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How to Tip (or Not to Tip) Your Server While Traveling

How to Tip (or Not to Tip) Your Server While Traveling

Learn how much, when, and where to tip when traveling internationally

It is confusing knowing how much to tip when you're traveling, especially in foreign countries. Use this guide to make your travels easier.

Finding a good meal while traveling can be tough, especially if you’re looking to avoid overcrowded tourist joints. But knowing when and how much to tip can be even tougher. If the service is worth it, then most Americans are used to tipping 15 to 20 percent to the waiter to help make up for their measly salary.

Click here to see the How to Tip (or Not to Tip) Your Server While Traveling Slideshow!

However, just because something is customary in America doesn’t mean that it is expected elsewhere. For example, some countries in Europe, including the U.K. and France, automatically add in the tip, and it is considered an insult to tip in many Asian countries. In order to not come off as inappropriate or just plain rude, it’s best to know your proper tipping etiquette before you go.

Different countries have different ideas of what good service includes, so be sure to adjust your idea of "good service" based on where you are traveling. To make learning these customs simpler, we’ve put together this tipping etiquette guide that covers some of the most popular international destinations.

Be sure to check out our slideshow to learn how much, if any, you should be tipping.

A Guide to Tipping Hotel Employees

While visiting some of the best resorts and hotels in the world, guests will be greeted with a litany of services, oftentimes before they even arrive at the destination itself.

Although not all accommodations extend services like valet parking, airport shuttles, or luggage porters, many luxury hotels have a full staff of employees dedicated to providing guests with a variety of services.

At these full-service destinations, a team will be there to take care of your every need. From driving you to and from the hotel to giving you a massage, hotel employees typically earn a good living through their work. However, and especially in the United States, it's considered proper etiquette to tip hotel employees for their time and services.

Tipping more or less is at your discretion and should be guided by the quality of service you receive. Otherwise, you can use this tipping guide to give you an idea of the appropriate tipping ranges for each step of your stay.

Tipping In Thailand

This tipping in Thailand guide is intended for tourists in Thailand, as it is not common for local Thais to tip. Even though tipping in Thailand is becoming more and more common.

Tipping in Thailand is not mandatory but always appreciated. Europeans will read this and tell us we are crazy for tipping this much and Americans will feel guilty for tipping this little, however, this is what is generally accepted for tipping in Thailand.

As a tourist in Thailand, please realize how little daily wages most locals are paid. The average Thai wage is less than 9,000 baht a month ($300USD). That extra twenty baht tip may be nothing to you but can really add up to the local server.

The No-Tipping Point

“I don’t tip because society says I have to,” says Mr. Pink, the crook played by Steve Buscemi in the 1992 Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs. “Alright, I mean I’ll tip if somebody really deserves a tip. If they put forth the effort, I’ll give them something extra. But I mean, this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds.”

More than 20 years later, there are real people, dining among us, who still feel that way.

“I just don’t feel the need to tip that much,” explains Sam, a 29-year-old woman living in New York City. “I spend a lot on food and alcohol and travel because I enjoy those things. I’ll tip a little bit but I don’t feel like I need to tip a lot.” Sam knows that she should tip, and shame around not tipping well is one of the reasons she has asked not to be identified by her full name here.

Her standard tip is around $5, whether the bill is $50 or $100. (This is up from $1 or $2, the amount she’d drop when she first started dining out as a college student in Indiana.) There have been times when she hasn’t left a tip at all — not because service was bad, but just because she didn’t feel like tipping that day.

Sam knows the amount she chooses to tip isn’t the norm. In fact, one of the reasons she doesn’t think she needs to tip is because she believes everyone else tips enough to make up for it. “They’re making $5 off of me and the next person they’ll get like $25, $30, and that’s all going to their pocket, so what’s the difference?” she says. “I’d rather spend that money on other things.”

Sam says her friends all tell her that she should tip at least 18 percent, but she just doesn’t care that much. “I’m not going to be rude and say I don’t care, but I actually really don’t care,” she says. “That’s not my concern. I don’t know you. You chose that profession.”

Studies say that when it comes to bad tippers, most are just people who don’t know any better. According to Michael Lynn, a tipping expert at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, 40 percent of people aren’t aware that they should be tipping between 15 and 20 percent. “My guess is that’s true for most people,” he says. “You have to know the norm.”

