of great restaurants and wine cellars, tipping is a comfortable, experience. For most of us, tipping can be a subject that causes angst and fills us with self-doubt. The reason for this anxiety can be caused by being in an unfamiliar geographical location or wrestling with different currencies or because we have never been on a cruise before.

Some of us do not fully understand the tipping mindset. There are many reasons for that dilemma but there are solutions for this unnecessary conflict.

Let’s begin by understanding the reason for a tip, a source of disagreement among many travelers. The most popular opinion of what the word “tip” really stands for is, “an acronym standing for To Insure Prompt Service.” Most of us appreciate prompt service but are also inclined to give gracious tips for polite, informed service.

Tipping can be complicated, especially if the individual receiving service is in a foreign land. In some cultures and resort areas, tipping is included in the bill. Some service attendants can be insulted by the concept of tipping while others expect it in return for their attention. This particular dilemma is best resolved by reading a guide book or a hotel’s policy book. While we want to be fair, and appreciative of little details that add up to a great experience, we do not want to pay for a service twice.

If you are uncomfortable with tipping protocol, you should look at the billing policy and see if service fees are included. However, it is important to understand if the service fee is for the wait staff or is an additional fee charged by management. You may want to observe how other patrons are handling the situation. If you are still in doubt, the best protocol is to ask management what the tipping policy is. It is not a good idea, and in some cultures is offensive, to ask wait service personnel about tipping policy.

The first key to a good tipping experience is to be properly equipped. Make sure you have a good amount of small bills in the correct currency before you leave the airport. Remember that upon arrival your tipping will begin as soon as the bags are collected and a cab or shuttle or rented car is available.

This is a list of suggested tips compiled from LonelyPlanet.com and CNN Money:

Tipping at Railway Stations:

  • At the train station, the standard tip is $1 per bag unless bags are unusually heavy. In that case, $2.00 per bag is acceptable.
  • Doormen expect a minimum of $1.00 for hailing a cab. If the doorman provides exceptional service, some patrons pay $5.00.

Tipping at the Airport:

  • Shuttle Drivers - $1 - $2.00 per person per bag.
  • Porters and Skycaps expect $1.00 -$2.00 per bag.
  • Shoeshine persons usually receive a tip of $3.00 -$5.00.
  • Bathroom attendants are usually tipped $1.00.
  • Cab drivers receive 15 -20 percent of the bill, depending on the quality of the experience. The minimum tip is $2.00.

Tipping on a Cruise Ship:

There can be different tip scales depending on the shipping line policy and the nationality of the crew. This policy is usually explained in a brochure from the provider. If you are not clear about acceptable policy, contact the provider before you depart.

  • Cabin Stewards and Waiters - $3.00-$4.00 per person per day.
  • Maitre d’ - $1.50 -$2.00 per guest per day. Some guests tip $10 - $15.00 per week.
  • Busboy - $1.50 - $2.00 per day per person.
  • Most cruise lines have a surcharge for bar service, the wine steward and bar wait staff. A 15 percent gratuity is included in the charge. Be clear about this.
  • Some shipping lines include gratuities in the fee. Verify this. Other lines leave small envelopes on a desk in the room. The most acceptable procedure is to present cumulative tips on the last day of the voyage or on a weekly basis.

Tour Guide Tips:

  • Tour guides can be tipped $2 - $5.00 per person per 1 – 2 hour sightseeing tour.
  • Group tour guides usually expect a gratuity in the amount of $3 - $8.00 per person per day.


You are probably comfortable with the tipping protocol in restaurants that you attend regularly. Things can change when you are in unfamiliar domestic or international venues. Resort restaurants may have very different policies than your local restaurant.

  • Parking valets – Usually $1 - $2.00 upon pickup and another similar tip, upon return is acceptable. In some cases, that can go as high as $5.00 each way.
  • In US restaurants – Excellent service merits 20 percent or slightly more. Ordinary service deserves 15 percent.
  • Coat Attendants - $1.00 - $2.00 per coat is a fair tip.
  • Restroom Attendants - $1.00 per use.
  • Maitre d’ – The maitre d’ who provides access to a table beyond usual size, or to a table without a reservation, should be tipped as much as $20.00. For usual service $5 - $10.00 will ensure a pleasant wait staff experience.
  • Bar Service – If you run a tab at the bar while you wait for a table, leave a 15 percent tip.
  • European and Asian Restaurants – This can be particularly tense if you do not know the tipping policy before you arrive. Many of these restaurants include a service charge. This may be stated on the menu but if you do not speak the native language, how are you to know? The wait staff can be insulted if you ask the policy. If in doubt, observe the conduct of other patrons or ask the manager.

Remember that tipping is an expression of gratefulness for service. Most wait staff and service personnel depend upon tips but if the service rendered is inadequate, you should say so. If the service is exceptional, act accordingly.

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