Is tipping Universal? In the Sea Customs About Tipping May Vary
There’s probably no travel subject more confusing and uncomfortable than tipping.
The word “tip” is popularly thought to be an acronym for the phrase, “To insure promptness,” a phrase stamped on the money boxes that lay on the tables of English coffeehouses.
But it has long since lost that meaning. Instead, it has become institutionalized as an expected reward for services rendered by porters, waiters and cab drivers who derive a substantial portion of their income from them.
In theory, a tip may be voluntary, but there are few travelers who venture into the world with out expecting to tip at some point.
So here are a few suggestions:
A recent Survey identified Philadelphia, USA, as the leading major city for generous restaurant tippers, reporting that 48 percent of that city’s diners regularly tipped 20 percent or more.
Forty-seven percent of New Orleans’ residents did the same, as did 44 percent of Bostonians. But only 36 percent of Chicagoans tipped that much. As for New York, just 34 percent of the Big Apple’s diners were big spenders, while waiters in Los Angeles fared the worst, with only 25 percent of that city’s diners coughing up 20 percent tips.
In the United States, a restaurant tip should be calculated on the total amount for food and beverages, excluding the tax.
If the service was good and prompt the rule of thumb is to tip 15 percent.
If the service was very good, leave 18 percent, and if it was extraordinary, leave 20 percent.
If the service was only fair, tip less, from 10 percent to 14 percent.
If the meal was appalling and the service abysmal, anything one feels like leaving will do.
In a restaurant where Maitre d’hotels, captains and waiters are serving, the best advice is to leave a single tip and let them divide it. Sommeliers needn’t be tipped unless they were exceptionally helpful.
In most European countries, a 15 percent service charge is almost always included in the price of a meal. Even so, it’s now become an accepted practice to either round off the bill or to leave a small amount of change.
Travelers to Mexico often find that a service charge of 15 percent has been added to their bill. If it hasn’t, tip in the region of 10 to 15 percent.
Many Asian countries add 10 percent service charges to restaurant bills, and in countries like Japan and Korea, tipping of any kind is rare.
The rule of thumb in hotels worldwide is to tip bellboys $1 per bag or the foreign equivalent. But it’s not necessary to tip every bellboy who touched the bag in its journey from the curb to the room.
If a maid or bellboy brings a hair dryer or iron to the room, tip them $1. But when they wheel in a $20 continental breakfast that’s already laden with the 10 percent to 18 percent service charge that many hotels levy these days, no additional tip is necessary.
If no tip has been added, tack an 10 percent.
While room maids often receive nothing more than loose change left in an ashtray, they often work harder than anyone else in making a hotel stay comfortable. Plan on leaving them $1 to $2 per night.
If a hotel concierge has been especially helpful in getting theater tickets and making restaurant reservations, a modest tip is in order. It can range from $5 to above $20, depending upon the length of stay and the services rendered.
In New York City, taxicab drivers are tipped between 15 percent and 20 percent — and they expect it.
For travelers arriving at New York’s JFK airport, a sign explains that the flat fare is $30 to anywhere in Manhattan, that tolls are extra and that the suggested tip is $5. It’s rare to have a tip amount spelled out, but it’s an idea whose time has come.
In other American cities, tipping cabbies 10 percent to 15 percent is the rule.
In most of Europe and in Asia, plan on adding 10 percent to keep the driver smiling.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, the tip is often included in the fare that one negotiates with the driver.
Cruises and group trips
While some Cruise Lines have no-tipping policies, many other cruise lines still encourage tipping and offer guidelines for their clients.
Most cruise lines suggest per person, per-day tips of $3 to $3.50 for room stewards, $3 to $3.50 for waiters and $1.50 to $2 for assistant waiters. Most lines automatically add a 15 percent gratuity on bar drinks.
Taking a week-long guided bicycling trip? Plan on tipping the guides $25 to $50 each. On a Western dude ranch, a tip based on the total week is the expected gratuity.
For any trip, it’s wise to ask for suggestions and avoid sticker shock on the last day of a vacation.