It’s true that some bad tippers, according to Lynn, can’t afford it. “They may not have the money, or they have so little money that the alternative uses of it are more important to them than the social approval that comes from tipping,” he says.

A recent report from supports the idea that bad tipping correlates with lower incomes. It claims that millennials are the worst generation of tippers (with 10 percent of millennials surveyed admitting to not tipping restaurant servers at all) and theorizes that adults under 37 have less money than older people and therefore tip less. But voluntary, informed bad tippers like Sam can afford to tip — they just don’t. For the birds.

Anti-tipping sentiment has naturally found a home on Reddit, the popular venue for unpopular opinions. “If you want more money get a better job,” reads one comment on a thread asking the bad tippers of the internet to explain themselves. Another Reddit commenter thinks that a tip is the server’s to gain or lose, not a required cost of dining out. “I have absolutely no problem leaving nothing as a tip if I feel that the service didn’t warrant one,” the commenter writes.

James, 22, who lives in midwestern Canada, where it’s customary to tip between 15 and 20 percent, is against tipping on principle. “I feel no pressure to give a tip because I think customers supporting the ridiculous low wages are preposterous,” he says. “The establishment should be paying a living wage for a professional server, and I am of the opinion that when this happens service will go up rather than down.”

When James dines out, which he does a few times a week, he says he plays a rounding game with the bill at the end of the meal. “I will add a few dollars and round it to an even number, say a $36.87 meal being tipped $3.13 to make $40.00,” he explains. “This isn’t because I want to tip, it just gives me a little mental math game and I like even numbers.”

James isn’t alone in recognizing tipping as a problem. To be sure, tipping as a system is bad: It fosters sexual harassment, worsens racial inequalities, and encourages worker exploitation. Because of this, some restaurants have signed on to the growing no-gratuity movement, led in part by New York restaurateur Danny Meyer. But at most restaurants, diners are still expected to add a standard 20 percent to their restaurant bill. For servers, tips aren’t bonus money — they’re money they depend on to make a living on top of a wage that can be as low as a few bucks an hour. That not all diners pay up is just one more problem with tipping.

One need only Google “bad tippers” to see that money and age aren’t the sole factors contributing to bad tips. While Reddit users can freely and anonymously display their disdain for tipping, bad tippers with public profiles are covered on both entertainment blogs and local news sites. Tiger Woods, Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand, and Madonna are all rumored bad tippers. They’re not principled millennials, and presumably they have the money to add 20 percent to their restaurant tabs, so for people in this category, is not tipping well simply an inexplicable character flaw?

Lynn says the more “puzzling” question isn’t why people don’t tip, but why they would tip at all. To provide some explanation, he created a “motivational framework” for tipping in a 2015 paper. It proposes five different reasons why a person might tip: a desire to help servers to reward servers to secure future good service to gain social approval or self-esteem or merely to fulfill a sense of obligation. “These positive motivations for tipping are opposed by a desire to keep the tip money for other uses and a dislike of the status differences implied and created by tipping,” Lynn concludes. In other words, the desire to keep that money and a general discomfort with tipping can conflict with all of those good reasons to tip. And for bad tippers, those feelings completely trump the fact that tipping is the right thing to do.

The shame of not tipping, or tipping badly, compels most of us to hand over the money we’re expected to. But deliberately bad tippers are impervious to social shaming. They’re not concerned with future service, and they aren’t interested in providing a reward for a job well done. Some may find tipping to be fundamentally wrong, but maybe, actually, they’d just rather. not.

Hidden Fees in Car Rentals

Renting a car can be a great way to get out and tour the local countryside. But it definitely comes with its own financial pitfalls. Keep an eye out for these hidden fees so you can save some money.

Renting A Car At All

Depending on your needs, there may be a more affordable alternative to renting a car. Use a car-sharing service if you just need to get around town. If you’re traveling from destination A to destination B, look into ride-sharing . It’s good for the environment as well as your budget.

And if you are planning a road-trip, look into campervan and car relocations to see if there’s an opportunity that fits your itinerary.


Car rental insurance will quickly blow up your rental rate. It’s a good idea to be insured, but before you accept their crazy rate as the “responsible thing”, check your own insurance and credit cards. You may have car rental insurance automatically through those.

