It is often confusing to know when and how much to tip when you are traveling to foreign countries. The word tip stands for “to insure promptness”—interesting since this implies you would tip before the service is delivered! Many of the countries I have visited have had very different customs regarding tipping. The last thing you want to do as a tourist is appear rude or tip when it isn’t necessary (save your money for souvenirs).
When I visited France and Spain, I noticed a common theme when dining out. Since in both places tipping is not expected, the service can be horrendous depending on the venue. Think about it, if the wait staff is paid a good wage and there is no tipping, what’s the incentive for them to provide good, timely service? In my experience there is NO incentive!
Case in point, I was in Paris with friends and we ate at many different outdoor cafes during our stay. We noticed that we would get waited on promptly as soon as we sat down and the food took awhile to be served, however, getting the check at the end was a whole different story. We would wait forever to see the waiter again and get the bill! It seems like they could have lots of customers take off on them without paying. Of course they probably wouldn’t care since their pay is not based on tips! The owner of the café may feel very different about this. I enjoy having a leisurely meal as much as the next person, but we did want to have some time to actually tour Paris!
I had this same experience in Madrid, Spain. The only difference being that the French waiters would speak English and the Spaniards would not help us an ounce. At one restaurant we mistakenly ordered three platters of ham and the waiter apparently didn’t think this was at all unusual as he delivered one after the other. We didn’t eat ham for a long time after that trip.
Tipping is non-existent in the following countries: Australia, China, Germany, Japan and Italy. Make sure you check the bill carefully because often the tip is included. In Italy it is listed as a “cover charge” and you may even be billed for the bread. In Mexico you are expected to tip for all services. Tipping a bartender in the UK may cause you to get a funny look. Offering the bartender a drink for his good service is more customary in some pubs. In Canada the expected tip is 10-20% of the bill.
If you like to cruise, here are some guidelines for tipping: Cabin Steward and Waiters $3-$4 per day, Bus Boys: $2 per day.
If you’re touring by car or bus, private car drivers should be tipped $5-6 per day, tour guides $1-2 per day, tour bus drivers $2 per day and in European washrooms tip the attendant 50 cents to a dollar.
Hopefully, this helps clear up some of the confusion around tipping while traveling. When you receive outstanding service, of course, you are always free to show your appreciation with a tip regardless of the customs.
There is tipping in Germany, but in restaurants, it’s often ten percent only.