The "Tipping" Point: a travelers guide to tipping

To tip or not to tip To tip or not to tip

To tip or not to tip, that is the question.  Or better yet, how much to tip.  Whether you are travel frequently or seldom, for business or for pleasure, or any combination of the above, you have probably had this dilemma.  This becomes a problem especially when traveling internationally.  In the U.S. we are pretty much used to the commonplace 10% - 15% minimum gratuity, however in other countries this can vary up or down.  And what about those dreaded doormen, porters and maids?  In this post I will give you some pointers that  I have gathered from my travels.

  • When arriving to a new destination, make a quick detour to the airport info kiosk and ask about tipping practices/customs in the area.  Otherwise make a quick stop at the hotel concierge and ask the same question (don't forget to tip him/her as well)
  • Have a separate stash of "gratuity money" available in small local denominations.  This way you don't have to worry about getting change back (some waiters tend to "forget" to bring it back), or about not having enough money for a tip.
  • Whenever tipping, its best to err on the side of generosity - think about it, these people are preparing your food, cleaning your room, and ferrying you around from place to place...all things you want done well, and generally you get what you pay for.
  • Most countries outside of the U.S. include a service charge in your bill, but its still a good idea to give at least 5% over the top.
  • In most Asian countries, Japan and China in particular, gratuities are not common place.  In bigger cities its a good policy to leave 5% - 10% more, but otherwise they generally include a service charge and don't expect to get anything on top of that.
  • If you are ever traveling in a country with a corrupt government/social system, try to avoid paying bribe "gratuities" if you can.  If you are forced to bribe your way out of a bad situation do so, but otherwise just walk/drive away.

These are just some general guidelines for you, but as mentioned above its a good idea to ask the locals when you arrive, because every place is a bit different.  Check back next week, for a more detailed region-by-region synopsis of tipping policies.

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