Key Replacement

I have a friend who accidentally went swimming with the rental car key fob in his shorts. You’d better believe he won’t make that mistake again!

If the rental company magnanimously offers to refill the tank at a pre-determined rate, know that the rate isn’t so magnanimous. With a little research you can find a gas station near to your drop-off point that will almost always be cheaper to refill the tank.

Extra Drivers

If you’re renting a car, remember that adding additional drivers to the rental agreement sometimes means extra fees. This is never worked into the quote, and can be a nasty surprise when you arrive to pick up the car.

Driver’s Age

Depending on the country, you’ll likely pay a surcharge if you’re younger than 25.

The Dutch tulip season is only 6-8 weeks and it’s not 100% guaranteed. A lot of people email me asking if the tulips will be in bloom during their trip to the Netherlands. I find that mid-April is the safest time as it can be early some years (like with 2018) to see any blooms before that. Similarly, early May is really the end of it. If you want to see tulips during the rest of the year, consider going to the world’s largest flower warehouse (FloraHolland) or the Bloemenmarkt in Amsterdam to buy bulbs.

Here's Why You Should (Almost) Always Tip At Least 20%

For me, it happened on what I believe was a Sunday afternoon. I'd forgotten to add the automatic gratuity to the bill of the large and demanding party I'd spent almost two hours serving, and by the time I'd realized my mistake, I'd already dropped the check on the table. What was I going to do, take it back? That wasn't the worst of it, though. That came when I flipped open the check presenter to find that they'd left me $1 and some random coins on a bill well over $100. Needless to say, I never forgot to add the automatic gratuity to a larger party after that. But I'll always remember the total humiliation I experienced when I spotted the lone dollar bill and the scattered change. It's hard not to draw one conclusion from that sight: You're not worth much.

In "The No-Tipping Point," Eater's Monica Burton explores the mind of the restaurant server's worst nightmare: the under-tipper. Some do it for the thrills, some do it to save money, some seem to lack back empathy. In my experience, getting a bad tip appeared to arise out of one of three situations: It was cultural, they were spiteful, or they didn't get how hard it is to be a server.

For servers, a bad tip can make or break a shift. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Ballers don't sweat the percentage

My favorite customer was the guy in the red Ferrari who threw $100 bills around like a businessman on his lunch break throws singles at a strip club stage (see: "Money Wars at a Memphis Strip Club"). To Mr. Red Ferrari, a hundred bucks was nothing. Lucky for us, in his mind, there was no relationship whatsoever between the cost of the food and the tip. His out-sized tips served two purposes for him: to let everyone know that he was an alpha and a baller and to signal to us how he wanted us to treat him. We responded accordingly, bending over backwards to meet his needs, hovering at an appropriate distance to make sure he got what he wanted when he wanted it, and according him the respect one gets when a customer recognizes the reality of dining out: strategically, the server holds all the cards. Did he overspend? Sure, but he got what he paid for, and that was outstanding service.

Good customers tip 20% and round up

Amateur diners scrutinize the check, do the math, pull out a calculator. Professional diners eyeball the number at the bottom, add at least 20%, and round that up to the next biggest round number, at a minimum. This is the appropriate amount to tip if you got good service. If you didn't get good service, the tip is not the time to let your server know. If you are tipping lower in an attempt to punish your server for bad service, you have failed. Dining out is a negotiation, not a random event. The negotiation partners are you and the server. If something is wrong--your steak was overcooked, your wine was off, your dessert made you feel sad--let someone know. Tell the server, the manager, the chef. This gives the restaurant and its team an opportunity to correct the problem. Suffering silently through what you find is not your dream experience and tipping cheaply is passive-aggressive behavior. And while the server is in charge of executing the delivery of your meal, they are not omnipotent. To punish the server and then depart is cowardice. The art of negotiation means everyone got what they wanted, and part of the responsibility for that is on you.

