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A few tips on tipping while travelling

Reading Time: 3 minutes

No matter what anyone says, tipping when you travel is confusing.

You know what you’re supposed to do at home but, when you’re on the road, the rules vary country by country. We’re not going to give you guidelines here, we’re just going to give you things to think about. You might say tips on tipping.

In the U.S. and Canada, the gratuity is generally 15 to 20 per cent of the bill. Remember that, in both countries, tax is added on to the price of the meal, so generally you figure the gratuity on the price of the food and drinks only, not on the total bill with the taxes included.

Be aware that some restaurants add service charges to the bill. Some do this only for groups of six or eight or more, but a few are adding a service charge to all bills: while your server may be very happy if you pay that gratuity twice, you’ll be upset once you get home and realize what you’ve done!

In much of Europe, a service charge is generally added to the bill but some restaurants still don’t add the service charge so you have to check the bottom of the menu for each restaurant. Where a service charge is added, it’s hard to say if you should leave a little extra or not. In some countries tipping is just not expected and not done, in others, waiters may expect loose change.

Gratuities are generally not expected in Japan. They’re not expected in Australia and New Zealand either, but you can leave a little extra for outstanding service.

In the rest of the world, you’ll find even more of the kind of variation you find in Europe now. Service charges are included in some restaurants and not in others. Travellers just have to be observant to figure out tipping customs in different countries. Read current guidebooks for the specific country you’ll be visiting. Watch to see what the locals do when they are paying.

Don’t ask the waiter, however. You’ll probably get an answer like, “As you please sir.” Then you’ll probably feel obligated to leave something whether you should or not!

If you frequent higher-end restaurants, you’ll probably find tipping is more customary even if there is a service charge included, partly because you’ll be expecting and hopefully getting exemplary service.

If you frequent small local places, you can probably just go with the service charge that is included or add a small gratuity, but listen to your conscience on that. In developing countries, your server probably needs that loose change way more than you do.

The bottom line, so to speak, is to read those guidelines in guidebooks, be observant about what others are doing, check the bottom of the menu and hope you do the right thing.

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