Even the most experienced of travelers can feel awkward when it comes to tipping. A tip or gratuity is sometimes expected, but when? Do you leave a tip because you are happy with the service, or because you made an expensive order?
The further you are from home, the harder these decisions can be. You are traveling on business, staying at a hotel. The company is paying for your stay, does that mean you should leave bigger tips? Should you give a Euro or two to the transfer driver who picked you up at the airport? (Why not, he was very nice! And remember to book the same company in the future.) How about the hotel door man? The receptionist? The person helping with your bags? Room cleaners? Equal tips for everyone, or do you give more to people who have done more work? If you 'really need' that shirt cleaned, does that mean a bigger tip for the laundry staff?
Tipping can be especially frustrating when you travel across the Atlantic. Europeans are surprised and confused by American prices not including the tax. "It says the price is $2.50, but they charged me $2.95—and they expected a tip!?" Americans in Europe often feel service staff are ungrateful even to generous tippers. "Not a thank you, nothing, and I left them 20%! Did they not like me, or something?"
It is a very strange situation, with most people expecting their local customs are known and followed everywhere. The bad news is, no simple formula can tell you how much to leave, when and where. The good news is, we have prepared a simple guide to let you know what to expect on your European travels.
#1 Make Sure Tipping Is Legal
First things first. In many countries you can get into a lot of trouble simply for offering tips to government employees. This is good to know if you come from a country where a little gift for good service is expected. Other people you are not supposed to tip can include casino employees and underage workers/interns/apprentices.
#2 Make Sure Tipping Is Expected
Iceland is the only country in Europe where tipping is a bad thing. Never tip a Viking! Everywhere else you can round up the bill (like €8.75 to €10) or tip 5% of the price, up to 10% or 15% maximum if you are really happy. In countries like France, Italy or Greece, you are often expected to round up the bill. This is the case with locals as well as international visitors. 15% of the price is generous, and 20% a very generous tip anywhere in Europe.
#3 Make Sure Tipping is Appropriate
Table service, where people bring food and drinks to your table, is definitely tippable. Good waiters create added value for you using their knowledge, experience and personality. If you are extra happy with your food and wish to tip the kitchen staff, say so! If your bill includes a service charge, cover charge etc., you should still consider leaving a small amount. For people carrying your bags, consider €0.50 per bag. Room cleaners, €1 per day. Restroom/Lavatory/Toilet workers, €0.50 each time. Tour guides, €1, maybe €2 for a longer tour. These are small sums that any traveler can afford, and they are sure to make people happy. 1 Euro, 1 US Dollar and 1 CHF (Swiss Franc) are worth about the same.
#4 Make Sure They Know How You Feel
Even generous tippers will sometimes have exact change in their pocket. Or you will need the money for something else. In this Internet age, you have many alternatives to giving money if you wish to thank service staff for their good work. Writing a review only takes a minute, and you can do it in your own language. If you mention employees by name, for example "The kids loved our driver Tony, he was great", this can mean more than a tip - Tony can get a raise, or even a promotion!
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