Bad tips are bad form (and bad karma)

I once worked alongside a man who was deep in the throes of a drug addiction. He was in the stage of addiction that appeared to be the Everything and the Kitchen Sink Stage. He did anything and everything. Sometimes, I would watch him spiral around the tables, speaking at a manic pace, making crazy flourishes as he poured $100 bottles of wine, tugging and tugging at his tie between darting into the kitchen and shoveling spoonfuls of cake into his mouth. I don't know what it was like to be waited on by him, but I would've found it disconcerting. I can't imagine he was truly engaged. On one occasion, when I was talking to him, he feel asleep in the middle of his sentence with his eyes open. Not every server is a winner. And there are exceptions that should be made in the tipping game. But most servers, like I was, work hard and are paid a terrible hourly wage. Everything hinges on tips: your mood, your ability to pay your rent, your self-esteem. Sometimes, a great tip turned everything around for me. It was hard work, hauling your plates back and forth. It was messy work, scraping your chewed-on bones into the garbage can. It was demanding work, trying to figure out what you wanted when sometimes you didn't even look up and see who I was.

The Pros of Tip Pooling

As Julia previously said, tip pooling can help foster a more collaborative, supportive environment in your restaurant. Here are some other upsides to pooling tips:

1) Tip Pooling Increases Back-of-House Wages

There is a huge wage gap between different restaurant teams. Take a dishwasher making minimum wage.Servers work for the same or a slightly lower baseline wage, but have the opportunity to earn additional compensation through tips.

This wage gap presents a significant issue in the hospitality industry. And while certainly not a catch-all solution, tip pooling at least evens the playing between two groups who are, ultimately, both working towards the same goal &ndash customer satisfaction.

2) Tip Pooling Incentivizes Kitchen Crew

Back-of-house wages are static. If mistakes are made in a kitchen or patrons are left waiting for a dish,, cooks still take home precisely what they would if they made every meal with speed and accuracy.

On the flip side, if the kitchen is slammed from every table being at capacity, servers reap all the funds from the full house. Cooks, who had to make all the food, get none of the tips, even though they would have been paid the same for working a slower, less stressful shift.

Tip pooling could inspire the back-of-house crew to always be on their A-game, since their money is dependent on the tip too.

3) The Restaurant Could Profit More

As stated above, when they know that their money is on the line, cooks could put more attention and dedication into what they are cooking.

The results? Better tasting food, happier customers, and fewer wrong orders. Which means, restaurant owners can worry less about wasted inventory. And ideally, this &ldquofound&rdquo money could be funneled towards better wages for all employees.

Read this next

How Much Should Restaurants Pay Employees?

The best way to attract and retain employees is to offer competitive compensation. Here’s how to decide what to pay your staff.

11 Tips for Working Online While You're On the Go

1. Have a Plan for Your Internet Connection

In the United States, those of us who work from our computers or job search online are used to clocking in at a café and settling in for the day. But when you’re traveling internationally, you can’t always rely on the corner Starbucks.

If you’ve griped about the WiFi speed at the Starbucks in the States, the connection can be even more harrowing when you're abroad. Moreover, not every city has a “café culture” that accommodates the one-purchase-per-hour-of-work paradigm that exists in most American coffee shops.

Before you travel, do your research on finding WiFi in your destination, and have a backup plan, whether it’s purchasing an Internet SIM card, connecting to a wireless hotspot, or securing a spot in a co-working space.

2. Carry Around a Notebook and Pen

There will come a day when you can’t connect to WiFi, when you forgot to grab a converter for your laptop charger, or when you’re in a location not quite secure enough to pull out a $1,000 computer. But, the solution is easy: slip a notebook in your bag and keep a pen hooked over its cover. You’ll always have a place to jot down your ideas, and you might just find yourself grateful when inspiration strikes at a random time.

3. Figure Out When, and How, You Work Best

This sounds like a given, but if you can settle into a routine that maximizes your productivity, do your best to stick with it. For example, I am most productive when I work in short, two-hour bursts with a half-hour break in-between. I know I get the most done when I close out any extraneous windows – that means no Facebook chat running in the background – and I plug in with my headphones. I also know my productivity is at its top levels when I have an unbroken stream of music playing, one that doesn’t require me to change songs or repeatedly hit shuffle. You’d be surprised how many minutes you waste searching for songs on YouTube, scrolling through Spotify looking for new music, or responding to Facebook chats.

4. Make a Productivity Playlist

That said, if you know you work well to music, set up a playlist before you dive into your to-do list. Keep in mind that your WiFi might not have enough juice to load music videos on YouTube or stream Spotify, which also places restrictions on users listening abroad without a premium account. When I’m connected to a decent WiFi connection, I like to use 8Tracks, where you can find pre-made playlists specifically put together for getting work done.

