How Much Should You Tip Abroad?

Tipping is generally thought of as a way of showing appreciation to workers for the service given.

Many restaurants now add a tip to the bill – usually 10% or 12.5%. Remember that you can always decline to pay this, but the management might then ask you if you are dissatisfied with the service and this can be a more difficult situation to navigate than just paying a tip.

In Egypt, “baksheesh” is part of the culture – but there is nothing worse than handing someone a tip, only for them to turn their nose up at it, so here is a quick guide to negotiating the custom of tipping.

How to tip

  • Be discreet – Fold the coins or notes into the palm of your hand and discreetly push the tip into the recipient’s free hand without making a fuss – a nod will do, as staff are usually busy anyway.
  • In restaurants and bars, you can also leave a tip on the tray the bill is presented, or push it under the plate – handing the tip to staff is better, as it makes sure your waiter receives it. Wait till they bring your change or receipt back and just hand them a tip casually without making a fuss.
  • If a member of staff inspects your tip and seems to want more, say thank you firmly and turn or walk away. If they begin to hassle you for more, have none of it and walk away. Tips are sometimes known as “greasing the palm” – it has been greased and that’s that.
  • If a staff member seems haughty or huffy if you tip, don’t get upset – they may be more senior that you thought, but they can always put the tip in the staff tip box if they don’t want it. Some senior staff have to muck in at tourist hotels when it gets busy, so it is easy to get confused as to who is senior. Normally, if staff wear formal dress like a grey waistcoat or a bow tie, or stand around supervising, they are the maître D or restaurant manager.

Who to Tip

The sort of services you might tip for include

  • restaurant and bar staff (but not the manager or wine waiter)
  • hairdressers (not the salon owner)
  • coach drivers on a day trip (not for transfers, unless it took a day to reach the airport or they helped you with your case)
  • luggage porters
  • chambermaids
  • bellhops (if they get you a taxi, umbrella, newspaper or some cigarettes)
  • room service
  • staff who park your car for you
  • shoe shine staff.

If you are served regularly by one waiter or different staff throughout your holiday, you can tip at the end of the holiday – hand the tip to the head waiter or maître D and tell them it is for the staff (eg “Could I leave this with you for the staff?”), or there may be a tips box near the restaurant entrance. If you have the same waiters, you might like to give them a little something each.

Leave money for the chambermaid on the bedside table – in a normal tourist hotel, if you stay a week, leave around 5-7 Euros, or around 2-4 Euros for a weekend break. Again, it is better to hand it to a regular chambermaid in case someone else picks it up.

Cruises used to be a hotbed of tipping, but now many cruise lines and also coach holidays include gratuities in the holiday price – check with your tour operator. Otherwise, tip the stewards who provide room service and leave a gratuity for restaurant and bar staff on cruises.

Who not to tip

Owners of a business like a hairdresser or private car company are not usually tipped, and neither are reception staff, maintenance staff, senior staff like the restaurant or bar manager (unless you are more mature, or a high roller income-wise and they provide a special service for you, such as making sure you get the best seat in the restaurant every night).

Don’t tip staff if you visit the hotel medical centre, hotel entertainers or the hotel gymnasium or leisure centre. Poolside staff may accept tips for setting up a sun umbrella or fetching towels, but sometimes will wave a tip away.

In the case of staff like masseurs, if you use them every day, you might like to give them a tip, but trainers, sports coaches, physios or senior therapists would not expect a tip unless you are older and/or obviously well-minted (it is much easier for the elderly and wealthy to tip without causing offence).

If you are staying in a more luxurious hotel, tipping is more likely – but leaving a few Euros for the chambermaid even in a one-star hotel is a nice gesture.

Tipping can be a very delicate matter, as it involves showing your appreciation for a service, without making the recipient feel inferior to you.

Budget for tips as part of your holiday expenditure and be pleasant, cool and discreet. If you don’t get stressed by tipping, then the recipient won’t either – and most likely they will be very pleased at the fact you value their hard work.

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