United Kingdom

Top tips for tipping: Here's our global guide from the US to Japan and Thailand

For most of us, tipping around the world is an awkward exercise, whether it be taxi drivers, in restaurants or the staff in our hotel. But we have only ourselves (or our ancestors) to blame.

For the tip originated way back in Tudor England, when it became the norm for overnight guests staying in private homes to leave ‘vails’, or a small sum of money for the servants who had attended them.

Since then, although we may have become fairly accustomed to the 12.5 per cent extra often added to a restaurant bill here in the UK, tipping and gratuities elsewhere are a cultural minefield of small change and (potentially) huge offence. So take a tip from us: here’s how it works in a few popular holiday destinations . . .

A graphic showing a guide to tipping in 10 popular tourist destinations around the world 

United States

Cash is still much more widely used here than it is in credit, debit and contactless card-saturated Europe.

Be sure to have a decent range of one, two, five and ten dollar bills on you at all times. It’s worth noting that restaurant and bar staff really do ‘work for tips’ in the U.S, with wages as low as £5.50 an hour — hence why a 15 per cent tip is absolutely obligatory to your waiter, with as much as 20 per cent expected in the smartest restaurants.

Taxi drivers expect 15 per cent, but round it up to 20 per cent if they help with your luggage. At a hotel, leave a couple of dollars a day for housekeeping — and tip the same to room service and the hotel porter and concierge if they have helped with bags or a booking.

Japan

If you’re against the entire practice of tipping, then welcome to your happy place. Most Japanese restaurants require customers to pay for their meals at the front register, rather than leave money with waiters.

In Japan, most restaurants require customers to pay for their meals at the front register, rather than leave money with waiters

The only possible exception to the ‘no tip’ rule that applies across Japan is if you have a personal tour guide who does an exceptionally good job.

But if you do decide to tip (no more than 10 per cent of the cost of the service would be appropriate), don’t simply pull some yen out of your wallet because this is considered crass. Put the bills into an envelope (preferably a decorative one) and hand it discreetly to your guide, giving a slight bow.

South Africa

Tipping culture in South Africa is similar to the UK in almost all regards except two.

First is the car guard. If you’re parking on the street in a major city such as Cape Town or Durban, then it is almost certain that someone in a high-vis jacket will direct your car into place.

Sometimes these guards are employed by the City, and sometimes they are informal and self-appointed.

The custom, however, is that when you return, you should always tip somewhere between five and ten rand (25p-50p).

Also, almost all petrol stations have attendants who will fill up your vehicle with fuel while you stay in the car. Again, a tip of around five to ten rand is expected for this service.

Dubai

If a restaurant that is not attached to a hotel adds a service charge to your bill in Dubai (or Abu Dhabi), they are breaking the law — it was banned more than ten years ago, deemed to be against consumer protection laws.

Tipping is not expected, but is, naturally, always appreciated by waiting staff and taxi drivers. During Ramadan there is a custom to tip more generously.

And, it’s worth remembering that any poor service during this time may be down to fatigue, because your tour guide or waiter will have been fasting all day.

The tip originated way back in Tudor England, when it became the norm for overnight guests staying in private homes to leave ‘vails’, or a small sum of money for the servants who had attended them

Australia

Comparatively high wages for workers in the service and hospitality sectors, plus service charge being included in restaurants and cafe bills, makes tipping a rare act for most Australians — so don’t feel that you have to leave a gratuity anywhere. 

However, they are appreciated by tour guides and most waiters.

In Australia, a tip is considered more of a ‘thank you’ for excellent service rather than an obligation.

Thailand

You’ll never be expected to tip a street-food vendor in Thailand but, when you’re in sit-down cafes or restaurants, a small tip is expected — simply round up your bill to the nearest ten baht (25p). 

Bangkok is notorious for having taxi drivers who don’t use their meter. If you do find yourself in a cab where the driver is using one then, again, round your fare up to the nearest ten baht as a thank you. 

If the meter is off, be sure to get a quote before the journey begins.

Despite the Maldives having its own currency (the rufiyaa) tipping in U.S. dollars is the norm

Maldives

Despite the Maldives having its own currency (the rufiyaa) tipping in U.S. dollars is the norm.

If 10 per cent is added to your bill in your resort restaurant it’s far from certain that your waiter will actually receive it, so try to leave your tip in cash.

Also be aware that the infrastructure of the Maldives, where resorts are always built on uninhabited islands, means that resort workers are often away from their families for months at a time. A little extra on top of the generally low wages they receive can make a huge difference.

Czech Republic

Tipping appears to be in a state of transition in the Czech Republic, particularly in Prague, with the traditional trend of merely rounding up the bill to the nearest ten crowns (33p) being slowly usurped (mainly thanks to increased tourism from Western Europe) by the habit of giving a 10 per cent tip in restaurants.

It’s worth noting that being a waiter is one of the worst-paying jobs in the Czech Republic (they earn on average around £4.50 an hour) and, although it’s unlikely a waiter will complain if you merely round up the bill, leaving a little extra is probably expected if you’re a tourist.