5. Invest in a Pair of Quality Headphones

Trust me, you’ll need them. Although the standard Apple earbuds, or their generic equivalents, are convenient to pack, they aren’t the best for blocking out noise. Even with the volume on full blast, I’ve found my Apple earbuds don’t do a great job of blocking out background noise, especially when it’s a boisterous conversation in Russian or the drone of motorbikes whizzing by. Bose is the best-known brand for noise-canceling headphones, but my Symphonized NRG in-ear noise-isolating earbuds do a pretty good job for a fraction of the price.

6. Buy International Outlet Adapters Before You Go

Sure, you can pick them up at the airport, but you’ll pay less if you order online from a site like Amazon, which has a huge selection of converters. If you use Mac products, the Apple World Traveler Kit is a good investment. For only about $30, it comes with plugs for North America, Japan, China, United Kingdom, Europe, Korea, Australia, and Hong Kong. And, because you simply switch out the plug on your existing laptop or iPhone charger, rather than attaching it to a converter, it offers a more secure source of power and a lower risk of damaging your device.

7. Arrange Your Communication Channels Before You Go

If you’re working with other people, or expect to be job searching and arranging interviews while you're traveling, you should take a few minutes to set up your messaging systems before you go. This is especially true if you’re going to use an Internet messaging platform like WhatsApp or Viber, as these types of apps usually require that you confirm via MMS, which won’t work once you hit airplane mode and turn off your cellular service. If you’re going to be communicating via video, set up and test Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype before you leave.

If you opt for an international phone plan, carefully review the available options so you’re not spending a fortune on staying connected.

With the abundance of Internet messaging services, from cross-platform apps like WhatsApp and Viber, to iMessage, Google Hangouts Chat, Slack, and Skype, most people can get by without paying for an international phone plan. You can pick up an inexpensive flip phone and SIM card for use within another country, or purchase Skype credits through your Skype account to call mobile phones and landlines worldwide. Here is more information on arranging an international phone interview.

8. Plan Ahead for Video Job Interviews or Meetings

You don't want to be scrambling at the last minute if you have a Skype call with an important boss or need to do a video job interview for a new position. For example, it's a good idea to put on an appropriate shirt or blouse for a video interview. Just because you're traveling, doesn't mean you don't need to dress the part. Make sure you read up on how to have a successful video interview, and take a few minutes to practice so you’re not scrambling to get ready when the call comes.

9. Be Flexible, but Also Upfront

When you’re communicating with professionals in other countries, you need to be aware of time zones and take into account whether you're really going to be able to get online at 4:30 a.m. local time to accommodate someone located halfway around the world. You should also be upfront about your accessibility. If you know you’re going to have difficulty connecting to the Internet from a certain location, or if you’re going to be in transit for a few days, let others know in advance.

10. Be Mindful of the Time and Date Differences

Keep track of time zones, so you don’t end up calling a potential employer or another important contact at 3 a.m. without realizing it. Most smartphones allow you to set a clock for another time zone, or you can download an app to keep track.

Once you get a feel for the time difference, you can strategize to make it work to your advantage.

Should I Tip When Picking up Takeout Food?

What happens when you place a takeout order at your favorite restaurant? You start by either calling or ordering online. If you call by phone, your order is taken by whoever answers (sometimes a host, but often a server or bartender) and put into the restaurant's point of sale system. The cook then gets to work, assembling your favorite chicken tenders, pad thai, or burrito.

When the food is ready, a server or a host grabs the food from the kitchen window and packages it, ensuring your order is accurate and adding any extra sauces or sides you may have requested. Depending on the restaurant, bagging a to-go order might include assembling your salad, grabbing sides out of the walk-in cooler, and putting together desserts.

When you arrive, the server or host verifies your name, takes the payment (unless you paid while ordering online), and makes sure you have what you need to enjoy your meal.

Here's what many diners don't realize: your to-go order is likely put together by a server who makes the tipped minimum wage—which is just $2.13 in most states.

About the author

<p>Libby Wells is a contributing writer to Bankrate. Previously, she was Bankrate's chief copy editor. Libby has more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers, magazines and online publications in South Florida. She spent most of her career at The Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News, but she also did a previous stint at Bankrate as the credit card reporter. Libby is a native of Kentucky and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, where she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's an avid fan of the legendary UK Wildcats basketball team.</p>